Max Shachtman

Workers Party May Day Manifesto, 1946

U.S. Labor – Forge
Victory of Socialism!

(29 April 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 17, 29 April 1946, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Working Men and Working Women:

The Workers Party addresses itself to you on May Day, the traditional holiday of international working class solidarity, about our common problems and our common tasks.

The war has ended with a gloomy toll of death and destruction never before known in history. With our own eyes we can see the highest achievements of modern capitalism: millions of new graves, cities and whole countries turned into cemeteries or deserts, more millions wandering without homes or countries to call their own, still more millions transferred from the rule of one despotism to the rule of another, starvation, misery and insecurity throughout the world.

What has happened to all the noble promises of peace and freedom made by the Allied governments throughout the war? What has happened to all the assurances they gave of security and liberty once the Axis was defeated?

They Lied to Us!

They callously deceived the people. They plunged the people into the mass slaughter only in order to determine which set of imperialist bandits would rule the world. And now that one set has won over the other, the victors are engaged in a bitter struggle among themselves, like jungle beasts, for the greater right to pillage, to oppress, to exploit, to disfranchise and subjugate whole peoples and whole nations.

Their war was imperialist from beginning to end. Their war was a dreadful nightmare of suffering and devastation. Now their peace is proving to be merely a breathing spell during which the positions are being staked out and the preparations are being made by the victors themselves for the Third World War, the atomic war, the all-destructive war to determine which single power – American imperialism or Russian imperialism – shall rule the lives and destinies of the entire globe. They scarcely bother to conceal their preparations for the Third World War behind the hypocritical talk about “peace” and the “United Nations” which are united only in their hostility to the people’s long yearning for peace, freedom and security.

Wherever the people have had the opportunity or the freedom to act, they have shown, throughout Europe and Asia, their desire for a new world. They want a world free of war, free of inequality, free of want. They want a world free of foreign rule, free of. the rule of the few over the many.

Our own progress here in the United States, our own freedom, depend on the freedom of other peoples. We cannot allow them to be enslaved without becoming slaves ourselves.. The aspirations for liberty are so strong and universal that they can be suppressed only by huge military forces, by a vast expenditure and waste of wealth. That burden falls upon our shoulders as well.

Withdraw All Foreign Troops

Our first duty is to extend a brotherly hand to the oppressed peoples everywhere. We have the duty, to ourselves as well as to them, to help all those peoples who have been deprived of their elementary right to rule themselves as they see fit. The Workers Party, which supported the revolutionary resistance movement of the European peoples against the murder rule of the Nazis, calls upon the working class of this country today to demand the withdrawal of all foreign military forces – American, Russian, British and French – from all the occupied countries, to support every popular struggle against imperialist annexations, reparations, tribute and pillage, to combat all forms of the punishment of the people of any country for the crimes of their ruling classes.

The German people have no less a right to the unity and sovereign rule of their country than the French have of theirs or we have of ours. The same holds for every other people whom the victorious imperialists have deprived of their unity or their national independence. To encourage these peoples in their aspirations and struggle, to support them by every means at our disposal, is at the same time to conduct the fight against the Third World War which the imperialists are so cold-bloodedly preparing.

The American working class has before it a task of the most imposing significance. It is the task of the leadership, not only in this country but throughout the world, in reorganizing society on a rational basis, so that there is abundance, peace, security and freedom for all. To this task, the American workers bring a strength and a vigor unsurpassed anywhere. To accomplish this task, it is only necessary to understand what our task is and to realize our invincible strength. Then no power on earth can withstand us.

The Task of U.S. Labor

The war showed that the United States has a capacity to produce beyond the wildest dreams of most people. This capacity was used primarily to produce the means of death and destruction. The plants are still there and if need be more can be built. The raw materials are still available. The working force is still here. Now that the war has ended, what stands in the way of full production, full employment and the fullest enjoyment of the fruits of our labor? Only the insatiable lust for profit of the big monopolists. Only the anarchy and planlessness of capitalist production.

In the midst of unparalleled opportunities to achieve plenty for all, millions are unemployed, including hundreds of thousands of war veterans. Workers are compelled to fight every inch of the war – in fabulously rich United States – to maintain a decent standard of living. Every penny in wage increases which they force out of the swollen purses of the corporations it cancelled out in advance by an even greater increase in prices, so that every worker’s family is squeezed as though in a vise. The price control system of the government has proved to be a criminal farce. Food, clothing, homes and furnishings are for the most part available only on the black market or at black market prices. The post-war boom has not yet materialized and when it does nobody will give any serious assurance of how long it will last before mass unemployment and mass misery are once more upon us and in a more aggravated form than ever before.

