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Labor Action, 21 October 1946


Jerry Todd

The Second of Two Articles on the Ku Klux Klan

The Native Fascists in Nightshirts


From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 42, 21 October 1946, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


After the Second World War the Klan began forging ahead again.

On May 9 of this year, a thousand hooded men and women burned fiery crosses on Stone Mountain, near Atlanta, in a ceremony to initiate several hundred new members – at a $10 initiation fee each.

In Chattanooga, a cross was recently burned in front of a Jewish drug store and all Jews warned to get out of town.

On May 21, in Los Angeles, a fiery cross was planted outside a Jewish fraternity house of University of Southern California students.

Last summer a Negro cab driver was murdered in Atlanta, and Klan hoodlums openly boasted of the murder.

On June, 9, Willie Dudley, a Negro worker in the South, was kidnapped and beaten by four masked Klansmen because he refused to resign from the United Cement, Lime & Gypsum Workers Union, AFL. Dudley was told by Klansmen that they intended, to keep Negroes from joining unions, and that they would return and kill him if he identified them.

In Los Angeles, last spring, the Klan burned a cross outside the home of Mr. Hickerson, a Negro homeowner and a courageous man who has been fighting a court battle against the restrictive covenant regulations in his neighborhood. The Klan in California boasts it has a membership of 100,000. One of Gerald K. Smith’s bodyguards is said to be a Kleagle in the Klan of that state.

The Klan in the Deep South

All are familiar with the appeals of such professional Klansmen as Bilbo and Gene Talmadge to “every red-blooded Anglo-Saxon to resort to any means to keep Negros from the polls” in the South.

Just recently, Talmadge, who was governor of Georgia when Angelo Herndon was framed down there years ago, was re-elected to office. He didn’t receive a majority of the popular votes, but was elected anyhow.

A few weeks ago, in Birmingham, Ala., a businessman filed incorporation papers in Alabama for the Klan “as a revival of an American crusade for white supremacy.” The man, William H. Morris, said the move “merely puts the Klan on a legal basis in Alabama. We have functioned as an independent unit for some good while. Our basic principles are the same – the protection of the chastity of white womanhood and white supremacy.”

The Klan, by the way, seems to be obsessed by the chastity of white womanhood. It is always talking about it. One doesn’t have to read Freud to suspect that such preoccupation with the chastity of women is often found among those who themselves have a hankering to violate any chastity they see in the vicinity.

The Klan is doing a thriving business today. Its resurgence comes at the very time both the AFL and CIO are conducting organizational drives in the South.

The Klan is directed and financed by the employing class, protected by their courts and their public officials, directed against both the labor movement and the growing solidarity of black and white workers. The bosses are particularly concerned about the joint drives of the AFL and CIO, an action which threatens to mitigate the worst horrors of Southern society – its miserable wages, long horn’s, revolting working conditions, medieval prison systems, disfranchisement and poll taxes, peonage and lynch law.

Well, how can the Klan be combatted?

One thing is certain. It can never be licked by the methods of Governor Arnall of Georgia, who directed the state attorney general to institute action to revoke the Klan’s charter on the grounds that it is not a non-profit, fraternal organization. Arnall tried that and the Georgia bosses replaced him with the Klansman, Talmadge. Now even the law suit against the Klan is being delayed until Arnall is out and Talmadge is in the governor’s chair.

We cannot depend on the FBI to lick it. That night-clubbing mercenary, J. Edgar Hoover, recently advised a New York columnist that “you can’t arrest a man for going out and putting on a night shirt or for burning a cross. However, if we catch them sending threatening notes through the mail we can pick them up under the Extortion Act. Or if the Klansmen deprive a man of his individual liberties we can grab them under the civil rights statute.”

That’s plain enough. It’s Hoover’s invitation to the Klan to continue its dirty work, with the blessing of the FBI. The FBI’s unwillingness to act, even when confronted with overwhelming proof of the Klan’s guilt in recent Southern atrocities, furnished by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, underscores Hoover’s words.

A Picture of the Liberals, Then and Now

You can’t lick the Klan by the methods of the whining liberals. In an article in the Nation for July 13, the author, Paula Snelling, referring to Talmadge’s campaign in Georgia, says that the Sermon on the Mount can quiet the flames sweeping Georgia and the world today. The “Sermon on the Mount” has had almost 2,000 years to demonstrate its failure to protect minority groups and the toilers from the machinations of the rulers.

What shallow, spineless, dull characterless individuals are these modern lumpen-liberals. There was a time when a liberal was willing to take a stand on a social problem and fight for his convictions – there were John Brown, and Wendell Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison.

Let’s show you what a liberal of 45 years ago sounded like on the Negro question. Clarence Darrow, speaking before the Negro Men’s Forum in Chicago, May 19, 1901, told them:

“The rich are not going to help you. It is the same problem the working man is facing today, and your cause is the cause of the working man. You people make a mistake in your friends. The ones who will help you people to any lasting benefit are not the rich, they are the poor every time. They may not be able to give you as big tips, but after all, the cause of the poor is a common cause the world over, and when your case is won it will be by uniting your cause with the cause of the common laboring man all over the world: you cannot do it any other way.

“The rich have been using the working man, making him set you off by yourselves, and they have been using you against the union movement. You ought to join the unions wherever you can; you ought to make it clear to them that their cause is your cause, and that they cannot afford to fight you because they cannot rise unless they take you with them, and when they are willing to take you, you are willing to go and to help fight the common battle of the poor against the strong."

There is a way to win the war on the Klan. There is a program for white and colored workers which can stop the Klan in its tracks.

That program is to support the unionization drive in the South, and to oppose those barriers against colored workers that still exist in many unions, North and South.

