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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.

(26 April 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 17, 26 April 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Mass Action Against Jim Crow

The N.A.A.C.P. picket lines “before the gates of industrial plants holding government defense contracts and refusing to hire colored workers,” scheduled to be held in 50 key cities on Saturday morning, April 26, with an estimated minimum of 33,000 people participating, is a step to be welcomed and supported.

The business of lobbying and waiting in government chambers hat in hand, and writing to Congressmen and the President, cannot do much toward breaking down the bars of industrial Jim Crowism. Talk is necessary, but it must be supplemented by action. The bosses read letters, and telegrams, the government departments meet with committees of 10 or 15 people – but it takes mass demonstrations involving thousands to show them that the Negro workers are not merely asking for their rights, they are DEMANDING them.

It is also gratifying to learn that A. Philip Randolph, head of the Pullman Porters Union, has not only called for, a march of 10,000 Negroes on Washington, but is also going ahead with plans to organize it.

Charley Cherokee of the Chicago Defender states that Randolph is “quietly” going ahead with his plans for the march. We doubt that “quiet” preparations will actually mobilize the Negro masses into action. What is required is a conference of militant Negro organizations to organize and conduct the affair. We don’t doubt that Randolph is seriously interested in making the march a successful turnout of the resentment of the Negro people, but we find it hard to believe that any one man, even one with the support which Randolph undoubtedly has, can by himself’ carry out the job.

Read Your Own Paper!

Horace Cayton, labor editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, this week struck out at those “race leaders” responsible for the Ford, situation, “which so nearly spelt the doom for Negroes in the new labor movement.” He says:

“These ‘race men’ should be smoked out and made to take a position. There is no middle ground. In Detroit the Negro community, depending for employment on the automobile industry, must determine its attitude toward organized labor – no community organization can be impartial – they are either for or against ...”

We would suggest that Cayton read the Detroit edition of his paper, and an article from Detroit in the current issue of all its editions, written by John R. Williams, who says: “Both Mr. Marshall (Ford’s hatchet man) and Mr. Patterson (UAW organizer), along with thousands of other’s, have, congratulated The Courier for its impartial presentation of these issues ...”

The Courier too might have improved the situation which so nearly spelt the doom for Negroes in the new labor movement, if it had been less “impartial.” Cayton is right in saying there is no middle ground. If you weren’t with the union, then you weren’t with the best interests of the Negro workers. The workers needed support, not impartiality.

Negroes and the Mediation Board

The Chicago Defender, in commenting on the makeup of the National Mediation Board, deplores the appointment of George Harrison, head of the lily-white Brotherhood of Railway Clerks, who is well known for his anti-Negro bias, and the failure of Roosevelt to appoint a Negro to the Board even though the Negro people constitute one tenth of our population and a much greater proportion of the working class.

“Under the circumstances,” say the Defender, “Negroes must abandon all hopes of being beneficiaries of impartial judgment, unless the administration cancels the Harrison appointment and substitutes a black man in his place.”

This is posing the question incorrectly. Certainly the Negro workers (and the white workers too) should rid themselves of illusions that they will get “impartial judgment” from this Board. They wont get it because there is no such thing. Either you are for the workers, or you are for the bosses.

The appointment of Harrison does serve to show how little Roosevelt considers the interests of the Negro workers. But his recall and the appointment of a Negro on the Board would not change the fundamental fact tht the Negro, like the labor representatives, would only serve as fig-leaf covering to the anti-labor, anti-Negro role of the Mediation Board.

Instead of calling for the appointment of a Negro to the Board, the Negro press should join The Militant in calling for the resignation of all the labor representatives from the Board and in telling them that their place is with the workers, Negro and white, on the picket lines.

* * *

Jim Crow Squadron Boycotted

In spite of all efforts to make the Jim Crow Air Corps Squadron at Tuskegee seem appetizing to the Negro people, there has been a definite boycott against the segregated set-up handed down front Washington to quiet the protests about discrimination.

The Associated Negro Press called on the colored newspapers to feature stories about the opportunities that lay in store for young men who want to fly.

The Pittsburgh Courier ran an announcement on its editorial page. Mrs. Roosevelt had pictures of herself taken and printed in the Negro press, showing her preparing to go up in a plane with a Negro pilot.

And in spite of this high pressure drive, the ridiculously low figure of applicants permitted into the squadron has still not been filled. Qualified young men don’t like a Jim Crow squadron.

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