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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

Churchill and the Negroes

(25 October 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 43, 25 October 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

William Pickens, A. Philip Randolph and others who support the war program as a “war for democracy” leap into print every time something happens which shows that Hitlerism is a threat to the interests of the Negro people. But they never have a word to say any more about the British Empire and its attitude toward the Negro people.

Both Pickens and Randolph are leading members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP has just issued a letter addressed to Prime Minister Churchill describing five types of racial discrimination against Negroes being practiced by British agencies in this country.

But neither Pickens nor Randolph will make any attempt to answer this letter or deny what it says or to explain how it is that a government which is supposed to be fighting for “democracy” is guilty of the same kind of discrimination practiced by the Nazis against the racial minorities under their control. They will answer this indictment of British imperialism with silence – as they do all other questions which expose the fraud in their talk about a war for democracy.

The charges in the NAACP letter show that the acts of discrimination complained of are not isolated or accidental cases of Jim Crowism, but rather parts of a larger pattern which reflects the views of the British government. Let us briefly review them:

Five Kinds of British Jim Crow

  1. Charles M. Ashe, fully qualified commercial pilot and instructor, was refused by the British Air Commission in Washington a job ferrying bombers from this country to England, solely because of his color. He was told that according to the regulations of the RAF Ferry Command, “all applicants must be of the white race.”
  2. Dr. Walter W. King of New York City volunteered through the American Red Cross, in response to recent appeals from England for American doctors, to serve in England. He was rejected solely because of his color. He was told by the Red Cross:

“It is true that only white citizens of the United States are eligible for the Doctors for Britain project. The American Red Cross did not set the standards which are being followed. The American Red Cross is acting upon instructions and cannot deviate.”

  1. The NAACP letter continues:

“Touching appeals have been made to Americans to contribute their blood to blood banks to be sent to save the lives of men, women and children in Great Britain who, without such aid would die from grievous wounds inflicted by Nazi bombs. Instructions have come to the United States from Great Britain, we are informed, that only ‘white’ blood is wanted. Does this mean that English men, women and children would prefer dying to living, if the balance in favor of life is non-Aryan blood?”

  1. The British government has asked the United States government to refuse to send any Negroes, regardless of qualifications, to help build naval and air bases in islands of the British West Indies, and “visas are denied by British consulates to highly qualified American Negroes who wish to work in the British Caribbean Islands.” The NAACP letter, after pointing out that Negroes form 90 to 95% of the population of these islands, asks:

“Does the British Government bar these American Negroes lest the example of qualified Negroes filling executive and other official positions arouse too great ambition on the part of underprivileged Negro British subjects in these islands?”/p>

  1. The British Purchasing Commission in Washington has turned down all Negro applicants for employment, regardless of their qualifications, just as it has discriminated against Jews, South Irish and Germans.

The NAACP press release on its letter to Churchill concludes with the statement: “No answer has yet been received.” We do not guarantee that no answer will be received in the future, but we are positive that no satisfactory answer will ever come from Churchill. For Churchill is in full accord with the policies being carried out by his agents in the United States.

Those who have any doubts on this score need only read what he had to say about his much-publicized Eight Point Atlantic Charter with Roosevelt.

Deputy Prime Minister Clement Atlee, head of the British Labor Party, who supports Churchill’s war and tries to cover up its reactionary character, shot off his mouth that “Colored races, as well as white, will share the benefits of the Churchill-Roosevelt Atlantic Charter” and that after the war there will be “an ever-increasing measure of self-government in Africa and ... an ever-rising standard of life for all the peoples of Africa ...”

A few days later Churchill set the record straight on this question, for he would rather be honest than have the colonial people getting any false ideas and taking all the talk about democracy too seriously.

“At the Atlantic meeting,” he said, according to a censored report from the London correspondent of the Pittsburgh Courier, “we had in mind primarily restoration of the sovereignty, self-government and national life of the States and nations of Europe ... That is quite a separate problem from the progressive evolution of self-governing institutions in the regions and peoples which owe allegiance to the British Crown.”

When Pickens, Randolph and Co. remain silent on such questions, they help only to conceal the reactionary character of the British imperialism they want the masses to defend. Treacherous politics of this kind leads in the end to betrayal of the interests of the masses in their struggle against Jim Crow at home.

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