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Fourth International, April 1944


The Editors

The Month In Review


From Fourth International, vol.5 No.4, April 1944, pp.99-103.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


The Strike Wave in Britain and the English Trotskyists

THE FAMILIAR PATTERN OF JURIDICAL FRAMEUP Once more the old hue and cry is being raised against Trotskyism and the Trotskyists. This time, in England, where our co-thinkers have recently taken a great forward step through the fusion of all the Trotskyist forces into a unified organization, the Revolutionary Communist Party. On April 5 agents of Scotland Yard raided Trotskyist headquarters and meeting places simultaneously in London, Glasgow, Newcastle, Nottingham, Wallsend and other industrial centers, confiscating bundles of The Socialist Appeal, official organ of the English Trotskyists, carting away Marxist books, pamphlets, leaflets, all of which material has been publicly sold and distributed. No arrests have as yet been reported. The case, so far, is only “being prepared.”

The pattern is quite familiar. When Roosevelt-Biddle initiated their juridical frameup of the leaders of the Socialist Workers Party in June 1941, the FBI likewise began with raids on headquarters of the American Trotskyists.

Our English co-thinkers are now suffering persecution as in the case of the 18 American Trotskyist leaders who were railroaded to federal penitentiaries essentially for remaining loyal in wartime as in peace to the cause of the working class; for fighting against further continuation of capitalist greed, profits, plunder and misrule; for refusing to suspend the struggle for socialism.

THE STRIKE WAVE IN GREAT BRITAIN “Blood, toil, sweat and tears” for almost five years is impelling the English workers to seek with increasing insistence a way out of their inhuman degradation. Despite the entire coercive machinery of the capitalist state, despite its press, pulpit, and radio arrayed against them, despite the betrayals of their own official leaders, the English workers are exhibiting their inherent colossal power.

During the first week of April, 100,000 Yorkshire miners were on strike; 50,000 shipyard, aircraft, munitions workers were out in England, Scotland, and North Ireland. The British empire is now in the throes of the greatest working class ferment since the 1926 General Strike.

According to the April 7 Associated Press dispatch:

“The whole volcanic situation which Britain held in check through ... the machinery of arbitration is erupting in this fifth year of the war with every indication that 1944 will be the worst strike year since the paralyzing 1926 general walkout.”

Home Minister Herbert Morrison (Laborite), on orders from his master, Churchill, has set the special political police of Scotland Yard the task of unearthing “sinister influences”, “political mischief makers” and other such demoniac forces. (New York Times, April 3)

THE REAL SOURCE OF ‘SINISTER INFLUENCE’ These cynical and calculating demagogues pretend that mass discontent and indignation are caused by a handful of “agitators,” “troublemakers,” “subversive elements.” They cannot permit the truth to reach the people. Yet they cannot prevent it. The same American correspondents who obligingly cabled the stereotyped slanders against the English Trotskyists were at the same time compelled to report the terrible plight of the English workers. An Associated Press dispatch from London on April 7 supplied the following data:

“The miners now are in the middle range of wage earners the basic minimum weekly pay to $20 for underground workers and $18 for surface workers ...

“Here is how miners’ wages compare with other workers: The average of all classes of unskilled labor is now $18.75 a week. The average of male factory workers Is $22.78; the average for women factory workers $11.72. On this they pay an income tax of roughly 50 percent.” (Our emphasis.)

On April 8 E.C. Daniel cabled to the New York Times that the Daily Herald, organ of the British Labor Party, itself admitted that the miners’ revolt “is the consequences of a long experience of bad conditions; plus considerable distrust of the aims of the privileged class ...”

Drew Middleton, London correspondent of the New York Times, cabled on April 9:

“Labor, that is the man who does his day’s work in a mine or a factory, is not satisfied with the explanation that the present strikes are the result of a ‘Trotskyite’ group of a few thousands ...”

Helen Kirkpatrick, London correspondent of the New York Post and Chicago Daily News reported on April 5 that “the miners have a decided lack of confidence in their leaders and are demanding nationalization of the mines ...”

