From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 11, 16 March 1942, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Notorious for their weasel-worded articles when they change their line, the Stalinists overdid themselves last week in a huge editorial spread in the Daily Worker entitled A War Labor Policy.
This editorial is the tip-off on the kind of arguments and the aim of the Communist Party in hog-tying the labor movement to the war machine, if it is possible, and of selling labor’s interests down the river.
Take the vital question of war profiteers, and the huge profits all the corporations are making while labor can’t get decent raises to meet the higher cost of living. Here’s what the Daily Worker says:
“When short-sighted men and groups speak of labor seeking to ‘profit’ or ‘share in the war profits’ or ‘take advantage of the war,’ every intelligent and honest trade unionist has to reply: We don’t talk their language.”
Naturally, labor unionists don’t speak in terms of “seeking profit,” only in terms of wages. And also, labor unionists never speak about “taking advantage of the war,” because there isn’t any to be taken.
But, by combining those two obvious facts with another – “share in the war profits” – the Stalinists perform a neat little trick to slander any worker who believes labor should share in the huge war profits by obtaining higher wages.
The Stalinists actually will try to get the phoney idea across that anyone who talks or thinks that the big corporations shouldn’t get away with their fabulous profits, isn’t a good union man! Even though it is obvious that fighting against the war profiteers is the duty of every union man.
Now, a few years ago, if we made such a statement there would be some doubts among the workers. But, fortunately, everyone has seen the somersaults of the Stalinists so often that the labor movement knows anything can be expected from Stalin’s hatchetmen in the American labor movement.
How will the Stalinists argue against labor getting higher wages? Or defending its interests during wartime, when everyone knows that the big corporations, Bethlehem, etc., are trying to smash the labor movement.
Here’s the key to their line on that point: “We have no doubt that the working class will in the future even more than at present, view every question from the standpoint of the needs of the war!”
What does this mean? Exactly the same thing that the bosses mean when they shout about the “needs of the war” when labor asks for a half-way decent pay increase to meet the rising cost of living.
The Stalinists will foam and fret and yell and scream in the union meetings: “Yes, we are for higher wages, but the needs of the war come first.” Which means they won’t fight for higher wages ... and, most important of all, accuse workers who demand higher wages of “hindering the war effort.” An argument picked up from the Wall Street Journal.
That’s the argument they’ll use on unions which they don’t control. Where the Stalinists are powerful, they’ll use cruder and slanderous arguments. Anyone who opposes them becomes a “Hitler agent,” a “poison-peddler,” etc., etc.
Of course, in all the unions and in all situations, the Stalinists aren’t going to act exactly the same. But they’ll have just enough variety in their arguments to suit the occasions. This is indicated in the Daily Worker statement on real wages, from the same editorial
“The whole question of real wages as distinguished from money wages must be approached the same way. This means assuredly that the wages of the very low income groups must in the interests of the war program be adjusted upward. That is to say, they must have a higher living standard in order to assure their efficiency and productivity.”
The lowest paid workers must be paid more, NOT because they deserve it for their labor, NOT because the corporations are rolling in wealth, but because they can’t work as good if they are under-fed, and ill-clothed, and ill-housed, says the Daily Worker.
It would be difficult to show more contempt for the workers than the Daily Worker does in this statement. It’s the old farm argument about horses and mules: “If you don’t feed the animals, they can’t work as much.”
The Daily Worker admits it speaks “in the interests of the war program” in this approach to the problem of wages. A good union man, however, approaches the problem of wages from the interests of the workers as a class, from the interests of the labor movement.
The role of the Stalinists in the labor movement, for the next period, as clearly outlined in their “war labor policy,” is to become “efficiency experts” in the plants, apologists for the big corporations’ policies and profits, and a drag on all unions seeking to defend themselves from the employers’ onslaughts.
Last updated: 16.5.2013