Max Shachtman

Who Is Behind
The Conspiracy to Suppress
Labor Action

(November 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 44, 2 November 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

(Continued from last week)

Last week we revealed the hand of the Communist Party as one of the prime movers in the conspiracy to have Labor Action suppressed, and showed the reason why.

This week we want to show who are the allies of the Stalinists (who are as much “communists” as the Nazis are “socialists”) in the foul campaign against our paper.

The allies of the Stalinists are the so-called “labor leaders,” the non-Stalinist officials of the unions who were chosen to protect and defend the interests of the membership, but who, in practice, put the interests of labor in second or third or fifth place. They are people, like John Green, president of the Shipbuilders Union, CIO; Philip Van Gelder, secretary-treasurer of the same union; their stooges in Local 9 of the union in San Pedro, Calif.; people like President Sherman H. Dalrymple of the CIO Rubber Workers Union; former Secretary-Treasurer Frank Grillo of the same union, and former Vice-President Tom Burns, also of the Rubber Workers; people of the same stripe in the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, CIO; people of the same stripe in the Los Angeles Industrial Union Council, CIO, who tried to get Labor Action banned several months ago; and union officials in a few other organisations.

Some of these people, we can say right at the outset, have good records of performance in the past. Some of them even have exceptionally good records of militancy, especially by the miserably low standards the average labor leader in this country has always set. But with the coming of the war, and even before it, every single one of them was whipped into line. Every single one of them has one aim in the labor movement today, because he believes that his job, his respectability in the eyes of the government and the press and the employers, depends upon its fulfillment: the aim of making the labor movement a gagged, fettered, docile cog in the capitalist war machine.

Labor Action Does Not Conceal Its Views

Now, Labor Action has made no effort to conceal its point of view. It is not ashamed of it, there is nothing in it to apologize for, and that’s why it is proud of it.

Part of that point of view is this: War or no war, the complete, unhampered independence of the labor movement and the working class must be maintained at all costs! The interests of the labor movement mast be defended at all times, every step of the way, with the most aggressive methods, and mus not be abandoned no matter what the pretext! Nobody who is honestly and seriously and intelligently in favor of smashing fascism can have the slightest objection to such a point of view. On the contrary, support of this viewpoint is the most reliable test of genuine opposition to fascism. Why? Because fascism means, first and foremost, the utter destruction of the independence of the working class and its labor movement, including the trade unions.

And our position is that labor as a whole must fiercely resist any step or movement aimed at reducing its independence, even it that step is taken in the name of “fighting against fascism.” A hell of a fight against fascism it is that starts out by imitating fascism. That would be like saving a house from an approaching fire by putting a match to all the furniture in the house.

This point of view of Labor Action is known to all its readers. It is known to the Stalinists. It is known to the labor bureaucrats we have mentioned and to others of their kidney. They know also that we are in deadly earnest about our point of view. They know that we mean it, every word of it, when we fight to heighten the independence of the labor movement and to protect the standards and rights oi the working class. And they know that we will not be silent when anyone tries to undermine labor’s independence or abandon the fight for its rights. We will not be silent no matter who the culprit is, no matter how exalted his position inside or outside the labor movement, no matter how big or powerful he thinks he is.

That is why people like John Green join the Stalinists in blowing the whistle against us. That is why they bellow for aid from the government and the FBI, which would only be too glad to oblige if they could, because the truths we tell are none too palatable to them, either.

The Hiring Hall Issue in San Pedro

They want us silenced and suppressed because they cannot stand the glare of the spotlight of truth that we keep focused upon them. They know that more and more workers are reading Labor Action and pondering soberly over the facts that it presents and the views it puts forward. They know that these workers, the rank and filers of the labor movement, are not going to remain passive and unorganized forever, or even for a very long time. The more these workers see and understand of what the labor bureaucracy is really doing, the sooner they will rise in their invincible might and replace these bureaucrats with fighting militants who have one aim and one aim only: to promote the class interests of labor and its organizations, no matter who says what!

Take one of the most recent and flagrant examples of what we mean, an example with which our readers must be pretty well acquainted by now – the sell-out in San Pedro, the cunning scheme put over by a combination of company men, government representatives, Stalinists and labor bureaucrats whereby the precious control of the shipbuilding hiring hall, established by the CIO union, is to be given up by the workers and their union.

Labor Action told the truth about this scheme from the very beginning. We warned about it in advance. We made no bones about calling upon the San Pedro shipbuilding workers to fight against it.

In the eyes of the company officials, our action is a crime. Of course! But the whole trouble with us is that we don’t give a thought to the interests of the corporations and the monopolists – they have plenty of people looking out for them!

