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Albert Parker

Repeating Our Warning

(14 February 1977)

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 7, 14 February 1949, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The filibuster system is a serious obstacle to the passage of civil rights legislation, and so it is natural that most attention is devoted at present to the maneuvers of both parties to dodge responsibility for maintaining the filibuster. Nevertheless, there is another move on foot by the enemies of civil rights which is just as important even though it hasn’t received much notice.

In a careful speech made in the House of Representatives on Feb. 2, Rep. Brooks Hays, Arkansas poll-tax Democrat, asked for a “compromise” on civil rights. He admitted that the Southern democrats had been “inaccurate” in their tirades against Truman; that “on the question of segregation views sometimes attributed to the President are not contained in his message at all” (unlike the report of his famous committee which came out against segregation).

Southerners may be willing to go along with Truman’s civil rights program, he stated, if a “compromise” is made. And these were the conditions he laid down:

  1. “If we could agree ... that no legislation should be adopted on the subject of segregation, it would be the first step in a proper compromise.”
  2. In return, the Southern Democrats could accept an anti-poll tax bill if it was adopted as a constitutional amendment, requiring approval by ¾ of the states.
  3. They could accept a federal anti-lynching bill if the federal government would have jurisdiction only in states where state officials “willfully” failed or refused to prosecute lynchers.
  4. They could even accept an FEPC bill if it did not provide “legal sanctions” for enforcement.

In short, they would accept civil rights bills if all the teeth were extracted from them – if Negroes, could still be barred from the ballot by other means than the poll tax, if the federal government could not intervene in lynchings so long as state officals put on an act of trying to punish lynchers, if no employer was forced to stop racial discrimination in employment.

After Hays finished speaking, he was congratulated by several other Representatives. Not a single one got up to denounce his arrogance in offering a “compromise” that would give the Jim Crow artists everything they want. But most important is the fact that, according to the N.Y. Times, the speech “had been weeks in preparation with the knowledge, at least, of Speaker Sam Rayburn.” Translated, that means it had the approval of Rayburn, which in turn means that it was a feeler put out by the White House itself.

Ever since Nov. 2 The Militant has been warning against just such a trick. It would enable Truman to say, “See, I kept all my promises to the Negro people.” It would enable the liberals like Humphrey to go around saying: “See, the Democratic Party is the only party for the Negroes.” It would enable the white supremacists to be happy too. The Negroes – well, the Negroes would still be second-class citizens.

Every fighter for civil rights should be aware of the dirty deal being worked out behind the scenes, and should spread the word far and wide. It is better to have no civil rights bills at all than to have ones that don’t mean anything. The capitalist parties are not going to grant equality to the Negro people. Equality will be won only by fighting for it – and that means a fight against the Trumanite fakers as well as the Dixiecrats.

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