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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.

(14 June 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 24, 14 June 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

His Friends Write to Roosevelt

Not long ago an, open letter to President Roosevelt was published in the California Eagle, sighed by several members of the Randolph Committee sponsoring the July 1 March On Washington, including Randolph himself, Frank Crosswaith, Walter White, and others such as William Pickens and Elmer Carter.

“As persons who are sympathetic to your social and labor policies and friendly to your foreign policy of giving effective aid to Britain and her Allies,” they tell Roosevelt, they ask him to use his influence to help Negroes get jobs and equal rights. The letter as a whole is very friendly. Even in its last sentence, where a note of reproach might have entered, there is only a certain mournfulness as they state:

“Those who practice or complacently tolerate race discrimination are not ‘all out’ believers in democracy; and we solemnly warn you and our fellow citizens that they will prove untrustworthy in the hour of democracy’s greatest trials.”

If it weren’t for the seriousness of the problems involved, you would certainly be forced to describe as comical this “friendly,” “solemn,” respectable letter. You would never think that this letter was addressed by Negroes to the man who after eight years in office has yet to utter a syllable one way or the other about the anti-lynch and poll tax bills!

I mention it, rather, to demonstrate an approach to the problem of destroying Jim Crowism, which must be studiously avoided by all class conscious and militant Negroes.

Here we do not refer to that servile tone employed by the misleaders, nor to their disgusting habit of lauding Roosevelt as “a great humanitarian and idealist” – but rather to the question of the general strategic approach.

What The Uncle Toms Are Saying

Observant Negroes must have noticed that every time the Uncle Toms discuss the question of the fight against Jim Crowism, they try to separate it off from all the other fights of the masses, they try to present the question of race discrimination as though it is the only, or the only important, problem to be solved.

“This country,” they say, “is the finest in the world; this government is the finest in the world. There is only one thing wrong: Negroes are not given a fair and square deal.”

Following this line, they go on: “Because it is the best government, we must defend it, and we must support it in any war it enters. Not only is this necessary to us as patriotic Americans, but it has an added advantage in that we can more effectively appeal to the government for a fair deal, and in this way we will get concessions, and in the end, equal rights.”

In other words, the only thing wrong with American capitalism is Jim Crowism. Remove that, and although you leave everything else untouched, you will find paradise on earth. This is the theoretical basis for the general approach of the Negro misleaders.

But this is false through and through. The problems of the Negro workers would not be solved even under a capitalist system that was in some way magically cleansed of racial discrimination and segregation. The Negro masses would still have to contend with the questions of war, unemployment, fascism and all the other critical problems that the white workers face.

The Real Fight Against Jim Crow

No one should accuse us, on reading the above, of underestimating the paramount importance of the struggle against Jim Crowism. We are the first to declare that the workers must wipe it out in every nook and cranny of every institution, and we are proud to take our place in the militant struggle for full social, economic and political equality for the Negro people. As a matter of fact, we are the best fighters in this struggle precisely because of the fact that we understand clearly the connection between the roots and cause of Jim Crowism and the capitalist system which uses it to maintain itself and to oppress the divided masses.

The misleaders base themselves on the idea that it is possible to wipe out Jim Crowism gradually within the confines of capitalist rule. We base ourselves on the understanding that the struggle against Jim Crowism is an outstanding part of the wider struggle to replace capitalism with a socialist society. The misleaders pretend or believe that it is possible by peaceful means, petitions, respectable demonstrations and even flattery to win equality. We contend that Jim Crowism even in the North will not be wiped out until it is wiped out in the South, and that only a far-from-peaceful fight will destroy Jim Crowism in the South where most of the social, political and economic relations are based directly on the oppression of the Negro. In fact, we can safely say that only another Civil War will end the rule of the Southern Bourbons.

Actions flow from our basic concepts and theories. The actions of the misleaders are based on their concepts too. Real life is everyday proving how false they are, and we would not waste much time on them if it weren’t for this important fact: By isolating the struggle against Jim Crowism from all the other legitimate and necessary struggles of the masses, they are weakening the struggle against Jim Crowism itself.

We, on the other hand, because we recognize the fight against discrimination as part of the fight against capitalism, show on every occasion the interconnection between these struggles, so that we can mobilize the white workers side by side with the Negro workers for the solution of their joint problems. It is only in this way, unity of black and white, that capitalism and Jim Crowism can be overthrown.

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