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E.R. Frank

The Great Strike Wave and Its Significance

(May 1946)

From Fourth International, Vol.7 No.5, May 1946, pp.135-140.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The first cycle of the great strike wave of 1945-46 has come to a close. The main bodies of the auto, steel, electrical, rubber, packinghouse, oil, telephone and numerous other unions have signed agreements with the corporations. It is now possible to assess this great class action as a whole, even though 75,000 workers are still forced to continue their strike against the Westinghouse corporation and the country’s half million miners are again battling for improved conditions.

The strike wave, which America has just experienced, will be recorded as an historic labor upsurge. It can be compared properly only with those major climactic battles of the American working class which, for good or for evil, outlined for whole periods ahead the road of labor’s travels. This strike wave was an historic one, first, because it was fought on the most far-flung battle front, with the unions challenging the bulk of the major monopolists. Second, because it involved the first major test of strength between the new industrial union movement and the ruling capitalist oligarchy, since the mass production unions first established their right to existence ten years ago. And last because it brought into focus the social development and revealed the vast, latent power of American labor, power enough to beat back the offensive of the employers and to win significant concessions.

We said in the February 1946 Fourth International:

The abdication of the labor leaders during four years of war, and their underwriting of a program of enriching and strengthening the capitalist rulers guaranteed and made inevitable the present war of the banking and industrial oligarchy against labor. No sooner did Wall Street bring its imperialist rivals to their knees than it turned with redoubled fury upon the main enemy—the working class at home. Instead of the “gratitude” which the labor leaders naively imagined they would receive in return for labor’s “sacrifices” in the war, they received a hail of wage cuts and anti-labor bills.

That is what started the fight. The battle between labor and capital began as an offensive of Big Business against the working class. Immediately on V-J Day, the industrialists let loose with a program of slashing wages, discharge of millions of workers, downgrading, etc. Philip Murray, CIO President, thus summarized the case:

There have been four major, whopping big cuts in wages and salaries that, according to the United States Commerce Department, have taken $20,000,000,000 out of the national pay envelope.

First: The cut in hours of work—generally from forty-eight to forty hours a week—with the elimination of overtime. The average manufacturing worker who earned $46.35 in June, is now making only $35.60—a cut of $10.75 a week. ...

Second: Unemployment. One month after V-J Day two million men and women were laid off entirely, and the number is mounting daily....

Third: Downgrading. The third big cut in the nation’s pay envelope came when—as production was cut down—wage earners and salaried employees were downgraded from higher paying to lower paying jobs.

Fourth: The last big cut in the nation’s pay envelope is a hidden one. During the war, according to the War Production Board, labor’s productivity rose about twenty-five percent over all. That is to say, what before the war took five men or women to make, now requires only four men or women. This means fewer people drawing wages or salaries.

The industrialists were unquestionably getting set to return to the “good old days,” when there existed no restraints on their tyrannical rule, when they had to brook no interference and could crush by force and violence all attempts at revolt or reform. The industrialists had convinced themselves that they had rewon the “moral leadership” which they had lost so ignominiously during the 1929-33 crisis and which they never succeeded in regaining in the first two terms of the “Roosevelt era.” It is significant that a good number of the plutocracy’s paid “brains” had begun openly playing with fascist ideas and experiments. One of these, Virgil Jordan, had this to say in the Economic Record, published by the National Industrial Conference Board, the private mouthpiece of the big manufacturers:

It does not matter to me what others may do or say ... but when some smooth-tongued wizard from Washington ... puts to me the typical twisted question with which the patriotism and pride of the American people has been slowly poisoned during the past decade, and asks whether I want to bring back the days of Harding and Coolidge and Hoover, of Teapot Dome and Ed Doheny and Albert Fall, and Insull or Musica or Whitney ... I shall look him straight in the eye without shame or fear and say: “Yes.”