LESSONS ASSIMILATED IN CLASS STRUGGLES Even the suffocating and rigidly maintained censorship of Churchill and Company cannot keep the truths of the class struggle from breaking into the open. The living standards of the English workers have been driven down to barest subsistence levels, and lower. The responsibility for this rests squarely on the shoulders of Churchill and the capitalist class he so zealously serves.

The masses are filled with more than justifiable mistrust of this most corrupt and destructive ruling minority in the history of mankind. Bitter experience has taught the masses this mistrust. However small, at the present stage, may be the share of the English Trotskyists in inculcating this mistrust among the masses, it is to their everlasting credit. For the gravest crime today, the crime of sowing illusions of trust and confidence in the gangrenous system of capitalism is the first crime that must be exposed by those with the interests of the working class at heart. This mistrust is now extending to include the official British labor leaders ... And what in the conduct of these cowardly wretches merits anything except the stigmatizing label of treachery?

Churchill is now persecuting the English Trotskyists because they support the strikers in their just struggle; because they tell the workers the truth; because they are correctly generalizing the experience of the English workers, translating this experience into political terms and teaching the workers to think and act politically.

PERSECUTIONS WILL AVAIL THEM NOTHING According to an April 6 Associated Press dispatch from London, Jock Haston, the national organizer of the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist Party is reported to have issued the following statement to the British Press Association:

“If the government imagines that by closing us down and suppressing our publications they are going to stop the wave at strikes, they are mad.”

He went on to add:

“If the government nationalized the mines and operated them under committees of workers and technicians, they would settle the problem in twenty-four hours.”

These words ring genuine.

The vanguard of the English working class is on the move. Pressing behind the vanguard detachments now out on strike are the great masses, the millions of oppressed and disinherited. Today the struggle still occurs over economic issues. Tomorrow it will include the political discontent of the war-weary masses. The present sinister political truce between the conservatives and labor’s official leadership will be broken, unleashing a force that will sweep away the corrupt coalition of Tories and labor traitors.

It is this impending political explosion that has aroused the fury and fear of the ruling class of Britain and all its flunkeys, including the contemptible Stalinists who deny the justice of the strikers’ demands. It is this that impells the whole pack of labor’s enemies to lash out at the extreme left wing of the labor movement, the most conscious, consistent and incorruptible proletarian fighters, the Trotskyists.

But all their repressions will avail them exactly nothing. Churchill can no more halt the march of British labor to power than could his predecessor King Canute halt the advance of the tide upon the shores of England.

The Steel Workers and the Wage Freeze

PHILIP MURRAY’S ‘FIGHT’ AGAINST THE WAGE FREEZE Last November Philip Murray mounted the rostrum at the Philadelphia CIO Convention and bombastically denounced the Little Steel formula. A month later he proclaimed at the Special Steel Workers Conference that the union was demanding wage increases of 17 cents an hour in addition to a number of other important demands. Four months have since elapsed, but nothing of any consequence has happened. Now we learn that the farcical hearings before the WLB is what Murray had in mind when he spoke of waging a fight against the Little Steel formula.

The WLB public members made clear to Murray that they had no power to grant any wage increases beyond the Little Steel formula; they were merely an administrative agency for the purpose of maintaining the wage freeze. But Murray, that “doughty warrior of labor” was not to be denied. He blustered, he threatened, he insisted that they hear the steel workers’ demands for wage increases. Finally, under this furious onslaught the WLB public members “capitulated.” They capitulated so utterly, so unconditionally, that not only did they set up one panel to permit Murray to bury all of labor’s foes under an avalanche of statistics; they also set up another panel to allow that other “embattled fighter of labor,” Matthew Woll, Vice President of AFL, to lay down his barrage of statistics. Is there any question, after this irresistible offensive on the statistical front, that the steel barons, the auto kings, the war lords are quaking in their boots with fear and consternation? Small wonder that the New York Times, organ of the big money bags, now sarcastically inquires of the WLB why it is not also holding hearings on “selective service or gasoline rationing.”

