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The New International, December 1945


Eleanor Mason

How PAC’s Strategy Worked Out

Its Record in Congress


From New International, Vol.11 No.9, December 1945, pp.285-288.
Transcribed by Einde O’Callaghan & Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Congress is part of our government which we elected. Most Congressmen are fair-minded, patriotic people like other Americans. They need our help in combatting the few who are neither fair nor particularly devoted to winning the war. With our help, this 79th Congress can and will do a good job. – CIO News, January 8, 1946.

Three of the leading measures called for in President Truman’s message of September 6th are threatened by lack of any organized effort by the Administration or its supporters inside or outside of Congress. These are the Full Employment Bill, the Unemployment Compensation Bill and the 65 cents Minimum Wage Bill. If these three measures are not passed in substantially the form asked for by the President, it will represent a body blow to postwar recovery and a repudiation of the President’s leadership. I do not consider that the Administration and the leadership of the Democratic Party have shown sufficient exertion to date on these crucial measures. – Philip Murray to a delegation of one thousand CIO members in the House Caucus Room in Washington, September 24, 1945.

The Political Action Committee of the CIO was organized in 1943 for the avowed purpose of effecting decisive political control of the national government through mobilization of the millions in the CIO, AFL, the Railroad unions, and all other trade unionists, who would exert pressure upon the Republican and Democratic parties, but above all become the labor wing inside the Democratic Party, in order to establish a “secure and abundant life.” Hostile to the creation of a labor party, independent of the two capitalist parties, CIO spokesmen declared labor could achieve the great goals of full employment, peace and security by pressure of an educated, aroused electorate upon the bourgeois parties.

The new element that PAC brought to the development of American labor politics was the awareness that labor must intervene decisively in the political life of the country with a broad social program encompassing the fundamental questions that were now posed before it in order to achieve a society of freedom and plenty. Philip Murray’s statement to the 1943 Convention of the CIO reflected this understanding. “Today,” he said, “labor is alive to the fact that, in addition to the immediate economic problems of the workers, the larger and all important issues of the proper conduct of the war to insure unconditional surrender within the shortest possible lime, the writing of a lasting peace, and the formulation of a domestic program for a more secure and abundant life will he determined by the character of out-national government.” This outlook contrasted sharply to the traditional AFL policy limited solely to the support of specific labor legislation. The CIO bid for support of labor’s millions with a complete program embracing the basic questions of reconversion, civil liberties and full employment.

We will achieve these goals, said PAC, through the election of Roosevelt and ihe victory of the Democratic Party, which by and large represent the forces of progress in this election. Their close tie to the Democratic Party was highlighted by headlines in two successive issues of the CIO News. One week the banner read CIO 100% for Wallace. The following week, after Wallace’s rejection by the Democratic Party Convention, the paper proclaimed CIO 100% for Truman.

PAC organized a truly gigantic campaign, operating as a full-time political machine, ringing doorbells, holding hundreds of political rallies, broadcasting over the radio, issuing eighty-five million pieces of literature and in many places functioning in place of the regular Democratic organization. While the AFL had been content to issue tepid press releases as its contribution to the cause of “good” government, PAC conducted a lighting political campaign all along the line.

The National Political Action Committee gave its sanction only to Roosevelt and Truman. Each of the fourteen regional divisions throughout the country determined for itself which Congressional candidates it would support after National PAC had submitted reports based on an examination of the record of all candidates. National PAC made it very clear it was not making any endorsements, leaving such decisions to “the people” in each region; it was extremely wary of accepting responsibility for PAC-endorsed candidates. On the basis of the policy of support to capitalist candidates, regional Political Action Committees gave aid to men with dubious labor records. The national organization, therefore, could attempt to evade responsibility if a candidate PAC helped elect turned in a bad record. (Perhaps that is why their national office in New York City does not have a complete list of all PAC-endorsed Congressmen!)

