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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

(20 September 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 38, 20 September 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Fascist Ideas and Jim Crow

In the course of a discussion held in Mexico on April 4, 1939, Leon Trotsky said:

“Fascism in the United States will be directed against the Jews and the Negroes, but against the Negroes particularly, and in a most terrible manner, A ‘privileged’ condition will be created for the American white workers on the back of the Negroes.”

In spite of the fact that this country is today preparing in every sphere for an all-out war, directed presumably “against fascism” abroad, the ideas of fascism right here at home in “the arsenal of the democracies” are gaining strength and new supporters with alarming speed.

The speech of that advocate of white supremacy, Lindbergh, attacking the Jewish people last week, is an example of this growing trend. This speech – not yet repudiated by any of his colleagues on the America First Committee – has received much publicity, especially through the efforts of the interventionist war-mongers Who are only too pleased with an easy opportunity to win supporters for the war by the cheap expedient of denouncing the racial prejudices of an outstanding isolationist.

But when it comes to Negro baiting and to Jim Crow practices developed in the school of propaganda-by-example, the interventionists have nothing or little to say. The reason is simple: in this field of racial division and the fostering of racial hatred, the warmongering administration takes first place and most of the responsibility.

Only here and there do you read about it – in the workers’ and Negro press, and occasionally in a liberal magazine – but at present the Roosevelt administration is doing more by its Jim Crow segregation policies in the armed forces to foster fascist racial ideas among whites than any other agency in the country, including the South.

The anti-labor bureaucratic caste in the army is not only teaching hundreds of thousands of white young men to hate organized labor and to receive an carry out orders given “from above” without thought and without question, but it is also teaching them – by separating Negro soldiers from them everywhere they eat, sleep, train, drill, get recreation, etc. – that they are better than Negroes. Thus the ideas of “white supremacy” and “Negro inferiority” are injected into the minds of young men, many of whom went to school beside Negroes when they were children and never had a trace of chauvinism.

Not every white soldier accepts these ideas, of course. Those especially who have been in unions, worked alongside of Negroes and walked beside them on picket-lines, refuse to accept these ideas. The Negro press carries numerous expressions of sympathy and protest from white workers in southern camps who have been revolted and disgusted by the vicious Jim Crow policies and the MP brutalities practiced against Negroes.

But let us [not] be lulled by these accounts. There has been no authoritative poll on this question, but there is no reason to believe that the racially tolerant white soldiers constitute a majority or much of a majority at best.

For the pressure on the average soldier, all the things said and half-said by his superior officers, is continuous and powerful. In the end many white soldiers who never even thought about Negroes at home, tend to accept that distorted way of thinking which is so frequently encountered in the South: “My own lot is a miserable one, but at least I am better off than the Negroes” and “The Negro is responsible for my conditions.”

To those who think this is an exaggeration or an isolated phenomenon, we recommend the reading of an article, Why The Army Gripes by Harold Lavine, in the August 30 issue of The Nation. The article is all the more significant because this magazine is an ardent supporter of Roosevelt and his war program. When they print this article, it is not because they are trying to spread anti-war propaganda, but because the situation is so acute that they would like to see it corrected or alleviated so that it will not interfere with the war plans.

Lavine’s Report

Mr. Lavine interviewed 352 soldiers on leave in New York City and tried to discover what their complaints were. Here is what he reported about the attitude of many of them toward the Negroes:

“The inferiority complex which so many of the recruits have developed is reflected in their attitude toward Negroes. They haven’t just the normal anti-Negro prejudice which you find everywhere in the United States, in the North as well as the South. They HATE Negroes, and their hatred seems to be mounting to hysteria. They make sudden, irrelevant remarks: ‘Say, I read where Joe Louis is to join the Army. I hope they send him down my way. First dark night I’ll shoot the bastard.’ They occupy themselves with the problem of whether or not to salute Negro officers. ‘They say it’s the uniform you salute, not the man,’ I said. ‘The hell with that. I’d like to shoot them.’”

This is a terrible danger signal to the Negro people and the whole labor movement. Whatever happens in the war, a lot of people are going to get out of the army with strong fascist anti-Negro ideas. Whether the United States wins the war or not, these forces will further divide the Negro and white workers and increase the Jim Crow terror against the Negro people.

If there was no reason before for fighting the war program – and there were a hundred – here is a good one. If there was no reason before for fighting to take control of military training away from the bureaucratic officer caste and, struggling for military training under control of the trade unions and on the basis of equality for Negroes – and The Militant has been filled with such reasons – here is an undeniable one.

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