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Ben Hall

Detroit WP Urges Labor Lead
March for State FEPC Law

(13 January 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 2, 13 January 1947, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT – The Detroit Branch of the Workers Party has appealed to the United Automobile Workers Union, the CIO and the NAACP in Michigan to organize a mass march on the State Capitol at Lansing to demand of the State Legislature that it enact the Fair Employment Practices Law submitted by 175,000 voters of the state on an initiative petition successfully circulated in December and November.

All that has happened since the publication of this appeal on December 24 in the form of an open letter has confirmed the validity of the proposal.

The State Attorney General has ruled that the petitions are invalid because they do not bear a clearly printed title indicating the contents of the proposed law. The petition itself, consisting of four long closely printed sheets, provides ample opportunity for any fastidious legal eagle to ferret out some misplaced comma or colon to “prove” that they are “irregular.” Experienced politicians have sleeves full of such technicalities.

Two Committees

As the state legislators prepare to come to the capital for their 1947 session, the campaign for the enactment of the FEPC law has bogged down in the mire of a conflict between rival “prominent” citizens, some of whom support and others of whom reject attempts by the followers of the Communist Party to make this campaign their private affair. The intricate details of the jealous maneuverings of the representatives of these two groups would make a delightful tale for lovers of involved mystery stories.

At this point two opposing statewide committees exist, one led by the Stalinist-controlled Civil Rights Congress and the other led by Bishop Haas, formerly of the national Fair Employment Practices Commission, and endorsed by many others, including Walter Reuther, George Addes, Mayor Edward Jeffries. Each committee has called its own conference in Lansing and each is jockeying for the support of the maximum number of priests, rabbis, ministers, lawyers – that is, the “respectable,” “prominent” community “leaders.” The anti-Stalinists gleefully attack the Communists, whom they accuse of responsibility for the technical defects of the above mentioned petition. The real culprit on this score is, of course, the Attorney General himself but the critics of the Stalinists no doubt hesitate to denounce him as he deserves because they are either soft-hearted liberals themselves or do not want to offend other soft-hearted liberals.

Time for Mass Action

Both sides in this pitiful squabble have one thing in common. Neither has any intention of organizing a really representative conference based upon the mass organizations of the people, which means, in the first place, based upon the CIO. The Stalinists cannot and will not make any such attempt because it would make their bureaucratic control impossible. The anti-Stalinists will not do it because they do not want to scare off the “liberals,” who would shy away from any conference “dominated” by labor.

The bickerings of these “prominent” people can play an important role only because the thousands and thousands of real fighters for democratic rights who made the petition campaign a success are not truly represented in the councils and are not drawn into the fight.

If the law is to be passed, and if it is to be enforced when it is passed, the workers who want to fight discrimination must be prepared to carry on organized MASS ACTION against the forces of Jim Crow. The time to begin is NOW. The Workers Party proposes to cut through the back door maneuverings of a handful of inflated politicians, lawyers and clergymen. Let the organized labor movement call a march on Lansing!

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