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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

(23 August 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 34, 23 August 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Auto Workers Fight Jim Crow

It is clear that the United Automobile Workers, CIO, is fully awake to its responsibilities to the Negro workers, and understands that if it wants the aid of the Negro people in its struggles, it must do more than pass resolutions against Jim Crow, it must actively take up the struggle to win equality for the Negroes in the auto factories and in industry generally.

The convention of the union last week passed a resolution instructing all locals to fight for the following program:

  1. Hiring of Negro workers in all departments in all auto, aircraft and “defense” industries.
  2. Equal opportunities for transfers, promotions and training for Negro workers in all auto, aircraft and “defense” plants.

The delegates made it clear that they wanted the officers to carry out this program without any fail.

One Negro delegate in a moving speech said, “We (Negro people) want to demonstrate we are men and we are brothers and we believe in the CIO.” Most of the Negro auto workers have already demonstrated this. It is now up to their white brothers to understand that action on the job to fulfill the union’s resolution will make the Negro workers the best and most loyal members of the union.

The convention also passed a resolution demanding abolition of the poll tax which disfranchises millions of Negro and white workers and sharecroppers in the South.

* * *

Whose Idea Is Jim Crowism?

PM, New York newspaper controlled by Marshall Field, department store magnate who refuses to hire Negroes except as janitors or doormen, has been making a bid for Negro nickels by deploring Jim Crowism every now and then as “inconsistent” with the “all-out war for democracy” which PM so ardently supports.

Last week in their editorial columns they printed a letter from a white soldier in a northern camp, who told how his commanding officer had addressed the men in his company, some of whom were about to be transferred to a southern camp. The officer told them “not to drink with niggers” and not to shake a colored man’s hand when saying good-bye.

PM prints the letter to show its “sympathy” for the Negro people, to. “take the curse” off the officers, and to try to round-up Negro support for the war.

PM does not condemn the entire army or entire officers’ corps on the basis of this one incident – although it is far from the only incident of similar nature reported.”

But, says PM, the main thing is this:

“The war against fascism must be a total war, fought with guns against Hitler’s guns abroad, and fought with ideas against Hitler’s ideas at home. Racial discrimination is a Hitler idea ...”

Of course Hitler has used persecution of Jewish people and other minorities to divide the German workers and maintain himself in power. But is it his idea alone? Did he invent it?

Every Negro knows that this is not true, that Jim Crowism existed and was nourished by the capitalists in this country long before Hitler was heard of. Racial discrimination is also a Roosevelt idea and a Willkie idea and a Marshall Field idea.

Racial discrimination must and will be fought and destroyed in this country. But that can be done only if it is clearly understood who and what are responsible for and benefit from it.

PM tries to confuse the Negroes by telling them the fight against Jim Crowism is tied up with and is part of the drive for imperialist war.

The truth is that the fight against Jini Crowism is part of the fight against those forces who want to get us into the war – the capitalist class and all its political and journalistic stooges.

* * *

Answer to a Reader

One of our readers has challenged our statement that practically all of the Uncle Tom leaders have already sold but to the war machine. Admitting that “many of our so-called promising young men” have already taken jobs in Washington as assistant administrative assistants, our reader nevertheless points to the formation of the Colonel Charles Young branch of the America First Committee as a proof that some of the Negro figures are still opposing the war.

It is true that there are a few Negro “leaders” who have not yet come out in support of Roosevelt’s war plans, who understand that the Negro masses are overwhelmingly against those plans and who figure on maintaining some prestige among the masses by not committing themselves as yet. Among these are J. Finley Wilson of the Elks and Perry Howard, Negro Republican.

But to assume from this that they can or want to lead the Negro struggle against war is to make a fatal mistake. For even if you forget for the moment Lindbergh’s anti-Negro phobias, you cannot forget that the America First Committee is only a “loyal opposition” to Roosevelt, and itself expresses the interests of one section of the Jim Crow ruling class.

They may hold out a little longer, but we can be sure that Wilson and Howard, like Lindbergh and Wheeler, will come rushing to the defense of the capitalists’ interests, once the war is declared and those interests are at stake.

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