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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

(2 August 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 31, 2 August 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Roosevelt Picks Six

When A. Philip Randolph and Walter White called off the July 1 March on Washington, Roosevelt issued an executive order stipulating that future contracts let by the government would contain a clause against racial employment discrimination, and announcing the formation of a five-man Committee on Fair Labor Practices as a subdivision of the Office of Production Management.

The very inclusion of the clause establishing the Fair Practices Committee was an admission that the executive order had no teeth since it made no provision for punishing employers who disregarded the new clause in their contracts.

After the Uncle Toms who condoned calling off the March had finished praising and extolling Roosevelt for his reat ”statesman-like” act, a behind-the-scenes struggle took place as to the composition of the five-man Committee which would ”investigate” all complaints of discrimination and ”recommend” punitive and corrective steps to be taken.

Exactly what took place behind the scenes has not been revealed to the Negro people whose welfare is involved. All that leaked out was >that it had developed into a fight over the question: Should there be two Negroes on this Committee, or only one?

In the end, Roosevelt solved the problem by appointing six men to the five-man Committee, and among the six, two Negroes.

So that even if no Negroes have gotten jobs in industry as a result of Roosevelt’s order, at least two of them have gotten posts with Roosevelt.

The Six He Picked

Picked to head the committee “was one Mark P. Ethridge, a newspaper executive from the South, labeled a “Southern liberal.” This is to satisfy southern sentiment, and to assure the Jim Crow sections of the Democratic Party that they will not be discriminated against.

The two Negroes are Earl B. Dickerson, Chicago alderman and a member of the Board of Directors of the NAACP, which endorsed the March on Washington when it was being organized and endorsed its being called off when Roosevelt made the request; and Milton P. Webster, vice-president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, of which Randolph is president.

Selected as representatives of organised labor were Philip Murray, head of the CIO which practices equality in admission and treament of membership; and to compensate for him there was added William Green, president of the AFL which refuses to do anything about the many affiliated international craft unions which bar Negroes from membership or admit them only to Jim Crow locals.

Representing business and industry is David Sarnoff, president of RCA. And with regard to industry and the Negro, Sarnoff certainly represents it in this case, for his own company hires practically no Negroes, with the exception of a few Negro salesmen and porters.

One thing these six men have in common: they are political supporters of the Roosevelt administration and its war program.

The Committee does not have any real powers. Its job is to investigate what everybody of high school age knows, and to recommend corrective steps to a man who has shown that he doesn’t want to take them.

How the Committee Will Work

The word “runaround” has always neatly summed up Roosevelt’s handling of the demand of the Negro people for equality.

Runaround is also the description of the machinery adopted by the Fair Practices Committee for the carrying out of its work. The set-up is as follows:

  1. Any complaint of racial discrimination is to be reported to the local office of the state employment service. A field worker will be directed to ascertain the facts of the case from the sides of both applicant and employer.
  2. In the event the field worker finds that the employer is at fault, “he will be informed of the President’s executive order and immediate adjustment will be sought.”
  3. “Failure to reach a solution through these preliminary efforts will result in a referral of the case” to the office of the Chairman of the state labor supply bureau of the Division of Labor Supply, OPM.
  4. “If satisfaction is not then obtained, the entire case is to be referred to Washington for the consideration of and adjudication” by the Fair Practices Committee.

This is all of the process reported by the Chicago Defender. Of course, it does not stop there. After the Fair Practices Committee considers and tries to adjudicate the case, and fails, the case goes before the arch-hypocrite responsible for all this rigamarole.

Negroes who want job equality and who pin their faith to Roosevelt and his Committee, had better be prepared to live to a ripe old age before anything is done.

As always, the struggle for Negro rights continues to require mass action and mistrust in all promises, whether they come from white Jim Crow politicians or Negro Uncle Tom stooges for those politicians.

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Last updated: 25 May 2016