PAC Votes Elect Roosevelt

The victory of Roosevelt and the Democratic Party in the 1944 elections was a tremendous triumph for the Political Action Committee. In city after city, state after state, the balance of votes which assured Roosevelt’s re-election to the White House were delivered by PAC. Without PAC’s demonstrated power to rally the working class, it is doubtful that Roosevelt would have been re-elected. The Democratic Party revealed its impotence to capture the labor vote without the assistance of a direct appeal to the masses by an organization, based on the trade unions, that could speak in the name of labor. The capitalist class understood the significance of the PAC victory and gravely warned the labor movement against organizing its own party, knowing that such a step would weaken its own power.

CIO-PAC hailed the election victory and the CIO News expressed confidence that “with our help, this 79th Congress can and will do a good job.” As late as July 16 of this year, Sidney Hillman and Philip Murray, in a report to the CIO Executive Board, stated that “PAC recognizes the overwhelming victory won by the democratic forces in the 1944 national elections.”

What has been the record of the 79th Congress, which “with our help,” said PAC, “can and will do a good job?” It is one of utter and complete failure to legislate in the interests of labor and the masses of the people. It is a Congress that fulfills the needs of the bourgeoisie on the one hand, by refusing to act on the minimum needs of the workers and on the other, by generously aiding the profit-swollen corporations. On issue after issue involving the basic, elementary needs of the people, this Congress has failed to act. More than six thousand bills have been introduced in both houses. Of the two hundred sixteen enacted into law, there has not been one important piece of legislation to aid the working class.

Pass Big Business Tax Bill

While one plank after another ot PAC’s legislative program is ignored, emasculated or discarded, Congress rushes to the aid of big business and enacts one of the worst pieces of legislation in its history. Violently opposed by the CIO as a device to provide “huge windfalls to the richest corporations and wealthiest individuals,” the bill grants over $3,000,000,000 in tax reductions to corporations, which means, according to Government estimates, that corporation profits next year after payment of taxes will rocket well beyond the ten billion dollar record established during the war. The corporations received more than they had hoped for and Senator Taft, reactionary spokesman for business, announced that corporations had obtained all the tax cuts they could expect for a long time.

In mid-October, coincidental with the rising wave of strikes, the House Military Affairs Committee endorsed the bill introduced by Howard Smith of Virginia to repeal the ineffective Smith-Connally Act and substitute measures aimed at the destruction of the labor unions and the elimination of the Political Action Committee. The bill would exempt employers from their obligations under collective bargaining contracts should unions strike during the life of agreements which carry a no-strike pledge. Practically all contracts contain such a provision. In the political arena, the hill would prohibit unions from issuing educational material during political campaigns or from making contributions to PAC. The House Rules Committee, strangely unable to find a number under which to discharge HR2232 for a permanent FEPC since February of this year, moved with lightning speed to get This vicious anti-labor legislation onto the floor of Congress.

Record of PAC’s Congressmen

Where do PAC and PAC-sponsored Congressmen fit into this overall picture? What have they done to counteract reaction and to drive ahead with a program for labor?

For this 79th Congress, CIO had a program – a “People’s Program,” they termed it. “To win the war and win the peace,” the program called for “continued co-operation among the United Nations for the objectives of the Four Freedoms, the Atlantic Charter and the United Nations Declaration.” (The roar of British and Dutch guns in Indonesia, the French gunfire in Indo-China, the whole flaming East cries out in bloody answer to the mockery of “peace.”) The section on foreign policy continues with a demand for “the right of asylum for persecuted minorities and for the protection of racial, religious and political minorities.” (The anguished cries of the Jews in the “internment” camps of the democratic Allies testify to the failure of the American labor movement to achieve this end.)

Under domestic policy, the “People’s Program” called on Congress to

“... establish a permanent National Planning Board, composed of representatives of industry, labor and agriculture, which would establish an industry council, composed of representatives of labor, management (or agriculture where appropriate) and government to assist in the formulation and administration of plans for full production and full employment within such industry.”

