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David Coolidge

Mass Action

(28 February 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 9, 28 February 1944, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Jim Crow in Capital City

The CIO has opened a servicemen’s canteen in the Jim Crow city of Washington. This is Washington, D.C., the seat of the federal government, with Roosevelt at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue and Congress in the Capitol at the other end. This is the city from which the alleged war for democracy and against fascism is being conducted. This is the city where a congressman from the South makes a speech and says that the white boys in the Army are fighting for “white supremacy.”

There is Jim Crow all over the place in Washington. If a Negro gets hungry downtown it’s just too bad. If he wants to get a job on the street cars in this federal capital, administered by Congress, he will be looked upon as a freak.

At any rate, the CIO opened the servicemen’s canteen and it wasn’t a Jim Crow canteen. Negro soldiers were admitted just like any other soldier. They went there, danced, ate and drank the refreshments provided just like any other soldier. None of the Negro patron’s appeared naked nor, so far as we have been able to learn, has a single white woman been raped. This despite the fact that there are white hostesses as well as Negro hostesses. We must point out also that no Negro hostess has been raped by a white soldier.

This is highly displeasing, however, to Representative McKenzie of Louisiana. He is worried. Since the white soldiers in the Philippines and other places in the Pacific, according to Senator Eastland, are fighting for “white supremacy,” Louisiana McKenzie doesn’t want the efforts of the white boys in the Pacific destroyed by Negro and white soldiers and women mixing in a canteen in the same city where the White House and the Capitol are located.

McKenzie wants to know “how can anyone be a party to encourage girls into the arms of Negro soldiers at a canteen dance while singing Let Me Call You Sweetheart?” And that isn’t all, according to McKenzie. This CIO canteen is the only one in Washington “which invites both white and Negro servicemen and has both white and Negro hostesses.” He wants to know if the sponsors of the canteen have no “regard for the traditions of the South or the culture of the white race?” If they do, “why this dishonor to American womanhood?”

At time if seems strange to read such statements as these of McKenzie and Eastland coming out of Washington. They sound so much like talk that has been coming out of Berlin for the past ten years. But it isn’t so strange when one remembers that such talk was heard in the United States long before Hitler was born.


Service Act and Negroes

Labor Action has stated its position on Mr. Roosevelt’s national service act, but there is one side that we have not commented on. That is how such a “slave act,” how such “quack medicine,” would affect Negro workers. It has been charged and correctly that this act will tie workers to their jobs, or transfer them from job to job and from town to town for the benefit of the capitalist employers. That is, the biggest benefits from the passage of this bill will come to private industry and give industry a chance to increase its profits.

If the national service act will be a new slavery for white worker’s, it will be doubly a new slavery for Negro workers. It will give employers a new club to use in their discriminatory acts against Negroes. If workers are to be chained to the job, that means that Negro workers will be chained to the worst jobs.

Under this act it will be very easy for some Negro-hating foreman or employer to make out a case of keeping Negroes in the most dangerous, the heaviest, dirtiest and lowest paid jobs. All the employer has to do is “prove” that they are needed in this or the other job. This is only an additional reason why both white and Negro workers should oppose the Roosevelt national service act.

It is important to record, for the benefit of Negro workers who may not happen to know it, that the Communist Party or whatever it is they call themselves now (we mean the Stalinists) has come out in full support of the national service act.

Curran and Bridges, both members of the CIO Executive Council and leaders of international unions dominated by the Communist Party, rushed into print to support this “slave bill.” The Daily Worker and. other Stalinist papers supported the proposal. They didn’t quiet down until they got to the recent meeting of the CIO Executive Council and found out that Murray was against the national service act. Bridges tried to put up some kind of defense for his position but got a terrific blasting from Murray. These “friends of the Negro people” sink lower and lower as the years go by.


Negro Labor and Unions

In a long political editorial, the Black Dispatch, a Negro weekly published in Oklahoma City, Okla., has the following paragraph in its February 12 issue:

“Negro leadership should recognize that despite, some existing evils in its organization, labor represents the most liberal force toward which the black man should gravitate in America. No political party that supports poll-tax laws should be condoned. If labor can liberate the six million white workers now disfranchised down in Dixie, through the operation of poll-tax law, that same group of white Workers will in turn free four million black workers as a defensive technique. Care should be given now to the attitude of political parties toward labor unions.”

This, of course, is good sense, as the half million Negroes now in the organized labor movement are beginning to learn. They haven’t learned all they should, but neither have the white workers, who have been at it far longer.


Lily White Boilermakers

At the recent convention of the Brotherhood of Boilermakers, the delegates had before them the question of the Jim Crow locals for Negroes which this international union has established in many cities. We don’t know yet what the results of their deliberations were.

The Boilermakers are a tough outfit, and not easily changed. This union is very reactionary. It is filled to overflowing with meanness, ignorance and arrogance. Their constitution and methods of admitting members are an echo from the dim past. Furthermore, their constitution is so framed as to keep out Negroes, Chinese and other colored races.

Under the heading, Subordinate Lodge Constitution, Article VI, “Qualifications for Membership,” appears the following:

“Section 1. An applicant for membership must be a male citizen of some civilized country between the ages of sixteen (16) and seventy (70) years ... all applicants must be balloted for, and three black balls may reject any candidate. When three or more black balls are cast they must be explained, after which it will require a two-thirds majority vote of the members present at a regular meeting to declare said applicant eligible to membership.”

Evidently this international believes that Negroes in the United States are not citizens or that the United States is not a civilized country. At any rate, Negroes are not admitted to the Boilermakers Union. Whereas on the West Coast there are many Negro workers in shipyards coming under AFL and the Boilermakers’ jurisdiction, Negroes are barred and Jim Crowed into separate locals under a Negro stooge and traitor. The FEPC and the WMC have had this matter under advisement for about six months but, so far as we know, nothing has been done.

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