ROOSEVELT’S STRATEGY AGAINST THE WORKERS The strategy of Roosevelt is so obvious, even a five-year-old child could see through it. Roosevelt simply intends to stall the steel workers and the other unions for a few months until the long-expected invasion of Europe begins. He is proceeding on the basis that the rise in chauvinism attendant upon the invasion will isolate and weaken the labor movement. Who will dare in the face of the slaughter to insist that the steel workers be paid a living wage? All such demands, Roosevelt hopes, will be trampled underfoot in the confusion, the noise and the hysteria of onrushing war developments. Murray sees the enemies of labor sharpening their long knives against the steel workers – but unperturbed, he continues with his fifth-rate act before the WLB, spouting statistics, declaiming like a Shakespearean ham actor, stalling and wasting time. All this dovetails 100 percent with Roosevelt’s own anti-labor plans.

As a matter of fact, Roosevelt is so contemptuous of his labor lackeys, he is so certain of their abject loyalty, regardless of what he does, that he has his “four horsemen,” Davis, Vinson, Marvin Jones and Bowles, rudely interrupt the statistical gabfest right in the middle with an announcement that the Little Steel formula is OK; that everybody is satisfied with it; that far from requiring wage increases, everybody’s “pocketbooks are bulging with money,” and that the wage freeze must be continued.

How is it that Murray and the other top trade union leaders have permitted and continue to permit themselves to be maneuvered into such a hopeless position? How is it that the proud movement which represents 13 million American workers can be thus pushed around, insulted and humiliated by this crew of government bureaucrats and flunkeys?

HOW LABOR ARRIVED IN A BLIND ALLEY The labor movement has not been maneuvered into a dead end street through Roosevelt’s supreme generalship. Quite the contrary. During the coal strike Roosevelt performed like a second-rater. Roosevelt’s ability to push this powerful labor movement around derives from the fact that the class struggle is taking place under conditions where the labor leadership has gone over lock, stock and barrel to the opponent trenches and is conspiring with the capitalist foe against its own side. Roosevelt can always count on his Murrays and Greens to carry out his anti-labor assignments.

During the great coal strikes, when the WLB was tottering, and the whole Rooseveltian labor structure hung by a hair, the Murrays and Greens did not throw the powerful support of the AFL and CIO behind the miners, but stabbed them in the back. After the miners won their fight – single-handed – in the fourth coal strike, Murray and Green did not jump in to take advantage of the miners’ victory and to smash the wage freeze once and for all. No, they allowed precious months to pass, giving the WLB the opportunity to reestablish its authority, enabling Roosevelt to strengthen again his policy of the wage freeze.

Then came the rail crisis, culminating in the winning of wage increases by a million rail workers. Again the Little Steel formula was breached, again a great opportunity presented itself for labor to join forces and smash the Little Steel formula. But although Murray had already presented his steel wage demands at the time and was on record against the Little Steel formula, he kept silent, permitting Roosevelt to isolate the rail workers from the rest of organized labor and choose his own time and place when he would attempt to beat down the steel workers.

THE IMPENDING LABOR CRISIS Today another major labor crisis impends. The steel workers are angry. They know they are being stalled; that they are being given a run-around. When they come to the full realization that they are not going to receive any wage increase, the ensuing discontent will be profound indeed. The oncoming labor crisis will be far more deep-going and widespread than either of the previous crises precipitated by the coal and rail struggles. The discontent of the steel workers once it flames into action will sweep like a prairie fire to the auto and rubber workers.

Will Roosevelt, with the aid of his labor watchdogs – the Murrays and Greens – succeed in heading off for a time a new labor crisis? Will he put over his scheme to use the coming military invasion of Europe and the casualty lists that are sure to follow against labor? That is, of course, his intention; but the answer does not lie entirely in his hands or even in the hands of the Murrays and Greens. The workers will also have their say.

