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Susan Green

Labor Must Organize the Fight
Against Anti-Semitism

(17 January 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 3, 17 January 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The swelling tide of anti-Semitic acts makes necessary a review of the various actions being taken to combat this menace.

Most naturally, the Jewish people, through their own organizations, have begun to take measures. Thus the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith compiled a detailed report of the recent attacks on Jewish children in New York, involving slashings with knives, as well as of the defacing of synagogues with swastikas and of the damaging of Jewish properties.

The report of the B’nai B’rith has stirred up widespread indignation in New York City and forced the attention of Mayor LaGuardia to this burning question. Public opinion has compelled Police Commissioner Valentine, who at first was very complacent about the whole matter, to assign additional police patrols to the districts of New York most affected. How efficacious they will be remains to be seen.

Anti-Semitic Cops

More important, however, is the fact that the composition of the whole police force is now under fire, the height of public clamor having been reached over the case of James L. Drew, the policeman exonerated by Commissioner Valentine in spite of the fact that his connection with such fascists as Christian Mobilizer Joseph McWilliams has been proved and in spite of the further fact that the Department of Investigation of the city knew he had large bundles of anti-Jewish literature in his home. Mayor LaGuardia informed the city over the radio the other day that the case of Drew is under review.

Along these lines, Victor Riesel calls attention in his column in the New York Post that the metropolitan police force is honeycombed with Christian Fronters and sympathizers. He recalls that several years ago FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover handed LaGuardia the names of 1,500 cops who had applied for membership in the Christian Front. In 1940 LaGuardia himself conducted a poll of 19,000 policemen and discovered that 80 admittedly had been in the Christian Front. Twenty confessed to paying dues to the fascist outfit at the time of the poll.

Nothing at all has been done with this damning information, and hundreds of anti-Semitic cops are supposed to be protecting the Jewish people from anti-Semitic attacks. This situation is alarming, not only in New York, but in every other large city. Coordinated action to end this dangerous infiltration is indeed urgent.

Some Steps Already Taken

However, the Jewish people must realize that what we have come to know as filthy politics is so ingrained in capitalist society that the best preparation is self-reliance. The CIO Community Council in the Jewish populated Brownsville-East New York sections of Brooklyn is possibly a step in this direction.

This community council has been active in the Drew Case, calling mass meetings, etc. Neighborhood defense should also be a problem of such committees. They, of course, will have to avoid the danger of getting into the control of Stalinists and others who would manipulate affairs in their own interests rather than those of the community. The most trustworthy as neighborhood leaders would be the most militant and progressive union rank and filers.

Action along an altogether different line has been taken by the Textbook Commission to Eliminate Anti-Semitic Statements from American Textbooks. Nearly three thousand ministers have thus far pledged themselves to tackle anti-Semitism in the field of education and in the home. They will attempt to puncture the ages-old myth that the Jewish people killed Christ and expose other more insidious forms of anti-Jewish propaganda in the churches, schools and Sunday schools.

Other, organizational efforts, more or Jess militant, could be listed. However, the most important thus far announced is the National Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism. The CIO News reports it as an organization “dedicated to the proposition that anti-Semitism in any of its forms is fascism.” Considering the times “we live in, there can be no two ways about that!

The National Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism sets itself the immediate task “to effect the introduction and help in the passage of national legislation outlawing anti-Semitism.” Sponsoring this committee, are not only writers, actors, churchmen and politicos, but among the initial sponsors are included labor leaders, i.e., Presidents Philip Murray of the CIO, R.J. Thomas, of the UAW, Albert J, Fitzgerald of the UE, S.H. Dalrymple of the URW, and Clinton S. Golden of the USW.

It is to be expected that organized labor be in the forefront of the fight against anti-Semitism, which is part of the fight against fascism. But what labor must understand, and quickly, is that it cannot afford to be the tail to any liberal kite. Labor must be the heart, head and body of the anti-fascist movement, around which all anti-fascist elements can rally.

This is not said with a desire to impugn the honesty of the many liberal and public spirited men and women on the National Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism nor to question the propriety of labor leaders working with them on such a committee. But from the standpoint of realistic politics, it is undeniable that both present-day anti-Semitism and its sire, fascism, aim primarily at the annihilation of the labor movement. Labor must be the hard core of anti-fascist resistance.

A law outlawing anti-Semitism is desirable, by all means. But to rely solely on a law on the statute books is folly. For labor to take the lead in the fight against anti-Semitism and fascism does not mean for its leaders merely to participate on committees such as this one. It means rather that, aside from all such activities, every union local must be ready to guard its national and local union bodies – and also to guard with the Jewish people or the Negro people their neighborhoods from fascist attacks. If the triumph of Nazism in Germany has taught anything, it has taught this: Anti-Semitism and fascism can be nipped in the bud by counterposing labor’s organized strength – IN TIME!

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