Marxists are opposed to the entire concept of collaboration between labor and capital because, as was clearly seen during the war, the labor representatives become the captives of the ruling class, who use them as part of the bourgeois state apparatus. However, from the standpoint of fruition of CIO’s program, it is important to note that not only has nothing been done on this proposal for a National Planning Board, but even the more modest Full Employment bill has been reduced to a shadow of its former self.

The rest of PAC’s program calls for government guarantee of full employment; government endorsement of the principle of the guaranteed annual wage; wage increases reflecting rising living costs; heavier progressive taxes on high personal incomes and on corporate profits; nationally co-ordinated public works as part of the program for full employment; a housing program to guarantee every American a decent home at a cost within his means; immediate enactment of the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill on social security; federal aid to education establishing minimum educational standards, based on the principle that every boy and girl is entitled to free education at least through high school and providing for the elimination of the inequalities between Negro and white education; immediate enactment of the anti-poll tax bill and the bill for a permanent FEPC, and amendments to the GI Bill of Rights to give the veteran greater educational opportunities and more liberal allowances. Not one single plank in this program has been adopted by the Congress which CIO has so hopefully hailed.

How They Voted

In August of this year PAC tabulated the voting record of all Congressmen for the period from January to August on fifteen issues that PAC considered gave an all-round picture. A check of the records of PAC-endorsed Congressmen indicates that by and large they voted “right” according to CIO’s lights. It is on the basis of such voting records that CIO will go before the working class in 1946 and ask for its support. Upon analysis, the issues selected by CIO turn out to be neither decisive nor very important to the working class. There were two votes on the Bretton Woods bill – one for ratification of the Bretton Woods agreement, the other an amendment that would have killed the bill. Only eighteen votes were cast in the House against ratification and twenty-nine for the amendment. No PAC Congressman opposed either. Two votes were on bills to renew reciprocal trade agreements. The PAC-endorsed Congressmen here again voted almost to a man for these bills. On all four proposals, PAC Congressmen joined a few hundred other Democrats and Republicans and voted for measures that the administration and leading sections of the bourgeoisie also favored. CIO went all out for these bills on the false theory that they would further world trade and thus create jobs in industry.

Two votes concerned Henry Wallace and the powers of the Department of Commerce. The CIO waged a terrific campaign for its erstwhile fair-haired boy; PAC representatives went down the line for him. Just exactly what Henry Wallace has been able to achieve for the masses of the people in the Commerce Department except to announce that corporations this year could grant a fifteen percent wage increase and a ten percent increase next year, no one, not even the CIO, has been able to discover. The National Association of Manufacturers has declared its satisfaction with Mr. Wallace’s administration of the Department.

There were three votes dealing with price control, two to give the Secretary of Agriculture veto power over all decisions relating to food, and one to subject all OPA orders and regulations to court review. A vote against these proposals was essentially a vote “to make the record.” They did not strike at the heart of the problem of effective price control which involves drastic action against the black marketeers of big business, stringent taxes on corporation profits and substantial wage increases. Not only has the OPA failed to control prices adequately, but it has granted generous price rises on food, clothing, building materials, etc.

One vote was for an agricultural census of farm resources. Surely no one could be against finding out what’s down on the farm!

The other five bills were: (1) to give Federal white collar workers the fifteen per cent pay increase already allowed under the Little Steel formula; (2) to make the former Dies Committee a permanent body; (3) to repeal the poll tax; (4) to prohibit the use of War Labor Board funds in cases involving agricultural workers, and (5) a bill to increase excess profits tax exemptions and speed up the “carryback” of tax allowances for corporations.

