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Emanuel Garrett

Georgia’s ‘Liberal’ Governor
Continues Jim Crow Setup

(31 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 13, 31 March 1947, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

That its now legal Governor, M.E. Thompson, in some small way represented democratic processes in Georgia is itself a commentary on the nature of Georgia democracy. And in the same small way the verdict of the Georgia Supreme Court upholding Thompson’s claim to the governorship and repudiating Herman Talmadge’s can be said to be a vindication of that same democracy. It is, however, a democracy spelled with a decidedly tiny “d.”

Neither Thompson nor Talmadge represented anything genuinely akin to democracy. Talmadge was indeed the usurper, installed by the hooded hoodlums of the Ku Klux Klan. Thompson, according to the law of the state and the general practice of the country, had at least the right to claim the governorship, having been chosen lieutenant-governor by that small portion of the electorate permitted to vote. Thus, writing on the Talmadge-Thompson case several weeks ago, we observed that if there was any legality on the side of either, it was clearly on the side of Thompson.

With that said, and due tribute paid to the “democratic” virtue of the Supreme Court, it remains to be remarked that democracy is a long way from having registered a significant triumph in Georgia. A democratic solution to the problem of the twin governorship required a new election, one in which ALL the people of Georgia were eligible to vote. Neither side wanted THAT. Both sides were opposed to it. For Thompson, no less than Talmadge, is a product and staunch advocate of the Jim Crow system.

Once the case got to the Georgia Supreme Court it was a foregone conclusion that Thompson would win. For one thing, five of the members of the Supreme Court are ex-Governor Arnall appointees, and Arnall backed Thompson. Beyond that, however, the Supreme Court acted in reflection of the contest between the forces driving for the industrialization of the South and those seeking to maintain its old ways. Politically, Arnall is the demagogic spokesman of the former group, trying to modernize the South in the spirit of Northern capitalist development. Thompson is sort of midway between the Arnall and Talmadge forces, leaning heavily on the first for support, and differing in no essential way from the latter.

Thompson’s “Intentions”

As a matter of policy and expediency, Thompson has announced his intention to carry on with Arnall’s pet projects, such as the state’s suit against the railroad rate-making conspiracy. He has also declared his intention to veto such items enacted by the Talmadge legislature as the White Primary Bill. But, and this is the important thing to note, Thompson is not one whit less committed to “white supremacy” than Talmadge.

What is the difference between these two? The Talmadge “law” would abolish all primary laws, leaving the Democratic Party free to operate its own primaries. The primary, it must be remembered, is the real election in Georgia; the other election is a cynical concession to the customs of the country. Thompson has no objection to this in principle. On March 20 he told the Legislature that he is for a white primary, but it must be done “legally.” We leave it to a Georgia Negro to comment on the difference between these two.

The Klan would prefer in the governor’s seat someone who is not concerned with the niceties of hypocritical “legality.” But Georgia will remain a Klan state under Thompson as well. The nationally-famous soft drink and the other powerful companies which backed Talmadge will accommodate themselves easily to a Thompson regime, for, it too will serve them loyally.

For the people of Georgia, and we speak of ALL the people, white and black, there has been no real gain in democracy; they have only received a formal acknowledgment of “civil government.” Despite all the ballyhoo in the press about triumphant democracy, and for all that certain liberals nearly perished with delight over the Supreme. Court decision, Georgia remains a Jim Crow state – from its Supreme Court top to its Ku Klux bottom.

Talmadge has already served notice that he intends to make a comeback in the 1948 elections. We think the people of Georgia must prepare now to strike a real blow for democracy in these same elections. The Jim Crow system is intolerable under any form. The white primary system is intolerable under any form, “legal” or not. It must be fought basically and completely.

Abolish Jim Crow!

The people of Georgia were stirred in the dispute over the governorship. Sentiment runs high, especially among Negroes. In fact, it may be said that one reason the contending parties retreated from armed combat, is that neither side dared risk the boiling-over of discontent.

At stake is not only the right of Negroes to vote and to be allowed to live like human beings, but also the right of any worker to organize in unions and fight for his demands. If, between now and the 1948 elections, Negro and white workers, factory hands, agricultural laborers, poor farmers, ALL OF THEM, were to get together and plan a common front of attack, politically and economically, then one could speak of a real promise of democratic advance in Georgia.

If ever there was a job and an opportunity for the CIO’s Operation Dixie and the AFL’s Southern organizing campaign, it is here. Union organizers cannot escape the problem of Jim Crow and white “supremacy.” And the most obvious and most effective place to down Jim Crow now is in the union. No more than Jim Crow in general can the union organizers escape the problem of political action.

Hence we think the indicated necessity for the 1948 elections, to be prepared for today, is the banding together of Negroes and whites in unions and, beyond that, in the sphere of political action through their OWN party. It is a situation which cries for the formation of a LABOR PARTY, a party that will strike at white primaries and tear apart the fabric of Jim Crow rule, a party that will fight for FREE elections in which the voters can repudiate both Talmadge and Thompson.

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