Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Susan Green

Job Worry Behind the Race Problem

(19 July 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 29, 19 July 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

One cannot emphasize too much that the bosses want to drive a wide wedge between black and white workers – that they subsidize the Klan, the National Christian Association, the National Workers League and other fascistic outfits for that purpose.

One cannot emphasize too much that the government itself sets the example of race discrimination.

One cannot emphasize too much that the war has created conditions of extreme social friction – that hundreds of thousands of war workers have been dumped into crowded production centers without necessary housing, recreation, schools, medical care, or even food.

It is also the sad truth that some workers from the South have brought with them to the industrial centers their long-standing prejudice against Negroes – a prejudice carefully nursed by Southern bosses.

All these are interlocking causes of the barbaric attack against the Negroes in Detroit, Mobile, Beaumont.

But these causes could not have produced the catastrophic outbreaks if there were not something even more basic working along with them.

JOB INSECURITY, FEAR OF UNEMPLOYMENT, UNCERTAINTY ABOUT THE FUTURE – here you have the fuel ignited by the fascistic elements trying to pit white workers against their back brothers.

Research organizations report that three out of four Americans fear the unemployment of the post-war period. Conservative capitalist economists predict that even if business is as good after the war as it was in the war year 1940, there will still be nineteen million unemployed. Already workers in war industries are being fired because of overproduction of certain war materials. The prospect of unemployment gnaws at the vitals of all workers.

The Klan elements could not have pulled the Packard strike against the upgrading of capable Negro workers – if white workers were not afraid that Negro workers might permanently take away their jobs. The fascistic scum who led the attacks on Negroes in Mobile were able to incite workers by the specter of unemployment.

This fundamental connection between job insecurity and the race question must be brought out into the open in order to show how foolhardy it is for any group of workers to suppose they can get permanent employment for themselves by turning against other groups of workers.

Suppose – for the sake of argument alone – the inhuman, undesirable and impossible feat of confining our Negro brothers to black ghettoes could be accomplished – even as the Nazis dealt with the Jews. Would that remove the threat of unemployment for white workers?

All Negro workers in all categories, rural and urban, in 1940 numbered only something over five million. The discrimination against the Negro worker has been so great that even today – the heyday of Negro employment – government departments report that in war industries on” an average only sixty-seven workers out of every thousand are Negroes.

In the Los Angeles aircraft industry – where there has been such an influx of war workers – only five thousand Negroes have found work. But in some of the war industries there are hardly any Negro workers. For instance, in the manufacture of explosives only one per cent of the workers are Negroes; in electrical equipment, only two per cent.

Putting the Negro into a black ghetto – Hitler style – would not save many jobs for the white workers. The whole Negro population of the country, men, women and children, is only thirteen millions. Whereas economists predict unemployment of nineteen million.

How do the Jews fit into this picture? They too are blamed for everything. There are all told some five million or less Jews in this country and they are not overwhelmingly in industry.

Or some vicious demagogue, might urge Protestant workers to start an extermination campaign against Catholic workers – to keep the jobs for the Protestants.

Or some mischievous messiah – going beyond the color and religious lines – might begin to shout for drawing the sex line. There are, after all, around fifteen million women industrial workers. Would it be an idea to throw all women workers out of their jobs?

Even if at a given moment the impossible were accomplished and all the available jobs were held by male White Protestants, the unemployment menace would still be as big as capitalism itself. For every new labor-saving machine would, as always, throw workers out of their jobs. Every factory made idle for lack of profitable sales orders would, as always, add to the army of unemployed – and the mass of disinherited, starving Negroes, Jews, Catholics, women and other groups, hovering in the background, would be a mighty weapon in the hands of the bosses to beat down wages, to worsen conditions, to break strikes, to bust unions.

This economically erroneous and anti-social – let alone inhuman – idea of suppressing groups of workers is meat for the bosses. FOR THE WORKERS IT IS POISON.

Workers must proceed on the correct premise that all people have an inalienable right to the needs of life on the level that modern industry can provide.

Workers must proceed on the correct economic and technological premise that modern productivity is great enough to provide plenty of the best things of life for every man, woman and child, of ever color, creed and race, of every country of origin.

And workers must ask why – in view of the existing means of security for all – do we live in constant fear and trembling lest starvation overtake us? In fear so great that there are white workers who allow themselves to be aroused against their black brothers because of it!

The answer is that the capitalists stand in the way of economic security for all. Not the Negroes, not the Jews, not the Catholics, not the women workers, not the foreign-born workers – the CAPITALISTS block the way of the whole working class. IT IS AGAINST THEM THAT ALL WORKERS MUST UNITE.

Unite to make your unions more powerful, class-conscious and militant. Unite to demand a short enough work week – -with an adequate basic wage – to allow every worker to get a job in the post-war period. Unite to take over and operate factories and plants that the bosses will shut down as soon as war orders cease – so that, the workers can continue on their jobs producing needed commodities for the people.

Unite against the bosses in a class-conscious working class political party. Unite for the goal of a workers’ government under which the capitalists will be ousted from their seats of profit-grubbing and the workers themselves will control industry.

Only then will labor-saving machines mean shorter work hours and more leisure for all – instead of unemployment, as now. Only then will no factories ever be made idle because of capitalist profit-seeking machinations and lack of foreign markets – for industry will be run to supply the needs of living people.

Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers’ Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 14 June 2015