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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.

(17 May 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 20, 17 May 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The March on Washington

Last week the announcement was made that the march of 10,000 Negroes to Washington, to protest against Jim Crowism in industry and the armed forces, is already being organized. The date has been set fox June 30, according to the committee in charge which is composed, of A. Philip Randolph, original advocate of the march, Walter White, the Rev. William L. Imes, Lester B. Granger, Frank R. Crosswaith, Layle Lane, Richard Parrish, Dr. Rayford Logan, and Henry K. Craft.

The purpose of the march, according to this committee, is “to shake up white America, arouse official Washington and gain respect for our people.”

Organization of local committees throughput the country, and especially on the eastern seaboard, to recruit and, register marchers, raise funds through the sale of buttons, is already under way. Conferences are being held this week in New York, Jersey City, Newark, Trenton, Camden, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Militant Action Is Necessary

From the beginning the Socialist Workers Party has pointed out that fighting action is necessary if the Negro people are to win a real victory over the practices of Jim Crowism in industry by the employers and in the armed forces by the government.

We said that words alone are not enough. Resolutions and telegrams are helpful, letters to Congressmen can do no harm, but if you really want to smash Jim Crowism, if you want to win jobs from the bosses who refuse to hire Negroes, if you want to finish segregation in the army and navy, you’ve got to fight.

That was why we welcomed the series of articles, by A. Philip Randolph, beginning last January, in the Negro press as a possible beginning to set the ball rolling in the right direction.

Randolph, when he takes time out from his reactionary defence of all-out aid to Britain, can make good sense if he wants to. In these articles for the most part that is what he did.

He did more than describe the situation that the Negro finds himself in today (“The whole National Defense Set-up reeks and stinks with race prejudice, hatred and discrimination”).

He also called on the Negroes to organize themselves (“power and pressure do not reside in the few, the intelligentsia, they lie in and flow from the masses. Power does not even rest with the masses as such. Power is the active principle of only the organized masses, the masses united for a definite purpose”).

And he proposed a march of 10,000 Negroes on Washington to protest against existing conditions:

“Let them swarm from every hamlet, village and town; from the highways and byways, out of the churches, lodges, homes, schools, mills, mines, factories and fields. Let them come in automobiles, buses, trains, trucks and on foot. Let them come though the winds blow and the rains beat against them, when the date is set. We shall not call upon our white friends to march with us. There are some things Negroes must do alone. This is our fight and we must see it through. If it costs money to finance a march on Washington, let Negroes pay for it. If any sacrifices are to be made for Negro rights in national defense, let Negroes make them. If Negroes fail this chance for work, for freedom and training, it may never, come again. Let the Negro masses speak!”

A Good Plan

Insofar as this goes, we can only hail the whole plan. A militant march on Washington, the national capital of Jim Crowism, a march made up of thousands of Negroes who will be able to get there only because hundreds of thousands of others support the march morally and financially – this would really strike fear into the hearts of the administration and the bosses. It would really put a spoke in their wheel at the time they are shrieking about “national unity” (at the expense of the workers) and taking the last steps prior to full entry into the war! It would give a real jolt to all the propaganda about a war “for democracy,” put the issue of Jim Crowism on the high plane where it belongs and organize the forces for a finish fight for full social, economic and political equality!

Correctly carried out demonstration would also establish the Negroes as a force to be reckoned with by the conservative leaders of trade unions in the AFL who are guilty of Jim Crow practices themselves, and could be used as a wedge for breaking down bars against Negro membership in those sections of the labor movement where they still exist.

Nor should it be forgotten that a correctly carried out struggle of this kind, even if actively supported at the start by only a minority of the Negro people, would be an inspiration and a source of new hope and courage to millions of other Negroes; would help to deepen and extend the local struggles of the Negroes throughout the North; and would undoubtedly serve to set off in the direction of organized struggle millions of Negroes in the South who are awaiting action from their brothers in other parts of the country, and who need only inspiring example from the rest of the working class to set them into action on a wide scale at last.

That is why the Socialist Workers Party, and advanced Negro and white workers everywhere, are 100% for support of an action of this kind.

But to be worthy of support, and to accomplish its ends, the march must (1) really be militant, (2) really involve the masses, and (3) be based on the proper set of demands.

(Continued next week)

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