Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

The Militant, 7 April 1945

Gompers’ “Peace Pact” –
Its Lessons for Labor

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 14, 7 April 1945, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


William Green, Philip Murray and R.J. Thomas claim that they made history when, they signed a “peace pact” with Eric Johnston, representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Far from making history, these union officials are repeating it.

Over forty years ago the leaders of the AFL signed a similar agreement with the foremost capitalists which resulted in the organization in 1901 of the National Civic Federation. Green’s predecessor as AFL president, Samuel Gompers, was one of the founders of the National Civic Federation and served as its vice-president until his death in 1924.

Together with such big business men as John D. Rockefeller Jr., Charles Schwab of Bethlehem Steel, Mark Hanna, boss of the Republican party, and such “impartial” representatives as ex-president Grover Cleveland and Archbishop Ireland, Gompers signed the following statement of the aims of the National Civic Federation. “To do what may seem the best to promote industrial peace and prosperity; to he helpful in establishing right relations between employers and workers ... to obviate and prevent strikes and lockouts.” Similar phrases now stud the “new charter for labor and management.”

Wage War Against the Workers

Collaboration with the capitalists became the cornerstone of AFL policy. The National Civic Federation preached war on industrial unionism, labor participation in politics, and social insurance. Its main aim was to prevent the organization of the low-paid workers in the mass- production industries. It was really an open conspiracy against the industrial workers between the employers and the craft-union AFL officials. Big Business was willing and well able to throw a few crumbs to the craft-unions in payment for such services.

But while AFL “labor statesmen” were going up and down the land, spreading the doctrine of “peace” between Capital and Labor, the employer representatives in the National Civic Federation were waging a savage war against the workers.

In this period Charles Schwab, the open-shop head of Bethlehem Steel, fought off all attempts to organize his steelworkers, using every device known to labor-hating employers – the blacklist, lockout, union spies and stoolpigeons, armed guards, imported strikebreakers.

Another “union-busting” employer on the National Civic Federation’s Board at this, time, was John D. Rockefeller Jr. On Rockefeller’s record of anti-union terror the blackest spot is the “Ludlow Massacre.” In 1914 several thousand members of the United Mine Workers went on strike against the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, a Rockefeller corporation. They wanted an eight-hour day, recognition of the union, the right to trade in any store they pleased, and a ten percent wage increase, Other strikebreaking methods having failed, Rockefeller’s agents unleashed a reign of terror in Ludlow. Women and children were shot down by machine guns, miners’ homes were burned, scores of union members were arrested and jailed on trumped-up charges. The miners were forced back to work.

These are only a few examples of the vicious anti-labor activities carried on under cover of the National Civic Federation, which made that organization hateful to every progressive worker. As early as 1911, the United Mine Workers presented a resolution to the Atlantic City convention of the AFL, denouncing the National Civic Federation and demanding that the AFL sever all connections with it. Gompers was able to muster enough conservative votes to defeat the resolution.

Fight Against Nat’l Civic Federation

Twenty-four years later, however, when the revolt in the AFL against the traditional Gompers’ policies was at its peak and the industrial union movement was gaining great power, the United Mine Workers’ spokesman John L. Lewis offered the same resolution to another Atlantic City Convention of the AFL – the same convention which set up the Committee for Industrial Organization. This time the resolution passed. AFL vice-president Matthew Woll, who had taken Gompers’ place and was one of the chief opponents of industrial unionism, was forced to resign from the National Civic Federation.

The resignation of Woll, the resurgence of the labor movement, and the rise of the CIO dealt a virtual death-blow to the National Civic Federation. Now Murray and Green propose to refasten this discredited policy upon the workers just when the bosses are speeding up their union busting campaign.

Top of page

Main Militant Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 7 November 2018