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Albert Parker

The Negro Struggle

“Labor with a White Skin Cannot Emancipate Itself Where Labor with a Black Skin Is Branded.” – Karl Marx.

(21 December 1940)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 51, 21 December 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Hampton Institute Conference

Roosevelt blessed the Hampton Institute Conference on the Participation of the Negro in National Defense, because he knew who was conducting it and knew that they were not interested in embarrassing his schemes for the war and its preparations.

In spite of that, such is the logic of the position of the Negro in American life that the resolution on military and naval policy adopted by this group of Negro petty bourgeoisie, teachers, doctors, lawyers and so on who on the whole support the war, is a slap in the face to Roosevelt!

The resolution asks that Negroes be permitted to serve in all branches of the armed forces without restriction; that the exclusion policies barring Negroes from the marine corps and the army nurse corps be abolished; that the War Department be asked to put into effect the law passed some time ago by Congress, providing for training of Negro aviation pilots; that additional Negro officers be trained; that Roosevelt and local congressmen be asked to appoint Negroes to the naval academy at Annapolis, and that they be given equal opportunity if they get there (there are none there now); that Negroes be employed in all branches of the selective service system; that Negro soldiers and officers in the army be in proportion to the Negroes in the total population, etc.

The resolution is weak. It fails to demand an end to the “separate regiment” policy of the Army. It fails to ask that colored officers be permitted to serve in all regiments, and seems satisfied if “colored officers and professionals be assigned to the four colored regular army regiments.” Above all, it fails to indicate how equal rights are to be won by the Negro masses, it doesn’t say what is to be done when Roosevelt and Congress and the War Department are asked for these things and won’t give them.

It will not surprise our readers to learn that the conference did not even consider the position supported by the Socialist Workers Party: that the only why to end Jim Crowism in the armed forces is through a well-organized struggle for trade union control of military training. After all, there wasn’t a single trade unionist present, or even a worker, so far as one could learn from the conference publicity.

Schuyler’s Writing and His Action

Before the Hampton Institute Conference was held, many of the Uncle Tom “leaders” were talking things up, pointing to it as the way out, as the instrument of struggle against Jim Crowism in the armed forces. The only person who gave a correct indication of what was going to happen was George S. Schuyler, in his column in the Pittsburgh Courier of November 30, sent to press before the conference was over. What he said deserves to be quoted and remembered:

“It is very rarely that anything new or unusual is uttered in any of these addresses, or anything really helpful added to the cause or causes for which the conference is ostensibly held. After the ordeal of speech-making comes the round table discussions, where various egos battle for utterance. Out of all this tonsil and eartorturing usually comes a set of resolutions so general and so platitudinous as to make tragically wasteful the spending of so much carfare, unless the real purpose is to enrich the railroads and gasoline companies.

“Of the 200 ‘authorities’ assembled at Hampton, it is probable that few had anything worthwhile to offer ‘to solve the question of the Negro’s place in the current National Defense scheme’ or anything else. I have sat through several such conferences and always left with a feeling of dejection.

“To solve the problems of the Negro in America calls for a social revolution, and social revolutions must be preceded by revolutionary thinking and be led by revolutionary leaders. Solving the Negroes’ problems (if, forsooth, they CAN be solved) is going to be a long, hard and messy job. And the kind of soft-handed, well-groomed, cultured, income-tax-paying, pillars-of-society who foregather at these conferences, after a night in a Pullman drawing room or a dash by airplane, shudder at the thought of anything revolutionary. They are mostly house-broken by government berths or sinecures, institutions owned or controlled by the very people who keep race prejudice alive ...

“There has been very little consistent, persistent and intelligent action (to solve the Negro’s problems) because, to tel) the simple truth, we have had no real democratically organized, nationwide and ably led organization controlled from below and responsive to the needs and demands of the masses of colored people everywhere

“If there were such an organization it could go into action on any and all problems faced by Negroes in our American barbarism. And because it financed and backed its elected delegates and agents, they would be free, yes, compelled to represent only the Negro masses, and not be concerned about what anybody else thought.

“If we had had such an organization, it would have been working on the army and navy discrimination problem through the years, educating the masses of Negroes by consistent and persistent propaganda and action. It would have worked out some technique of fighting other than sending letters and telegrams of protest ... By this time if would have been so powerful that a national conference would have aroused far more than the indulgent smirk which doubtless greeted the Hampton talkfest ...”

And yet, two days after this excellent article had appeared op the news-stands, Schuyler was down in Washington participating in. another conference on “national defense”, attended, for the most part, by people who had attended the Hampton conference!

(Next week: The Courier Conference)/p>

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