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Labor Solidarity Is Strongest Fortress Against Jim Crow

(8 May 1984)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 19, 8 May 1944, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“Hell, shoot me. It’s your country. I’m supposed to die anyway. Go ahead and shoot.”

Thus spoke a Negro soldier wearing the uniform of the United States: “land of the free and home of the brave.” The place was Charleston, S.C., and the other man was a white policeman, an officer of the “law.” The Negro soldier was accused of being drunk. When he remonstrated that he was not drunk the policeman, in the manner of policemen, especially Southern policemen, began to club the soldier, uniform and all. Not even Negro soldiers, being trained to die for democracy and the four freedoms have rights which policemen and white army military police are bound to respect.

The “man” Bilbo is speaking:

“We people of the South must draw the color line tighter and any white man or woman who dares cross that color line should be promptly and forever ostracized ... The superior ability of the white race, has been proved both cranialogically and by six thousand years of planet-wide experimentation ... If you do not accept this as true, then you brand as false both history and biology.”

Senator Eastland of Mississippi announces in the Senate: “White boys in the Pacific are fighting for white supremacy.” During the past twenty-one months, ten Negro soldiers, in uniform, have been severely beaten by white military and civilian police in Mississippi.

Maybank of South Carolina announced in the Senate after the Supreme Court decision on the Texas primaries: “Regardless of any Supreme Court decision, any laws that may be passed by Congress, the South will maintain its present political and social institutions.” And what are these political and social institutions to which the senator refers? First of all, lynching and mob murder. Next, the perpetuation of ignorance among the common people, both white and black. Also the maintenance of the poll-tax, which disfranchises millions of white and black human beings.

And in the North

This is the South. The North is only a little better. The North is not so direct and openly brutal as the South. Above the Mason and Dixon line they are slimier and more piously hypocritical. The pattern of segregation, insult and Jim Crow is the same. It begins in the federal government at Washington. The late Secretary of the Navy was against trying any “social experiments during the war.” He meant by this that no Negroes should be allowed to sleep on battleships with white sailors. No Negroes should be officers in the Navy. The Secretary of War is of the opinion that most Negroes should be in labor battalions.

The same holds for the war industries: the “arsenals of democracy.” After two years of protest Negroes are still discriminated against; they still have to fight to get a job and then fight against Jim Crow inside these “arsenals of democracy.”

Roosevelt is silent on these main questions. Maybank, Bilbo, Dies and the other Southern rebels belong to Roosevelt’s party. He needs them and he will do nothing. Dewey or the Republican candidate will speak only in vague terms about Jim Crow in the Army, Navy and industry because he too will not want to rock the boat while crossing the stream into the White House. All of them, Republicans and Democrats, are committed to Jim Crow. It’s their national policy. The four freedoms don’t apply to the Negro in the U. S., or to the black people of Africa, or the brown people of India. THESE PEOPLE, AND ALL THE OPPRESSED OF THE WORLD, WHITE AND COLORED, WILL HAVE TO FIGHT AND DIE TOGETHER FOR THEIR OWN FREEDOM.

One walks down the streets of any city and sees service flags in the windows where Negroes live: flags with one, two, three or more stars. What are these Negro youths fighting for? For “white supremacy”? That’s what Eastland said the white youths were fighting for. (Incidentally, we don’t believe this. We believe that Eastland is a scoundrel and a liar.) Are these Negro youths fighting for the maintenance of present-day Southern social, economic and political institutions? Are they fighting for the poll-tax, white primaries, a Jim Crow Army and Navy .and a Jim Crow federal government? Are they fighting to keep Africa and India enslaved to the ruling British capitalist class?

Are they fighting for the right to be lynched after the war is over? We don’t believe that’s what Negroes are fighting for and we don’t believe that is what the overwhelming majority of white youth is fighting for. But if white and Negro youth, white and Negro workers, don’t know it by now, they will learn that this is the end that is being planned. This will be the practical result of their efforts if the capitalists and their political henchmen have their way.

Will They Have Their Way?

We don’t believe, though, that they will have their way. We don’t believe that the South will be able to maintain its present social and political institutions. We don’t believe that the North will be able to maintain its present economic set-up, which, of course, is identical with that of the South. The trade union movement and workers’ political action will take care of that. With 500,000 black workers in the labor movement today and thousands more going in, the South and North will discover that it will be increasingly difficult to Jim Crow, segregate and lynch Negroes.

As Negroes discover that as toilers their strongest fortress is the organized labor movement, especially the industrial unions and the revolutionary political party, they will more and more turn their backs on their anti-union advisers and the Jim Crow Democratic and Republican Parties.

When thousands more white workers learn that the Negro workers are their allies and brothers, their comrades in arms, they will throw off their unnatural prejudices, their white “superiority” attitudes, and fight beside the Negroes for the democratic rights of the Negro people, against Jim Crow everywhere and for the social, political and economic equality of the Negroes.

When the white workers learn who their real enemy is: that it is the white ruling class, they will unite with the, black workers and unitedly have their revenge against their common exploiters and oppressors: North, South, East and West.

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