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Albert Parker

The Negro Struggle

Randolph’s Testimony

(12 April 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 15, 12 April 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A. Philip Randolph’s testimony before the Senate. Armed Services Committee is a sign that the Negro struggle against Jim Crow is on the verge of passing from the stage of protest and indignation to the stage of mass action. The Senate members were angered and frightened by Randolph’s promise to call a mass “civil disobedience” movement if military Jim Crow is abolished. But what disturbed them even more was the knowledge that he was only expressing the mood of millions of Negroes.

The present spirit of Negro rebellion can be compared in some ways to the one that prevailed shortly before the U.S. entered World War II. Then, too, there was growing unrest, centering around the determination of the Negro masses to secure for themselves the democratic rights that they were told the war was being fought to secure for everyone else. Then, too, Randolph gave expression to their sentiments by launching the March on Washington Movement, aimed at abolishing Jim Crow in employment and the armed forces.

The march on Washington never came off because its leaders buckled under Roosevelt’s pressure, and cancelled the protest demonstration in return for the establishment of the war-time Fair Employment Practices Committee. That of course didn’t stop the Negro struggle, which continued in the form of resistance to Jim Crow attacks all through the war. Nevertheless, many Negroes at the same time suffered from the illusion that if they went along with the war, maybe things would improve afterward. The experience since the end of the war has dashed all such hopes to the ground. The lesson of the last seven years is clear and unmistakable: The Negro people don’t get a thing without fighting for it.

That is why the present situation, while it has some points of comparison with 1940–1941, is an expression of the fact that the Negro struggle stands on a higher plane than it did in the days of the March on Washington Movement. This time Randolph threatens not only mass action and opposition to the Jim Crow Jaws and regulations – as he did in 1941 – this time he also advocates outright defiance of those laws.

The new stage which the Negro struggle is entering will impose great responsibilities on both the Negro and white workers. Now is the time for a thorough discussion of these problems. Among Negroes of course the question is no longer: Should the Negro people fight against Jim Crow and all its defenders? That question has already been decided. The questions to be discussed now are: What is the best way to conduct this fight? What kind of leadership is needed to guide this fight to victory? How can the active support of the labor movement be won for this fight?

This discussion is already under way wherever Negroes meet. Coming issues of The Militant will report on the discussion as it is reflected in the Negro press, pnd organizations, and will present the viewpoint of this paper. Readers are invited to send in their opinions.

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