In the eyes of the Stalinists, too, we committed a crime. That’s why they want us gagged.

In the eyes of the government representative, who smells to us like at least a 50% Stalinist, we committed a crime. He would like us gagged, too.

And the same holds true of the union bureaucracy.

We can tell all these gentlemen, however, that we intend to go on committing this “crime” as long as there is breath left in us.

What do they intend to do? To devote all their energies to smashing us, to silencing and suppressing us, aided by company people on the one hand and, of course, by government persecution on the other?

But When The Reactionaries Attack ...

Is that the best job that these “leaders of labor” have to do nowadays? Is there nothing more important for them to occupy their lung power and their time?

Just think of these facts:

Roane Waring, newly-elected national commander of the American Legion, went to the Toronto convention of the American Federation of Labor on October 9 and said that strikes should be suppressed and anyone who dares to strike, no matter what his grievance, ought to be shot. “Would you shoot them?” he was asked by reporters when he got off the platform. “Yes, if I had the authority,” he replied, unhesitatingly. Well, he already has some authority because he speaks in the name of a powerful reactionary movement with hundreds of thousands of members in it.

But the labor leaders – where were they? Do you hear of a campaign to smash the power of this fascist-minded Legion commander. No, he is a welcome guest on the platform of the labor bureaucrats. When it comes to Labor Action, however, the bureaucrats clamor for “investigations” and “action” against us.

At the same convention of the American Federation of Labor, on September 30, Rear Admiral Ben Morell, chief of the United States Bureau of Yards and Docks, declared from the platform:

“I will admit that nobody can live without labor, but they certainly can live without labor unions. They are living without them in Germany, and in Italy, and in Japan, and they seem to be doing right well – at least for the moment – and, in my opinion, they will damn well live without them here if all of us don’t get in there and pitch.”

Did the labor bureaucrats drive this naval gentleman off the platform for this gross insult to the labor movement? Of course, not. They listened patiently and silently, and pledged that they would sweat harder (that is, they would sweat the workers harder) in the future. That’s how they deal with fascist-minded rear admirals. But when it comes to dealing with a working-class paper like Labor Action, just see how furious and energetic they become!

Only the other day, at the October 19 session of the Investment Bankers’ Association convention in New York, another rear admiral spoke. This time, it was Emory S. Land, chairman of the United States Maritime Commission. Listen to this appointee of President Roosevelt: “As far as organizers are concerned, for the duration, in my opinion, they ought to be shot at sunrise.” He tried to duck out of it a couple of days later, but he only made matters clearer – that is, worse. For once in a long time, Joe Curran of the National Maritime Union was right when he said that Nazi submarines are shooting union organizers and men at sunrise and at sunset, every day in the week.

But what did the labor bureaucrats do about Shoot-’em-at-Sunrise Land? A few spluttering protests, and then, according to the latest reports, they have all retired behind the scenes to “patch it all up.” What patch can they possibly produce that will wipe out the fascist mentality of this war shipping administrator? There isn’t a patch big enough or powerful enough to do that. But the important thing here is this: the labor bureaucrats can always find a way of getting along harmoniously even with people like Rear Admiral Land. But faced with the criticism of a paper like Labor Action the union bureaucrats holler for a gag, a chain, a prison, a warden and a turnkey.

Conspiracy Is Not an Isolated Matter

The conspiracy against Labor Action is not an isolated matter. It is only one single part of a much larger and wider campaign to emasculate the whole labor movement, to deprive all workers of their hard-won rights and their hard-won living standards. If they pick on Labor Action, it is only because Labor Action has been most uncompromising in resisting this reactionary campaign.

The conspiracy against Labor Action is therefore aimed as a blow at the labor movement and its best interests. That is why Labor Action has the right to appeal to every worker for solidarity and support in the fight to expose the conspiracy, to nip it in the bud, to make it too hot for the conspirators to go any further with their vicious game.

Everyone has the right and the duty to demand of the Stalinists and their co-conspirators that they get out from behind the screen of spurious “patriotism,” the screen behind which they are shooting their poisoned arrows at Labor Action. The rank and file can force these people to admit the real reasons for their drive against us. The real reasons are that we persist in telling the truth about them and they can’t stand up under it, and that we are unshakable in our devotion to the cause and interests of the working class and the union movement.

That is the truth, that and nothing else. And despite every effort by the associated “democrats” to muzzle us, IT IS THE TRUTH WE SHALL CONTINUE TO TELL.

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Last updated on 3 October 2014