After V-J Day, ensconced securely on the mountains of money bags, which had grown to fantastic size during the war, and shielded by the scandalous tax laws which permitted them to raid the public treasury again and again for their continued aggrandizement, the robber-barons of America decided this was the God-given opportunity to put the unions “in their place.” What were their precise aims? At the very least, to deal the unions a jolting blow; to demoralize the union rank and file, to dampen its militancy; to isolate the unions and reduce labor’s strength in the national scene; to drastically worsen the workers’ standard of living.

The monied autocracy launched its war upon labor at a time when the main advantages were with it; it had the advantages of initiative, superior preparation, superior ground and position and greater staying power. The class war of 1945-46 started out on the grounds and positions chosen by labor’s enemies.

The main lines of the union strategy, at this time, were virtually dictated by the circumstances of the situation. Here was organized labor confronted by American capitalism, whose leading circles were united as almost never before; determined to tame the unions and slash labor’s standard of living. The capitalists moreover, were sitting pretty on their piles of gold, secure in their profits regardless, with a subservient Congress at their beck and call; all set to wait it out and starve out the unions. Obviously labor could not win its fight to maintain its living standards by thinking in terms of the ordinary, mine-run trade union strike, which is won by simply shutting down the individual plant or concern involved and then making sure that it stays shut down until the boss agrees to terms. It was clear from the start that any single union was doomed to defeat in its engagement with capital if the fight was converted into a simple waiting game. The capitalists were far better equipped for waiting and could starve out any union long before the union could starve out the corporation.

Thus any real strategy of labor had to, perforce, be based on these fundamental propositions:

  1. Labor was confronted with a fight that was national in scope against a more or less united and organized capitalist class.
  2. Labor could not emerge victorious by dragging out the fight. On the contrary, labor had to bring things rapidly to a head. In other words, its strategy had to be one of progressively bringing the economy to such a state of paralysis as to provoke a deep social crisis.

The American plutocracy could not ignore a social crisis of magnitude. The Wall Street masters could not just sit on their gold and decide to wait out the hurricane. These bankers and industrialists are certainly a pig-headed lot. They certainly are gamblers of the craziest kind. They are unquestionably blinded by their class prejudices and savagery. But they are not completely insane. And that is why the government in Washington, the representative and spokesman of the capitalist rulers as a whole, would have been forced to step in and settle more or less rapidly such a strike crisis.

Such a strike crisis can be settled either by the use of trickery, or by violence or by making concessions. The use of trickery, that is, cheating the workers out of any gains by the use of a lot of involved double talk and slippery formulas, is just not possible when dealing with superbly organized and experienced mass unions, headed by seasoned trade union leaders. It could not be employed as the major tactic in the present situation. As for violence, that is, large scale violence, sufficient to crumble the force of the present mass movement—its use was out of the question. The capitalists could not throw the armed forces of the state into headlong combat against the labor legions, without provoking conditions of a near civil war. That is why a strategy based on the propositions outlined above would have proven successful, would have forced great concessions from the industrialists.

The CIO Strategy

How does this proposed strategy square or differ with the strategy actually employed by the CIO high command? The fact is there was no CIO strategy. As a matter of fact, there did not even exist an understanding or knowledge of each other’s plans among the leaders of the major CIO unions. During the General Motors strike there was a certain amount of talk, especially in the Stalinist publications, about a supposed CIO strategy. But this was invention. The CIO leaders simply blundered into the fight, one union at a time, and then improvised their battle tactics as they went along. The only union that can make out a claim for a plan of battle was the auto union in the case of the General Motors strike. And its plan was based on an absurd, utterly false one-at-a-time strategy of isolating the General Motors Corporation and winning the fight by bringing to bear the pressure of competition.

V-J Day unloosed a wave of bewilderment and resentment among the American people. Fear of the future began gripping the working class. Now that the war was over, were they to return to the horrors of unemployment, insecurity, want? The leaders of labor, Philip Murray, William Green and the others had nothing to propose. They didn’t even have the courage to declare that the no-strike pledge was revoked, or to withdraw from the hated War Labor Board. A rash of plant and departmental strikes swept through the steel and auto industries and the union leaders, out of sheer inertia, continued to stamp them out, as they had been doing throughout the war.

