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Albert Parker

The Negro Struggle

The Sky’s the Limit

(9 February 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. XII No. 6, 9 February 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Listening to the speeches, messages, resolutions, documents and platform planks pouring out of the various campaign headquarters nowadays, you might get the impression that nothing is too good for the Negro people and other minorities. In that case, you will be surprised next December, when all the shouting is finished and the votes are counted, to find the minorities in pretty much the same position as before.

Of course, the battle of the demagogues is just getting started and you haven’t seen anything yet. But already it is plain that in 1948 the sky will be the limit in campaign promises to the important Negro vote. Taft promises he will fight against segregation in the proposed peacetime conscription program. Wallace calls for the complete abolition of Jim Crow. Truman rushes off his civil rights message to Congress with a list of points long advocated by the Negro and labor movements.

There is an old saying: By their fruits ye shall know them. Taft never lifted a finger against segregation in the armed forces either in peace or war. Wallace never abolished Jim Crow in the cabinet departments he headed. And Truman’s fruits are just as rotten.

To prove that, we call attention to just one aspect of his Feb. 3 message to Congress.

“During the recent war and in the years since its close we have made much progress toward equality of opportunity in our armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin,” he said. “I have instructed the Secretary of Defense to take steps to have the remaining instances of discrimination in the armed services eliminated as rapidly as possible.”

We won’t go into a lengthy argument here about the falsity of Truman’s remark about “progress toward equality” in the armed forces; every Negro who ever had anything to do with the armed forces knows that segregation (the foundation of discrimination) is the most rigidly enforced policy in the armed forces, and that instead of getting better, it is getting worse all the time.

But here is the main point: Truman tells Congress to act on the poll tax, lynching, FEPC, etc., because they are in its department. Correct – but what about the issues that are in his own department? As commander-in-chief of’ the armed forces, Truman has the power to issue an executive order outlawing segregation in the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. He doesn’t need the permission of Congress or anyone else to do this, and he could do it this very day if he wanted to. Instead, he makes a vague reference about instructing the Secretary of Defense to do something about discrimination – while he completely skirts around the crucial issue of segregation.

Some Negro leaders are going around saying that this is fine. Let the candidates keep on bidding against each other, they say, and then let the Negro people vote for the one who promises the most. But if the Negroes deliver their votes on this basis, it will be worse than selling their birthright for a mess of pottage, If worse comes to worst, you can always eat pottage, but you can’t get any nourishment at all out of campaign demagogy and claptrap.

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Last updated: 2 October 2020