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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.

(26 July 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 30, 26 July 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Defend Our Party Against Roosevelt

The Socialist Workers Party is under attack from the war-monger Roosevelt and his Gestapo-FBI because of our opposition to the war.

In the indictments against the 29 defendants handed down by the St. Paul Grand Jury last week, it was charged that they were trying to get “members of the military and naval forces of the United States to become undisciplined, to complain about food, living conditions and missions to which they would be assigned, to create dissension, dissatisfaction and insubordination among the armed forces ...”

In other words, the government is trying to find a scapegoat to blame for the fact that black and white workers are dissatisfied with the present anti-labor, Jim Crow regime in the army and navy.

But every Negro who is at all acquainted with the way Negro soldiers and sailors are segregated and discriminated against in the armed forces will quickly understand what the government is up to. This attack on the Socialist Workers Party, which has consistently fought for the rights of all workers, is also an attack, on the right of the workers, to seek equal and just treatment in the armed forces. For if the Socialist Workers Party can be indicted and suppressed because the party fights for an end to Jim Crowism in the armed forces, so can everyone else.

That is why Negro workers must rally to defense of the 29 defendants.

Why Negroes Dislike the Army

But aside from this, every Negro worker must be thinking to himself:

“How ridiculous is this business of seeking a scapegoat for dissatisfaction with the way we are treated in this army! Roosevelt knows very well who is responsible for our being dissatisfied – it is Roosevelt himself, and his Jim Crow cabinet who are responsible. The conditions to which we object were not created by the Socialist Workers Party – they are upheld and maintained – by the government itself.”

The Socialist Workers Party is not responsible for Roosevelt’s orders that Negro and white soldiers must be segregated and kept completely separate in all phases of army life.

The Socialist Workers Party is not responsible for ecretary of the Navy Knox’s order that Negroes can serve only as mess stewards and dish-washers on board the ships of the U.S. Navy.

Roosevelt justifies his Jim Crow position on the grounds that to maintain mixed regiments of both colored and white soldiers “would be destructive to morale and detrimental to the prep’arations for national defense.” Knox says that to let Negroes serve in the Navy on the same basis as, white sailors would be “a dangerous experiment.”

What they mean is that, if they even pretended to grant equality to the Negroes in the armed forces, the poll-tax South might not support Roosevelt’s war plans so eagerly. They are really afraid that the end of Jim Crow in the armed forces would be “destructive” to white supremacy, “detrimental” to the continued existence of Jim Crow in civilian life, and “a dangerous experiment” to the capitalists who profit by keeping white and Negro workers divided.

But by following a policy of appeasing Jim Crow, Roosevelt and his gang have only exposed to the Negroes the hypocrisy of their slogans about fighting for democracy.

And now that the Negro people are dissatisfied and complaining, Roosevelt seeks to attribute the cause of this to “agitators” who are trying to “overthrow the government.”

How to Satisfy the Worker-Soldier

There is a way for Roosevelt to get rid of this dissatisfaction in the armed forces.

First of all, let him wipe out discrimination and segregation of all kinds. Then let him permit the soldiers to have the right to choose their own officers, the kind of men they can trust to look out for their welfare. Then let them have the right to elect committees from their own ranks, who will represent them when they have any grievances. Then let Roosevelt tell them why the armed forces are being built up and what he intends to use them for; let him try to prove that it is really a war against fascism that he wants to fight and not another war for bosses’ profits, by clearly announcing his war aims and by preventing war profiteering in all spheres.

If he would do this, dissatisfaction would disappear. But he cannot do this because he is interested above everything else in protecting boss profits and the system that goes with it.

We know that he cannot do it, and that is why we have raised our own program and demands: Let us have military training, financed by the government, but under the control of the trade unions which the workers can trust and through which they will be able to correct their grievances.

Under such a system, maybe the warmongers and the profiteers and the lynch mobs would be dissatisfied. But not the workers!

Roosevelt may attempt to suppress the activities of the Socialist Workers Party because of its consistent opposition to his war plans and its demand for military training under the trade unions – but that will hot remove the smallest part of the dissatisfaction that now exists, any more than it will prevent our continued struggle against war, fascism, Jim Crowism and unemployment.

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Last updated: 23 May 2016