Although opposed by most of the PAC-endorsed Congressmen, this last bill received fourteen PAC votes, the only one for which that number voted contrary to CIO’s position. Perhaps this vote was the forerunner of the disgraceful performance in which these fourteen, and their colleagues, participated when they voted on the main tax bill on October 29. PAC representatives could easily support the bill to repeal the poll tax, since practically all of them come from the North. In this connection it is interesting to note that J.M. Combs, the Texas Congressman for whom CIO campaigned so vigorously, voted against poll tax repeal. The northern Congressmen had nothing to fear from the powers that be and at the same time could stay on the liberal path insofar as their working class constituents were concerned. Neither the bill on poll tax repeal nor the one on the Dies Committee affected either the profits or any basic interests of the ruling class. To that extent the labor movement can successfully exert “pressure.” Perhaps the meaning of these votes is best summed up by pointing out that Clare Boothe Luce, CIO’s arch-enemy, voted for poll-tax repeal, for wage increases to Federal workers, and against continuation of the Dies Committee.

These fifteen issues, chosen by CIO, involve minor questions essentially, and the records of PAC Congressmen on them does not give the full answer as to whether or not they sponsored and campaigned for a program for labor. There have been a number of test issues where the “people’s” representatives not only failed to offer a fighting alternative program, but in the main supported the ruling class. These key questions involved the very existence of the labor movement and the strengthening of the totalitarian aspects of the economy.

“Slave Labor” Bill As Real Test

The May-Bailey bill, introduced at Roosevelt’s insistence just a few months before Germany’s collapse, was a bill to freeze men from the ages of eighteen to forty-five to their jobs, to order men in so-called non-essential jobs into essential jobs, regardless of any difference in wages, and to order men rejected by their draft boards as unfit to take any job Selective Service decided upon, refusal to mean induction into an army labor corps forced to work in private industry at army pay. Philip Murray and the entire labor movement characterized the measure as a “slave” bill designed to bind labor over to the interests of private profit. In spite of the campaign the CIO waged in the press and before Congressional committees, only thirty-five PAC Congressmen voted against the bill, which the House passed. [1]

Only three PAC votes were cast against the bill to draft nurses, which came along at about the same time. Neither measure was enacted into law. The ending of the war and the pressure exerted by the labor movement, which was effective despite lack of support from PAC representatives, helped kill the bills.

PAC and the Tax Bill

The most recent test of how much pressure CIO can successfully exert on its “friends” came in the vote on the tax bill. Enacted into law after Truman signed it November 8, the bill repealed the excess profits tax on corporations as of January 1, 1946, reduced corporate surtaxes and taxes, and in fact was such a gift to the corporations that the Magazine of Wall Street conceded it to be “heavily weighted” on the side of the corporations. CIO assailed the bill and called an emergency conference in Washington of sixteen organizations to protest. CIO had a tax program, but its spokesmen got no farther with it than committees in both houses which had the legislation under consideration. The program called for continuation of the present corporation taxes as well as the excess profits tax, for relief to small business by granting an exemption of $5,000 by lowering existing rates for businesses with net incomes below $100,000. For individuals, the plan provided increased exemptions for single persons to $1,000, married couples to $2,000 and retained the credit of $500 for dependents, thus giving a family with two children an exemption of $3,000. Under the tax bill passed by Congress, a family of four with an income of $3,000 will have to pay $190. The CIO plan would also have applied to individuals the “carry-back” and “carry-forward” provisions applying to corporations. Under it a family of four entitled to $3,000 of exempt income and earning $4,000 in 1944 would pay on $1,000. If, in 1945, the family’s income fell to $2,000, or $1,000 less than the exemption, it would “carry back” this $1,000 exemption to 1944 and get a refund on the tax paid for that year, just as corporations do.

The CIO’s plan never got beyond the stage of press releases and talk. Not a single one of all the PAC representatives stood up and did battle for the program. Exactly four PAC men voted against the tax bill, while Philip Murray and other CIO leaders begged their “friends” for help.

The PAC men have failed to offer the leadership that CIO wanted. It is obviously dissatisfied with the performance turned in by its “friends” in Congress and in addition is beginning to show signs of discontent with Truman, whom they had hailed as the true successor to Roosevelt, and his entire Administration. On September 24, Murray stated:

“I do not consider that the Administration and the leadership of the Democratic Party have shown sufficient exertion to elate on these crucial measures.”