THE POLICY FOR THE MILITANTS In any case, the growing ranks of militant, class-conscious workers have clear duty to organize on broader and stronger lines the movement to smash the Little Steel formula. They must not permit the top labor bureaucracy to smother labor independence by isolating and pouncing on individual groups of militants; they must not permit labor’s militancy to spend itself in isolated, sporadic little departmental strikes. If this were permitted it would only play into the hands of the treacherous bureaucrats and enable them to hound and expel the best union fighters, the most courageous militants.

The fight against the Little Steel formula must be organized on broad lines, in a spirit of the greatest mistrust of the Greens and Murrays and Thomases. It must be spread out from the departments into the local unions, from the locals through the Internationals. Once the militants of the auto, steel and rubber unions join hands in an organized fight for the calling of a conference of all organized labor in order to smash, the Little Steel formula; once they demand the revocation of the no-strike pledge, then labor will have finally found its way onto the open highway. The long, disgraceful labor retreat will have been finally halted and the forward march can begin again.

A New Stage in the Second World War

THE BREAK IN THE MOODS OF THE EUROPEAN MASSES It is becoming increasingly clear that a major turning point has been reached in the second World War – not in the sense of any alteration of the grand strategy of the principal imperialist contenders, nor a definitive change in their relative positions, but in the much more portentous sense that large masses of the workers in a number of important countries are taking the first steps along the road of conscious opposition to the imperialists and their war after years of more or less passive acquiescence. We are witnessing today the first mass upsurges of the tortured peoples, the first movement toward a revolutionary solution of those fundamental social problems which the war has accentuated to a point where even mere survival has ceased to be compatible with the present order of things for millions of the earth’s inhabitants. The masses, regarded as just so much cannon fodder by the “democrats” and fascists alike, have begun to intervene actively and independently.

The overthrow of Mussolini by the Italian people, with the proletariat in the van of the movement, proved to be the starting point of the upsurge. The war-weary masses of Italy wanted peace and an end to the gangster capitalist regime which had brought them so much woe. But the ouster of Mussolini’s government has proved to be but a single step along the road to peace. Italy has been truncated and torn apart by the rival imperialist camps and converted into a major battlefield. In the North, the workers struggle with the highest courage and determination against the Nazi oppressors. Those in the South find themselves in opposition to the “democrats,” who are bent on fostering the hated rule of Badoglio and his King, in which the masses rightly see a continuation of the old intolerable order thinly disguised by a slight shift at the top.

Events themselves are posing for the Italian workers the urgent question of the next step. The overthrow of Mussolini, although an event of the greatest progressive significance, has solved none of the burning problems confronting the workers and peasants of Italy. There is no peace and very little bread. While the workers in the North give battle to the military juggernaut of the Nazi imperialists, those in the South have already learnt that neither peace nor bread can be secured through attachment to London and Washington. In both North and South the invading armies are advertised as “liberators.” Yet both are in league with the Italian bourgeoisie, intent upon stifling the popular will and preventing any fundamental social change. Realization of this important fact will hasten the formation of a revolutionary party which, at the head of the aroused masses, will project Italy along the path of the struggle for socialism.

HARBINGERS OF THE APPROACHING STORM Throughout Europe the rumblings of the coming revolutionary storm can be heard – above all in France, where the clouds of civil war have long been gathering. Little is needed now to explode the rotted structure of bourgeois rule. Foremost among the worries of the “democracies” is the fear, amounting almost to certainty, that their invasion of the Continent will touch off an explosion in France and elsewhere and that they may be unable to quench the resulting revolutionary conflagration.

Nor are things going so well for the ruling class within the “democracies” themselves. In Britain last month more than 100,000 coal miners went out on strike and succeeded in winning concessions from their employers. The fact that they tied up a large section of a vital industry in determined disregard of government warnings that such a strike might have disastrous effects on maturing plans for the invasion of Europe, is of the highest significance. It means that at least a very large section of the British working class is no 1ongr subject to the hypnosis of war propaganda and is prepared resolutely to fight for labor’s rights in the very course of the war. The misleaders of British labor, the hardened and cynical labor lieutenants of the capitalist class, remain united in coalition with the Tories, but the rank-and-file of the workers are breaking away and taking to the road of independent struggle.

