First, as workers, black and white, we all have one
common interest, viz., the getting of more wages, shorter
hours, and better working conditions.
Black and white workers should combine for no other
reason than that for which individual workers should
combine, viz., to increase their bargaining power, which
will enable them to get their demands.
Second, the history of the labor movement in America
proves that the employing class recognize no race lines.
They will exploit a white man as readily as a black man.
They will exploit women as readily as men. They will even go
to the extent of coining the labor, blood and suffering of
children into dollars. The introduction of women and
children into the factories proves that capitalists are only
concerned with profits and that they will exploit any race
or class in order to make profits, whether they be black or
white men, black or white women or black or white children.
Third, it is apparent that every Negro worker or
non-union man is a potential scab upon white union men and
black union men.
Fourth, self-interest is the only principle upon which
individuals or groups will act if they are sane. Thus, it is
idle and vain to hope or expect Negro workers, out of work
and who receive less wages when at work than white workers,
to refuse to scab upon white workers when an opportunity
Men will always seek to improve their conditions. When
colored workers, as scabs, accept the wages against which
white workers strike, they (the Negro workers) have
definitely improved their conditions.
That is the only reason why colored workers scab upon
white workers or why non-union white men scab upon white
Every member, which is a part of the industrial
machinery, must be organized, if labor would win its
demands. Organized labor cannot afford to ignore any labor
factor of production which organized capital does not
Fifth, if the employers can keep the white and black
dogs, on account of race prejudice, fighting over a bone;
the yellow capitalist dog will get away with the bone—the
bone of profits. No union man’s standard of living is safe
so long as there is a group of men or women who may be used
as scabs and whose standard of living is lower.
The combination of black and white workers will be a
powerful lesson to the capitalists of the solidarity of
labor. It will show that labor, black and white, is
conscious of its interests and power. This will prove that
unions are not based upon race lines, but upon class lines.
This will serve to convert a class of workers, which has
been used by the capitalist class to defeat organized labor,
into an ardent, class conscious, intelligent, militant
Sixth: The Industrial Workers of the World commonly
termed the I. W. W. draw no race, creed, color or sex line
in their organization. They are making a desperate effort to
get the colored men into the One Big Union. The Negroes are
at least giving them a hand. With the Industrial Workers
Organization already numbering 800,000, to augment it with a
million and a half or two million Negroes, would make it
fairly rival the American Federation of Labor. This may
still be done anyhow and the reactionaries of this country,
together with Samuel Gompers, the reactionary President of
the American Federation of Labor, desire to hold back this
trend of Negro labor radicalism. . . .
Eighth: The New York World, the mouth piece of the
present administration, and also a plutocratic mouth piece,
says in its issue of June 4, 1919, "The radical forces in
New York City have recently embarked on a great new field of
revolutionary endeavor, the education through agitation of
the southern Negro into the mysteries and desirability of
revolutionary Bolshevism. There are several different
powerful forces in N.Y. City behind this move. The chief
established propaganda is being distributed through The
Messenger, which styles itself—“The only magazine of
scientific radicalism in the world, published by Negroes.”
With the exception of The Liberator, it is the most
radical journal printed in the U. S." . . .
The foregoing comments from such powerful organs as
The Providence Sunday Journal, The New York Sunday World,
The National Circle Federation Review and the Union
League Club of New York, followed by action of the
Legislature of the State of New York—demonstrates how
powerful is the influence of a well written, logical
publication, fighting for the interests of twelve million
Negroes in particular and the working masses in general.
These are the real reasons why the American Federation of
Labor decided to lay aside its infamous color line. There is
no change of heart on the part of the Federation, but it is
acting under the influence of fear. There is a new
leadership for Negro workers. It is a leadership of
uncompromising manhood. It is not asking for a half loaf but
for the whole loaf. It is insistent upon the Negro workers
exacting justice, both from the white labor unions and from
the capitalists or employers.
The Negroes who will benefit from this decision are
indebted first to themselves and their organized power,
which made them dangerous. Second, to the radical agitation
carried on by The Messenger; and third, to the fine
spirit of welcome shown by the Industrial Workers of the
World, whose rapid growth and increasing power the American
Federation of Labor fears. These old line Negro political
fossils know nothing of the Labor Movement, do not believe
in labor unions at all, and have never taken any active
steps to encourage such organizations. We make this
statement calmly, coolly and with a reasonable reserve. The
very thing which they are fighting is one of the chief
factors in securing for Negroes their rights. That is
Bolshevism. The capitalists of this country are so afraid
that Negroes will become Bolshevists that they are willing
to offer them almost anything to hold them away from the
radical movement. Nobody buys pebbles which may be picked up
on the beach, but diamonds sell high. The old line Negro
leaders have no power to bargain, because it is known that
they are Republicans politically and job-hunting,
me-too-boss-hat-in-hand-Negroes, industrially. Booker
Washington and all of them have simply advocated the Negroes
get more work. The editors of The Messenger are not
interested in Negroes getting more work. Negroes have too
much work already. What we want Negroes to get is less work
and more wages, with more leisure for study and recreation.
Our type of agitation has really won for Negroes such as
concessions as were granted by the American Federation of
Labor and we are by no means too sanguine over the
possibilities of the sop which was granted. It may be like
the Constitution of the United States-good in parts, but
badly executed. We shall have to await the logic of events.
In the meantime, we urge the Negro labor unions to increase
their radicalism, to speed up their organization, to steer
clear of the Negro leaders and to thank nobody but
themselves for what they have gained. In organization there
is strength; and whenever Negroes or anybody else make
organized demands, their call will be heeded.
Source: A. Philip Randolph, “Our Reason for
Being,” Messenger, August 1919, 11–12.