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E.R. Mckinney

Part II of a Series on the Civil Rights Report

Southern Demagogues Fear
“Poor Whites” Too!

(23 February 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 8, 23 February 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The “Solid South” is in revolt. The rebel yell is being heard again all the way from the Capitol in Washington to the canebrake of Louisiana, the swamps of Mississippi and the homeland of “evil poker playing” old John Nance Garner. The spirit of old John Calhoun is limping through Dixie calling on the faithful to remain true to “Southern ideals,” “Southern democracy,” “Southern white womanhood” and the “purity of the white race.” Of course when a Southerner talks

about the “purity of the white race” he means the white race in the South, since that is the only section on earth today, since the passing of Hitler and Goebbels, where the white race is pure. It is well known, at least in the South, that all mulattos, quadroons and octoroons are confined to the North and were sired by Northern white men. There may have been a dozen or so mulattos produced in the South by some stray and unprincipled white Southern male who was seduced by a Negro woman, but that is the exception. One thing is certain: in these rare cases of mulatto offspring, it was always a “no account” white man and a Negro woman, never a black man and a white woman unless there was “rape”; for “no white woman would willingly submit to a Negro.”

The cause of the present Dixie “revolt” is the report of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights and the Truman message to Congress on civil rights. The new rebel offensive is in opposition to the recommendations of President Truman that an FEPC be established, that an anti-lynching bill be passed, that Negroes be permitted to travel like other human beings and that they be permitted to vote in the South. This has stirred the Dixie wolf pack to talk about seceding from the Democratic Party and establishing their own pure white Southern party. This will guarantee freedom to the mob, Jim Crow to 10 million Negroes, disfranchisement through the poll-tax to millions of poor white workers, low wages to all Southern labor and ignorance to millions of Southern children. But the reward will be great. The “white race” will be “pure,” “Southern ideals” will be victorious and there will be no damned “social equality.”

As is their custom when aroused, the leaders of the Dixie lynchers are garrulous, bombastic and demagogic. It must be added also that they are somewhat ignorant or illiterate. Cox of Georgia bellowed from the House floor that Truman’s program sounds “like the platform of the Communist Party.” Bell of Mississippi warned Democratic Party leaders not to “brush off the secession threats of the Southern wing.” Also: “We’re not going to stand idly by and watch the South mongrelized.” Dorn of South Carolina is for any action “necessary to preserve the purposes of Southern democracy.” Rankin said the Truman program is “damnable, communistic, unconstitutional, anti-America, anti-Southern legislation.” Hobbs of Alabama said the program would only promote lynching. The desire for an anti-lynching bill “grows out of an overweening desire to keep the South a conquered province.” Hobbs is sure that Negroes “get more than justice” in Southern courts. Not only that but, said Hobbs, “We love our Negroes.” Gossett of Texas is incensed because this situation has developed because “our archaic election system has placed control of the two major parties in the hands of minorities in New York and Chicago. Both parties get down on their bellies, crawl in the dirt and kiss the feet of the minorities:” What Klan-minded Gossett means by “minorities” is “niggers,” “kikes,” “wops” and “comMUNists,” that is, those groups which do not come within “the purposes of Southern democracy.” It is necessary to make an important addition to Gossett’s minorities: “the Southern white toilers.” We shall demonstrate now that they too are not encompassed by “Southern democracy.” The Civil Rights Report and the message demand, however, that they shall be embraced by the Constitution, and “democracy.”

Millions Disfranchised by Southern Democrats

We will now expose one reason why the leaders of the rebel pack are against the abolition of the poll-tax arid all other Dixie restrictioris on the right to vote. Senator Ellender of Louisiana was elected to the Senate by the votes of only 85,488 people despite the fact that the population of Louisiana is 2,363,880. There were no Republican votes. In Iowa, with a population of 2,538,268, the Democrat who was defeated got 259,194 votes. Williams from Mississippi is from a district with 470,781 population. Williams was elected by only 10,345 voters. In Michigan, in a comparable district, the Democrat who was defeated received 54,928 votes.

Gossett, who was quoted above, is from a Texas district of 279,924 population. He was elected by only 17,718 voters. Whitten of Mississippi has 27,701 people in his district but only 6,491 voted and he got all of that number. Dorn of South Carolina comes from a district with 304,379 population. Dorn was elected in 1946 with only 3,530 citizens voting and he got 3,527 Votes.

Mendel of South Carolina made an interesting remark. He said: “the only Americans who have no spokesman in this nation are the white people.” We don’t know what people Mr. Rivers from South Carolina represents. At any rate he represents a district with a population of 289,482. But in 1946 only 5,380 people in his district voted and he got 5,354 of those votes. Winstead of Mississippi said that the entire message “is built on the premise that we mistreat Negroes in the South and that the civil rights of Negroes are not protected. This I deny. We understand the Negro. If anything, Southern officers are more lenient on the Negro who violates the law.” Mr. Winstead represents a district with 261,466 people. The vote in his district in the last election was 7,122 and Mr. Winstead got 7,122 votes.

