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The Militant, 14 March 1947

An Editorial

Cardinal Spellman – Strikebreaker

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 11, 14 March 1947, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Taking advantage of the Stalinist trial of Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary, the Catholic hierarchy in this country has taken the lead in creating an atmosphere of lynch-hysteria against “communism.” Now American workers, including those misguided Catholic workers who have been lured into the “anti-communism” campaign, can better understand against whom and what this campaign is ultimately aimed. The real target is organized labor itself, its right to strike and picket, its basic democratic rights.

This was spelled out by Cardinal Spellman, supreme authority of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in America, by his conduct in the eight week strike of CIO cemetery workers for the 40-hour week at two Catholic burial grounds in New York. Under the cloak of religion, Spellman has demonstratively mobilized priests and seminary students as scabs against these strikers.

The Cardinal went all out in lending the odor of religious sanctity to the foulest crime against the working people – strikebreaking. For when he boasts that he is “proud” to be called a strikebreaker and deems it a “thing of honor” to scab-herd against the CIO cemetery strikers, he is actually laying down a line of “morality” and conduct for 25 million Catholic communicants. He is demonstrating in action the policies and program of the entire Catholic hierarchy. He is revealing the real aim of the “labor” program which this hierarchy is trying to foist on the American unions through its more than 100 “labor” schools, its army of professional “labor” priests and its Association of Catholic Trade Unionists.

Even the ACTE Is Embarrassed

The striking workers – almost all devout Catholics themselves – have denounced the Cardinal as a strikebreaker in a resolution condemning “the union-busting tactics of any employer, including the Catholic Church, when it acts as an employer.” Even the priest-ridden ACTU, the Vatican’s power machine inside the American labor movement, has been forced to disassociate itself publicly from Spellman’s actions lest the ACTU, too, be thoroughly exposed and discredited in the eyes of Catholic and non-Catholic unonists alike.

The ACTU leaders seek to divorce the Cardinal’s actions as “employer” from his position as the authoritarian head of the Catholic hierarchy in America. But he does not speak and act as an individual; his words and deeds carry the full Weight and authority of the Roman Church itself. That is what gives his strikebreaking its especially evil character.

In trying to break this strike, the Roman Catholic hierarchy – trafficker in a thousand profitable enterprises from commercial real estate to sales of grave lots – has vast material interests at stake. It employs tens of thousands of lay workers, mainly non-union, at notoriously low wages and long hours. A victory for the cemetery workers would set an example for the others.

Emboldened by the “anti-communist” hysteria around the Mindszenty case, the Catholic hierarchy now feels free to fling “communist,” as a deadly epithet, at any individual or idea that does not conform to its special interests, aims and dogma. Even Catholic workers, engaged in elementary union defense of their rights, are smeared with this label. And it does them no good to deny the charge – as the cemetery workers have done by their disaffiliation from their international union at the behest of the Cardinal. He has only sneered at them – “They’re getting repentant kind of late” – and asserted that even if they are not “communists” then “their tactics certainly are communistic.”

He Calls the Strike “Immoral”

Merely daring to strike and picket for the 40-hour week that has long been a legal standard for American workers – this is what the Cardinal calls “communistic” as well as “morally unjustifiable.” Even the, promoters of the Taft-Hartley Act didn’t dare to go to such extremes.

By his own strikebreaking, Cardinal Spellman has demonstrated just what program and service he is now offering, in the name of the Roman Catholic Church, to the American capitalist class. The Catholic hierarchy, fearful for its own vast properties and investments, is showing what it can do for American capitalism in return “for the latter’s protection. By singling out a group of Catholic workers as the first victims of his open strikebreaking, Spellman has simply issued a vouched to the American plutocrats that he will draw the line at nothing in aiding their assault on labor.

The Eleventh Commandment

Are American workers now to be governed by what this hierarchy, linked by immense property interests to capitalism, chooses to call “moral” or “immoral” in the way of union activity?

In the past 15 years, the American workers have established their own standards of morality. They have added an 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not commit strikebreaking.” Whoever violates it casts himself out from the respect and society of decent men and women, be he private employer, government official or Prince of the Church.

American workers of all creeds, the leaders of organized labor, the unions of every affiliation should make known in no uncertain terms their rejection and abhorrence of the latest violation of this 11th Commandment.

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