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Joseph Keller

FEPC Filibuster

(26 January 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 4, 26 January 1946, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Last week the Southern Bourbon Democrats fee the Senate were caught on the horns of a dilemma.

They were torn between two frenzied desires. While anxious to speed enactment of anti-labor legislation, they were confronted by the unexpected “emergency” called forth by the sudden presentation of a bill for establishment of a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission.

The Bilbo Bourbons decided that the most immediately pressing problem before the nation is to defend “white supremacy” against the ominous consequences of any federal law against racial discrimination in industry,

When a Senate majority on January 17 passed Senator Chavez’s motion to take up the FEPC bill, a bloc of 15 Southern Senators rose to arms and launched their mightiest weapon – the filibuster.

* * *

Again a handful of wilful, vicious Southern leaders of the Democratic Party, dredged from the malodorous swamps of Southern white ruling class anti-Negro hatred, prepared to rant indefinitely in order to block action on the FEPC.

Senator George of Georgia declaimed in outrage, against introducing the FEPC bill “in a time of industrial crisis, when the very life of this nation as at stake.”

But that did not prevent him and his colleagues from proceeding to gum up the machinery of the Senate indefinitely in order to ensure that 13,000,000 Negro citizens of the United States are kept in a permanent position of servitude and second-class citizenship.

Senators Eastland and Bilbo, veteran banner- bearers for the “white supermacy” scum, proclaimed their determination to talk the Senate to death, if need be. Eastland said he personally was prepared to talk two years against the measure. More modestly, Bilbo said, “I propose to exercise my right to speak twice on the measure – for 30 days each time.”

Cautious Senator Ellender of Louisiana merely promised to spout “as long as God gives me breath.”

* * *

First in the hopper of the “1,000 amendments” which the Bourbon bloc threatens to attach to the FEPC bill is an anti-closed shop rider prohibiting discrimination in employment because of “race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, OR MEMBERSHIP OR NON-MEMBERSHIP IN OR AFFILIATION OR NON-AFFILIATION WITH ANY LABOR UNIONS.”

On January 18 the FEPC opponents revealed their first filibuster tactic. They began introducing “corrective” proposals for the permanent journal of proceedings which required the reading of interminable records out loud.

Senator Overton of Louisiana opened a discussion devoted to the Journal, the Congressional Record, the Bible and anecdotes of his childhood days (apparently not yet over.)

This included the usual insulting tirade against Negroes such as:

“Any nigger girl can walk into my office and the Federal Government would attempt to make me place her side by side by side with the other girls. I don’t know what I’d do if anyone told me to do that.”

Meanwhile the threat of “secession” spread its pall over the Senate. Senator Eastland telegraphed the Mississippi state legislature to “protect the sovereignty of Mississippi and the liberty and freedom of our people (meaning the rich Southern whites) by the passage of a nullification proclamation” if the FEPC bill should pass.

* * *

As for the Senate majority, they stand apparently helpless to halt the filibuster. They excuse their inaction on the ground of respecting the “democratic right” of this ultra-reactionary handful of “white supremacists” elected by a tiny minority in the poll-tax states.

For what are the democratic rights of 13,000,000 Negro Americans compared to the right of Senatorial “free speech” for their most vicious oppressors?

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