Breitman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Albert Parker

The Negro Struggle

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

(5 April 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 14, 5 April 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

An Urgent Appeal

The National Negro Department of the Socialist Workers Party is working at the present time, in conjunction with Pioneer Publishers, on a program of publications relating to problems of the Negro people.

We are sure that readers of The Militant who have displayed an interest in the articles on these questions printed in this paper will be interested in their speedy publication. One of the pamphlets now in preparation deals with the struggle to break down the Jim Crow bars against Negroes entering into the all-inclusive war industries in skilled and semi-skilled jobs.

Another, already completed and ready to go to press, is a revised version of the series of articles just concluded in this paper, The Negro and The U.S. Army, by Eugene Varlin. The revision of this excellent series of articles brings it up to date, explaining the present situation of the Negro in the armed forces.

The third pamphlet, which will be a long work, is a basic discussion of the Negro struggle, analyzing the situation from all angles and presenting the program of the Socialist Workers Party for the Negro struggle for equality.

These pamphlets, which will be of great help to workers who want an all-sided picture of the problems and needs of the Negro masses, will be ready for distribution as soon as we have the necessary money to bring them off the press. We are therefore making an appeal to all our readers to help us in this ambitious enterprise. We ask for contributions, and we ask for them as soon as possible. Readers who can give us $10.00 and readers who are able to donate only 25 cents – please help us get out this badly needed literature. Send all donations to this column, 116 University Pl., New York City.

Repeating 1917

The war may not have taken exactly the same course this time as it did during 1914–1918, but the treatment of the Negro in the armed forces is so exactly the same that one might think the bureaucrats in control of the army were simply reading a history of what happened then and applying it today.

For example, there is the treatment of conscientious objectors.

Charles H. Houston, former Lieutenant of the 368th U.S. Infantry Regiment, in his series of articles called Saving The World For ‘Democracy’, which were printed in The Pittsburgh Courier last year, recalled the following about 1917:

“There was one outstanding exception to the general pattern of segregation at Camp Meade (Maryland): white conscientious objectors were housed with Negro conscientious objectors in a barracks in the 368th Infantry area with an armed white guard over them.

“It must be remembered that the Army considered conscientious objectors as cowards and scum. In the case of white conscientious objectors at Camp Meade the camp command considered them too low to associate with the white soldiers; so it housed them with Negroes and stuck them in a Negro regimental area.

“The Army considered the white officers of our own regiment too good to share the same quarters or even live in the same area with us, their fellow Negro officers, but it could think of no greater degradation for white conscientious objectors than to house them with Negroes in a Negro regimental area.”

* * *

And now, in 1941, comes an announcement from Washington, via Major Campbell Johnson of the Selective Service Board, that there will be “no separate Negro camps for conscientious objectors” and that the camps being set up will serve for all objectors, Negro as well as white.

* * *

The most brazen statement of any boss receiving contracts from the federal government was the one made last week by J.H. Kindelberger, president and general manager of North American Aviation, Inc.:

“Applications for jobs in the plant, where we will employ upward of ten thousand persons, will be received at the temporary Kansas City offices in the near future. We will receive applications from both white and Negro workers! However, the Negroes will be considered only as janitors and in other similar capacities ... While we are in complete sympathy with the Negro, it is against the company policy to employ them as mechanics or aircraft workers. We use none except white workers in the plant in Inglewood (California) and the plant in Dallas (Texas) and we intend to maintain the same policy in Kansas City. There will be some jobs as janitors for Negroes. Regardless of their training as aircraft workers, we will not employ them in the North American plant.”

You can imagine what the attitude of this company toward the Negro would be if it were not “in complete sympathy with the Negro”!

* * *

That the New York State Employment Service helps the bosses in discriminating against Negroes, Jews and Catholics was admitted by a spokesman of the Service in a discussion of the employment application blanks on which “Personal Description” is followed by several initials: “S M W – W N O – C P J,” meaning “Single, Married, Widower; White, Negro, Oriental; Catholic, Protestant, Jew.”

The spokesman tried to clear the Service of responsibility by saying: “It’s entirely the employers’ fault. You can’t legislate discrimination out of existence.”

It is true that it’s the employers’ fault, for it is they who want to know this information so they can discriminate. But that doesn’t excuse the Service for helping them!

Breitman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 2 November 2015