No one should underestimate what this means, this fact that the overwhelming majority of the people of the deep South do not or cannot vote. This applies to white people as well as to Negroes. The common white man and woman of the deep South does not vote. The demand for the abolition of the poll-tax is a demand for the right of poor whites and Negroes to vote. The Southern demagogues understand this thoroughly. As the representatives of Southern agrarian interests and Northern finance capitalism, and in order to preserve their own bureaucratic interests, these Southern politicians oppose the extension of civil liberties to the millions of common people of the South. When they speak they sound stupid, ignorant, illiterate and vicious. They are all of this and worse. But they know what they are talking about, in their own stupid, backward and brazen way. Perhaps the majority of Southern congressmen and political leaders are descendants not of the old slaveholding aristocracy, but of the poverty-stricken white non-slaveholding group. This group was not only excluded from the slave economy and, therefore from political influence, but also from social and civic life during the slave regime. The present Southern politicos are descendants of and the beneficiaries of the resurgence of the “poor whites” during and following the Reconstruction debacle. This bureaucracy is the spiritual and ideological heir of Ben Tillman, Cole Blease, Tom Vardaman and their kind. They sense today that they are about to be drawn into another “irreconcilable conflict,” a conflict which was symbolized by Arnall on one side and Talmadge on the other; a conflict between the capitalist plantation writhing in the grip of Northern insurance companies and the Southern factory of Northern industrial capitalism. The big majority of the Southern politicos speak for the plantation oligarchy and the non-industrial interests of the South. Where they represent Northern industrial capitalism, such representation is in very crude form; they do not become an integral part of Northern capitalism in any significant way.

“Poor Whites” Will Learn in Time

This is due in part to their passionate desire to maintain their political supremacy as a group. They are late arrivals on the scene of political leadership. They have distinct, bureaucratic interests somewhat similar to the bureaucratic interests of the minor bureaucracy which flowered in Washington under the New

Deal. They want to hold on. This group of Southern political leaders is not qualified or competent to assume the leadership of an industrialized South. Any significant transformation of the South, industrially, socially or politically, demands a new political leadership. Not only this but a complete change in the thinking of the population. This is precisely what the Ellenders, Eastlands, Gossetts, Dorns and the rest of them fear. They do not want civil liberties for the masses of the South, black or white. They do not want any wide exercise of the franchise by the common people, black or white. They couch their objection in the weirdest and most irrational language, but they know what they are talking about. They know what they want. They know they cannot trust the masses to support them. Civil rights means the opportunity for the masses to make demands for better schools, health facilities and higher wages. It means the chance to vote for those who advocate and fight for such a program.

The Southern politicos, however, are astoundingly ignorant and stupid men. Their attempts to hide or obscure their real aims and ideas are stupid. They don’t want the South “mongrelized.” How long do the East-lands think the poor white Southerner will be content to remain unmongrelized if he has to do it on an empty stomach, harassed by hookworm and wracked by malaria? How long does Dorn of South Carolina think the “poor whites” will be satisfied with the promise of a “Southern democracy” which provides him with a leaking shanty to live in, a ramshackle building for his children to be “educated” in, a dilapidated guitar for his entertainment, sow belly and grits for his daily diet and a mud road to pull his way through when he goes to visit relatives or friends on the next plantation? How much longer does Rankin believe it will be before his constituents will welcome some “anti-Southern” legislation like the civil rights recommendations? How long will the poor whites of the South consent to grovel in the dirt and dung for the benefits of “white supremacy” served to them by Rankin? How long will the Negroes of the South be content to be loved by the Hobbses while they hang from the tree, burn at the stake, die from malnutrition and grope their way through the darkness and savagery which is “Southern democracy”?

When will these intellectually primitive blatherskites begin to understand, if ever, the meaning of their own expression about the South being a “conquered province.” According to their demagogic utterances, it it the anti-lynching bill which will keep the South in bondage to the North. How? They should explain these things, not to the Negroes but to the white masses of the South.

The South is in bondage to the North, but to Northern finance capitalism. How do the Southern purveyors of bombast, ignorance and drivel plan to remedy this? How do they plan to raise the per capita income of Mississippi which was $528 in 1944 and South Carolina which was $634 to that, say, of Missouri which was low at $991? We are of the opinion that eventually the “poor whites” of the South will become more interested in this question than in “mongrelization.”

Genuine “Revolt” – or Only a Rebel Yell?

What is this new “revolt” of the South? In our opinion it is merely another rebel yelll. Will they withdraw from the Democratic Party and set up their own Dixie brand if the civil rights recommendations stand? We do not believe so. They are stupid, but not that stupid. What would they gain? Outside the Democratic Party this group will be in the same fix with a Democratic administration in Washington as the national Democratic Party is under a Republican administration. That is, they would lose all of their patronage. They would lose whatever value they have today to Northern industrial capitalism. The Republicans would move into the South and attempt to revive the party there. The present Southern political bureaucrats would find. themselves on the outside in a “conquered province.”

This arrogant bureaucracy, for the first time, is between the hammer and the anvil, I will discuss the basic foundations of its dilemma, next week. Right now it is only necessary to say that this is an election year. Whereas the Democratic Party needs Southern votes to defeat Wallace and the Republicans, the Republicans need the votes of the “minorities” in the North to defeat Truman and Wallace. Taft doesn’t like the FEPC and the anti-lynching bill any more than Rankin does. But there are some votes in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania which he must try to keep Truman from getting. Truman doesn’t want to lose the Mississippi vote but he must get Negro votes in those four states and keep them away from Taft and Wallace. Also Truman and the Democratic leaders know that no matter what Rankin & Co. say, the majority of the white voters in the South will vote the Democratic ticket in November.

Next week I will return to the Civil Rights Report itself and the message to discuss what is the meaning of this sudden burst of demands for civil rights, particularly for Negroes.

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