Max Shachtman

All Workers Must Unite
Against Jim-Crow Terror

Unite to Defend the Negro People and Labor Movement!

Statement of National Committee of the Workers Party

(June 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 26, 28 June 1943, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The pogrom against the Negro people of Detroit is a shameful abomination.

A bloodthirsty minority of the population, its mind poisoned with the doctrine of Jim Crowism and inflamed by the blatant propaganda of organized reactionary forces, has imposed its criminal will by mob violence.

The streets of Detroit are covered with the blood of the victims of the pogrom. Twenty-five Negroes are dead, picked off singly by cowardly mobs who outnumbered them a hundred to one, and three whites are dead, too. Hundreds of Negroes are injured, along with many whites. An atmosphere of terror and intimidation hangs over the city.

This is not the first pogrom against Negroes, which the capitalist press refers to as “race riots.” The conditions making for such pogroms have been developing all over the country, and these conditions continue to exist. Yesterday it was Mobile, Chester, Beaumont, Los Angeles, Newark, El Paso and other centers of American “civilization.” Today it is Detroit. Tomorrow it will be other cities.

It will be other cities tomorrow – unless speedy, resolute, united action is taken by the people to wipe out the bloody blot of Jim Crow! Nothing less than this will do.

Before action can be taken, the people must know where the responsibility for the dastardly crime lies.

The basic responsibility lies with the rotten system of American capitalism, which feeds upon Jim Crow, upon economic, political and social discrimination against its colored slaves, and which feeds the vicious doctrine of Jim Crow to every child who grows up under its tutelage.

Responsibility falls upon the shoulders of the Roosevelt Administration, which sets the tone for Jim Crowism by segregating and discriminating against the Negro in the armed forces of the country, which makes it clear to the world that it regards the Negro as an inferior animal in the war which is presumably being fought against the Nazi doctrine of “Aryan” or “white” supremacy, the war which is presumably being fought for the “equality of peoples.”

Responsibility falls upon the shoulders of the governing party of the Administration, the Democratic Party, which could not stay in power in Washington for one minute without the support of the bigoted, corrupt. Bourbon political machine of the Southern Democrats, the heroes of the poll-tax states, from whom Roosevelt does not dare cut himself loose, because his whole presidential past and his whole presidential future are tied up with them in an iron knot.

Responsibility falls upon the shoulders of the Republican political hypocrites, the traditional “friends of the Negro people,” who act in Congress as the accomplices of the poll-tax Democrats, who are silent before the Jim Crow and lynch speeches that poison the halls of the federal legislature, who go along enthusiastically with the Jim Crow system in the armed forces, and who are often directly linked with the reactionary fascist and semi-fascist gangs who spew the venom of Jim Crow propaganda throughout the country.

Responsibility falls upon the capitalist class of America, the big corporations and monopolists, who resist every effort to hove the Negro taken into industry and treated on an equal basis with all other workers; who stimulate and provoke racial antagonisms among the workers in order to divide their ranks, in order to weaken their unions, in order to maintain their dirty war profits and social power by turning the discontentment of the workers into dissension and fratricidal war among themselves; who encourage and even finance the fascist and semi-fascist organizations, demagogues and rabble-rousers who make their living by spreading the poison of Jim Crowism and anti-Semitism.

Responsibility falls upon these organizations and demagogues too, upon the Christian Mobilizers, upon the Ku Klux Klan, upon the National Workers League, upon the Christian American Association, upon the Black Shirt movement, upon the America first “Party,” and others of their foul kind. And there is no doubt that responsibility is shared by Nazi and fascist agents from abroad, that sinister scum which joins with all “native” reactionaries in this country and whose task it is to divide the working class against itself.

We must tell the truth and the whole truth:

Responsibility must be shared by those short-sighted, stupid and reactionary labor leaders who sow antagonisms among the white workers, and play up the prejudices inculcated in them by capitalist politicians and teachers, by the policy of “lily-white” clauses that prevent Negro workers from joining some unions, or that make it extremely difficult or embarrassing for them to do so.