The same phenomenon is to be observed in Australia, where thousands of coal miners struck in defiance of the conservative union leaders and the government. Even when the government attempted grand intimidation by drafting some 500 miners into the armed forces, the strikers held firm until they had gained most of their demands.

DEVELOPMENTS IN CANADA AND USA In Canada, large masses of workers and farmers who previously have followed the capitalist political parties are streaming into the Canadian Commonwealth Federation at a remarkable rate. The CCF is led by a reformist, wishy-washy, middle-of-the-road coterie not one whit more advanced than the conservative leadership of the British and Australian labor parties. But the mass movement in its direction is nonetheless very significant. It means that the Canadian masses are breaking definitively with the avowed capitalist parties and embarking on the road of independent working class political action. The extent of the movement may be gauged by the fact that as early as last August, in the Ontario elections, the CCF secured 34 of the 85 seats in the provincial legislature. It was the first time in the history of eastern Canada that the workers turned so sharply against the capitalist parties. At the same time, the Canadian Congress of Labor (CIO) has increased its membership from 55,000 in 1940 to more than 250,000 at the present time.

In this country the launching of a labor party in Michigan, heart of the industrial Midwest, under the auspices of CIO unions representing 225,000 workers, holds the promise for the commencement of a general breakaway by American labor from capitalist politics.

STRIKES, HUNGER RIOTS IN JAPAN Even in imperialist Japan the monolithic war structure is beginning at last to crack. Reports by Japanese prisoners of war in Chungking tell of strikes by workers and hunger riots by peasants in the very shadow of the imperial palace in Tokyo. The strike movement got under way even before the extension of the war to the Pacific area, but the workers, without benefit of organization, were driven back to work literally at the point of the bayonet. That was early in 1941, Toward the end of 1942 there were more strikes, including walkouts from armament plants in the Tokyo district. And now, only recently, the strike movement has risen to a new high. For this information we are indebted to Japanese newspapers which somehow got out from behind the wall of the Japanese censorship. Among other things, they tell of a big demonstration in Tokyo’s Ueno Park attended by some 40,000 people. Police and gendarmes fired on the demonstrators, who were demanding increased food rations, wounding 37, of whom eight later died. A fact of the greatest significance is that this demonstration – according to the Japanese press – was organized by the “Workers Party.” Thus, in the teeth of the military dictatorship and in defiance of a government ban on all political parties, the Japanese workers have once more created a party of their own. Also, the same sources reveal, the Japanese Farmers’ Union, long emasculated by government control, has been revived as a fighting organization of the peasants and has figured in recent food riots in Kagoshima and. other districts of Japan.

These developments in far-separated parts of the globe, occurring simultaneously, are symptomatic of the growing war-weariness of the masses, of a desire to find a way out of the bloody morass. The further piling up of horrors and tragedies, acceleration of the mass murder of the peoples, the increasing devastation, deepening privation and misery – all inevitable as long as capitalism is permitted to live – will serve to translate what is now largely a mass mood of discontent into the positive coin of conscious mass opposition to the capitalist warmakers and their criminal plans. As has happened so often in history, war and revolution will become intertwined in the not far distant future.

On the Seventeenth Anniversary of the Chinese Revolution

CIANG KAI-SHEK’S COUP AT SHANGHAI This month marks the seventeenth anniversary of the bloody crushing of the Chinese revolution by Chiang Kai-shek. It was on April 12, 1927 that Chiang, aided by every element of native reaction and by the imperialists whose servant he aspired to become, staged a savage coup d’etat in Shanghai. This event, which signalized the triumph of the bourgeois counter-revolution over the insurrectionary masses, was important not only because it represented a turning point in China’s history, but also because of the consequences to which it led in the much wider field of international politics.

Without the crushing of the Chinese revolution, the subsequent invasion of Manchuria by imperialist Japan, followed by the attack on China proper, and then by the imperialist war in the Pacific, would in all probability never have taken place.

