Raya Dunayevskaya 1954

On Both Sides of the Iron Curtain

Source: Correspondence, Sept. 18, 1954. This piece appeared as Dunayevskaya’s regular unsigned column, “Two Worlds: Notes from a Diary.” It is included in The Raya Dunayevskaya Collection, microfilm numbers 9351 and 9352;
Transcribed: by Kevin Michaels.

All notes are by the transcriber.

In the closing moments of its session Congress rushed through an Act, The Communist Control Act of 1954. This law, which purports to have as its aim the outlawing of the Communist Party, is solidly anti-labor.

So great was the haste to railroad this through before the people knew what it was all about, that the Congressmen themselves didn’t have the law before them when they voted for it, changing it hysterically from paragraph to paragraph as the so-called liberal, Senator Humphrey [1], vied with the McCarthys and McCarrans [2] to make it more repressive.

The New Law And The Unions

Their fantastic haste and confusion would be grotesque if it weren’t so sinister. Let’s listen to ex-Gov. Herbert, [3] the head of the Subversive Activities Control Board, who will be the one to administer the new law. The Governor appeared recently on “Man of the Week,” the TV show which interviews what they call “news-making personalities.” The interviewers asked him to interpret the phrase, “Communist-infiltrated” union. The Governor was hedging on the ground they he had not “studied the law thoroughly yet.”

They then cited the case of the Montana copper miners who belong to the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union, which had been branded by the CIO as being Communist dominated. The interviewers recognized plainly (1) that the miners were not Communists; (2) that the miners knew of the charge than their union was “Communist-infiltrated” since the whole CIO campaign was based on it and (3) that they overwhelmingly, by secret ballot, nevertheless voted to remain in their union. How, concluded the interviewers, would the new law operate in face of this vote of confidence by the non-Communist rank and file?

After considerable hemming and hawing the Governor had to admit that the vote would count for nothing at all; that what mattered was not the democratic vote of the membership but the ruling of Attorney General Brownell. [4]

A Conspiracy Against The American People

By a stroke of the pen Congress thrust democracy out of the window. The Attorney General’s decision has become all-important and the workers’ vote has been declared null and void. Yet the Senators and Congressmen had the gall to pronounce this a law against “the Communist conspiracy.” In truth, this law is the greatest conspiracy against the American people.

Only one thing the Administration cannot control in this headlong rush to make this country like Russia: the American people won’t take it. To aim at such totalitarian power is one thing. To succeed is another. When a law is in fact a conspiracy against the people it cannot and does not function.

Senator Taft [5], in his day, took the occasion of the general strike wave, at the end of the war, climaxed by the power strike in Pittsburgh in 1947 to steamroller through the Taft-Hartley Act. But to this day they have not been able to make that function.

The Attorneys General: Brownell And Vishinsky

The Taft-Hartley Law is child’s play compared to the present act. Day in and day out the Administration is fighting hard to make this country more and more like Russia. The latest act abolishes any serious distinction between Attorney General Brownell and Attorney General Andrei Vishinsky of the infamous Moscow Trials.

The Attorney General of Russia could become the sole despotic interpreter of the vicious Russian laws because long before the purges the rights of labor had been taken away and the trade unions had been incorporated as part of the state apparatus.

The present administration in Washington did not reach this ultimate in totalitarianism overnight. Eisenhower thought he could buy himself the voluntary cooperation of the trade movement by appointing a labor leader to his cabinet as Secretary of Labor. But it was not long before even the wiling labor tool, Durkin, [6] who was ready to compromise on everything, including Taft-Hartley, had to resign from the cabinet. This mild flirtation over, the administration no longer considered it enough that they had the voluntary cooperation of the Reuthers [7] and Lewises, [8] Dubinskys [9] and MacDonalds [10] in suppressing the workers.

Unions And The One Party State

So, desperate is their need to control every phase of daily living, especially the way workers work, the way workers turn the wheels of production, that they are now driving to make the unions an actual part of the state apparatus under the control of the Attorney General. This is inseparable from suppression of all political opposition.

The naming of the Communist Party is a cheap Moscow-type trick. The truth is that they have defined Communism so loosely that they can use it against any opposition. It is not accidental that the very first attempts are against labor. Right now Brownell is threatening to use the law against the Detroit strikers in Square D. [11]

The law has not been tested in court and, most important of all, the American workers have not yet had their say. There is no doubt whatever that they will not give up their hard-won freedoms to men thirsting for total power.

For one who has studied Russia as closely as I have, I cannot help but feel that economically and politically the administration is moving in the same direction as the one-party totalitarian state on the other side of the Iron Curtain. The ultimate in that was the incorporation of the trade unions into the state, and it is to this ultimate that the administration is aiming with this new law.

1. Hubert Humphrey (1911-1978) of Minnesota, who later became Vice-President in the Lyndon Johnson administration.

2. Democrat Patrick McCarran (1876-1954) of Nevada was a leading anti-Communist U.S. Senator.

3. Republican Thomas J. Herbert (1894-1974).

4. Herbert Brownell (1904-1996) was Attorney General from 1953 to 1957.

5. Republican Robert Taft (1889-1953) was a conservative opponent of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. He supported an isolationist foreign policy.

6. Martin Durkin (1894-1955) was Eisenhower’s Secretary of Labor for less than a year.

7. Walter Reuther (1907-1970), leader of the United Auto Workers.

8. John L. Lewis (1880-1969), leader of the United Mine Workers of America and one of the chief organizers of the CIO.

9. David Dubinsky (1892-1982) headed the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

10. David J. MacDonald (1902-1979) succeeded Philip Murray as head of the United Steel Workers of America.

11. The 1954 strike of workers of the Square D electrical manufacturing company was met with arrests and police violence.