Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Milt Rosen, President, Progressive Labor Party

Peace Movement–II: Workers Hold Key

First Published: Challenge, Vol. II, No. 6, August 24, 1965
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Militant action by students and intellectuals against the U.S. rulers’ war of extermination in Vietnam has been a source of inspiration to millions of others. Too often this activity is seen very narrowly, without determining its effect on other sections of the population.

A recent survey in U.S. News and World Report (Aug. 23) of a dozen Washington legislators, shows that letters received from their constituents are overwhelmingly opposed to Johnson’s war. This, of course, contradicts all of the “opinion” polls. We can bet that these expressions from concerned citizens were influenced by the actions of the students and others to some degree. At this point, open, bold action can encourage more useful (although moderate) reactions. It can lay the foundation for more dynamic action by broader sections of the population in the near future.

One interesting and important case can be found in New Jersey. Eugene Genovese, brilliant Marxist Professor of History at Rutgers University, openly supported the south Vietnamese struggle for self-determination. His ouster was demanded by various reactionaries. The state administration, in an attempt to maintain its liberal facade, defended his right to teach. They claimed that since he didn’t express his ideas in the classroom he had a right to continue teaching although they felt that his views were reprehensible.


Professor Genovese’s courageous stand has sparked a state-wide debate in an election year. New Jersey is a heavy industrial state. The Governor claims that at least half of his mail supports his position–that Genovese has a right to teach. More important thousands of workers and others are exposed to an open and militant position. If pursued a bit further by the real peace forces, they can clearly demonstrate to the workers their immediate and long range interests for ending the war in Vietnam.

Student protest can be expected to increase, but massive student activity alone cannot stop the hand of the warmakers. Black people and white organized workers must be brought into a gigantic united front to stop the Johnson gang.

Recently there has been a torrent of evidence that black Americans have no interest in fighting in Vietnam. This was the key issue at both the CORE and Southern Christian Leadership Conference conventions. Militant anti-war statements have emanated from some Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party forces. In Harlem, Jesse Gray’s mayorality campaign has urged black men not to fight in Vietnam. This is also true of the PLP Epton campaign. The war in Los Angeles gave further proof of this widespread feeling. Thousands of young black freedom fighters in L.A said categorically bywords and deeds that the fight for freedom was in the USA.

Organized white workers lag behind these developments. These include the majority of workers at the point of production–the ones that are manufacturing and transporting the instruments and forces for destruction used in south Vietnam. If sections of these workers can be won over to a position of active opposition to the war, the peace movement would gain a powerful component, one which could give it an increased potential for changing the political balance in our country.

Presently, the administration can get a faster pro-war response from most labor officials than from some Chamber of Commerce members. However, it is doubtful whether the rank-and-file workers have the same deep-rooted commitments as do the labor leaders to plans for U.S. world domination. Therefore, it is a mistake to equate all workers with their leaders. Since World War II the ruling class has methodically planned and acted to convert the trade union movement into a labor front for monopoly. By using bribery and a massive campaign to destroy the Left in the unions it made important strides in this direction. But continued bribery is more difficult as economic contradictions begin to pile up against the imperialists. Loss of markets due to revolutions and increased competition is forcing the bosses to turn the screw harder against their own workers.


The imperialists undertook to write off their losses at the expense of their own workingclass. To ensure passivity, the bosses and the government established the concept of “national interest,” which means that the profits must soar as the wages remain the same or are cut And as automation and speed-up increase so does mass unemployment and job insecurity. To impose the “national interest” on the workers, the government, bosses and union leaders passed and used a series of anti-labor laws, backed up with the threat of more if necessary. Additionally, governmental arbitrational boards were established to further guarantee that the workers stayed in line. Patriotism for workers is to work fast, hard and cheap. For those few leaders who deviate in the slightest, Justice Department action is swift–James Hoffa being but the latest example.

Despite all this, workers in scores of industries engaged in long bitter strikes this past year. During the first five months of 1965, strikes exceeded those of last year. In each instance the workers have been confronted with choosing between their own interests and those of the bosses. In each case they have struck to defend their own interests, despite being accused of undermining the economy and the war.


The cold war and war economy have not solved the problems of the workers as promised by the politicians and the Reuther-Meany clique. Moreover, workers’ sons and working class youth are being used as shock troops for imperialism. Much of the mail coming to the politicians are from workers’ families. The problem is that many workers haven’t as yet, clearly grasped the reactionary character of the Johnson war. Those who have, have been unable to circumvent the union “leaders” and the government repression to solve organizational problems necessary to oppose the war.

This summer, many student groups have gone into the neighborhoods on the Vietnam war issue. They have been trying to relate the war to the problems people face at home. This is all to the good. These efforts must be extended to the factories as well. Every conceivable bit of skill and imagination should be brought into work in this work. (These are attributes that are abundant in the newer movements) Undoubtedly this work will be difficult because the labor fakers, the government and the bosses recognize the serious threat contained in such an effort If their grip on the organized workers is broken or even chipped away, another of their sanctuaries will have been violated.

Those who develop a “theoretical” rationale for the reasons why workers won’t react against the war, and who write off the organized workers as “corrupt” leave these workers in the hip pockets of imperialism. This is also a very pragmatic approach which doesn’t take into account the ever-changing situation, even in the unions–(you can ask labor fakers Carey and McDonald about that).

If sections of the organized workers were won to the anti-war front, that would bring a qualitative change. The ruling class sees this clearly. Do we?