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Labor Action, 27 March 1950


Eugene Keller

Labor Heads Make Feeble Proposals on U.S. Ruhr Policy


From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 13, 27 March 1950, pp. 4 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A dispatch from Geneva in the New York Times of March 12 informs us that the leaderships of the AFL and CIO have formulated a program with regard to the control and ownership of the Ruhr industries which attempts to counteract present American policy. This program, the dispatch states, advocates a “mixed economy ... embracing both the elements of planning and competition and public as well as private ownership, all under international control.”

The more important points of the program include: (1) the extension of the scope of the International Ruhr Authority to include all the iron, steel and coal industries of Northwestern Europe; (2) giving representatives of international labor a greater voice in the. affairs of the authority; (3) making the latter independent from the Allied High Commission; (4) preventing the return of the Ruhr industries to private ownership and retaining Military Government Law No. 75.

The present American policy, which stresses “decartelization” and “deconcentration,” is opposed on the basis that it cannot prevent eventual collaboration with the Russians by the old reactionary Ruhr magnates; and that it may also alienate the non-Communist German labor movement (i.e., the Social-Democrats, who comprise or control its great majority).

AFL-CIO Policy

In their internal discussions, in what few releases are printed by the daily press and in their rare statements of policy on the issue, officials of the AFL and CIO have often expressed their opposition to the State Department’s policies in Germany. Thus, for example, the exchange of letters in January and February 1949, between General Lucius Clay, then U.S. military governor, and Matthew Woll, in which the latter charged that the attitude of the military government discriminated against German labor and that the AFL, if faced with a choice between free-enterprise government which is anti-union and a democratic trade-union movement which did not advocate free enterprise, the AFL would unhesitatingly choose democracy and human freedom as against anti-union free enterprise.

At an informal conference, held last summer and participated in by top representatives of the AFL, CIO. and liberal organizations, support for the German Social-Democrats was practically unanimous, the main question at issue being the method by which the State Department might be persuaded to support them. Walter Reuther, too, has come out openly several times: in their support.

That this implicit and explicit opposition to American policy in Germany has remained rather ineffectual as far as the general trend of affairs in that country is concerned, need hardly be stressed. The old reactionary and discredited German bourgeoisie is being rehabilitated and restored to its former positions of social and economic power, not on the basis of its own moral or material strength, all of which it lost during World War II, but solely because this has been the policy of the United States for the past few years.

Somber Sense of Futility

This policy, far from, being influenced in the direction of democratic aims, has on the contrary proven favorable to the socially most retrogressive elements in Germany. This is not only evidenced by such frightful instances as the recent eviction of anti-Nazis from a Stuttgart housing project by “denazified” former SS storm troopers, or by the release of Ilse Koch from prison, but is evidenced in an even weightier manner by the impending developments in the Ruhr which all too clearly point to the restoration of the industries located there to their former owners.

In a dispatch from Duesseldorf to the N.Y. Times dated December 3, Drew Middleton, its correspondent, wrote:

“There is a somber sense of futility among labor leaders, British officials and democratically-minded Germans in the Ruhr as they watch the big bosses of other days don their dinner jackets to dine in Duesseldorf’s new and resplendent hotels.”

This sense of futility can only be due to the absence of a powerful opposition movement. Perhaps the Social-Democratic Party (SPD) is potentially such a movement, but in order to grow into one it cannot do without the support of significant sections of the free international labor movement. This support must be overt and it must oppose American policies in Germany in a determined and unequivocal fashion.

The proposals of the AFL and CIO outlined above are neither; they are vague, remain silent on important facets of the issue, and there is little likelihood that any serious effort will be made to press for their acceptance. They must be discussed nonetheless inasmuch as the potential of American labor is here associated with views on foreign policies differing fundamentally with those officially employed.

(Continued next week)

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