Breitman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Albert Parker

The Negro Struggle

(11 April 1942)

From The Militant, Vol. 6 No. 15, 11 April 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Congressman Threatens Negro People

Last week in this column I pointed out that the Negro people in the South will not automatically get the right to vote with the passage of the Pepper bill abolishing payment of poll taxes for federal elections. I predicted that even if the Pepper bill were passed, the reactionary ruling class in the South would try to utilize other legal means to prevent Negroes from voting, and that if it ran out of legal schemes, it would not hesitate to resort to violence, to the use of lynch mobs, and organized terrorist groups.

On practically the same day that I wrote to this effect, a Southern poll taxer speaking in the House of Representatives made a speech as though he was trying to prove everything that I had said.

The speech is entitled Stop Nagging the South and it is reprinted on Page A1800 of the Congressional Record of March 26. The author of this not-at-all veiled threat against the Negro people and their rights is John E. Rankin, Representative from Mississippi. He says:

“Certain radicals in the CIO, certain Negro agitators, and a few white demagogs (are) going before the Judiciary Committee of the Senate and trying to stir up race trouble throughout the Southern States by attacking our election laws.

“We are getting along pretty well with the Negroes in the South, and will continue to do so if these agitators will leave us alone. The Negroes know their places and we know ours. Any man who goes around now and directly or indirectly tries to create race trouble is simply aiding and abetting the enemies of our country. The good Negroes of the South know they will be protected when any trouble arises and the bad ones know they will be looked after ...

“If they (the so-called radicals in the CIO, etc.) could get control of the South, the horrors of reconstruction would seem like a Sunday-school picnic in comparison. But they will never get such control. The white people of the South are on the alert, and the better elements of the Negro race refuse to join in any such movement. They know it would simply mean the death of thousands of their own race ...”

Do not make the mistake of assuming that this is the ranting of an irresponsible individual, to be dismissed as a man who represents no one but himself. No mistake could be greater. Rankin is speaking for the southern ruling class, and the proof of it is that not a single one of his Democratic Party brothers from the South rose to repudiate or disassociate himself from these remarks, not even Pepper.

War for What?

Do you recall how a couple of weeks ago a Negro in Philadelphia was arrested and almost brought to trial for “sedition” because he said that this was a “white man’s war”? Well, listen to what, in the course of the speech mentioned above, Rankin had to say about the war:

“There are no more patriotic people under the shining sun than the white people of the South. They are bending every effort to aid their country in these perilous hours; their sons are in the service, thousands of them are at the front, many of them are giving their lives, the last full measure of devotion, in order that our country may live, that our way of life and our sacred institutions may be perpetuated, and that the white man’s civilization may not perish from the earth ...”

* * *

The first American Negro troops to be sent abroad in this war have wound up in Australia. Australia is an all-out Jim Crow country, where Negroes are not permitted to come in time of peace. The country’s war minister, Francis M. Forde, gallantly greeted them as follows: “We look upon the Negro troops as part of the United States Army and we would not be so presumptuous as to place any bar against any form of assistance to the defense of this country.” Oliver Harrington cleverly summed up the situation in a People’s Voice cartoon showing a Negro soldier being greeted by an Australian official standing in front of a sign which reads, “Colored persons not allowed in Australia.” The official is saying to the Negro soldier; “Jolly glad to see you, old boy. Just ignore these bloody signs around here — for the duration.” The final payoff is that the Negro troops are not to be used for combat but only as work-gangs to do the dirty work.

* * *

Last week the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People released a story about Walla Walla, Washington, telling how the Negro soldiers of the 25th Infantry had been ordered by their officers to stay out of 20 public places in the town because the proprietors of these places did not want to serve Negroes. This week the NAACP Press Service carries a letter from one of the Walla Walla soldiers, charging that he knows the proprietors of many of these places did not ask that Negroes be barred, that on the contrary they are quite willing to serve Negroes on the same basis as anyone else. The letter declares that these Jim Crow regulations were instigated wholly on the initiative of the army officers themselves.

* * *

Recently, the press carried stories about how the Japanese in the Philippines had ordered the people to surrender their native weapons. This was widely interpreted as a sign of the hostility of the natives to the Japanese. Now comes a story from Johannesburg, South Africa, that according to a new proclamation issued by Captain Reitz, Minister of Native Affairs, the natives must give up their weapons, battle axes, bludgeons, axes, etc. What does that signify?

Breitman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 10 April 2022