Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Susan Green

Southern Bosses Try to Stop
“Operation Dixie”

Ku Klux Klan Prepares
Anti-Labor Violence

(24 June 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 25, 24 June 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Ku Klux Klan rides again. With fire and blood, this scum of the earth once more attempts to terrorize Jews, Negroes – and labor organizers. Here is a brief sketch of its most recent activities.

On May 9 a thousand hooded and robed artists of the fagot, whip and gun, burned fiery crosses near Atlanta, Ga., in a ceremony to initiate several hundred new members – at $10 per sucker initiation fee. There were also about one thousand spectators. A new feature is the acceptance of women into the Klan. The Grand Dragon of Atlanta boasted 20,000 new members in Georgia, among them Atlanta firemen and policemen.

In Chattanooga, Tenn., a cross was burned in front of a Jewish drug store, and all Jews were warned to pack up and get out. In Los Angeles on May 21 a fiery cross blazed before the Jewish fraternity house of University of Southern California students. The letters KKK had also been smeared on the walls of the house.

Last August a Negro taxi driver was killed in Atlanta, and agents working within the Kavalier Klub, the KKK strong arm squad, have reported to the Georgia Attorney General that these vicious hoodlums boasted about the murder. On February 13 a Negro veteran, 21 years old, was whipped while covered by a gun, receiving fifty-two lashes. This terroristic crime is laid at the door of the KKK by the Georgia Attorney General’s office.

On May 11 wires were cut to prevent William Green, AFL president, from broadcasting a speech from the Southern Labor Conference of the AFL, and Drew Pearson reported in his column that Klansmen in Asheville, N.C., were taking the glory of this deed upon themselves. In Crestview, Fla., as reported by columnist Victor Riesel, a mob threw a white-haired 70-year-old woman labor organizer bodily out of a public meeting, while the police stood idly by. At Defuniak Springs, Fla., a mob burned picket signs in the streets and the rioters were identified as “night riders.” In Andalusia, Ala., labor leaders found in their mail KKK threats to “blow the union hall to hell.”

Why the Revival?

The above enumeration is by no means a full bill of particulars – merely an indication of the kind of terroristic activities the revived KKK is engaging in. Why the revival of the Klan? Why the renewed use of terror by violence, by fire and blood?

To the putrefied in mind and soul, the anti-Semitic atrocities of the Nazis – continued in more genteel form by the victorious powers – have only intensified their own anti-Semitism. To the Southern white aristocracy, based on the enslavement of the Negro, the “new Negro,” who is insisting on some of the democracy he was supposed to have fought for, is a threat that must be put down. Here are two causes for the revival of the KKK. But the chief cause is the CIO’s “Operation Dixie.”

In “Operation Dixie” the Southern capitalists and landowners see their doom. The success of the CIO’s plan to organize millions of white and black workers in textile, lumber, steel, chemicals, agriculture, etc., throughout the South, will definitely deliver irreparable blows to the Jim Crow system below the Mason-Dixon line. The organization drive, which the AFL also announced, aimed to equalize the wages of the Southern worker with those of the Northern worker. Not only will this rise in the

standard of living cut into the profits of the capitalists and landlords, it will undermine the political backwardness that has kept such human garbage as Rankin and Bilbo in Congress as “representatives of the people.” Among other things to go will be the poll tax and the lily white primaries.

This accounts for Rankin’s crazed reaction to “Operation Dixie.”

“It’s a Communist plot,” he said. “That’s what I know about it. They’ll be down there buying elections. They’ll be trying to give the n........r a vote. No n........r will ever run against me. Of course we slipped up once. We let them beat Martin Dies and Joe Starnes. We’re all asleep at the switch. They’re takin’ over the country; we got to stop them if we want this country.”

The fiery fagots, whips and guns of the KKK won’t stop the drive to organize white and black workers, to raise their economic, social and political life, Mr. Ranting Rankin!

Bilbo and the Klan

Bilbo, “the man,” also incites the Klan elements. He is campaigning for re-election on a “platform” of keeping the “Northern Communists” out of the South, and “the man” presents himself as a courageous crusader against this new bunch of carpetbaggers from the North – the CIO organizers! Columnist Marquis W. Childs comments in the New York Post:

“Indications are that Bilbo will be able to make potent use of this appeal in his current campaign. He is aiming, of course, at the Ku Klux Klan elements.”

The CIO News reports that the Southern textile interests are taxing themselves ten cents per spindle to raise a war chest for “public relations” – from time immemorial this phrase has been used to cover up the less pretty word “thugs.” The CIO News comments that a large part of this fund “is expected to find its way into the Klan’s coffers.”

The usual whipping up of mob hysteria has started. Not only do the Kleagles of the Klan pretend a holy alliance between the church, God and the Klan, all of course endangered by the drive to organize the Southern workers. So-called respectable sheets, calling themselves Militant Truth – as does a Chattanooga anti-union rag – or similar crusading titles, also seek to arouse their readers to defend “God and the Constitution” against the CIO.

Opposition to Klan

Opposition to the KKK is today more widespread and active than in the past. The churches in their organized councils and from the pulpit condemn the Klan. Southern liberals, including some newspaper editors, are outspoken against rule by terror. In the Georgia Legislative Council the assertion was made that the Klan is trying to discourage labor organization by terrorism. Governor Ellis Arnall has directed the Attorney General of Georgia to institute action to revoke the charter of the Klan on the ground that it is not a non-profit, fraternal organization. The Collector of Internal Revenue has filed a lien against the KKK for $685,305 for income taxes due from 1921 through 1946.

But can the CIO and AFL, can the Jews and the Negroes rely on this kind of opposition to the KKK? Public opinion alone will not stop the violence of the hooded gangs. Neither will it do the victims of this violence much good to know, before they lose consciousness, that the slow processes of the law are grinding out remote justice to the Klan. The chosen victims of the Klan must be prepared to defend themselves now!

This becomes especially clear on reading what one of J. Edgar Hoover’s top administrative assistants at FBI headquarters said to Victor Riesel, columnist of the New York Post:

“But we’re handicapped. We’re keeping the KKK under close scrutiny. But you can’t arrest a man for going out and putting on a night shirt or for burning a cross. There’s no violation of federal laws there. However, if we catch them sending threatening notes through the mail we can pick them up under the Extortion Act. Or if the Klansmen deprive a man of his individual liberties we can grab them under the civil rights statute. But the country must understand that we have to wait until there are grounds which justify prosecution.”

If that dead Negro taxi driver could talk, he’d say that is too long to wait! So would the whipped Negro veteran, cut by fifty-two lashes. So would the organizer thrown bodily out of a meeting hall. If the Klan runs true to form, there will be tarring and feathering, taking labor organizers for rides, all kinds of humiliations and tortures – and lynching. These are the atrocities that will have to be prevented – BEFORE THEY HAPPEN.

This task can be accomplished by meeting Klan violence with organized mass defense. Every factory, mill and farm being organized by the CIO will need its defense guards to protect active union members, union organizers, union headquarters and meetings. Every Jewish organization will need its defense guards for protecting Jewish neighborhoods. Every Negro and bi-racial group, of which there are quite a few in the South, has the same task. The cooperating defense guards of the factories and of the oppressed minorities can most effectively map and carry out a plan to drive the Klan out of existence.

It is well to remember that Hitler confessed, after he came to power, that if the labor unions and other workers’ organizations had fought his Storm Troop hoodlums at their birth, they would have had to fold up – afterward it was too late!

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

Last updated: 22 January 2019