Flanked by a revolutionary China across the Yellow Sea, Japanese imperialism, suffering from incurable maladies, might well have collapsed. Taking fresh courage from the revolutionary example of China, as previously they had drawn on Bolshevik Russia for inspiration, the fearfully oppressed masses of Japan, would have settled accounts with their capitalist exploiters. A revolutionary Japan, allied with a revolutionary China, would have set the whole colonial world aflame. India most certainly would have been wrenched from the greedy, cruel grasp of British colonial despots. The fire of revolution would have spread rapidly to the Middle East, to Africa and to Latin America.

Finally, the liberating struggle of the colonial slaves of imperialism would have caused the profoundest repercussions in the imperialist metropoli. With the bases of imperialist power in the colonies destroyed or seriously undermined, the working class in the great capitalist countries could have moved forward to the offensive against their exploiters. Imperialism on a world scale could have been forced into retreat and finally vanquished by the revolutionary forces of the proletariat. Humanity would now be moving along the path of socialist reconstruction.

HOW THE KREMLIN AIDED THE COUNTER-REVOLUTION But the Chinese revolution was not successful. Despite the tremendous organized strength of the Chinese workers and peasants, their will to struggle, their indomitable courage and capacity for sacrifice, the revolution went down in tragic defeat. The false and suicidal policy of the Stalinist leadership, which set false goals for the masses (limiting the purpose of the revolution to a simple struggle against imperialism in alliance with the bourgeoisie) and which acted as a brake on the revolution (restraining the masses in the interest of maintaining a “national united front” with the bourgeoisie), derailed the whole mass movement and facilitated Chiang Kai-Shek’s counter-revolutionary plans.

Japan’s invasion of Manchuria occurred less than four years after the defeat of the Chinese revolution and was followed a few years later by the attack on China as a whole. It occurred, Trotsky pointed out, as a direct consequence of the bloody suppression in China and was speeded by the Japanese imperialists out of their mortal fear of an impending revolution in Japan.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF 1927 DEFEAT It is impossible to compute the cost to the peoples of China, the masses of Japan, the proletariat of all the world, of the debacle of the Chinese revolution. For China and Japan it has meant, to date, almost 13 years of destructive war, leading finally to the involvement of the entire Pacific area in the mad holocaust.

For China, the urgent problems which gave rise to the revolution in 1927 have been accentuated a hundred-fold. Freedom from imperialist domination has still to be achieved. Apart from the struggle for national liberation and without its achievement, there can be no fundamental reorganization of Chinese society in the interests of the masses. The two goals naturally combine, for the native bourgeoisie are repositories, perpetuators and defenders of every form of reaction and economic backwardness, while the imperialists are their allies.

In a recent speech at Chungking, Chiang Kai-shek admitted that the Japanese imperialists had not been driven from any part of China’s territory which they had occupied. This, he asserted, was a “disgrace to the entire nation.” The real reason for China’s failure to expel the invaders, however, is to be found in the rotten policies of Chiang and the bourgeoisie. At the beginning of the Japanese invasion they discouraged and stamped upon every independent movement of the masses. They have loaded the entire cost of the war on to the already overstrained backs of the workers and peasants. “Free China,” the China of Chiang Kai-shek, is as much a prison house as the parts occupied by the Japanese army. The prisons are packed with workers, peasants, intellectuals who have dared to criticize Chiang’s reactionary policies.

CHIANG’S POLICY IN CHINA’S WAR China’s failure to expel the invaders is due precisely to these policies – the attempt to conduct the war on a pure military plane against a better-equipped foe, to hold the broad masses back from the struggle, while making them pay all the bills.

To the extent that Chiang suppresses the masses and denies them any independent initiative in the struggle against Japanese imperialism – to that extent he is forced into dependence upon the “democratic” imperialists who are also, for their own reasons, fighting against Japan. The influence of the Anglo-American combination in Chungking grows from day to day, especially that of the Americans. There is also a constant increase in American armed forces in the country. Washington openly proclaims its intention of using China as the main base of operations against Japan. Financially, Chiang’s regime falls more and more into servitude to Wall Street’s monopoly capitalists who see in China prospects of lush post-war profits.

