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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.

(19 April 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 16, 19 April 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

[Ford Failure]

The biggest thing about the Ford strike was the miserable failure of Ford, Bennett and Marshall to preserve the open shop by provoking a race riot between the Negro and white workers. The fact stands out, big and proud, that the overwhelming majority of the 12,000 Negro workers in the plant, in spite of a barrage of anti-union, pro-Ford threats and promises, went with their class.

Ford found that, he could not use the Negro workers to break the strike, for a good 80% or more of them saw through his trick, resisted the pressure of many of their “leaders” and went out with the union.

In order to preserve the remnants of this vicious plan, that would have put back the cause of the Negro workers for many years, Ford and his assistants had to depend on a comparatively small number of Negroes who were brought into the plant during the last month from the South. These Negroes, not at all acquainted with what was going on, never having had the opportunity to hear the arguments of the union, in no way familiar with Ford’s anti-union, anti-Negro scheme, were all he had to depend on when the strike actually began.

The other Negroes, the workers who have suffered under the Ford speed-up, spy system and low wage rate for many years – the real Ford Negro workers – knew where their best interests lay: with the union.

So although Ford did have a small group of Negroes to use for his scheme, and he certainly did use them in every way he could, he could not break the strike, nor arouse a spirit of white chauvinism in the union members. Everyone involved in the situation could see that the great bulk of the Negro workers were fighting with the union, not against it.

Incidentally, those Negroes who fell for and helped to spread the pro-Ford propaganda before the strike, must have felt pretty cheap to see how Ford and the boss press consciously directed so much of their publicity toward making it appear that the strike was a race conflict, rather than a struggle of workers of all races for improved working conditions.

The Negro Ford workers did their full share in saving the day for the union at Ford’s. It is up to the white workers in the labor movement now to recognize that they need the full support of the Negroes in the coming struggles and to raise high on their banners the demand for full equality for their colored brothers.

The Crummiest Speech

The distinction of having made the worst speech of the year this far belongs to the president of Tuskegee Institute, F.D. Patterson, who declared before the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers:

“We are asking for a lot of things that are not of immediate importance though they aim at noteworthy ideals. One that is of apparent import to a lot of people is that we should be integrated in companies and regiments with white soldiers, claiming that the discrimination of the nation’s soldiers on the grounds of color and race is a breach of democratic procedure.

“All that is admirable, but what we should be concerned with at the moment is an opportunity to serve in any capacity ...

“We should stop fretting too much about discrimination, and focus our attention on getting an opportunity on a basis of equality.”

He isn’t aroused about the Negro soldiers being placed in separate regiments where they can be more easily used as suicide squads and as labor battalions.

That’s what he’s doing – serving “in any capacity.” Nothing too low or foul for Patterson.

Discrimination Legislation

Recently two bills pertaining to discrimination against Negroes in employment were passed. One, in New York, amends the civil rights law and penal law to “make it unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation engaged to any extent whatsoever in the production, manufacture or distribution of military or naval material, equipment or supplies for the state of New York or for the federal government to refuse to employ any person in any capacity on account of the race, color or creed of such persons.” This measure is now awaiting the signature of the governor ...

The other bill, already signed by the governor and now a law, was passed by the Kansas Legislature. It prohibits any labor union in the state from being certified as a bargaining agency if it “discriminates against, bars or excludes from its membership any person because of race or color.”

It is not hard to make predictions about these bills. The New York bill will be signed and made a law too. But it won’t mean a thing so far as getting jobs for the Negroes. The employers will just stop saying they refuse to hire Negroes; they will just not hire them. And the Negro people will still have to continue their struggle to force open the doors oof industry.

The Kansas law also will not help the Negroes. It will not change the attitude of those reactionary AFL union leaders who now bar them from admission to unions. All it will do is enable the employers, who are really responsible for the lily-white ideas of their labor agents, to divert attention from their refusal to hire Negroes. And it will offer a handle to employers to attack and break up unions.

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