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Albert Parker

The Negro Struggle

Wallace and the Negroes

(5 January 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. XII No. 1, 5 January 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The prestige of Henry Wallace among the Negro people is greater today than of any prominent politician in the country. If present indications mean anything, he will draw a very large Negro vote in 1948; perhaps even a majority of the Negro vote.

The reason, of course, is that Wallace is the only capitalist politician who has taken a forthright position against Jim Crow and who has even staged some demonstrations against segregation at public meetings in the South. If Negroes vote for Wallace it will be because they conceive such a vote to be a protest against the system of race prejudice and all its evils.

Nevertheless, we want to sound a warning to all militant Negroes: Be careful! Don’t accept any counterfeit! Look this piece of merchandise over very closely before you buy it!

Remember this: Words are cheap, especially for capitalist politicians. Don’t judge a man or a party only by what they say, but also by what they do; and not merely by what they say and do today, but by what they said and did in the past.

The first point to remember is that Wallace’s friendship for the Negro struggle is of very recent origin. In fact, most of it, suspiciously enough, dates from the time he decided to break with Truman in 1946 and began to eye the presidential nomination.

But Wallace was in politics a long time before that. For something like 14 years before that he was one of the leaders of the Democratic Party, and he never had much to say against the Jim Crow system in those days; as a matter of fact, he and Roosevelt supported and got support from the rabidly Jim Crow Southern Democrats.

As a Cabinet officer he never lifted a finger to end discrimination against Negro federal employees. As Secretary of Agriculture his politics favored the big landholders in the South and did nothing to help the poverty-stricken Negro and white sharecroppers. As Secretary of Commerce he never put up any kind of real fight for the FEPC or against job discrimination in industry.

But the best example of the suspicious contrast between his past record and his present pronouncements is the stand he took during the war. Today, of course, he poses as an intrepid anti-war fighter, while a few years ago he was one of the biggest apologists and advocates of war. Now the questions we want to raise for consideration are these: Does any one remember Henry Wallace ever saying anything against Army Jim Crow and segregation during that whole war? Or doing anything against them?

How much reliance can you place in a man who kept his mouth shut in time of war, when it counted the most and when the Negro people were engaged in bitter struggles to win equality in the armed forces?

Just this brief look at the Wallace record is enough to show that you can’t properly judge a man by what he says when he is running for office. But there is another and equally important aspect to the Wallace problem – the question of his program on Jim Crow – and that we will discuss next week.

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