Should this tendency continue, and should Chiang succeed in holding down China’s masses, there will exist the very real prospect of China being converted into a colony of the “democratic” imperialists once the Japanese have been driven out. Independent action by the masses under a revolutionary leadership, their active intervention in the national struggle, with a program and aims which reflect their own interests, represents the only hope for this betrayed and downtrodden people. Without such a revolutionary development, which can take place only under the banner of the Fourth International, all their sufferings and sacrifices will ultimately redound to the benefit of the exploiters and oppressors, both native and foreign.

THE ALTERNATIVE POSED BY HISTORY At this very time, Chiang Kal-shek is keeping large forces stationed in northwest China to blockade the areas held by the Stalinist-controlled 8th Group Army. Chiang shows quite clearly that he is much more concerned about keeping the masses in check, holding them completely under the rule of their exploiters, than he is about waging war against the Japanese imperialists. Here we have the explanation for the prolonged stalemate in China’s war against Japan. The stalemate can be ended, with real benefit to the Chinese masses, only if the latter take their destinies into their own hands. Or it can be ended by the “democracies” gaining the upper hand-both over their Japanese antagonists and the masses of China. This is the alternative which history poses, and it is well to remember it on this, the seventeenth anniversary of the defeat of the great Chinese revolution.

Roosevelt’s Drive to Conscript US Labor

ROOSEVELT AND HIS FIVE-POINT PROGRAM When Roosevelt advocated the adoption of a national service act in his message to Congress last January, he made this proposal part of an “indivisible” five-point program which included:

  1. “A realistic tax law – which will tax all unreasonable profits, both individual and corporate, and reduce the ultimate cost of the war to our sons and daughters.”
  2. “A continuation of the law for the renegotiation of war contracts – which will prevent exorbitant profits and assure fair prices to the government.” (“For two long years,” Roosevelt added, “I have pleaded with the Congress to take undue profits out of war.”)
  3. “A cost of food law” (food subsidies).
  4. “Early reenactment of the stabilization statute of October 1942.”
  5. “A national service law – which, for the duration of the war, will prevent strikes and, with certain appropriate exceptions, will make available for war production or for any other essential services every able-bodied adult in this nation.”

“These five measures,” Roosevelt contended, “together form a just and equitable whole. I would not recommend a service law unless the other laws were passed to keep down the cost of living, to share equitably the burdens of taxation, to hold the stabilization line and to prevent undue profits.”

Once before, on April 27, 1942, Roosevelt had submitted an “indivisible” seven-point “economic stabilization program” which was to be applied as a “just and equitable whole.” Just as this seven-point program was sheer demagogy designed to cover up the imposition of the wage freeze in 1942, so Roosevelt’s five-point program serves up in 1944 essentially the same demagogy in order to shackle workers to their jobs at frozen wages under a forced labor law.

By his own admission, after a lapse of two years in which wages have been frozen tight by executive decree, Roosevelt is still “pleading with the Congress to take the undue profits out of war.” Profits have risen higher than ever before; the new tax law adopted by Congress is, in the words of Roosevelt himself, a measure granting “relief to the greedy and not to the needy”; wages remain fixed while the cost of living has mounted, resulting in a decrease in real wages and a constant lowering of the standard of living of the workers. This has been the net result of Roosevelt’s “stabilization” programs of the past two years.

WHY BIG BUSINESS WANTS LABOR DRAFT The growing opposition of the workers to the wage freeze has compelled Roosevelt to unmask himself and to come out openly for repressive legislation designed to chain the workers to jobs and frozen wages by means of forced labor legislation. That this is the real meaning of Roosevelt’s proposal is made abundantly clear by one of the most authoritative spokesmen for Wall Street, Walter Lippmann, who has a direct pipeline into the innermost sanctums of the real rulers of this country. Mr. Lippmann writes:

“The reason why a war labor policy cannot be had without a universal service act is this: when the demand for labor far exceeds the supply, you cannot stabilize wages while every civilian is free to work or quit. When you cannot compel men to work in the war industries which need them, you have to bid for their services. Otherwise, you may not get them. This is what pushes up wage rates. This to what makes it impossible to refuse wage demands in essential industries like coal mining and the railroads.”

