Breitman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Albert Parker

Negro March on Capital Upheld Against Critics

Albert Parker Answers the Pittsburgh Courier’s Editorial;
Stalinists Change Their Line, Now Concede March’s Value

(21 June 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 25, 21 June 1941, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The July 1 March on Washington to demand the abolition of discrimination against the Negro people in employment and, the armed forces is a project worthy of the support of every Negro and white worker. It is worthy of support in spite of the fact that its organizers (A. Philip Randolph and his friends) have not done too well a job of arousing and mobilizing the Negro masses behind it, and in spite of the fact that its demands are not formulated very well.

The March is worthy of support because essentially it is an ACTION against the system of Jim Crowism that segregates and discriminates against Negroes wherever they go.

The Negro masses themselves have had no difficulty in seeing this. Everywhere, the local March-on-Washington Committees, report the workers, whenever they have been reached, have dug into their pockets and donated and volunteered for the march – and the questions they have asked have not been: “Should we support the March?” but “How can we make this March more successful?”

Courier Opposes March

But while the Negro masses have grasped the need for the March immediately, some sections of the Negro intellectuals have been unable to do the same. A typical example is the editorial writer of the Pittsburgh Courier this week, who says:

“Nothing is going to be accomplished by the crackpot proposal of A. Philip Randolph and his associates to stage a march on Washington in protest against color discrimination in national defense.

“Marches on Washington have always failed of their purpose because Congress has regarded them merely as nuisances organized by publicity hounds, job-hunters and addle-pates, and consisting of the mob-minded and misguided ...”

The Courier’s Alibi

In order to justify this language, which is an exact language that will be used by the Negro-hating poll tax Democratic legislators in Washington on July 1, the Courier editorial writer continues:

“Led by the Pittsburgh Courier, which has spent thousands of dollars during, the past four years in enlightening public opinion about color discrimination in national defense, colored people have so flooded their Congressmen, Senators and the President with protests that not a single official in Washington is unaware of the evil.

“Can a parade tell them anything they do not already know?

“Randolph’s group is loudly claiming that they will have between 50,000 and 100,000 Negroes parading in Washington on July 1, 1941.

“This will be a great boon to the railroad companies and to the oil and gas stations in Washington and vicinity, but it will certainly be a hardship on the marchers.

“The most effective way of influencing Congress and the Administration is by personal letters and telegrams from individuals, societies, church congregations, clubs and fraternities; by memorials and resolutions sent to both Houses and by intelligent personal representations.”

And the rest of the editorial is devoted to the fact that even 1,000 Negroes would swamp the eating and housing facilities in Washington, and to the prophecy that because of the heat and other difficulties, “there will be far less than the heralded 50,000 Negroes present on that date.”

Answering the Courier

A parade will not tell the Washington Administration anything they do not already know about the evil effects of Jim Crowism on the Negro people. If all the parade were intended for was to make the Congressmen “aware of the evil,” it would indeed be a waste of time. But this line of argument, as the Courier editors know well enough, doesn’t really touch the point of the March.

A successful and gigantic demonstration in Washington that presented a militant set of demands on the administration, a demonstration that showed that the Negro people are ready to do more than send telegrams, that showed they are ready to fight Jim Crow – that would certainly tell Washington something it doesn’t already know!

The Courier editorial writer describes “the most effective way of influencing Congress, and the Administration.” What has come of this, “most effective way”?

What good have all the resolutions, letters, telegrams, memorials and “intelligent personal representations” done so far? Has it gotten any jobs in the war industries? Has it diminished by one inch the segregation in the armed forces? If that is really “the most effective way,” then there isn’t much hope.

The Masses Know Better

But the masses know that isn’t the most effective way at all. They know from their own daily experiences that you don’t get anything unless you’re ready to put up a fight for it, that you don’t get higher wages by writing a letter hut by organizing your fellow-workers and putting up a united, militant struggle, against your exploiters. Those who exaggerate the difficulties of a fight usually are not around when it takes place.

And this Courier editorial writer certainly has a nerve saying: that the march “will be a great boon to the railroad companies and to the oil and gas stations.” Using this kind of logic, one could; easily condemn the Courier and its methods of fighting Jim Crow as a great boon to the telegraph companies, the post office and the ink manufacturers.

Where We Stand

The Socialist Workers Party rejects the defeatist, non-struggle policies of the Courier’s editorial writer, and calls on all workers to join and to build the March on Washington into a powerful manifestation of the Negroes’ intention in fight to the death against all forms of Jim Crow.

* * *

The same day that the Courier broke its silence: on the March to come out against it, the Daily Worker and the Communist Party broke their silence to come out in critical support of the March.

Why Stalinists Changed

The long silence of the Stalinists on the question indicated that they would have been glad to duck it altogether. That this was so was shown by the hands-off attitude of the local Stalinists wherever the March was being organized.

However, their failure to find a reason to justify non-support of the march, and the pressure they must have felt from those Negro workers with whom they are in contact, must have driven them at the last moment to a declaration of qualified support. Just what else they will do besides this remains yet to be seen.

Breitman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 3 November 2015