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Albert Parker

Both Parties Uphold Army Jim Crow

Senators Approve Negro Segregation by a Vote of 67–7

(14 June 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 24, 14 June 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The civil rights bills, long demanded by the labor and Negro movements, finally reached the floor of the Senate on June 8 in the form of amendments to the proposed conscription bill, and were promptly voted down by an overwhelming majority of both Republicans and Democrats. The only “concession” that was adopted was of such minor significance that the Southern Democrats did not even bother to stage a filibuster.

Thus the Republicans have a clause which they will wave as proof of their friendship for the Negro people, and the Southern Democrats have a real victory which will guarantee continuation of the Jim Crow system. All the Negro people and the labor movement have is added proof that both capitalist parties in Congress are foes of civil liberties.

The civil rights riders to the draft bill were introduced by Sen. William Langer (R-N.D.), and had the general support of Negro and labor groups. They would have outlawed racial discrimination in the armed forces; barred discrimination in interstate travel of troops; established federal , penalties for lynching of servicemen; prevented draftees from training against their will in Jim Crow states; penalized discrimination against troops in hotel accommodations, etc.; denied contracts from the armed services to employers practicing Jim Crow employment policies; and prohibited the collection of poll taxes as a condition for draftees’ voting.

All these amendments, except the last, were tabled or defeated by a bi-partisan vote. Most of the Republicans and most of the non-Southern Democrats claimed that they were not against the civil lights measures as such, but wanted them to be considered separately from the draft bill.

A Fraud

However, this alibi was shown to be a fraud when the Republicans switched their line on the. final amendment and voted for the anti-poll tax clause, which was adopted by 37–35. The Democrats protested that the Republicans had thereby violated a “general understanding” that both parties would co-operate in killing all the amendments.

The amendment on the poll tax was the most harmless of the lot. It did not outlaw the poll tax as such, but only as it related to servicemen, and only for the two year duration of the draft bill. A majority of the seven poll tax states already practice such a procedure on their own. That was why the Republicans selected it to use as campaign ammunition.

The bi-partisan opponents of the Langer amendments kept repeating that civil rights bills should be permitted to “stand on their own feet.” But that is just what is being prevented by the united action of both parties, who are keeping the major civil rights bills bottled up in committee.

The so-called liberal Senator Wayne Morse (R-Ore.), who also voted against the amendments, had the effrontery to blame the American people for the pro-Jim Crow stand of the capitalist parties: “Neither the people nor the Congress are ready for these amendments.” He said that some day they would be passed but he didn’t know if he would live long enough to see it.

If the working people depend on men like Morse, then we surely will never live to see adequate civil rights legislation enacted by Congress. But the hypocrisy and cynical maneuvers of both parties are tearing the veils from the eyes of the people, and teaching them” the necessity to build a party of their own. The next big step in the fight for civil rights is the building of a powerful Labor Party, based on the unions and Negro organizations. The establishment of such a party is one of the major objectives of the Socialist Workers Party.

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