J.R. Johnson

The Aftermath of the Elections

What Should Be The Future of PAC? – II

(November 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 48, 27 November 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.

Sidney Hillman and the CIO committee have declared that the PAC will continue. Thank you, gentlemen, thank you. But we were not really very much worried about the official continuation of the PAC. For to us the PAC represents something which Hillman & Co. only express. PAC represents a stage of development of the American working class and the American working class moves inevitably forward to its own independent party of organized labor.

Let us trace the stages as we have seen them during the last fifteen years.

Five Stages

Stage 1. 1929 – American labor is only moderately unionized. The chief unions are the unions of highly-skilled craft workers. They are unified in the AFL. Politically the workers do not think sharply in terms of class. They support the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. Millions of them associate the capitalist prosperity of 1920-28 with the Republican Party and their votes have given that party smashing victories in 1920 and 1928.

Stage 2 – The crisis of 1929 and the great depression shocked American workers, for the first time, into serious consideration of what the future holds for them as workers. Out steps Roosevelt and promises a New Deal, Make no mistake. The New Deal is primarily an appeal to labor.

The great capitalists did not need any New Deal. The old deal of vast profits is good enough for them. No. The workers hear in the appeals and promises of Roosevelt a promise of jobs, security or at least relief for workers. Their support gives the New Deal a tremendous victory at the polls.

Rise of the CIO

Stage 3 – The workers, however, are most sensitive at the point of production, at the point of struggle over wages and working conditions. The masses of the semi-skilled and unskilled feel the necesity for union organization. We get the tremendous mass upsurge which results in the formation of the CIO. John L. Lewis did fine work for the CIO. But he could only do it because the workers had reached a stage of development which imperatively demanded an extension of the existing union organizations.

Stage 4 – The workers ignore the anti-Roosevelt press and in 1936 and 1940 overwhelmingly support Roosevelt. But dissatisfaction grows as the inadequacy of the New Deal is borne home to the millions of unemployed. The war, for a time, saves the situation (but only for a time).

Stage 5 – Roosevelt partially recovers a declining prestige by presenting himself to the workers as the great organizer of victory against fascism. But the working class as a whole is dissatisfied over the Little Steel formula and the no-strike pledge. It has the gravest doubts of what will happen to the United States in the post-war period. This is the soil in which the PAC springs up like a giant mushroom.

What the PAC Is

An independent Labor Party? The PAC is not that. But it is an independent organization acting as a pressure group on the Democratic Party.

Labor still thinks Roosevelt is the leader of what it calls “the progressives” in the country. But note that labor would have felt more satisfied if Vice-President Wallace had been renominated. In other words, it does not trust the President as much as before. Secondly, labor, as labor, fought to ensure the election of the man whom it considered its candidate. But thirdly, labor wanted its own organization so as to be sure that its demands would have organized backing. Hillman said as much at the foundation of the PAC.

Compare the workers today with the workers of 1929. They have learned plenty and have concrete organizational forms to show – the CIO and the PAC. What is the next stage?

The next stage is the recognition by the workers that the problems posed to them by a bankrupt society demand labor’s own independent political organization with its own workers’ program. PAC is not this.

PAC must cut itself clean from the Democratic Party.

The working class will sooner or later reach the stage where it will be unable to live the kind of life which is its due and which the economy can provide. It will be pushed to the final stage – the stage of independent political organization, free of capitalist control with a program for solving the problems which capitalism cannot solve.

That for us is the course of development of the working class in this period. Enough has happened since 1929 to make us confident of the future. But we state categorically that PAC represents a definitive stage of progress and is no accident. Labor may take some other road to political independence than the PAC. But the PAC is what we have now. The aim now must be to free it of capitalist control, to raise its program to the height of the great tasks which face American labor.

Tasks of American Labor

But to do this as it ought to be done demands that we see American labor for what it is – a class called upon to solve the problems of American society; a class called upon to refashion an economic system which has served its purpose and now can produce only economic crises and imperialist war; a class which in the last fifteen years has shown that it can learn and take action to meet its needs.

Last updated on 17 February 2016