In this charged atmosphere, on September 27, 1945, one month after V-J Day, the Oil Workers’ Union called a national strike of its full membership against 16 major oil companies. The membership of this less powerful CIO union caught the spirit of the times and began to struggle for the demand which soon reverberated throughout the country: a 30 percent wage increase to retain the take-home pay—a 40-hour week with no reduction in pay. Paraphrasing a famous slogan of American history, the pickets carried signs which read: 52 for 40 or Fight!

Picket line

To the oil workers must go the credit for dramatizing all over the country the demand for a 30 percent wage increase. But the oil workers, left to their own resources, proved too weak to carry through this ambitious program. Truman soon moved in and broke the oil strike by means of a governmental “seizure” of the oil properties under the provisions of the Smith-Connally Act. The oil workers’ demands seemed destined to be buried for a long time under reams of governmental red-tape. On this atmosphere of confusion and bewilderment the major CIO unions formulated their wage demands and began to inaugurate negotiations with the companies. The fight for the maintenance of take-home pay certainly began in an inauspicious manner.

The 30 percent demand lost the character of a pious hope or a lost cause only when the great auto union took up the struggle in earnest and served notice that it expected the 40-hour week with no reduction in pay. The auto union, the most volcanic and militant national union of the whole world, was experiencing a paroxysm of revolt at this time. Wildcat strikes were flaring throughout the industry. The Kelsey-Hayes strike, maintained for 6 weeks in defiance of the top officers, showed that the UAW membership was in a state of revolt against the leadership. It was in this heated situation that Walter Reuther, more perspicacious, farsighted and bold than his fellow bureaucrats, stepped into the breach. He took the program of the oil workers—a program advocated for months in the UAW by the more progressive locals—and began that remarkable series of negotiations with the General Motors Corporation that was finally climaxed by the strike of 225,000 GM workers.

Walter Reuther’s Leadership

Almost as soon as the GM negotiations got under way, it became clear that the leadership of labor’s fight for the maintenance of its standard of living had been taken over by the GM workers. And Walter Reuther, Vice-President in charge of the GM Department, who directly led this extraordinary fight, found himself again catapulted into the national limelight, this time as the leader of labor’s momentous wage struggle.

It is not difficult to understand why the workers all over the country eagerly accepted and looked to the leadership of the auto union. The GM union committee, headed by Walter Reuther, from the first, conducted its negotiations with the corporation in a fighting manner indicating that it was serious, that it meant business, that it was not simply going through a lot of motions for the record. Next, the working people all over the country knew that the auto union, and especially its GM section, was best suited to lead off this fight, because the auto union is strongest and has the greatest experience in warfare. Furthermore, Walter Reuther raised in the course of the negotiations several far-reaching demands which have already served to advance the American labor movement and have already left an indelible imprint on the minds of the American workers. His propaganda around the slogans of “Opening the books” of the Corporations and “Wage Increases without any Price Increases” served to dramatize to millions the unconscionable profits that have been amassed by the major corporations and dealt powerful blows against the insidious teachings of the corporations that wage increases are responsible for inflation. The labor movement has gained measurably, especially with the middle classes and the more backward workers, by exposing this fake economics a la Wall Street. And lastly, Walter Reuther conducted himself as a leader in the course of the GM negotiations. He showed he had the ability to stand up against the hired “brains” of the plutocrats, answer argument for argument and give blow for blow. As we had occasion to remark of John L. Lewis in the 1943 coal negotiations, the American workers admire leadership. They want leaders who can show up the Big Business representatives and who can voice in clear, forceful fashion the aspirations, the sufferings and the needs of the masses of people.