That program is for labor to get out of the party that dares give a home to the Bilbos and the Talmadges, get out of the Democratic party, and start building a new party, a labor party, based upon and controlled by the labor movement.

That program is for white and colored workers to form defense guards to defend the victims of Klan organization.

I remember very well how, a half a dozen years ago, in Minneapolis, the Silver Shirts, a vigilante outfit similar to the Klan, was organizing in that city. The General Drivers Union, under the leadership of the Trotskyists, in answer to Silver Shirt threats to raid union halls in Minneapolis, openly announced the formation of a Union Defense Guard having members from a dozen trade unions in the city. It openly proclaimed that the Defense Guard would defend Negroes and Jews and unions who might be the target of the Silver Shirts. When the Union Defense Guard appeared on the scene, the Silver Shirts slunk back in the shadows.

They discontinued their meetings in the Twin Cities, their organizers left town, and they didn’t come back. They knew the union men of Minneapolis meant business. If they had tried any vigilante terrorism, the unions would have stopped them. The politicians wouldn’t have. The liberals wouldn’t have. The Republican, Harold Stassen, was then governor of Minnesota. He didn’t oppose the Silver Shirts. Instead, he accepted support from them at the polls. The businessmen didn’t oppose the Silver Shirts. Instead, the president of the Associated Industries of Minneapolis was caught sneaking into a Silver Shirt meeting.


The Ku Klux Klan is in a way thoroughly American. But so too is the opposition to Klanism.

For every Hiram Evans or Bilbo or Talmadge, there is a John Brown and a Eugene Debs. And today there is the Workers Party which has declared uncompromising war on the Klan and Jim Crow, which proclaims that it stands for the full social, political and economic equality for Negroes, and by its actions and according to its strength strives to carry out that program in action.

What the Workers Party Says

It is the Workers Party which has taken the lead in organizing opposition to Gerald K. Smith in his well-financed circuits around the country as he seeks to build up cadres for his “America First” fascist movement. The Workers Party has encouraged other working-class political parties, unions, Negro organizations, students, to take joint action against Smith. When these groups engaged in joint action with the Workers Party, we were elated. But if, in some cities, these groups did not at first understand the need of publicly opposing the American fascists, then the Workers Party boldly took responsibility itself and met Smith with its own picket lines.

The leaders of such outfits as the Klan, the America Firsters, the Silver Shirts, are impervious to shame, to feelings of humanity. They are monstrous in their vulgarity. They encourage surrender to the most anti-social superstitions. Their enterprises are calculating and bloody, outside all decency.

They can be stopped by only one force – the aroused and conscious and united might of American labor.

long as the capitalist system continued to exist. The basic hope of American capitalism for prosperity rests upon a domination of the world market. The domestic market no longer provides the means for the present level of production since that would require a continuously rising standard of living of the masses, rising wages, declining prices and a decline in the profits of industry and finance. But under the capitalist system, wages can never equal production; on the contrary, production far outstrips wages. The greater the industrial potential, the more refined the technological organization of industry, the more vast is the production of goods, the greater is the narrowing of the domestic market.

It is this which drives American capitalism to enlarge the market for its goods beyond the borders of the country. If it can dominate the markets of the world, then it can safeguard the domestic market and keep a high level of production and employment. But it is precisely this factor which operates against the prospects of a future, extended period of economic boom.

In world economy, the United States meets with the sharpest rivalry of other capitalist powers in a struggle over control of the world market and sources of-raw materials. While it is true that American interests have been significantly advanced over pre-war years, the other powers are fighting back most desperately. This is especially true of Great Britain which is struggling to maintain the Empire against the encroachments of American imperialism.

In addition, there are political factors which intervene to make more difficult the realization of the American businessman’s new aim. Stalin’s Russia has already erected a fence around the Balkans and Eastern Europe. The United States meets the rivalry of her Allies in Western Europe who themselves rest upon the exploitation of their colonial empires. And it is precisely these empires which the United States wants to free from their control, to open them up for exploitation by American capital. Thus far we have mentioned only the factor of imperialist rivalry. But there is the factor of colonial revolt and the movement of national independence which militates against this long-term aim of the United States. American policy against these independence movements are qualified by the prospects that might exist for her exploitation of these “independent” countries.

The Prospects for Export of Capital

The devastation of Europe by the war has considerably reduced the prospects for an immediate export of huge masses of capital by the United States and for the present one cannot say with certainty that Europe offers any large hope for the end-products of American expansion.

These then are some of the factors of disintegration which face American capitalism. On the one hand, we have cited the elements which give rise to the present boom. On the other, are the elements which threaten its continuation. The principal reason for the boom lies in the scarcities, created by the war economy; the moment these are supplied, American capitalism must rest its hope on the conquest of the world market.

But even the present boom rests upon a diminishing share of the masses in the prosperity that does exist. Thus the struggle that occurs now is around the effort of the monopoly capitalists to squeeze ever greater profits from the masses of the working people, while the workers fight desperately to obtain a greater share of the national product. When one observes the real decline of wages and the continuing rise of prices which eats into the standard of living of the masses, it is clear why the struggle of the workers for wages must accompany an unrelenting struggle against rising prices.

The fact that the struggle between monopoly capitalism and the workers is so sharp in the boom period is the living proof that the boom is extremely tenuous, reflecting not a period of rising, expanding capitalism on a world scale, but a declining, narrowing capitalism which can exist only by depressing the level of existence of all the people in the world – as well as those in the United States. In this very fact, lies the necessity not merely for the struggle of the workers at home against imperialist capitalism, but also for the world solidarity of all who work in order to live.

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