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Albert Parker

The Negro Struggle

Defend Frank Barnes!

(24 May 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 21, 24 May 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Frank Barnes case in Santa Monica, California, teaches three important lessons to the Negro people in all parts of the country.

  • That the Truman administration, despite its promises to institute a civil rights program, is actually an accomplice of the capitalist class in preserving Jim Crow practices in employment.
  • That government witch hunts serve to undermine every progressive movement, including the fight for Negro rights.
  • That it is necessary to fight harder than ever before against Jim Crow and red-baiting, or else the Negro people will be deprived even of the few rights they now have.
  • Frank Barnes is the president of the Santa Monica NAACP branch and of the United Committee to End Discrimination at Sears, which the NAACP and two dozen other labor, Negro and civic organizations formed in order to win jobs for Negroes at the local store of Sears, Roebuck and Co. In this capacity Barnes did an excellent job, leading a struggle on the picket line which effectively cut down trade. Sears tried first of all to get the picketing prohibited and then, when mass protest prevented that, decided to go after Barnes himself.

    Barnes makes his living as a mail carrier, that is, he works for the government. Sears therefore took its case to the Post Office and quickly Succeeded in getting Truman’s Postmaster General, Jesse M. Donaldson, to suspend Barnes on the charge that he is “disloyal to the government of the United States”! Why? Had he expressed any such disloyalty, had he called for the overthrow of the government? He obviously had not. But, said the Truman administration, Barnes was guilty of being “affiliated or sympathetic with an organization, association, movement, group, or combination of persons designated by the Attorney General as subversive.” Proof? One of the organizations affiliated with the United Committee to End Discrimination at Sears was the Communist Party.

    And so Barnes has been deprived of his job in the Post Office, pending a hearing before the Loyalty Board. As in Hitlerite Germany and Stalinist Russia, a man can be persecuted not only for what he thinks or does, but even for the company he keeps and the people he associates with. That is the brand of democracy the ruling class is preparing a new world war to defend, and which they will order the Negro and white workers to shed their blood for.

    This practice of “guilt by association,” if permitted to continue, will destroy democratic rights altogether. For that reason alone it is necessary for the labor and Negro movements to rally to the defense of Frank Barnes and force his unconditional reinstatement. But there is another and equally urgent reason, which will be quickly recognized by anyone studying this case: What the government is really driving to put over with this persecution is the notion that militant opposition to Jim Crow can be punished as “disloyalty to the government of the United States.” If they can get away with that, then naked dictatorship will be around the corner.

    Some people hope that, as the outbreak of the next war approaches, the government is going to soften up and get rid of some of the Jim Crow regulations and practices. But if you disregard the token gestures and third-rate concessions, you can see that the reverse of such hopes seems to be the case. Instead of getting softer, capitalism in its death agony is accentuating its get-tough policies not only abroad but at home as well, not only against labor but also against the minorities.

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