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The Militant, 7 March 1947

Philomena Goelman

My Interview with LEPL

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 10, 7 March 1947, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


As councilmanic candidate of the Socialist Workers Party, I was interviewed last week by Oakland’s representatives of Labor’s Educational Political League. The LEPL is to the AFL what the Political Action Committee is to the CIO. Before seeing me, the LEPL had interviewed a dozen or so other candidates to determine which it would support in the coming elections. Needless to say, in their opinion, I do not have the necessary qualifications.

I was accompanied by two members of our campaign committee. When we arrived at the new headquarters of the AFL, I was struck by the contrast between the magnificence and newness of the building and the old Samuel Gompers-style leadership and policies of the AFL.

4 began the interview by presenting our program for the workers of Oakland. I covered the 35-hour week with no decrease in pay, which is part of the program of the Metal Trades Council. I made clear that 1 not only supported a 35-hour week but that I thought 30 hours a week with 40 hours pay would be a better idea, particularly in light of the growing unemployment in Oakland. I put forward the conception of city control of transportation, managed and directed through the trade unions. Finally, the question of a Labor Party – not just for Oakland but for the United States as a whole.

When I completed the presentation I was asked questions. The first question was, “Mrs. Goelman, did you write that letter which the Oakland Tribune printed, criticizing one of our foremost labor leaders?” I said I surely did and repeated that Jack Reynolds and the rest of Oakland’s labor leaders merit criticism for not demanding that the four councilmen elected by labor, be responsible to labor. Jack Reynolds was present and took the floor after other questions were asked. He explained how he tried to have meetings with the four councilmen elected after the general strike, but that the CIO came along and lured away two of the councilmen and broke up his plans for controlling the councilmen in the name of the AFL.

In answer to Mr. Reynolds I reminded him of my speech at the Oakland Voters League meeting. I reminded him of the criticism I made of Councilmen Weakley, Lantz, Pease and Smith for their failure to organize labor and the Negro community to put pressure on the five councilmen who were opposed to FEPC. I said further, that if Reynolds was sincerely interested in getting pro-labor legislation passed in the City Council, he could organize mass meetings and other mass actions to put pressure on the City Council. I gave as a concrete example – housing. If the AFL would issue a leaflet inviting the working men and women of Oakland to attend a meeting to work out a solution to the housing crisis in this city; the response would be tremendous.

At this point one of the labor officials made a revealing remark: “We’d have a revolution if we did that.” These labor leaders seem more concerned with restraining than leading the working class in the fight against their exploiters.

One thing was plain from this session. The labor leadership is at a complete loss as to what to do next. They listened to us attentively for half an hour, hoping to get perhaps some idea or suggestion which they could use. They cannot go too far to the right because the rank and file wouldn’t stand for it, and they cannot go too far to the left for fear of setting the Workers into motion and thus endangering their own positions of leadership. This dilemma, and the memory of the Oakland workers’ power in the 1946 general strike, explain their stumbling and helplessness in the 1949 councilmanic elections.

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