Lippmann lets the cat out of the bag! In order to safeguard the profits of Big Business, freezing wages is not enough – the workers must also be frozen to their jobs under a compulsory service act. Otherwise, it would become “impossible to refuse wage demands” to workers who follow the example of the coal miners and railroad workers. That is precisely what Roosevelt’s proposal for a forced labor law intends to do.

Having failed in his initial attempt to put over a national service act under cover of a carefully staged anti-strike hysteria following the wage dispute of the railroad workers, Roosevelt is now executing a flank attack. The contention that a national service act is needed to “prevent strikes” has been dropped.

THE PRETEXT OF THE MANPOWER SHORTAGE The campaign now in progress is being waged under the pretext of a manpower shortage, the second motivation given in Roosevelt’s original proposal. In his testimony before the Senate Military Affairs Committee, Robert P. Patterson, Under-Secretary of War, shed some light on this question:

“When asked by Senator Warren F. Austin of Vermont it there had ever been a genuine shortage of manpower, the Under-Secretary, who has been a key organizer of munitions production since the start of the war program, replied: Of course not. We have no manpower shortage. There is plenty of manpower, both for the armed forces and for war production. If we were hard pressed we could put an armed force of 16,000,000 men in the field if we did it on the scale the Germans and Russians have done it.” (New York Times, January 27.) (The present goal of the army is 11,300,000.)

Paul V. McNutt, chairman of the War Manpower Commission, testifying recently before the House Military Affairs subcommittee on the draft, stated there was no manpower shortage that would justify a forced labor law, and added: “The job has been done on a voluntary basis. It has been done.” In addition, it is a known fact that cutbacks in war production are releasing thousands of men every day. If any more evidence is required of the spurious nature of the “manpower shortage” it is provided by the magazine Business Week, authentic spokesmen for Big Business which predicted in its December 11 issue (page 15) that there would be a “manpower crisis in March.” In the issue of April 1, the magazine, boasting of the prediction made four months previous, says: “Army and Navy have precipitated the crisis right on schedule.”

HOW THE PLAN HAS BEEN ‘MODIFIED’ The present plan to conscript labor for private industry is being advanced as a modified version of the universal labor draft proposal made by Roosevelt. It has become known as the 4-F plan in that it proposes to utilize the apparatus of Selective Service in conscripting labor for work in private industry. By this flank attack, Roosevelt is seeking to impose by administrative measures what he previously tried by appealing for legislation. This was revealed by Col. Francis V. Keesling, Jr., legislative representative of Selective Service who announced that measures had already been taken to put the plan into effect. Those men unqualified for military duty (4-F) as well as those fit only for limited serice (1-AL) will be “permitted to remain in civilian life as long as they hold jobs deemed important by Selective Service,” but will be subject to induction in military labor battalions, “if they leave such jobs without permission of their draft boards.” The plan has been “modified” but the aim remains the same – to freeze workers to their jobs at frozen wages under penalty of induction into labor battalions.

While the labor bureaucrats were compelled to voice their opposition to Roosevelt’s proposal for universal labor conscription, they have thus far maintained silence on the 4-F plan. The press has announced that the “top labor leaders” have been engaged in a series of conferences with proponents of the labor draft. According to the reports, they have indicated their support for a “modified version” of a national service law.

There can be no compromise on a question which involves the fate of the labor movement. The militants in the unions can halt such a treacherous compromise by arousing the ranks to the danger of labor conscription and its inevitable effect in undermining the organizations of labor. Every local union should adopt resolutions demanding that the “top leaders” speak out against any and all forms of labor conscription. The labor movement must take the lead in the struggle against totalitarian regimentation of the American people.

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Last updated on 12.9.2008