Max Shachtman

Greetings From the Workers Party:

For a Labor Party and
a Workers Government!

(May 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 18, 1 May 1944, pp. 1, 2 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


The Second World War is drawing to the end of its fifth year. That will make five long years of death and devastation, five years of reaction, five years of torture and enslavement for tens of millions of people.

Why has all this blood been shed, this destruction wrought, this torment suffered?

Fascism promised to plant a “new order” for the people of Germany and all of Europe wherever its banner was victorious. All it sowed was terror, hunger and slavery. It brought the peoples of Europe – Germany included – no peace, no security, no prosperity, but only the bloody rule of German capitalism and of its servants, the Reichswehr and the Gestapo. Now, fear stalks the minds of the German ruling class as the irrepressible masses of the people prepare to take their revolutionary revenge. The first wove of the inevitable European revolution was powerful enough to put an end to Mussolini’s regime in Italy. Tomorrow it will sweep away the rule of Hitler and all his minions, will leave nothing behind them but the millions of corpses,they cruelly sacrificed and the lands they laid waste to achieve their imperialist ambitions. The curses of generations to come will follow them for the part they played in hurling the world into the most futile bloodbath of history.

Why did the Allies enter the war? Every passing month makes clearer the real reasons and strips the mask from the false ones.

We were told that we must fight another war, the second in twenty-five years, in order to safeguard democracy, the rights of the common people, the freedom of all nations, by crushing the fascism and reaction represented by Hitler and his allies in the Axis.

An Atlantic Charter was written for the world, in which all were assured of freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and the right of self-government.

The workers, and the labor movement in particular, were told that it was primarily their war that was being fought, their interests that were being looked after, their rights and future that were being defended.

New, however, when the Allies feel themselves closer to the day of military victory, all the noble promises are being discorded and even repudiated, both by word and by deed.

The Atlantic Charter does not apply to the British Empire, says its spokesman, Churchill. It does not apply to Asia and the Pacific Ocean, say Churchill and Roosevelt. It does not apply to Eastern and Southern Europe, says Stalin. It does not apply to Germany, say all three of them. It does not even apply, not immediately, at least, to the countries we “liberate,” they now add; these countries are to be ruled not by their people but by us and by our armed might, as we are already doing in Italy, as we intend to do in France and elsewhere.

World War III in the Making’

Right in the midst of the Second World War the seeds of the Third World War are being sowed. The imperialists of the world are not more able to put on end to the scourge of war than they are able or willing to put an end to imperialism itself. The rivalries and appetites of the imperialist powers are not reduced but keener than, ever before. England fights desperately for continued domination of her hundreds of millions of colonial slaves. Germany fights under Hitler, as she fought under the Kaiser, to replace England and now the United States as master-exploiter of the world. The Allies expect to crush Germany and divide her into spheres of influence, thus contributing, as they did with the Versailles Treaty, to the outbreak of another World War. Stalin fights to extend the Russian Empire as far as possible. England and the United States aim to replace rapacious Japan as masters of Asia and the Pacific.

Meanwhile, the conflict for world power between the Allies themselves, England and the U.S.A., is not abated but accentuated. It is a conflict over who will be the dominant power in South America; who will be the real controlling force in China; with whom will the British dominions be closer bound – Washington or London; who will dominate the sea lanes and maritime commerce of the world; who will rule the air; who will inherit the Japanese Empire and be master of Europe. As in the past, such conflicts for world economic and political power can be settled by peaceful means for a time. As in the past, the point will inevitably be reached when peaceful means no longer suffice and we are once more plunged into war. That is why the Third World War is being prepared before the Second World War has come to an end.

What of the Home Front?

What has happened here at home?

Many solemn promises were made to the workers – the workers without whom not a wheel can turn, nor a battle can be fought. None of the promises has been kept.

Under cover of the war, the power and profits of the monopoly capitalists have reached unparalleled heights; while the rights and standard of living of the workers have been systematically undermined. Capital is more arrogant and confident than it has been for years. It is on the offensive against labor. Labor has not yet even organized a militant defensive on a nation-wide scale.

“Equality of sacrifice” is a myth and a mockery. After ALL taxes are paid; corporation profits ore still the highest in history; corporation reserves are the highest in history for they hove already provided themselves for the post-war period and provided well. The tax load on the workers and the middle classes is heavier than it has ever been. The worker’s share of the national income, to which he has contributed by a higher productivity than the world has ever known, is being steadily reduced. Wages have a meaning only in relation to the total national income and to what the wages can buy. From both standpoints, and they are the only real standpoints, the worker’s wage standard is declining. The profiteers profiteer; the millionaires multiply in number, in wealth and in power.

“Equality of sacrifice” means: the big capitalists are guaranteed plants and machinery by the government; the government guarantees them row materials; the government guarantees them labor, labor that is frozen to the job, labor whose wages are frozen, labor that must not strike, labor that must not talk back to the boss without risking withdrawal of its army deferment; the government guarantees the capitalists their profits – great big profits; the government guarantees them post-war reserves, good post-war foreign markets, a good post-war future.