For all these reasons the union conduct of the GM negotiations inspired American labor and when the General Motors workers hit the bricks they had already won the sympathy and support of the great mass of the American people. But though the ranks of the GM strikers were determined, tenacious and strong, they could not win the battle alone. For they were facing not only the two-billion dollar corporation for which they worked, but the united ranks of America’s leading billionaires. And here the lack of a national strategy on the part of the CIO became painfully apparent. The leaders of the steel and electrical unions, the two other major unions of the CIO, proceeded with their own negotiations at a leisurely pace, as if these had no bearing on the GM strike. The other CIO unions in packinghouse, rubber, maritime, etc., conducted themselves in similar fashion. The Stalinist leadership of the electrical union even went so far as to refuse to call out on strike 30,000 odd GM workers under its jurisdiction. And the GM strikers were themselves prisoners of the “scissor-bill” one-at-a-time strategy authored by Reuther, which instead of isolating the corporations, threatened to isolate the GM workers. Instead of demanding the shutdown of Chrysler and Ford and thus preventing competition inside the union and the undercutting of each other’s conditions, Reuther insisted that Chrysler and Ford be kept working. Instead of howling for a steel strike to bring the strike crisis to a head, Reuther resented the steel strike, as interfering with his one-at-a-time strategy. Thus while the momentous battle between labor and capital was joined on November 21, only one division of labor’s army actually took the field. It was almost two months before the much needed reinforcements arrived on the field of battle and brought matters to a head.

In the course of these two months, as week wore on after week and no settlement seemed in sight, a lot of defeatist talk began going the rounds, some of it emanating right out of Philip Murray’s office and some spread by the Stalinists, that the General Motors strike should never have been called when it was, that it was badly timed. Why badly timed? Because the 1946 tax laws reduced the excess profits tax by so much that none of the corporations were interested in going into production in 1945. That was true. But then the 1946 or even 1947 tax laws guarantee the corporations huge profits even if they don’t produce at all. That would seem to indicate that no strikes ought to be called before January 1, 1948! All that the tax law argument proved was that the top trade union bureaucracy had permitted the capitalists to shamelessly raid the public treasury and to entrench itself into a superb position for warring on labor. And that only by a united, unified and powerful labor assault, which brought on a deep social crisis, could labor Overcome capital’s financial advantage. The tax law argument was nothing but an attempt at a fancy alibi to excuse the criminal inaction on the part of the other major CIO leaders.

The Strike Climax

The GM strike held out, virtually alone, for two months. Finally the much needed reinforcements began to arrive. On January 15, 1946, 200,000 members of the electrical union struck, closing down GE, Westinghouse, RCA and the GM electrical plants. The packinghouse workers both CIO and AFL struck the next day on January 16 and finally on January 21, three-quarter of a million steel workers walked out and brought the strike movement to its thunderous climax. Almost 2 million workers were on strike at the height of the strike wave. It was this display of big power that finally broke the log-jam and forced through the wage settlements, first in steel and then in the other major industries.

But by the time the strike movement was brought to a climax, the top CIO leaders had already given away a considerable part of their original demands. They had, in practice, already appreciably lowered the stake for which the strikers were battling. They did this when they completely reversed their previous stand against Truman’s Fact-Finding Boards scheme and agreed to cooperate with these so-called Fact-Finding Boards. By this one move, the CIO leaders actually scaled down their wage demands by almost 40 percent. Because once the authority of these boards was accepted, the unions were in effect bound by the board’s decisions. It was furthermore clear that these boards, given the existing relationship of forces, would split the difference between the workers and the employers and award the unions slightly better than half of their wage demands. The CIO leaders not only scaled down their wage demands by some 40 percent but saddled the labor movement with a new semi-compulsory arbitration governmental strait jacket.

The first Fact-Finding Board appointed by President Truman in the GM strike recommended on January 10 an increase of 19½ cents per hour to the GM workers or about 17½ percent increase as contrasted to the union’s demand for 30 percent. The union promptly accepted the board’s recommendation. On this 19½ cent front, then, one might imagine, the union forces would reform and rally to hold the line. But the leaders of the major unions showed as little unity in negotiating their strike settlements as they had previously displayed in the calling of their strikes. One week after a governmental body had awarded the GM workers a 19½ cents increase, Philip Murray agreed to accept a penny less—18½ cents—for the steel workers.

