Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Labor Action, 8 August 1949


Kate Leonard

Negro Loyalty Hearing Proves a Flop

Jackie Robinson Disappoints Probers, Stresses Jim Crow
Not a CP Issue, Blasts U.S. Racism


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 32, 8 August 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The hearings on “Negro loyalty” held in July before the House Un-American Activities Committee were designed as an integral part of the government’s loyalty drive, and were scheduled in an attempt to extract public loyalty oaths from Negroes for intimidation value.

The occasion for this insult to the Negro people was found in the Stalinist attempt to neutralize a section of the American Negroes in the struggle between United States and Russian imperialism, when Paul Robeson in Paris some weeks previously pontifically declared that American Negroes would not fight in a war against Russia because they loved Russia so much.

No doubt this was meant to be the shot heard ‘round the world, but it didn’t take a couple of weeks to see that the results of Robeson’s presumptuous and arrogant pronouncement were such as to make a self-respecting Lorelei close up shop.

The presumption and arrogance flow steadily from the skullduggery practised by Robeson’s Stalinist party against 15,000,000 proscribed U.S. citizens. These “on-again, off-again Finnegans” are notorious for their bureaucratic misuse for their own ends of the disabilities of the Negroes in the United States. Robeson’s blaring brass was a typical example of this skullduggery – typical for an “on-again” period, that is.

Deaf Ears

It would be a mistake to suppose that the puzzled and deaf ears turned by Negroes to Robeson came from any intimate knowledge on their part of the dirty trail that is the record of the American Stalinist party on this question. Filthy trail it is from A to Z – but only a modest sampling of Negroes know this to the hilt.

That the ears were puzzled, there is no doubt: “We would refuse to fight in any war against Russia because we love Russia so much? Is that what he said? Did he really say that? Well, if Mr. Robeson actually made that statement, it sounds very silly to me. Sure, the man can sing.” Jackie Robinson’s statement along these lines echoes the sentiments of most Negroes.

Hastily, by his very best friends, the Robeson blast was rechristened “Robeson’s Peace Call.” The ears only became deafer.

“Get together with the new democracies? What’s he mean? Where are they? You think he means Czechoslovakia? But, man, that’s behind the Iron Curtain!”

Most Negroes have pretty generally granted that Robeson was trying to express their interest and their demands – and here they are wrong.

“The fact that it is a Stalinist who denounces injustice in the courts, police brutality and lynching when it happens doesn’t change the truth of his charges.” That is right, Jackie Robinson. And injustice in the courts, police brutality, and lynching go on when Stalinists are quiet as clams.

World War II is a case in point. When Stalinists are quiet as clams, it is in Russia’s interest. And when they open up their base mouths, it is in Russia’s interest, in their own interest, and not in the interest of the millions of Jackie Robinsons. Jackie for one showed he understands this.

The House Un-American Activities Committee thought it had a big thing here, and the hearings went on posthaste. Conceived as the next big push in the government’s loyalty drive, they became George of Georgia’s fiasco. Even the thick Bilbo hide in that committee seems to sense that a boner was pulled. It is currently given out that the hearings were held because white folks have lent a certain credence to Robeson’s remarks.

Uncle Tom Certified Dead

The hearings established nothing, unless it was to confirm for Rankin of Mississippi and his kinsman. Wood of Georgia, that Uncle Tom is dead. They seem to have needed this, but no one else did. That Uncle Tom is dead was stale news even a while back. There will be no summation of the committee’s hearings and no evaluation of the testimony forthcoming from the sponsors of the hearings.

One fool, of course, did turn up. The fool was Clarence B. Clark from Pittsburgh, who testified that when it became known that he would appear before the committee, he was besieged with telephonic declarations that Negroes were ready to “fight a circle saw” for their country. But then – one fool located with Rankin radar is mighty small pickings, and it was recognized as such.

Late in the Day

Every other Negro who appeared before the committee – and these included Manning Johnson, former member of the National Committee of the Communist Party, who has testified before for the FBI; Lester Granger of the National Urban League, and Charles S. Johnson, president of Fisk – testified to the resentment Negroes feel toward Jim Crow. It is necessary first to say that these gentlemen did this each in his own way and in addition to his other testimony. And it is necessary, second, to say that it is a little late in the day for any other type of testimony to have been made. But it is to be hoped that Congress even at this late date can learn something from this unanimity.