For the worker it means: a job for the duration, and even that is not absolutely guaranteed; change of job only by permission of the employer; rising taxes on wages; rising cost of living, including the vicious and uncontrolled black market, accompanied by the paralyzing wage-freeze and the long-outlived Little Steel formula; a War Labor Board stocked against labor by the Administration that appointed and maintains it; anti-strike legislation and decrees and now the right to fire any worker who goes on strike; and no guarantees whatsoever of a serious kind about jobs and security after the war.

At home, furthermore, we not only have the most reactionary and anti-labor Congress we hove had for years, but on Administration that has moved further and further to the right. One by one, the concessions granted labor during the period of its militant struggles are being wiped out, directly or indirectly. No attention is paid to “labor’s demands; labor’s grievances are ignored or rebuffed. A violent anti-labor agitation has been organized and conducted throughout the land; it is echoed in Congress; it is condoned by the Administration, which adds its own voice in scurrilous attack upon the workers from the lips of the chief of staff.

The blood profiteers are having a Roman holiday. They not only reap enormous profits, but they control all the important offices in charge of war production and management. They are not only organizing a good post-war period for themselves, but preparing a bod post-war period for labor. They understand that the way to have the workers at their mercy after the war is to lower living standards now, during the war, to deprive labor of its rights and its fighting strength now. The campaign of the capitalist class is deliberate, well planned, well organized and ominous. If this is their attitude today, when they need labor so badly for the war, it is not hard to imagine what their attitude will be tomorrow, when war production comes to an end and labor is thrown out on the streets by the millions. They will try to cut us to ribbons.

Labor’s Urgent Tasks

This May Day, the historic day of the international working class, first established by the American unions, labor must gird itself for an organized fight for its rights and its interests. The way to prepare to defend those rights arid interests in the post-war period is by organizing the fight now.

Labor is the most numerous class in the country. The organized labor movement is bigger in this country than it has ever been anywhere in the world. With the power it has at its disposal, it can enter any battle confident of the outcome.

The labor movement must first rid itself of the influences, policies and kind of leadership that have all but paralyzed it. The labor leaders, Murray and Green alike, enthusiastically seconded by the Communist Party gang, have done all in their power to make the labor movement on obedient cog in the war machine, to make the workers abandon their basic interests, their great cause and purpose. They have “pledged” the labor movement; to a no-strike policy which delivers the workers, bound hand and foot, to the mercies of the employers and the employers’ government. So long as the workers cannot fight bock, so long as they have been pledged not to strike under any conditions, the employers and their government can proceed against the workers with impunity and without the least worry about being answered with the full strength of labor.

Labor, the labor movement, must regain its independence of action! Labor must strike out on a road of its own, with its own program, with its own leadership. This requires, as a first move, taking back the right to strike, which, is only the right of labor to exercise its organized economic strength in its own interests.

Labor must set itself the goal of becoming the spokesman, organizer and leader of the nation. That is the only condition under which a post-war world of peace, freedom, security and abundance for all the peoples is possible.

What must labor do?

FIRST, labor must dim to shift the whole burden of the war upon the shoulders of those who are responsible for it and who are its only PROFITEERS – the big capitalists and the big capitalist corporations. Let them pay for it!

SECOND, labor must aim to raise its standard of living to the new heights which America’s tremendous producing capacity has made possible.

THIRD, labor must become the champion of all the little people, whom it can organize into a common front against reaction, against monopoly capital, the corporations and their banks. That means, first of all, the ten per cent of the country’s people constituted by the Negroes. These people, brutally exploited, infamously discriminated against, are the natural allies of labor in town and country. Instead of allowing a wedge to be driven between Negro and white worker – or between Jew and Christian – labor must be the cementing force uniting all those who toil. It must lead the fight against the foul system of Jim Crow discrimination and segregation, be it in the North or in the South, In industry or in the armed forces. Labor must stretch out its arm to the poor farmers, too, to combine with them against the trusts, the railroads and the big bankers.

FOURTH, labor must become the militant champion of the rights and interests of the men in the armed services. Right now, a concerted drive is on to poison the minds of the armed forces against labor and the labor movement. Reaction cunningly hopes to use these forces to crush labor after the war. To counteract this plan, and above all because most of the armed forces are workers and’ poor farmers or their sons, labor must become their spokesman. Labor must demand higher pay for the men and higher allotments for their dependents at home. Labor must demand really adequate facilities for the returning soldier and sailor. Above all, and immediately, labor must insist upon full political and democratic rights for the men in the armed services, in contrast to the miserable, hypocritical “Soldiers’ Vote Bill” that has just been passed.

FIFTH, labor must aim at the nationalization of the big industries, banks and railroads under workers’ control of production’, so that the first step is taken in working out planfully the utilization of our great natural resources, our means of production and exchange and our labor power, so that a decent job, a high standard of living, and continuous production are guaranteed to all workers and in the interests of all workers.

