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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.

(19 July 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 29, 19 July 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Courier and the Negro March

Without any question the biggest news of the first week of the month, so far as the struggle for Negro rights is concerned, was the bureaucratic cancellation of the March on Washington at the time that the eyes and hopes of all advanced Negro workers were turned in the direction of the scheduled March.

And still the Pittsburgh Courier found room on its front page for only a couple of inches of reading matter on the March. And its lead – and it really splashed and splurged on it – was a long denunciation of Walter White and the N.A.A.C.P. for being responsible for the postponement of a hearing to be held by a Senate Committee on discrimination against Negroes in the war industries.

The Courier’s handling of these questions was neither accidental nor the result of slovenly journalism. Rather, it was a brazen attempt on the part of the editors to cover up the shabby role they had played against the March. By attracting attention to a secondary matter of extremely little importance, they hoped we’d forget how they behaved about the March. It was an attempt by a paper with a “militant” reputation to hide its own bankruptcy. Negroes must understand this if they are to avoid mistakes in the future. They must understand not only Randolph’s treachery in calling off the March, but also the treachery of the only paper which had dared to oppose the March.

The reason that the Courier did not attack Randolph was that in calling off the March Randolph had only done what the Courier had urged and advised from the beginning. The Courier therefore could not expose Randolph’s miserable policies without at the same time exposing its own.

The Courier’s Substitute for the March

The Courier had opposed “the crack-pot proposal,” as it called the March, because “Led by the Pittsburgh Courier ... 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?” It had its own methods for defeating Jim Crowism, claimed the Courier. “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.”

The few weeks before the scheduled date of the March blew all this sky high.

The mere threat of a March did more than the thousands of telegrams, letters, postcards, memorials, resolutions, phone-calls, intelligent personal representations, wishful thinking, prayer and even the “political pressure” on Roosevelt practiced last year when the Courier supported Willkie.

For the first time Roosevelt began to show some interest in the question. Of course that interest was not based on a desire to do anything concrete and fundamental about Jim Crowism. It took the threat of the March to get him to admit that there was a problem. He did not do more than pay lip-service to it, and he was helped in getting away with this by the willingness of the leaders of the March to avoid him any embarrassment. Even so, still far more was accomplished by the March threat than by the Courier’s “most effective way.”

Now let us consider the subterfuge resorted to by the Courier to cover up its tracks.

The NAACP, the Courier, and many other Negro groups have for some time been demanding a Congressional investigation of discrimination. Congress avoided adoption of Resolution 75 setting up a special committee for the purpose and instead turned the matter over to the Truman Committee, which was busy investigating other matters and which would have little time for study of Negro discrimination. Truman announced that it would be a long time before his committee would even get around to the matter.

But suddenly, as part of Roosevelt’s moves to call off the March, the Truman Committee announced that it would open a three-day session on the matter on June 30, the day before the March was to take place. The purpose for this hurried move was undoubtedly correctly explained by the NAACP, namely, so that when the March took place, it could be said, “What are you Negroes kicking about? We are holding hearings right now!”

The NAACP then asked for a postponement of 30 days, citing many reasons, some correct, some very weak. Immediately a number of other big shot Negroes, like the publicity-loving demagogue Edgar Brown, who were very eager to get their names in the paper, by one way or another, got very excited at this “betrayal.”

The Courier felt that it had an issue and it blew the balloon as big as it could. Let us show how easy it is to prick it.

Let us remind the Courier:

“Led by The Pittsburgh Courier ... 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?”

If a parade cannot tell them anything they do not already know, what can another futile, three day Senate committee gab fest tell them? No, the Courier cannot escape the consequences of its vacillating policies. It cannot conceal the fact that for its own selfish, craven reasons it gave aid and comfort to Jim Crow at a time that the Negro masses were preparing to strike it a powerful blow.

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