The Stalinists, not to be outdone, signed a contract with the General Motors Corporation for an 18½ cents increase in the plants organized by the UE while the UAW was still holding out for 19½ cents. The packinghouse workers, following the general pattern of everyone for himself and devil take the hindmost, agreed to scale down their demand to 17½ cents increase and finally settled for 16 cents. And the other leaders of the auto union itself signed contracts with Chrysler and Ford for wage increases of 18½ cents and 18 cents, respectively, while the GM workers were still holding out for the 19½ cents that a governmental body said they ought to get!

The CIO high command presented the spectacle of an army, where each divisional commander throws or fails to throw his troops into the battle, without any regard for the decisions or needs of the other commanders and without any concern as to the over-all disposition of the forces and the general line-up of the battle. Where, furthermore, every divisional commander negotiates his own peace terms with the enemy anytime he sees fit without any regard for the peace terms being negotiated by others and without any concern for the effect that the withdrawal of his forces will have upon his allies.

One can sum up and say that by their timidity, their lack of sufficient solidarity and a unified strategy, the CIO leaders unnecessarily dragged out the fight to its detriment, and gave up a somewhat bigger share of the wage stake than was warranted, than was absolutely necessary on the basis of the relationship of forces that obtained.

Any analysis of the strike wave would be completely one-sided and inadequate, however, if it confined itself to merely criticizing the shortcomings of the national CIO leaders, their strike program and strategy. The significant weaknesses and defects of the strike leadership are part of the picture. But they are by no means the whole picture.

Labor’s High Point

The big fact that stands out in the present strike struggle is that never before in its entire history has the American working class fought such a big battle on such a tremendous battle-front. Never before has the trade union movement shown itself capable of dealing such powerful blows, one after the other, on such a national scale. Never before have the trade unions displayed such perfected organization, such tenacity, such staying power and self-confidence. And despite the cross currents, the personal jealousies amongst the leaders, the factional bickering and the lack of a unified plan, the fact remains that never before has the labor movement displayed the unity and solidarity that was achieved in the present struggle. The recent strikes were better organized, the blows against the enemy were dealt more vigorously and decisively and the strike movement—which was brought to a smashing climax within two months and began to ebb a month after that—embraced a larger section of the American working class than ever before in American history. The very length of some of the strikes is unprecedented. The General Motors strike lasted 113 days, and a considerable number of the GM locals struck several weeks beyond that. Despite this long, drawn-out character of the fight, the union ranks never faltered; morale remained high throughout. Truly an unprecedented achievement! (While on the record many strikes of the past probably are recorded as longer-lasting, in actuality in all these past strikes, the majority of workers returned to work after the first period and only a small minority of the most determined and militant held out.)


This series of strikes, it must be remembered, involved the first major test of strength between the industrialists and the unions since the sit-down strikes of ten years ago. Coming immediately at the conclusion of the war, after 4 years of the no-strike pledge, the wage and job freeze, and the rule of the War Labor Board, the union movement unleashed a power that amazed everyone—its enemies as well as its friends. This power was so persuasive and palpable that it swept into its wake even the white collar slaves, as witness the strike of the independent telephone union, the bulk of whose membership is in the white collar field. It won the warm sympathy of the middle classes and the veterans. It smashed, by its sheer social weight and strength, the 4-year old campaign of the Big Brass and their Big Business associates to organize the veterans into anti-labor vigilante gangs. The labor movement has won the ardent sympathy of the veterans and its strike struggle directly inspired the great soldier protest that was heard round the world.

The working class was able to answer the attempts at violence by general strike action, in such out-of-the-way places, to boot, as Stamford, Conn, and Lancaster, Pa. This explains, incidentally, the more or less peaceful character of the great fight. The two sides were very evenly matched; the labor movement was too strong to tolerate large scale violence and strikebreaking on the part of the regular government police and state troops; the plutocracy possessed no private fascist armies of its own; the struggle was not yet of a decisive social character. Both sides were testing each other’s strength.