SIXTH, American labor must present itself as a friend and a comrade to the exploited and oppressed peoples all over the world. Labor wants no slaves anywhere, wants no people dominated by it, no nation under oppressive rule. Imperialist reaction will surely seek to crush the great revolutions in Europe and Asia that are already growing out of the soil of the war. Imperialism will seek to crush these revolutions or to cheat them of their fruits. In the Italian Revolution, which heralds the greater revolution to come on the continent, we see the shameful situation where Allied imperialism – Washington, London and Moscow – rules like a conqueror and refuses to grant the people their most elementary democratic rights, in flagrant violation of the promises of the Atlantic Charter. Labor must begin its deeds of solidarity with the people of the rest of the world by demanding now that the Allies keep hands off the Italian Revolution and hands off the democratic rights of the Italian people.

How Attain These Aims?

These aims cannot be attained by the labor movement as it is now. Labor must first declare its independence. The first big step needed immediately is the formation by the organized labor movement of an INDEPENDENT LABOR. PARTY. We know that the conservative labor leaders either hesitate to take this step or, as in most cases, are opposed to it. Labor must no longer allow these leaders to keep it tied to the chariot of capitalist politics, to keep it as voting cattle for capitalist politicians. We know that the tools of the Moscow bureaucracy, the Communist Party, are opposed to independent working class political action. So much the worse for them. They too must be fought mercilessly. They do not want to see American labor acting independently as a class. They want to capture control of the labor movement so that it can be used as a tool operating in the interests of Stalin’s imperialist ambitions.

The formation of an INDEPENDENT LABOR PARTY can be postponed only to the increasing peril of the American workers and the American labor movement. Such a party must be formed and formed immediately. It must adopt a fighting program. It must challenge the other parties, the parties of capitalism, in the name of labor and with the aim of a workers’ government.

In Michigan, many of the unions have taken a step in this direction by formation of the Michigan Commonwealth Federation. Much still needs to be done in Michigan before the workers have the kind of party they must have in order to fight for their interests on the political field. But a step has been taken along the right road.

In the CIO a Political Action Committee has been formed. The idea of organizing the labor movement for united political action is absolutely correct, and urgently necessary. All that the leaders of the Political Action Committee have in mind, however, is to prevent the formation of a Labor Party and to corral working class votes for a fourth term for Roosevelt. Again we ask: What treatment can labor expect from Roosevelt or any other capitalist politician if he knows that no matter what he does, the support of labor is guaranteed in advance, is in his vest pocket? Labor can command respect from others, have confidence in itself, and win its battles ONLY if it acts unitedly on the political front FOR ITSELF, with a party of its own and o program of its own.

Labor Party Must Be Built

The Political Action Committee proposes to call a national convention of labor unions this year to consider policy and activity. Undoubtedly the unions will be widely represented at this convention. Every union conscious of the need of the hour should therefore adopt resolutions in favor of independent working class political action, that is, in favor of the immediate formation of a militant Labor Party, and send its delegations to the PAC convention with strict instructions to speak, fight and vote there for a Labor Party.

A Labor Party worthy of the name is one that aims frankly and boldly at setting up a labor government, a government of, for and by the workers. A workers’ government would be a tremendous step toward crushing the reactionary power of monopoly capital and establishing the power of the working class. Under the power of the working class, the masses would proceed to establish the new order of socialism by taking over the means of production and exchange and organizing them exclusively in the interests and for the welfare of the people.

The governments of the capitalists have brought the people unemployment, doles, exploitation, national hatreds and imperialist wars; underproduction, when people needed food, clothing and shelter, and production for war when people needed and yearned for peace and security. High time that labor took its rightful place at the head of society. High time labor launched the conscious, organized fight to set up a workers’ government.

WP Speaks to the Militants

These are the aims the Workers Party urges the American working class to adopt, the actions it urges them to take. The Workers Party is an organization of revolutionary socialism, of socialist internationalism. We are grouped together on the basis of the great traditions and program of the international socialist movement. Our aim is to inspire the working class to the conscious, effective struggle to overturn the outlived, rotten system of, capitalism in order to replace it with the revolutionary rule of the workers which will reorganize society on a socialist basis, free of class exploitation, oppression and inequality.

To the militant workers, aware of the need of an organized revolutionary socialist movement that works os an integral part of the labor movement, and seeks to unite its immediate interests with its historic interests, the Workers Party issues the call: Join our ranks! United in the great, world-wide struggle for socialist freedom!

In a deep sense, the leadership of the world has fallen to the United States. The United States can become master of the world under imperialist rule, despoiling it, exploiting it, wrecking it with crises and recurrent wars. The United States can become leader of a world that is united in brotherhood and solidarity, in peace, freedom and prosperity. But only if the leader of the United States is the .working class.

A tremendous historic responsibility rests upon our shoulders. A breath-faking opportunity lies right before us. Let all of us in the labor movement decide this May Day to seize this opportunity firmly.

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Last updated on 14 October 2015