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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.

(7 June 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 23, 7 June 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Negro March On Washington

Last week, in our discussion of the proposed march of 10,000 Negroes on Washington on July 1, we indicated our support of the undertaking and called attention to the fact that the most important consideration in the march had to be the demands made by the marchers when they got there.

We discussed the proposal of the Negro Committee handling the march preparations; it intends to ask a presidential decree abolishing discrimination in employment and the armed forces. We explained how this was based on A. Philip, Randolph’s theory that Roosevelt could issue such an order tomorrow, “and discriminations against colored people would promptly end.”

We support the demand, that Roosevelt should issue an executive order against discrimination. But we definitely do not believe that discrimination would end if Roosevelt issued the order. We support this demand because it would help the fight against specific cases of Jim Crowism, but do not believe it would by itself abolish Jim Crowism.

In support of our position, we want to recall one of the statements made by A. Philip Randolph in the article in which he first called for the march. It should be remembered that this, statement of his was advanced as a reason for holding the march. Printed in January, it said:

“It seems to be apparent that even when well-meaning, responsible, top government officials agree upon a fair and favorable policy, there are loopholes, and subordinate officers in the Army, Navy and Air Corps, full of race hatred, who seek its contravention, nullification and evasion.”

To this he should have added that the Negro-hating, labor-hating employers in industry know very well how to avoid laws and rulings when it serves their purpose.

How does Randolph square this statement of his in January with the one he made in April that a presidential decree would “promptly” end discrimination?

What Randolph Leaves Out

He doesn’t, and he doesn’t try to. He ignores this question, as he does others which touch the very heart of the problem, such as:

Industry, lock, stock and barrel, is in the hands of an employer class which fosters and strengthens anti-Negro prejudices in order to be able to more easily exploit workers of all races.

Military training, lock, stock and barrel, is in the hands of a hardened anti-Negro bureaucratic military caste which is dedicated to the maintenance in military life of every form of racial discrimination that exists in civilian life.

The government, lock, stock and barrel, is in the hands of a war-mongering administration that is notorious for its indifference to the needs and desires of the Negro people, and of two capitalist parties which take turns when they are in power in kicking around legislation such as the anti-lynch bill and the poll tax bill.

In other words, far more important than the question of an executive order which would only echo other rulings already on the books, is the question of CONTROL.

Even if the order were issued by Roosevelt, it would remain on paper, as long as control of industry, military training and the government remain in the hands of the enemies of the Negroes.

A Program for Militant Negroes

Consequently, Negroes must ask for more than a presidential order.

Employers controlling the war industries won’t hire Negroes? Then expropriate the war industries, have the government take them over, and let them be managed and operated without discrimination by committees elected by the workers!

Negroes need military training in this period when all major questions are decided arms in hand, but the army bureaucrats are bitterly anti-Negro and determined to “keep them in their place”? Then join the fight for military training, financed by the government but Under control of the trade Unions, based on full equality for the Negroes!

The government and the boss parties aid the bosses in segregating and discriminating against the Negro people, refusing to pass such elementary legislation as the anti-lynch and poll tax bills ? Then aid in the formation of a labor party pledged to carry on the Negroes’ struggle, pledged to establish a Workers’ and Farmers’ government that, would create a hew society that would forever abolish poverty, war and racial discrimination!

This is the kind of program that Negroes need and must fight for – in Washington on July 1 and everywhere else until they win full social, economic and political freedom.

We do not pretend that the mere adoption of these demands by the marchers will bring automatic victory. Jim Crowism is too strongly rooted in the ways and customs and traditions of our great American democracy to be torn out easily. It will require a long and bitter fight, that will not be ended on July 1.

But with this program the marchers, and the Negro people, will have a Weapon that will make a good start on July 1 and lay the foundation for a struggle that will end in victory, instead of in defeat and demoralization, as happens to so many actions that have no clear goal.

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Last updated: 3 November 2015