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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.

(12 April 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 15, 12 April 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Pickens Gets the Booby Prize

The most disgusting article of the month by any Negro was the one by William Pickens in his column for A.N.P. Views of the News.

In it Pickens complains that during a recent speech someone in the audience asked a question, trying to discover how he explained the fact that the most outspoken enemies of the Negro people, the Southern Congressmen in Washington, were like himself violently in favor of the passage of the Lend-Lease Bill.

Pickens attempts to dodge the question by poking names and jibes at the person who asked the question. This is easy to do, for it is true, as Pickens says, that because your enemy stands for one thing, you do not necessarily and automatically stand for the opposite.

But still, when your enemy says the same thing as you about something that concerns your fate, it is necessary to stop and think about it and figure out why. Maybe he is wrong in taking that position – and on the other hand, maybe you are.

But Pickens does not do this. Instead, in order to justify his stand, he launches into a defense of the Jim-Crow, poll-tax, lynch-mob lovers who sit in Congress as representatives of the South! He says:

“Without the almost solid South behind our defense movements, the President would never have been able to make any progress with that movement. The southerners are Americans, and it happens to be thai they are American next to the Negro American himself. The rest of the country is largely European and of other more recent foreign origins ... The southerner is a much older American, on the whole, than are the whites of the rest of the land.

“When it comes to an international problem, the southern whites and the blacks, if they use their heads instead of their gall bladders, are most apt to agree together. In defense of America the Negro, when he thinks, will be second to nobody, and the whites of Texas and South Carolina will be second to no white people. There is no great room for differences; the southern whites want to keep their national freedom and their rights – even their rights to keep trying to keep the Negro down. And the Negro wants to keep his American rights – his rights to fight like the devil against being kept down. Under Hitler or any foreigner, both of these Americans would lose their good American rights – for the foreigner would keep BOTH of us down – white and black. “

What does all this blather of Pickens mean? This garbage about the Southern Negro haters being the best Americans? This bosses’ argument about the Northern and Western workers, who hate war, being of “more recent foreign origins, “ being aliens and so on? This fear that the Southern ruling class that oppresses the Negro people may lose its rights to oppress them? This false posing of the problem that if you are opposed to helping England win the war to control the 450,000,000 colored people now under its heel, you are automatically in favor of having Hitler win it?

It means that Pickens is so bankrupt in his politics and his defense of the war plans of the Roosevelt government that he has to throw overboard everything he has been saying for the last 25 years. There is no other way to account for his defense of the Southern Bourbons and his veiled attacks on the progressive workers in the North. And there is no better example of our contention, that you cannot at the same time logically be for the war and against the institutions which the war is intended to preserve. Only those who oppose the war can effectively fight for full equality for the colored people.

In the last six months Pickens has written far more words in defense of the war plans of the government than he has written against the Jim Crow system the government upholds, he has written far more against Hitler than he has written against Bilbo.

And he is the man whom so many people, just a few months ago, were pushing forward to receive the Spingarn medal for having contributed more than any other for the advancement of the Negro people!

In his article, Pickens attempts to, deride the person who asked him the question by telling the story that

“Booker T. Washington used to tell about the old colored man’s politics in ‘Reconstruction’ days: The old man would go down to the town square, before election times, and lean against the telegraph poles and listen slyly to the talk of the white people, to hear how they intended to vote, and when asked about that interest, he explained it thusly: ‘Well, you see, I’m tryin’ to find out how I must vote, and when I learn how the white folks is goin’ to vote, I know that I must vote agin’ it.’ “

Pickens tells ‘the story, not only to sneer at his questioner, but also to sneer at the old man in the story, who doesn’t have his education and his standing as a “leader. “

But the old man, in my opinion, had a better grasp of politics, instinctive as it was, in his left foot than Pickens had in his whole body.

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