And responsibility must also be shared by those servile leaders of the Negro people themselves who are so completely tied to the war machine that they counsel the Negro people to gag themselves, to fetter themselves, to suppress the grievances that cry out to heaven for remedy/to accept the position of inferiority in which they are held by force – so that the Jim Crow pogromists are encouraged and not deterred in their bloody insolence. The leaders of the Communist Party fail into this shameful category.

Jim Crow terrorists MUST be crushed!

Jim Crow terrorists CAN be crushed!

This job can be done, however, ONLY if the labor movement takes over the leadership of doing it. The defense of the Negro people in this country is the cause of the whole labor movement, and the fighting, unity of the labor movement is the only salvation of the Negro people. If labor allows these criminal injustices and persecutions to be perpetrated upon the Negro people, its own movement will suffer irreparable damage and end in disaster.

If capitalist reaction and its Jim Crow gangsters can keep labor divided along the lines of color, race or creed, if they can keep labor at war in its own midst, labor is helpless to meet the blows being rained down right now upon its economic standards and its political rights – labor is doomed.

If white workers can be kept at war with black workers, the trade union movement will be a house divided against itself, it will become the battlefield of an internal civil war, it will go down in a river of its own blood. And capitalist reaction will rise triumphantly over a torn and prostrated working class.

Working men and working women, Negro and white: the Jim Crow system, segregation and discrimination against the Negro people, terrorism and pogroms against the Negro – THESE ARE OUR COMMON ENEMY. They threaten us both. They are aimed at us both. They must be combat-ted by us both.

Jim Crow terrorism must be given an answer it will never forget!

Labor must draw closer the fraternal bonds that link Negro and white workers in the brotherhood of oppression and of struggle against oppression. Labor must not allow this sacred bond to be severed by the terrorist mobs.

Labor must IMMEDIATELY root out of its ranks all forms and representatives of Jim Crowism – all discriminatory practices against Negroes must be wiped out, and all participants in Jim Crow movements or activities must be made to renounce their anti-labor behavior or be driven out of a clean labor movement.

Labor, the trade unions particularly, must take the initiative in defending their Negro brothers and sisters from the cowardly attacks of the Jim Crow terrorists. In Detroit, these terrorists were an organized and stimulated MINORITY, which in no way represented the body of the Detroit labor movement or the Detroit working class. Labor must make this gang of fascists and the dupes of fascists feel the full weight of labor’s strength, of labor’s determination not to tolerate their hideous criminality for another day.

The trade unions have the organization, the training, and the. men required to come to the defense of their Negro fellow workers who are attacked only when they are greatly outnumbered. The trade unions have the men and the experience required to deal with scabs who endanger the existence and the living standards of the workers.

The Jim Crow terrorists are scabs. They too endanger the existence of the labor movement and of the men and women who fought to build it up. These scabs should be treated no differently than any other of their breed.

Labor, black and white, must speed the organization of a political party of its own, a fighting Independent Labor Party, which aims to take over the government and run society in the interest of its useful citizens, the workers of hand and brain, regardless of color, creed, race, sex or age.

Labor! Defend the Negro people, or you will end up by having no trade union movement to defend!

Jim Crow is the enemy of labor, the enemy of the trade union movement, the enemy of all social progress.

We must not leave the cruelly harassed Negro people alone to defend themselves against the great forces of reaction that confront them. We must repeat a hundred times over: their defense is our own defense. Do not let the insidious forces of reaction divide white workers from Negro workers. Do not let these forces set white workers against Negro workers, so that they can be chopped down separately. Do not fall into the cunning trap of the labor-splitters and labor-haters

Unite! Unite!

Defend the Negro people and the labor movement!

Crush Jim Crow and Jim Crow terrorism!


National Committee of the Workers Party,
National Secretary

Shachtman button
Max Shachtman
Marx button
Marxist Writers’

Last updated on 25 May 2015