Max Shachtman

Workers Party Platform

(May 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 19, 8 May 1944, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The first seven points which the platform of the Workers Party urges the labor movement and the coming Labor Party to adopt as their program of action deal with the defense of the economic and political position of the working class now, today.

All sort of high-sounding words have been written into any number of “plans for a better post-war world.” The mere fact that such plans are being drawn up implies a recognition of two important points: (1) that the world we lived in before the War, as well as the world we are living in during the war, demand a change and an improvement – the first was not satisfactory and the second is not; (2) that a better world cannot be obtained just by letting things “take their course” but must be planned and organized. Every thinking worker has recognized these two points to one extent or another for some time.

Do these plans really mean anything for the masses of the workers? There is at least one unfailing test to apply to all of them: What do they propose to do for the economic and political welfare of the workers NOW, and not in the distant and uncertain future? What do they propose to do NOW in defense of the economic and political interests of the workers?

Any of the “post-war plans” that fails to answer these questions concretely, which evades these questions with the argument that the workers must not fight now because “we are all fighting a war,” but that everything will be all right once the war is over – is worth, at best, the paper it is written on, and nothing more. The authors of these plans are deceiving the people, or deceiving themselves, or both. It is the old story all over again:

A juicy carrot is dangled just in front of the donkey but out of his reach, only in order to keep him going with the heavy load on his back. Any faker is always ready to PROMISE the good things of life to the masses some time in the future – but nothing doing right now.

Why Struggle Is Necessary Now

The only fight for a better post-war world that has any serious meaning is the fight that begins right now. Whoever tells the workers that they must accept their burden today because of the “war crisis,” will tell them to accept the same burden, or a heavier one, tomorrow because of the “post-war crisis.” The way to meet the post-war crisis – which is absolutely certain – is to meet the war crisis head-on.


Let us see how the big monopolists are meeting the war crisis in preparation for the post-war crisis. These great economic and political autocrats do not say: “There is a war on, therefore we will sacrifice our wealth to win it. We will not make any demands for the protection or exterision of our economic and political power. We will not make a fight over any question affecting this power, no matter how important.”

On the contrary, they laugh up their sleeves at the very suggestion. The “war crisis” is a boon to them. They utilize the war situation for the constant improvement of their position. They mean to come out of the war with greater economic power and with a stronger political position from which to protect this power than they ever had before. They fight every inch of the way for bigger profits, for lower taxes, for firmer control of the government machinery. They fight every inch of the way to keep labor’s economic standards low and to reduce them even lower, to deprive labor of its bitterly-won rights, to heap the war burden higher and higher on labor’s shoulders. They know perfectly well that the stronger they are the weaker labor is, and the other way around. They understand perfectly well that the fight for a better post-war world FOR THEM is so much windjamming unless they keep fighting for their class position NOW. They are serious people, these monopolists.

They did not reach their powerful positions by crawling on their bellies. They fight for their power. They keep on fighting for it, and will not yield an inch of it without a fight. They do not procrastinate or postpone. They go their own way without paying the slightest bit of attention to the “good advice” of labor leaders.

Labor Must Act for Itself

Labor must take a leaf out of their book! It must act as a class, with a class movement and a class program and a class struggle of its own. It must not allow itself to be talked into the paralysis of “Act tomorrow, act any time in the world – but NOT now!” It is precisely now that it must act, in order that it may really be able to act effectively tomorrow.

“Labor must defend itself now!” The platform of the Workers Party opens with this call.

Labor cannot defend itself without defending and exercising all its democratic rights. These rights are all interlinked, and an assault on any one of them is an assault on all of them. A whole series of dictatorial measures have been imposed upon the masses. These are class measures through and through. It is not the monopolists they hurt, but only the workers and sections of the middle classes. They are promulgated in the interests of the monopoly-capitalists. The latter are “forced” to produce what the government decides

they shall produce. But the government supplies them with orders, with raw materials, often with plants and machinery, and even with labor. Above all, the government guarantees them a profit – a profit such as they have never had before in all their history – and it is profits, first, last and always, that the capitalists are concerned with.

As for labor, it is frozen to the job. Workers cannot leave their employment without the permission of the employer. But the employer can fire them from their jobs by the thousands when his plant no longer has any use for them. The workers’ position is being brought closer and closer to that of a slave. With job-freezing, there is wage-freezing. The employer uses his economic and political power to get the highest profits in history. The wages of the workers are forcibly kept at the lowest point. If they attempt to improve their economic position by the use of their organized strength, the whole machinery of the government is brought to bear against them.

Against Smith-Connally Bill

For over a hundred years, the American workers have fought for the right to organize and the right to strike. In that cause, many violent battles were fought, blood shed, and martyrs buried. With a stroke of the pen, the reactionary Congress adopted the Smith-Connally anti-strike law. The only criticism of the Roosevelt Administration was that the law did not go far enough.

This vicious law must be repealed, along with all other legislation that infringes upon or abolishes labor’s rights. The no-strike pledge, which has been a boon to the bosses and a curse to labor, must be rescinded. The right of full and unrestricted collective bargaining rights of the unions must be restored.

Labor has been forced into a preposterous position, and the labor leaders have helped put it there by their servile attitude. Labor can no longer negotiate collectively with the employer. That bargaining right has been cut to pieces.

Labor can come before the employer with the most modest and most justified demands in the world, and the employer can laugh in its face: “What are you going to do about my refusal to grant your demands? You will not fight. You will not strike. Your leaders have pledged you to a no-strike policy. The government says you can’t strike. The government says you can’t qpit work here without my permission. So, back to your benches, and don’t let me hear another word out of you.”

But even where the employer cleverly admits the justice of the workers’ demands, all he needs to say now is: “It is out of my hands. You cannot settle any negotiations with me. You cannot bargain with me. It is in the hands of Washington. It is in the hands of the War Labor Board.” And the War Labor Board functions like a cemetery of labor’s grievances and demands.

The demand for restoring genuine collective bargaining rights, out of which labor has been tricked, goes hand in glove with the demand for restoring the right to strike. If the right to the first is to mean anything, labor must have the right to the second.

There is still another aspect of the question which is of key importance. Workers do not join unions in order to be regimented into the docile service of the employer. They will not stay in the unions for that purpose; or of they do stay, their hearts will not be in it. They will not be good and enthusiastic union men, but reluctant or uncertain dues-payers at best.

Workers join unions and become good union fighters because a union is needed to protect and raise their economic standards. A union is needed to enforce the just demands of the workers by exerting their organized strength upon the employers. Once the union gives up its right to exert its organized strength in the only way that employers understand, it creates the basis for workers either losing interest in the union or quitting it altogether.

The restoration of the right to strike is indispensable to the growth of the unions, indispensable even to the maintenance of union organization as it is today.

In our next article we will deal with the demands that labor must make in defense of its economic position.

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