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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.

(22 February 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V. No.8, 22 February 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Beware of Judas Goats!

Under the title, Beware of Disunity, printed in this week’s Pittsburgh Courier, Edward Lawson, managing editor of Opportunity Magazine, has written the most nonsensical and disgusting article that, has yet appeared anywhere on the question of the Negro in the present war crisis. Lawson starts off by quoting a recent statement of the National Urban League:

“The Negro must guard against the possibility that, in the excitement of the nation-wide defense program, propagandists for various groups will attempt to stir up trouble between white and colored people.”

On this he comments:

“Today that possibility is a reality. In the press, on the radio, in countless letters and handbills – and even more often by word of mouth – we are hearing today the cry, ‘Let’s solve our own problems here in the United States before we presume to interfere in the problems that beset the European nations.’”

He points to recent statements of Dr. Robert Hutchins, president of the University of Chicago, Dr. Etmnett J. Scott, leading Negro Republican, and John P. Davis, executive secretary of the National Negro Congress, to show that each (for different reasons) has advocated this view.

Lawson claims he doesn’t want to argue about the truth of their statements about conditions in this country, that he is willing to admit that. “But also,” he says in the “same breath, such statements “are dangerous.” And why?

“... because they paint for us an illusion ... that all our problems could be solved in one brief period of readjustment ... because, by oversimplifying a many-faceted situation, they lead to false hope ... because in their logical development they would set one race against another, here in America, at a time when we need more than anything else complete unity of spirit and full no-operation ... because, intentionally or not, they dovetail neatly into Hitler’s technique of propaganda against the democracies, which is divide and move in.”

Later he asks. “Could it be that Messrs. Hutching Scott, Davis, et al. are helping him (Hitler) to do this little job?”

The other little nugget in this treacherous article of Lawson’s is the following idea:

“If America were a totalitarian state, and if the dictator were sympathetic and fair-minded in his attitude toward minority groups, everything the Negro now desires could be accomplished overnight, by one stroke of the dictator’s pen, or one sweep of hie sword.

“Because America is a Democracy, the changes which we all desire for the betterment of onr lives must come gradually, through what we call the Democratic process.

“Those who would substitute some other process should first be required to demonstrate that their method would be more advantageous to us than the one we already have.”

Now we do not mention all this because we are particularly interested in defending any of the three men whom Lawson attacks. Hutchins is an isolationist who never before showed any interest in the Negro’s problems. Scott is a Republican, seeking to make political capital among the Negroes for his brand of capitalist politics. Davis is a Stalinist, interested in winning support among Negroes for Stalin’s foreign policy. With of these men will drop his interest in the Negro’s problems.

What Lawson Really Means

But we ARE interested in defending the idea that Negroes have no reason to support this so-called war for democracy when they themselves are deprived of democracy by the capitalist class preparing this war.

What is the “disunity” that Lawson talks about? He is talking about disunity between the Negro and the bosses who Jim Crow the Negro. To Lawson, asking for equal rights for the Negro is “disunity.” “Beware of asking for your rights” is what he is warning the Negro people.

It is fair to ask: “Whose little job is Lawson helping?” Is he helping the Negro, or is he helping Senators Bilbo and Cotton Ed Smith, when he tells the Negvo to beware of fighting for his rights? Using Lawson’s own logic, one could easily assert that, “intentionally or not,” he is helping the cause of white supremacy.

Lawson says, in effect, that Hitler is helped by a struggle for equal rights for Negroes. This is a lie. Hitler could never be helped by a struggle to wipe out racial discrimination, he is greatly weakened in his own country whenever the idea of racial superiority is wiped out anywhere in the entire world. On the contrary, Hitler (and the American Bilbos) are greatly helped whenever anyone tries to tone down the struggle for racial equality.

No where in his entire article does Lawson advocate a struggle against Jim Crowism in the armed forces or in civilian life. This omission by a so-called Negro leader is treachery to his people.

We ask Lawson: how was the Negro emancipated? By gradualness? Or by civil war? With Lawson’s method, the Negro would still be a slave. And what has happened since 1877? The policy of gradual improvement has been followed, especially as exemplified by Booker T. Washington, and with what results? The Negro doesn’t have a single right more today than he had then. Thus history has tested Lawson’s method.

We reject both the fairy tale about the benevolent dictator and the falsehood about the gradual method, and we stick to our own policy of Negro and white labor unity against capitalist oppression and discrimination, in peace-time and in war-time.

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