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George Clarke

Government’s Anti-Labor Offensive
Underlines Need for a Labor Party

(8 June 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 23, 8 June 1946, p.  2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Every worker must be troubled by a paradox which stares him in the face today. He sees the trade unions at the peak of their strength, numerically stronger and more powerful in action than they have ever been, and yet, at the same time, these unions appear practically helpless before the offensive of Wall Street’s President and Wall Street’s Congress.

One after another, the biggest monopolies in the countries were paralyzed by great strikes and then forced to concede substantial wage increases. Neither propaganda nor threats could weaken the strike front. For the first time in American labor history, scabs and strikebreakers played a negligible role against the solid array of strength built by the unions.

Yet this unprecedented power appears practically impotent today before the offensive of the capitalist government. After a series of effective and successful strikes that began last winter, the situation has been turned upside down in the one short week that followed the end of the railroad tie-up. Spearheaded by President Truman, Congress is driving through the most reactionary, labor-crippling laws seen in this country since the open shop days that followed the first world war.

The entire labor movement is alert to their terrifying effects. From every union, from every shop a great outcry is heard for resistance and action against the offensive Big Business has launched from the White House and Capitol Hill. But to date this swelling shout appears to be a voice crying in the wilderness. 14,000,000 organized workers, invincible yesterday on the picket lines, today give the impression of trying to stop an on-rushing tank with shouts of protest.

Labor Is Unprepared

The simple truth is this: the labor movement is unprepared and unarmed. During this critical phase of its war against the profit-greedy billionaires, organized labor finds itself without political weapons. For as long as the memory can recall, the labor leaders have beguiled the workers with the fiction that the government was the impartial umpire between the classes, that the umpire was even inclined to stretch this impartiality to the point of friendliness with the labor movement. When the blindfold began to slip a little during the war under the pounding of Roosevelt’s regimenting decrees, the Hillmans, Murrays and Greens quickly pulled it back into place again. They assured everyone that the great friend of labor in the White House had been misled by bad advisors, and in any case that these were only emergency measures that would die with the termination of hostilities. As uneasiness began to grow in the ranks and opposition to their surrender policies mounted, the political program of the trade union leaders became restricted to one plank: no independent political action of the unions, no labor party.

Thus in a series of tragic but inevitable steps the criminal, cowardly leaders of labor led the workers into the gigantic trap openly prepared by the monopolies. At the rim of the trap, waiting for the blindfolded workers, was Truman, “the friend of labor,” armed with the big anti-labor stick prepared by his predecessor Roosevelt, also “a friend of labor.” The great pains suffered by the workers came not so much from the injuries themselves as from the fact that they were inflicted by a “friend of labor.” Everywhere workers are asking: Why are we so strong on the picket line and so weak before Wall Street’s puppets in Washington? What next?

The clear, unavoidable answer is that labor must have its own party, a labor party based upon and controlled by the trade unions. Unless such a party is built, and built rapidly, unless such a party takes control of the government, the Wall Street gang will use the present repressive legislation as the first iron hoops of a military dictatorship. The danger is grave. Let no one mistake it.

The time is rotten-ripe for the organization of a labor party. The -trade union movement is prepared for it. What then blocks the road? The very same trade union bureaucrats and the very same Stalinist bureaucrats who have blocked the road up to now and led the workers into their present peril. They are like the Bourbons of old: they learn nothing.

They have no program of action, no solution to the crisis, no plan for organizing the formidable power of 14,000,000 organized workers and their families in the political arena. Instead they bemoan “the accident” of Truman’s accession to office: they call for a return to Roosevelt’s policy. Truman has “betrayed” Roosevelt. By thus conjuring up the ghost of Roosevelt the bureaucrats are trying to keep the labor movement wandering in the graveyard of capitalist politics, continuing to support capitalist “friends of labor.”

Did Truman, betray Roosevelt’s policy? This is not only a lie, it is a stupid lie. There was in reality no such thing as a “Roosevelt policy.” There was only a Wall Street policy to which Roosevelt like Truman faithfully adhered. It is true that Roosevelt was wiser and more skillful than Truman in applying this policy. But then Roosevelt did not face national strikes in auto, steel, packing, coal mining and railroad in quick succession. Nothing that has been done by Truman is original – practically every link in his anti-labor chain was forged under the Roosevelt administration.

Forged by Roosevelt

The seizure of struck plants and industries was inaugurated by Roosevelt during the war-time mine strikes.

The run-around, and kick-around of the railroad workers’ demands began under Roosevelt in 1943.

The “cooling off” provisions of the Case Bill are borrowed from the “cooling off” provisions of the Smith-Connally Bill to which Roosevelt objected only on the ground that it would be ineffective for preventing strikes.

Truman borrowed his labor draft directly from Roosevelt who wrote to Congress on June 25, 1943:

“I recommend that the Selective Service Act be amended so that persons may be inducted into non-combat service up to the age of 65. This will enable us to induct into military service all persons who engage in stoppages or other interruptions of work in plants in possession of the United States.”

The record is clear, Truman learned his anti-labor political arithmetic in Roosevelt’s school, Truman was personally chosen by Roosevelt as his successor. Truman did not betray Roosevelt, but the trade union and Stalinist bureaucrats betrayed the labor movement by supporting the capitalist “friends of labor.” By advocating the same policy today, they continue this betrayal under far more dangerous conditions.

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