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Susan Green

Congress Filibuster Threatens
to Kill Anti-Poll Tax Bill

10,000,000 Are Still Disfranchised By Poll-Tax

(23 November 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 47, 23 November 1942, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

As this issue of Labor Action goes to press, it is the fifth day that the majority leaders in the Senate have been unable to bring before that body for action the Pepper-Geyer anti-poll-tax bill.

The minority bloc of Southern Democrats from the poll-tax states is using every possible parliamentary trick to keep the measure from the floor of the Senate. And if it does reach the floor, this clique of rotten reactionaries is prepared to filibuster till the end of the present session of Congress – when the bill will automatically die.

The poll-tax disfranchises 10,000,000 United States citizens of black and white skin – BECAUSE OF THEIR POVERTY. Through the operation of this kind of “democracy” in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, 264,419 votes were cast In the 1940 elections out of a population of 9,300,000. The other four poll-tax states are Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Senator Bilbo, leader of the filibustering gang, comes from Mississippi, where only 10 per cent of the citizens vote because it costs $2.00 to exercise the rights of citizenship.

People have the notion that only the 14 to 20 filibustering Senators are the culprits and that the rest of the 96 are as innocent as new-born babes. This is wrong. What of the fact that this anti-poll tax bill has been bottled up in the Senate for more than one and a half years? Nothing was done to bring the issue to a head sooner. Now there is the possibility of a filibuster continuing until the end of the year. In 1938, an anti-lynching bill was killed by thirty days of continuous talking.

There is also a popular misunderstanding about the terms of the anti-poll-tax bill in question. The impression is that it aims to give the citizens of the poll-tax states full voting rights. However, if the Pepper-Geyer bill should be passed, it would repeal the poll-tax laws only so far as they refer to primary and general elections of nominees and candidates to FEDERAL offices. The Southern oligarchy could still keep the poor from participating in local and state elections.

So it can hardly be said that the majority in the Senate, now supposedly willing to vote for the Pepper-Geyer bill, have been untiring crusaders for full political rights for the disfranchised poor of the South. Many of these politicians are merely begrudgingly yielding to the pressure from the masses in the South, who don’t quite get the point of fighting for “democracy” in every part of the globe except the USA.

The final act of this farce in the Senate is not inconsistent with what has gone before. Jokes are bandied about by lolling senators – hot air is being dispensed hour after hour – sergeants-at-arms rush around “arresting” senators who hide out to prevent the body from functioning – while 10,000,000 black and white citizens still wait to be granted only partial release from political serfdom in the USA – to be granted the stingy hand-out contained in the Pepper-Geyer bill.

These 10,000,000 have waited too long. Rights have never been delivered on silver platters to the under-privileged by the protectors of privilege. This is clearly labor’s fight. The political shackles of the poll-tax will be struck to earth when labor raises its mighty arm to do so.

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