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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.

(10 May 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 19, 10 May 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Supreme Court Decision

It was extremely dissappointing to read the comment of the Negro press on the recent decision of the Supreme Court on the Mitchell case. Most of the press went overboard for it hook, line and sinker, hailing it as one of the most important decisions since the Civil War.

The Pittsburgh Courier went even further than most, spilling the pictures of the eight judges clear across the top of the front page and labeling it “Eight Real Americans ... They Rendered Most Momentous Decision Affecting The Race since 1857.”

Are the Courier editors kidding themselves or do they believe it? The most that could be said for the decision, so far as the great mass of the Negro people goes, was that it was a thin moral victory insofar as the position of the 10 Southern Attorneys-General was rejected.

The decision did not wipe out segregation in transportation, just as the court’s decision on the Gaines case a few years ago did not wipe out segregation in education. That is what is fundamental, and that is just what the court refused to act on.

The Negro press does not do a service to the job of clarifying the struggle for full equality when it prints such twaddle as it did on this case. Indeed, it sounds almost as ridiculous as did Mitchell himself, when he crowed after the announcement of the decision that he wants the world to know that he fought, the case single-handed and deserves “the full credit.” The only difference is that the Negro press ballyhoos the Jim-Crow Court as the protector of Negro rights, while Mitchell ballyhoos only himself.

Pickens Defends British Jim Crow

William Pickens has written another article in an endeavor to swing more Negroes to support of the war to defend British imperialism. His latest article is directed against George Padmore who is now in England. Padmore’s article in the March issue of The Crisis, Hitler Makes British Drop Color Bar, has aroused Picken’s ire.

We do not comment on it in order to defend Padmore, because Padmore can ably defend himself, but in order to defend the American Negro, people against the sly distortions of Pickens.

Pickens’ theme, this time, is that in England you will find far less evidence of Jim Crowism than you will find anywhere else except, maybe Honolulu, Hawaii; and that therefore Negroes should throw all their support behind the government’s steps to aid England. Once Pickens had made more than 60 lectures all over England, and he claims that “for the Negro, the worst place in England is better than the best place in the United States ...”

The trick Pickens employs here is to separate the British Isles from the British Empire and to pick out one isolated, very minor aspect of the first to justify all-out, uncritical defense of the second. We are willing to grant, for the sake of argument, the truth of Pickens’ observations about racial discrimination in England (although current reports about separate Jim Crow bomb shelters do not jibe with his pretty picture). But is that the decisive question, as Pickens tries to make it appear?

Ask Churchill, and the other imperialists, and they’ll answer only too quickly that it is not. Churchill and his class are not fighting to preserve Negro rights in the British Isles, they are fighting to preserve the British EMPIRE, which means the continued exploitation and oppression of hundreds of millions of colored workers and peasants in Africa and India and the West Indies.

Pickens is happy that two years ago in London he “could roam through the whole town, and stop and step into any public place, and eat and drink, and without receiving any discourtesy, could crowd shoulder to shoulder with the thronging English people, without a ripple of displeasure.” But when he tries to imply that this is what the British ruling class is fighting for, he knows that he is deceiving his public.

Padmore described how the progress of the war has compelled the British ruling class to temporarily lower some of the color bars against Negroes. The reason was not that they believe in equal rights for Negroes, but that they want to strengthen the imperialist system that keeps the great bulk of Negroes in subjection.

Because for every Negro who might be able to go freely in England, there were and are a thousand Negroes in Africa who can’t go where they want, or work where they want, or vote, or belong to a union, or a party, or even an African form of the NAACP.

NAACP Picket Lines

The NAACP picket lines scheduled to be held throughout the country on April 26 were far from the successful demonstrations against Jim Crowism that they easily could have been.

They were poorly organized, and consequently, not well attended.

This must be a lesson to, the leaders of the NAACP, or all their other efforts will also be unavailing. They must pay more attention to involving the Negro masses in the struggle against discrimination. It is necessary and correct to take care of court action, to prepare briefs for Congress, to file telegrams of protest. But unless these actions are backed up by the great hulk of the Negro people (and everyone knows they are more aroused by present day developments than ever before), nothing will come of them.

For more demonstrations involving the masses! For real preparation and organization of such demonstrations to show the real strength of the Negroes!

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