The American working class is losing confidence in capitalism and the spokesmen for “free enterprise.” That is a most encouraging sign.

The end of the war unleashed a series of inspiring labor struggles throughout the nation, strikes which blanketed one basic industry after another. So great is is the power of American labor, organized into unions that are fifteen million strong, that the monopolists and their government were unable to break the strikes or the spirit of the strikers by direct attack.

In these strikes, the American workers showed that they are no longer content with merely asking for a wage increase of a few cents on the hour. They cannot be content with that. They are beginning to see that their fight for existence, their fight for security, their fight for higher wages, is inseparably connected with the question of prices and of profits. They are beginning to see that this fight, in turn, cannot be won by directing their efforts against this or that employer alone. They go far beyond that. They see what a decisive and all-important meaning the government has in this fight. This is only another way of saying: political power is decisive. To win, to gain our legitimate demands, to realize our aspirations, we must get political power!

In the advance guard of the American working class today are the workers of the General Motors Corporation, the giant du Pont monopoly. In their strike, they, more clearly than any of the other workers, proclaimed their vote of non-confidence in the rule and management of the monopoly capitalists.

They said: We, the workers, claim that the industry can give labor a decent wage without the monopolists raising the prices of automobiles to the consumers, and without the corporation taking a super-monopolistic profit for itself. We, the workers, can prove this by the books of the corporation itself, which we ask to have opened to our control.

The monopolists did not even have the courage to deny the claim of labor. The government did not challenge it, either. All they could do and all they did was to reject the demands of the workers.

Think of this, working men and working women! By their attitude, the monopolists and their government admit their social bankruptcy. They are saying that they must have their super-profits above all other things, and that in order to get them the wages of workers must be kept low and the prices to the consumer kept high.

The GM workers are the first great body of American labor to begin to voice the demand which will sooner or later be voiced by the millions everywhere in the country: Labor must control wages and prices and profits! Labor must control production! Labor demands that the industries of the self-confessed bankrupts be nationalized!

It has already been shown what a tremendous power this demand, clearly and boldly voiced, would have throughout the nation. Practically all the people, including the middle classes, were sympathetic to the demands of the GM workers. The big corporations were so panic-stricken that they poured out millions in a nationwide publicity campaign against the GM workers’ demands. But the results showed a most important thing. The common people, the little people of the country, are ready to follow the leadership of labor IF labor declares courageously and militantly that it is ready to take over the leadership of the nation, that it is ready to take over the responsibility for organizing the economic life of the nation in such a way as to provide prosperity and security for all.

The power of the ideas voiced, however moderately, in the GM strike is so great that even the opponents of these ideas in the leadership of the Auto Workers Union find themselves compelled, in the fight against their rival, Reuther, to put forward the most radical-sounding program they dare to write.

For a Workers’ Government

But these ideas must be clarified and the instruments created for realizing them. The monopolists cannot and will not assure the people a high standard of living, a guaranteed year-around job and a minimum annual wage. Therefore, nationalize the industries of these bankrupts! The Truman government cannot and will not nationalize these industries, or lift a finger against the economically and politically powerful monopolists. Then let us establish a government of our own, a workers’ government, which will do what is necessary!

Toward this end, the mighty American working class must have a mighty political organization, an Independent Labor Party based upon and organized by the trade unions. To think of such a party in terms of electing a congressman or two or even twenty, is an absolutely miserable way of dealing with the problem. Labor, with an independent party of its own which will break completely from all the capitalist parties, can think seriously of dealing with its problems only if it thinks seriously in terms of a workers’ government, in terms of a revolutionary program of organizing and managing the economy of the country so that there is abundance for all, in terms of taking, the leadership and the responsibility of leadership of the nation in every field of social life.

The Workers Party greets its comrades and brothers and sisters of the working class of this country and throughout the world this May Day. We are the party of revolutionary socialism. We are part and parcel of the labor movement and have no interests separate from the interests of the whole working class. This is a day of great rejoicing for us in this country. The American working class is on the march. It is taking the first big steps out of the slime of capitalist decay, capitalist disorganization, capitalist bankruptcy, capitalist barbarism. It is rising to its truly gigantic stature as the reorganizer of society. It cannot achieve this goal, accomplish this task, without moving toward a victory which is the victory of socialism. It cannot be victorious without lifting the rest of the world, now gripped by ruthless American imperialism on the one hand and Russian Stalinist despotism on the other, to the eminence of socialist freedom. Therein lies the program, the aim and aspiration, the reason for existence and the need for our revolutionary socialist Workers Party.

Forward to the struggle for a Workers’ Government!

Workers of all countries, unite!


National Committee, Workers Party,
Max Shachtman, Secretary

Max Shachtman
Marxist Writers’

Last updated on 20 January 2019