Paul Temple

The Value of Roosevelt’s Speech

(September 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 24, 23 September 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

“Boy O boy O boy.” chortled Johnny, as he cornered Bill after work; “Did you get a load of Roosevelt’s speech last night to the Teamsters Union? That was a fighting speech, I’ll tell YOU! Gave it to ’em straight from the shoulder.”

“Yep,” said Bill, unfolding a newspaper, “he was loving labor all over the place, for the evening. Sounded like he was all for the poor workingman, didn’t he?”

JOHNNY: Sounded like? Why, he’s done a hell of a lot more for us workers than a dozen labor leaders I know of! And what I liked about it was that he said we’ve got to keep on making progress along those lilies, no let-up.

BILL: What did he say he’s done for the workers?

JOHNNY: Well, there’s the right to organize and bargain collectively, he talked a lot about that ...

They Aren’t GIVING Us Anything

BILL: Roosevelt gave it to us, huh? Listen, you wouldn’t call the U.S. Steel Corporation a friend of labor, would you – but even that bunch of labor-haters GAVE their workers the right to bargain collectively, too. They signed a contract with the CIO that said so.

JOHNNY: You know that is not the same thing! I’m surprised at you. Bill. They were just gosh-awful afraid of the big sit-down strikes in steel, and decided it was wiser to give in on that point, before bigger things were forced out of them.

BILL; Of course, Johnny. That’s just the point. You can see that clearly when it’s the case of U.S. Steel. All I say is that IT WAS THE SAME REASON WHY ROOSEVELT “GAVE” US COLLECTIVE BARGAINING. Remember, it was 1933 when the NRA was supposed to insure the right to organize, and that was when the whole economic system was cracking below the waterline and a lot of big shots were afraid the revolution was going to beat prosperity around the corner. So they “gave” us collective bargaining, to settle our stomachs, while the doctors repaired capitalism.

JOHNNY: Still, you can’t deny that if it wasn’t for Roosevelt, we mightn’t have got it even then.

We Get What We Take

BILL: Say. you remind me of the guy who was held up at the point of a gun by a ragged bum, and separated from fifty dollars, so at the end of the year he put it down in his income tax report as a contribution to charity. The trade union movement got the right to organize when they pointed a gun at their bosses – I mean when they showed they were going to fight hard and strike. They got it that way BEFORE Roosevelt; and AFTER Roosevelt’s NRA. they STILL had to get it that way. Where the workers were organized, they used their strength to increase their membership; where they weren’t organized the bosses didn’t pay any attention to the alphabets and THE ROOSEVELT GOVERNMENT DIDN’T DO A THING TO ENFORCE LABOR’S RIGHTS.

JOHNNY: Now, that you mention it, I remember the Weir case and the auto strike ... and wasn’t it Roosevelt who said that the strikes by the WPA workers were illegal?

BILL: He did. You ought to remember another thing Roosevelt said in his speech to the Teamsters: about the politicians who love the laboring man in November and forget about him in January. That was a piece of self-criticism.

Quit Looking for Capitalist Messiahs

JOHNNY: I’ve got to admit you’ve got a point somewhere in what you’ve been saying. Labor’s got to lift itself by its own bootstraps and not depend on anybody else.

BILL: That’s the idea. The sooner we quit looking for messiahs among the capitalist politicians, the quicker we’ll get somewhere. As soon as we hitch the labor movement behind some politician’s carpet-bag, we’re going to find ourselves IN the bag before long.

Last updated on 6.10.2012