This was with reference to unemployment insurance, full employment and the sixty-five-cent minimum wage. Even the crown of Henry Wallace is beginning to slip. In reporting on his statement before the Senate Banking and Currency Committee on the Full Employment Bill on September 3, the CIO News wrote: “Henry Wallace read a long statement in a dry monotone supporting the bill as the truly ‘conservative’ way of preserving the American system.” (A far cry from the days when CIO proclaimed itself “100 Per Cent for Wallace!”

PAC’s Blind Alley

The same old story is unfolding – support of bourgeois candidates leads into the blind alley of frustration and defeat for labor. CIO is finding it more difficult to support Truman – the “average man” from Missouri. His inept performances – attendance at weddings, the old-time song-fests and above all his clumsy political maneuvering – stick in the craw of the masses, who are beginning to understand that bold, radical measures are needed in this era of atomic energy. Whereas Roosevelt was able to corral labor’s support on the strength of New Deal legislation passed years back, and could appear to be the god-like reconciler of the struggle between the classes, Truman is unable to play that role. The back-slapping, snowball-throwing Truman, who, as the New Yorker puts it, looks like your corner grocer, is a non-entity, unable to command the respect and following of even the most ardent class collaborators of the CIO.

While the press howls in varying keys and the reactionaries in Congress bring up their artillery in defense of the corporations with union-busting, anti-labor legislation, where are the friends of labor in Congress? Where are the friends whom PAC elected? They are silent. They have failed in every test. In the face of the economic and political offensive of the ruling class, in the face of the crying need for an aggressive, bold program – they are silent. Rank and file trade unionists will begin to ask these questions. They will begin to see the need, not for fair-weather “friends,” but for labor men in Congress.

In the short space of two and a half years the policy of PAC lies exposed – futile and pernicious. The 79th Congress that PAC hailed so confidently and the Roosevelt – Truman Administration, to which it looked for solution of the pressing problems of reconversion and full employment, have accomplished absolutely nothing. Nor have the PAC congressmen taken the offensive to advance the interests of labor. The record is plain for all to see.

The Perspective

What next for PAC? The CIO’s Political Action Committee, representing millions of trade unionists, is still a potential threat to the two capitalist parties. Whether it continues the hopeless policy of supporting capitalist candidates depends on a number of factors. Elements in the Democratic Party understand PAC’s significance. Robert Hannegan, Postmaster General, is working overtime to convince Southern Democrats that if the party is to stay in power it must bargain with the CIO.

In spite of their openly expressed dissatisfaction with Truman’s Democratic administration the leadership of PAC will undoubtedly go along with it in 1946. They will again rally the workers against the Republican “forces of reaction.” They will get a few crumbs, such as the recent appointment of Raymond McKeough, former regional Mid-west Director for PAC, to the Maritime Commission. Their preparations have already started for the 1946 Congressional elections. In July of this year, Elmer Benson, chairman of the National Citizens PAC, undertook a cross-country tour. After expressing his “alarm at the failure of Congress to take action to ensure orderly reconversion,” this “good neighbor” of the working class went on “the lookout for good candidates, both Republican and Democratic, worthy of support in the primaries and elections next year.”

The progressives in the labor movement cannot look toward the CIO leadership to build an independent Labor Party. They must organize their ranks now and point to the gross failure of PAC’s policy as a means of educating the rank and file. The tasks before the union’ militants and the members of the Workers Party are, in a sense, lightened because of PAC’s record. A powerful political organization of the trade unions turned the victory for the Democrats in ’44. In ’45 the workers are faced with mounting unemployment, insecurity and the threat of a new atomic war. The policy of support to bourgeois candidates has led labor once more into a blind alley. Only the slogan of an independent Labor Party can lead it out.



1. When a CIO delegation asked a Philadelphia congressman why he voted for the May-Bailey bill, he retorted that PAC had supported him because he supported Roosevelt and that’s what he was doing!

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