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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 March 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V. No. 10, 8 March 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Jim Crow Means Death

Last Fall, Roosevelt laid down the law that Negro soldiers are to be segregated into separate regiments in his statement:

“The policy of the War Department is not to intermingle colored and white enlisted personnel in the same regimental organizations. This policy has proved satisfactory over a long period of years, and to make changes would produce situations destructive to morale and detrimental to the preparations for national defense.”

In an effort to stem the nation-wide protest that arose over this, Edgar G. Brown, an Uncle Tom “leader,” endorsed this policy and called for its extension.

In our criticism, of Brown, printed last November, we pointed out that not only does this policy in the armed forces place a stamp of approval on Jim Crowism and segregation in civilian life, but also that it directly involved the question or the life and safety of the Negro soldier in the segregated regiments. We said then:

As long as the Negroes are separated from the white soldiers, it is very easy for the labor-hating officer caste in charge of the Army to pick them out for special assignment and work: as labor battalions, digging trenches and latrines, and as suicide squads, for the most dangerous work, where men’s lives are thrown away cheaply.”

Now, our charge that segregated regiments means more deaths has been proved to the hilt, in the European battles of the Second World War.

In the Battle of France, the Negro soldiers in the Senegalese and other African regiments were used purely and simply as a body and flesh barrier against the advance of the Nazi war machine. Hundreds of thousands of their lives were thrown away by the French-British army commands in an attempt to save what was left of their white regiments.

All this is demonstrated in the reports of R. Walter Merguson in his current series in the Pittsburgh Courier, and in the first article of a series by William Veasey in the New Jersey Herald Notes. Both have just returned, from Europe where they were able to witness many of the the events they write of and to talk to the Negro soldiers who managed to survive.

Veasey shows how the retreat from Dunquerque was made possible only by the sacrifice of scores of thousands of Negroes who were rushed up and thrown into the breach to hold up the Nazis long enough for the British soldiers to get away. If there were Negroes in the United States who didn’t understand what Roosevelt’s Jim Crow ruling meant before, they should certainly understand it now.

* * *

British “Democracy” at Work

An American Negro Press dispatch from Johannesburg, South Africa, reveals that not only are the Negro soldiers on service in Africa treated worse and used for more menial tasks than the white soldiers, but that they get paid less too.

Speaking in the Southern Rhodesian Parliament recently, a white major who had induced a number of Negroes to “go to serve the Empire in East Africa” stated that he had felt “uneasy in mind ever since, in view of the bad conditions and the low rates of pay which I induced them to accept, also the inadequate allowance we are making for their dependents and the generally unsatisfactory manner in which they have been treated.

The pay of these men is only three shillings, six pence per day (about 43 cents). White soldiers get more than twice that much.”

They must be fighting for democracy at half price.

Lawson Defends Judas Goats

Edward Lawson, ardent supporter of the war and managing editor of Opportunity, magazine of the Urban League, sale of which – ironically enough! – has just been banned in government-operated post exchanges at army stations, has broken into print again. Recently he branded as assistants of Hitler those who call for the establishment of real democracy for Negroes in this country before they go to fight for it elsewhere.

This time he is engaged in defending the Negro “assistants” to various departments in Washington, who have been attacked because they only serve to prevent Negroes from demanding equal rights in the armed forces and industry.

Lawson’s defense, after rambling around and showing what a tough time these assistants have and now humiliating and tiresome their work is, concludes on the note that it is the masses of the Negro people who are responsible for “the apparent impotence of many of those who represent us in Washington.” Why? Because they haven’t insisted on giving these assistants “positions of greater importance,” and because they don’t give them “the full backing of our acknowledged political strength.”

This phoney alibi will he successful only with those people who accept Lawson’s premise that these people in Washington “represent” the Negro people.

It is precisely this which we challenge. We deny that they represent the Negro people. We maintain that they represent Roosevelt and the governmental and military bureaucracies which are trying to sell the war to the Negroes. That’s what they were put in there for, and that, by and large, to the extent that they can, is what they are doing.

As long as the Negroes depend on anyone in the Jim Crow government to solve their problems for them, whether its white administrators or colored administrative assistants, their problems will not. be solved.

It will be only through their own strength, independently exerted and allied with the trade union movement, that the Negro people will be able to wipe out Jim Crowism in the armed forces and industry. And then stooges in Washington and men like Lawson won’t be able to stop them.

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