From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 3, 19 January 1942, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Events in the auto industry during the past week have crystallized the crisis of production in a most revealing fashion.
“Business as usual” industrialists won a major victory in Washington at the joint conference on auto production, when all CIO proposals were pigeon-holed into an ineffective “advisory” committee on which labor was given a voice, but nothing else.
The American people were told in plain and unmistakable language by C.E. Wilson, president of General Motors, why the auto companies did not want to convert from auto to war production:
“We make 32 cents on a dollar on auto sales, while government contracts limit us to nine cents on the dollar.”
Such a blunt avowal of profits before anything else was, so damaging that the newspapers either failed to mention it, or buried it deep in their stories.
As far as plans like the Reuther or Murray programs are concerned, industry gave its answer both directly and through many spokesmen.
“The issue of whether the communistic idea of workers’ committees to control management and production shall be introduced into the defense program has come squarely before the OPM,” wrote David Lawrence, editor of the United States News, in speaking of the CIO proposals.
As a matter of fact, the Murray and Reuther plans do not directly provide for workers’ control of management and production, but so fearful are the bosses and their journalistic friends of the growing strength of the CIO, that they drag the issue in.
In view of the fact that several UAW locals have passed resolutions calling upon the government to nationalize the auto industry, the question is not without importance.
Suppose the auto industry WERE nationalized under workers’ control, as Labor Action advocates? What would be wrong with that? What argument can be offered against it other than the fact that a greedy handful of industrial profiteers would thereby no longer be able to gouge themselves with profits!
The brazen attitude of the industrialists and the Roosevelt representatives at the conference was too much for the CIO auto leaders, who expressed “keen disappointment” at the results arid predicted failure of the present “business as usual” setup.
Meanwhile, two other developments occurred which bear watching. Besides the 400,000 auto workers losing their jobs, the present planlessness of production is costing 40,000 auto dealers their businesses and also 400,000 auto sales and service employees their jobs! In both cases the victims are looking to the auto workers union for guidance and leadership, an exceedingly interesting and important trend! The auto union has a golden opportunity to lead a great mass movement, if it responds boldly and aggressively. The raising of the slogan – Nationalize the Auto Industry Under Workers’ Control – as a means of eliminating profiteering and priorities unemployment would meet with a genuine response from the workers who are sick and tired of the present mess!
Last updated: 22.3.2013