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Albert Parker

The Negro Struggle

A Letter About the NAACP

(14 June 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 24, 14 June 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The following letter, from a reader in Santa Monica, Calif., raises a number of questions worth thinking about and discussing:

Dear Comrade Parker:

For many years I have conscientiously read The Negro Struggle in The Militant and have gained a great deal from it. But I do not recall ever reading any discussion concerning the problems involved in day-to-day, year-by-year membership and activity in the NAACP.

I have belonged to the local branch for three years and have learned that it is not a matter of signing a membership card and then jumping-up in meetings to tell the Negro people all the big things they ought to be doing. In many respects, working in the NAACP is like working in the unions.

No matter how socially advanced your ideas may be, you must first of all show yourself to be a patient, loyal, hard-working union member before you will be listened to by the membership. The same thing applies to the NAACP. Its members, just like union members, are rightfully resentful of outsiders and newcomers rushing in with a Jesus complex to tell them how to solve their problems.

When the NAACP here set up the United Committee to End Job Discrimination at Sears last January, it was obvious that the Negro leaders were anxious that the direction of the fight should not slip from their grasp. This was not due to mere politics or petty jealousy. The NAACP leaders knew that only they could win over and make active the Negro population. The sad history of the Stalinist-dominated National Negro Congress out here had taught them a lesson. They knew they were in the best position to pace the struggle in terms of Negro response. And after many months of shrewd effort, they have achieved the united backing of the Negro community.

When the United Committee was set up, it was presented with a statement of policy by the NAACP executive committee, making it plain that the NAACP was the responsible organization of the Negro people, that it was calling representatives of other organizations together to mobilize support for its fight against Sears, and that it would remain the basic policy-making organization and would negotiate the settlement with Sears.

The Stalinists, who had come as representatives of a number of groups, hit the ceiling and beefed no end. They acknowledge the leadership of the NAACP in the fight, but for months have turned the committee meetings into vicious conflicts over the question of where the policy-making authority lies – with the NAACP or the United Committee.

The Stalinists have adopted a new theory. They insist that discrimination against Negroes is not a Negro problem, but a community problem, and should be handled by a community organization. You may be sure they will show up as a majority in any such organization. Personally, I would never trust any vague community organization to handle things right for the Negro people. But if you don’t accept their proposals, the Stalinists will cut your throat. All who have defended the stand of the NAACP have been attacked in the Stalinist People’s World for seeking to “isolate” the Negro people.

Back of all this controversy lies the question of whether we believe in the NAACP; whether we believe that with patient, hard work it will fulfill its role as the fighting mass organization of the Negro people. Out here, we have that belief. The Stalinists don’t. Yet many sincere socialists have mistaken ideas. They may think the NAACP moves too slow for them and be tempted to stay away from participation in its activities.

I look forward to the day when no one interested in doing something about Negro oppression will think of making a move without close collaboration and direction from the NAACP.


Fraternally, J. Hawkins

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