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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.

(8 February 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 6, 8 February 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Fight Against Byrne’s Appointment

Shortly after the announcement that McReynolds was retiring from the United States Supreme Court, word came that Roosevelt had already chosen the man he was going to nominate to fill the vacancy, although he did not intend to make the name known for several weeks.

However, at the same time, “authoritative sources” disclosed that the man Roosevelt was referring to was Senator James Byrnes of South Carolina, one of his chief aides in pushing the “Lend-Lease” War Powers Bill.

Immediately, protest action was called for by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which said it would conduct a fight against the selection of Byrnes because he “has been absolutely consistent in opposing any and every effort to give to Negro citizens the protection of the United States Constitution.”

’The NAACP also pointed out that the three senators who most strongly favor Byrne’s appointment, Carter Glass of Virginia, Pat Harrison of Mississippi, and Alben Bartley of Kentucky, are all opponents of any kind of federal anti-lynching legislation.

The Pittsburgh Courier went back to the record and dug out the following information:

“If the two races are to live together in this country, it may as well be understood that the war has in no way changed the attitude of the white man toward the social and political equality of the Negro.

If, as a result of his experience in the war, he does not earn to live in this land without political and social equality, then he can depart for any country he wishes and his departure will be facilitated by the white people of this country who desire no disturbing factor in their midst.”

The Courier, asks:

“Can the man who made the above statement and has the above record mete out equal justice to all citizens of the United States?

“If you think so, read until you’re sleepy and go on to bed.

“If you don’t think so, prepare to act.”

New Deal Testimony Against Byrnes!

But not even the Courier has told the whole story about Byrnes, as can be seen by a reading of Dixie Demagogues by two New Dealers, A. Michie and P. Ryhlick, who will be embarrassed, after they exposed Byrne’s record and his opposition to the more liberal legislation of the earlier New Deal, to see how closely Roosevelt is working with him today.

For Byrnes is every bit as much anti-labor as he is anti-Negro. And his nomination must be opposed not only by fighters for equality for the Negro people, but by organized labor as well.

In 1937 Byrnes was among the first to rush forward with a denunciation of the sit-down strike, and he introduced an amendment to the Guffey Coat Bill to bar sit-downs, one of labor’s strongest weapons.

He opposed the Wage-Hour Bill in the Senate, and attempted to use his influence in the House to prevent its passage. He thinks that the thousands of textile workers and sharecroppers of South Carolina are getting along well enough in their present starving, highly exploited condition.

He was one of the leaders in Congress of the relief-slashing bloc that has cut WPA to ribbons, always favoring the lowest figure offered for WPA appropriations, always in favor of the move to turn relief over to the states’ control.

An example of his die-hard opposition to the anti-lynching bill, was his reply to the question asked him in 1938 as to what likelihood there was of ending the filibuster against the anti-lynch bill:

“Not until the year 2038, unless the bill is withdrawn before then!”

The fact that Roosevelt even considers such a man for appointment to the Supreme Court should serve to disillusion many colored and white workers who have supported Roosevelt because “he’s a little better than the Republicans.”

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