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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

(8 November 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 45, 8 November 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Looking through the Negro press the last week or so, we got a bird’s eye view of what many of the so-called “leaders” of the Negro people are up to. It has become a practice to call such people who betray the interests of the Negro masses “Uncle Toms”, but in actuality using such a term for these people is a slander of the original Uncle Tom.

* * *

The handful of Negro soldiers now being trained as officers by the Army are all getting their training in the same camps as white soldiers. Here they are by no means free from discrimination and segregation, but since they are in the same camps they escape some of the more obvious Jim Crow treatment they might have to suffer in separate camps.

Up pops that Negro advocate of Negro segregation, Edgar G. Brown, leader of the United Government Employees, with the request to Roosevelt and Secretary of War Stimson that a Jim Crow officers training school be established.

This gave a newscaster broadcasting over the Mutual Broadcasting System the opportunity to say, “A large group of the most responsible Negro leaders in the country has appealed to President Roosevelt in a formal, official letter opposing the present policy of the army whereby Negro officers are being trained in the same schools as white officers.”

And. according to the Chicago Defender, “anti-Negro forces in Washington and particularly the War Department are reported to be delighted at the request of Brown ... since it permits them to justify segregation on the ground that Negroes themselves have asked for it.”

* * *

In Little Rock, Arkansas, the CIO has been active organizing cotton oil mill and compress workers, laundry workers, domestic workers, etc., many if not most of whom are Negro men and women. After the establishment of Camp Robinson, for example, the demand for domestic workers for the officers’ families rose – but the wages didn’t, remaining at $3–4 a week. The CIO is organizing these workers and trying to win them a minimum of $1 a day. The laundry workers too are grossly underpaid, overworked and exploited, and ready to respond to organization. The mill operators and planters in the area are getting a little worried, for they fear that the current CIO drive may make headway into the more important industries, and they are preparing to fight the CIO in every way possible.

So along come two Negro stooges, Attorney R.J. Booker of the Negro Chamber of Commerce and C.H. Jones of the so-called “Southern Mediators Association” calling meetings and issuing statements as “Negro” leaders urging the Negro workers to have nothing to do with the CIO and in general doing everything within their power to prevent them from receiving the benefits of unionism.

* * *

Only two months ago Governor Stassen of Minnesota was widely attacked in the Negro and labor press for his refusal to permit Negroes to serve in the state Home Guards.

Then about two weeks ago Stassen came out with a statement calling on employers to hire Negroes without discrimination, one of those cheap statements that sound good and cost nothing.

Now, from Washington, D.C., Emmett J. Scott, who as “Negro advisor to the Secretary of War” did his “bit” in World War I in convincing the Negro people that it was a “war for democracy”, and who knows what Stassen’s record is, comes out with a disgusting article praising Stassen because he is one of those “engaged in battling the forces of intolerance and bigotry – not lip service-battling, but real battling ...”

* * *

Today the Negro people have the greatest need and opportunity for agitation and struggle for equal rights. The government forces who want to stifle free speech also want to take away from the Negroes the right to speak and agitate against Jim Crowism, and in the name of “national defense” they propose to do this.

Dean Gordon Hancock, writing in his column, Between The Lines, this week gives them aid and comfort in their plans when he says:

“Freedom of speech is a fine thing in times of peace, but it becomes exceedingly dangerous in times of war. At a time when we have to be concentrating everything on getting this nation’s mind made up to fight a war that is inevitable, we are still crying ‘freedom of speech’ with the result that our councils are divided and the people are confused and the nation is just piddling around. Whether we have a dictatorship or not, we certainly need one, and that very badly ...”

* * *

This is only a small fraction of the large-scale treachery reported in the press in the last week or so. But as we were saying, alongside of some of these people. Uncle Tom was just a harmless old coot. Even if his philosophy was that they could beat his poor old body but his soul belonged to God, at least he didn’t go around selling out other Negroes to their oppressors. And he was supposed to be uneducated unlike many of these lawyers and doctors. And he didn’t pretend to be a leader!

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