Max Shachtman


In This Corner

(18 July 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 51, 18 July 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

If ever President Roosevelt starts an economy regime in his own household and finds himself forced to do without his valet, he won’t have to worry even then about having his pants pressed, and above all, his boots licked into a high polish. Whoever has been following the Daily Worker’s treatment of the building trades workers’ strike on W.P.A. must by now be convinced that Roosevelt can get free flunkey service from the editors of the Communist party sheet even when he doesn’t ask for it.

We do not want to deny that the Stalinists on the Daily Worker are considerably embarrassed and in an unenviable position. On the contrary, we grant it readily. Here they have been trying to sell an increasingly discredited Roosevelt to an increasingly disillusioned working class, painting up the President as a stout friend of labor, and first crack out of the box, their Third-Term Candidate comes out as a strike-breaking boss, no different at bottom from Tom Girdler.

For their embarrassment, a spirit of tolerance, pity and understanding would normally be indicated. But such feelings just naturally turn sour even in a merciful man when he reads how the Daily Worker impudently seeks to extricate itself from its own predicament by shouting Stop Thief!

Playing Down the Reality

First, the Daily Worker has been systematically playing down the strike, which everybody else in the country recognizes as one of the most important labor struggles in recent times: a strike led by conservative A.F.L. officials “against the government” which is supposed to be “friendly to labor.”

The Wednesday, July 12, issue of the Daily Worker is typical. While every other paper of that date gave the W.P.A. strike first position, you had to look all over the front page before you could find, in obscure position at the bottom, a colorless story entitled A.F.L. Group Visits Capital on W.P.A. Talks. The Stalinists refuse to accept the idea of workers striking against a wage-cutting Roosevelt Government, and they hope to dispel the idea by playing down the reality.

Second, the Stalinists have tried their damndest to convey the impression that good old Roosevelt and the New Dealers are friends of the strikers, enemies of the Woodrum Starvation Bill, and conversely, that the strike is in no sense directed against Roosevelt – only against the “Tories.”

In its Thursday issue, it prints a characteristically foul story about the distribution of the last issue of the Socialist Appeal and leaflets of the independent Unemployed and Project Workers Union to the striking workers at the North Beach Airport.

“Ugly words came from groups of project workers as they filed out of the airport gates and copies of the Trotskyite sheet, Socialist Appeal, were handed them. The paper carried a story boldly headed ‘President Roosevelt – strike-breaker.’

“The paper was being distributed by the same disruptive groups who arranged the flopped meeting.

“Remarks were heard such as:

“‘Who are these rats?’

“‘This ain’t what the strikers are saying, is it?’

“‘They talk like the people who passed the bill.’”

Now, apart from the fact that the Socialist Appeal was exceptionally well received by the workers involved, the important thing in the Daily Worker story is the obvious attempt to clear Roosevelt from all responsibility. It is “the people who passed the (Woodrum) bill” who are alone responsible, in the words it invents for the mythical airport worker whom the reporter never heard. Roosevelt, however, is O.K.

Keeping Silent on Roosevelt

But if the President is the savior and benefactor of the W.P.A. workers, it seems to us that the least the Daily Worker can do is to quote him. Yet that is precisely what the Daily Worker is stone silent about. The statement from the White House on the W.P.A. strike was printed in every New York paper we were able to get hold of, prominently displayed by New Deal as well as anti-New Deal organs – but not one single syllable of even remote reference to it was contained in the Stalinist paper.

Since it is theoretically possible that it was omitted from the Daily Worker because its space was too occupied by Columnists Amter, Begun and Cacchione, let us refer to the Roosevelt statement here:

From a special Washington dispatch to the New York Times of July 12:

“President Roosevelt insisted today that the Administration would attempt to carry out the security provision of the new relief law despite the work stoppages in various parts of the country ...

“Mr. Roosevelt refused to indicate whether he would support the Congressional move to abandon the security wage in the new bill in favor of restoration of the prevailing rate of wages, but he recalled that he bad made no objection to the new wage provision when he signed the Relief bill.” (Our emphasis)

Strikebreaker! Scab!

From page 1 of the same issue of the Times:

“The requirement that all W.P.A. employes work 130 hours a month for their security wage, even though previously many had worked less than fifty hours for the same pay, was written into the new Federal Relief Act at the suggestion of Colonel F.C. Harrington, National Works Projects Commissioner” (a Roosevelt appointee, of course!).

In spite of the Daily Worker’s indignation at our irreverence to the President, we are therefore constrained to repeat what we wrote last week – In a whisper of course, and timidly:

President Roosevelt – Strike-breaker!

And: the Communist Party – Scab!

* * *

P.S. – Our last issue referred to the Stalinist-controlled Workers Alliance call for a “one-day stoppage,” and labelled it, properly, a basically scabby measure. The Daily Worker now informs us that the Alliance is calling its “stoppage” for July 20 – that is, more than two weeks after the strike was called! Why July 20? Why not Christmas or New Year’s Eve? By that time the Stalinists could be absolutely sure that the strike is over.

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