From the point of view of Negroes, whose representatives were called before this committee, there are a few things also to be said. Negroes, no less than labor, have suffered under the witch-hunts and under this committee which was characterized by them, as recently as the NAACP’s July convention, as “this menace to the principles of freedom.” It is to be regretted that no one of these spokesmen saw fit to say: “Appear before you? Why? On Robeson, on loyalty, or on any damn thing?” This was the proper response to these Dixiecrat jackals.

The federal employees hounded in the FBI-inspired purges, the Jim-Crowed soldiers at home and in Germany, where the army is engaged in “democratizing” the people, Rosa Lee Ingram, Robert Mallard, Isiah Nixon and any child know this committee for what it is, and could have been better trusted to reply to its effrontery than any of the customary spokesmen. These spokesmen find themselves, in Governor Hastie’s fine phrase, “in the middle, insofar as the Un-American Activities Committee is concerned.”

What Was Not Said

These hearings, put on in such record time, had a certain kind of planning behind them. Senator George (Dem., Ga.), who has revised his racesuperiority ideology only just enough to accept the fact that “sub-human animals” may be trained to play baseball, planned for Jackie Robinson to be Exhibit One. A. Philip Randolph was not invited to testify. Nor was Willard S. Townsend, who has advised Negroes to turn the forces aligned against race discrimination in the armed forces against the military program itself.

Two men who are accepted as among the “Talented Tenth” by those who hold there is a talented tenth who are the negotiators and architects of the Negro’s future, were invited and accepted the invitation. There is a thing or two to be said about the testimony of Granger and Johnson.

Dr. Johnson is one of those “on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand” sociologists. He is of the opinion that “democratic imperfections of a serious character are being corrected too slowly.” He feels that the hearings would have been absurd except for the fact that, in these days of international tensions, many Americans are seriously apprehensive about national security.

Granger made what the Negro press considered a masterful address, heard by only two problems on the committee, both Northerners. Granger advised that the committee show less concern about Robeson and more concern for democracy. His suggestion that the weapon which the Communist Party now uses against the country might be taken back was concretized with the proposal that the KKK (Rankin, Wood et al.) prosecute the KKK. He told the committee that while Negroes would continue to protest injustice, they would not embrace the Communist Party ideology.

But even from their own points of view – deeply apprehensive about our national security (Johnson), or how best to hold your fort (Granger) – there was a thing or two left out. Granger might have quit being in the middle and explained why the House Un-American Activities Committee is a menace to the principles of human freedom. Armed with a statistic or two. Dr. Johnson might have hinted at least that Congressmen Rankin and Wood did not arrive on the committee through bloc voting by Negroes in Mississippi or in Georgia. That is not too much to have hoped for, even from a sociologist, when tensions are to the right of him. tensions to the left of him, tensions right in front of him.

Robinson Tells ’Em

Jackie Robinson was hardly the man to stay home this trip. He did not exactly rush there, and he had been placed in such a position that, had he stayed home, he would have given aid and comfort where he had no interest to give it. He has explained that he stuck his neck out from a sense of responsibility, and he discharged what he felt to be an obligation honorably. This young man who has made a routine of getting from first base to home plate on a single, plugged away on another field and came up with a document that speaks not for himself alone.

Ingeniously he has said: “I did the writing but I had a lot of help getting it just right.” His “just right” is too immodest; he tried to speak not for himself alone, and with this great desire that is exactly what he accomplished. That is what is noteworthy about his speech.

“Put me down as an expert on being a colored American, with thirty years’ experience at it. And just like any other colored person with sense enough to look around him and understand what he sees, I know that life in these United States can be mighty tough for people who are a little different from the majority – in their skin color, or the way they worship their God. or the way they spell their names.

“Just because Communists kick up a big fuss over racial discrimination when it suits their purpose, a lot of people try to pretend that the whole issue is a creation of Communist imagination. They aren’t fooling anyone with this kind of pretense, and talk about ‘Communists stirring up Negroes to protest’ only makes present misunderstanding worse than ever. Negroes were stirred up long before there was a Communist Party and they’ll stay stirred up long after the party has disappeared – unless Jim Crow has disappeared by then as well.”

We did not need Jackie’s guarantee that Negroes aren’t going to stop fighting discrimination until they’ve got it licked, but we are mighty glad he threw it in the governmental teeth.

While we cannot say Amen at the end of Jackie’s statement, most of it is good enough for us, since we know that those for whom Jackie speaks, not by being wise in the political “isms” but in action, will master the way to a workers’ world and to true equality.

Top of page

Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 8 June 2021