There is no question that the labor movement emerged out of the fight stronger than it was when it went into the fight. The battle originated as an offensive on the part of capital and labor was fighting defensively to maintain its standard of living. But the battle soon took on the character of a counter-offensive on the part of labor. Despite the indecision of the top union officers, the working class by the sheer strength of its organization, by its discipline, self-confidence and will to fight brought things to a head within two months after the GM strike first began. They were thus able to frustrate the design of the industrialists to wear out the unions and were able to smash through to a victory—a victory, because they hurled back the anti-labor offensive of the employers, because they came out of the fight with a strengthened position on the national scene and because they won significant concessions.

This estimate of the results of the strike movement is the accepted one, in a general way, on the part of all the leading militants in the leading CIO unions. But the pseudo-Marxists of Shachtman’s New International, we note, have come forward recently to challenge this estimate. Their writings show that they are obviously badly disappointed and even annoyed with the American workers. Rather than a victory, the Shachtman magazine believes the working class suffered a straight-out defeat. “The first great post-war trial of strength,” we read in the March 1946 New International, “between American labor and capital is drawing to an end. The over-all result is a defeat for labor.” Why a defeat? Because the unions demanded a 30 percent wage increase which they proved they were entitled to, but only got a little better than half. That’s why it was an “over-all defeat!” We are not making this up out of our heads. This wisdom is to be found in the New International.

“Labor did not get its war-time ‘take-home’ pay demand. It did not get what its spokesmen had proved was necessary to again bring wages up to a pre-war parity with the cost of living. If an army that takes the offensive and fails to dislodge the enemy from its positions has suffered a defeat, then labor suffered a defeat in the present strike struggles.”

A Marxist Analysis

One might first point out that it is very improper for people who call themselves Marxists to ignore all other factors in such a titanic class struggle as the recent strike wave and center their analysis exclusively on the money factor, like a bunch of “scissor-bills.” Even if the recent series of strikes succeeded only in repulsing the industrialists’ offensive and preserving the union organizations and the morale of their membership, even in that case these strikes could not by any manner of means be called defeated. Even in that case they would have to be described as having achieved some partial successes. A veteran militant trade unionist understands this. Is it too much to expect that people who call themselves Marxists should show a similar breadth of view?

Furthermore in what strike manual or work of Marxism is it written that a strike is to be considered defeated if it does not achieve its full declared objectives? Under that rule there have been very few strikes that have ever been won. The Shachtmanite writer repeats over and over again the thought that the workers needed the 30 percent wage increase to maintain their living standards. Sure. They needed it. Their cause was just. We stand with Ben Hanford who said that justice is always on the side of the working class. But that does not mean that when labor wins only half-a-loaf it has been defeated. No. It has won a partial victory.

A real strike analyst in casting a balance of a strike will ask himself these questions: Is our union stronger or weaker as a result of the strike? Is the morale of the membership up or down? Have we made gains in wages and working conditions? Or, if there are no gains, have we at least minimized the losses that we would have otherwise suffered? A balance based on a rounded and thoughtful analysis will show gains on all counts in the recent strikes: The unions are stronger, morale is heightened, outright gains in wages; as well as the other key factor that we discussed before.

Some pseudo-leftist wiseacres have adumbrated a somewhat more pretentious idea. Their argument runs like this: “True the workers won about 18 cents an hour wage increase. But prices are being boosted all along the line. Thus the wage increase is wiped out and in practice the workers haven’t won anything at all.” Underneath its aura of profundity, this argument betrays a wretched misconception of economic laws under capitalism and an ignorance of the relationship between wages and prices, explained by Marx fully 80 years ago in his debate with Weston.

We can only touch, at this time, on a few high points of the inflationary process that is now going on in the United States and the reasons for it. American capitalism is in the monopoly stage. The economy is owned and controlled by a few billionaire cliques. Due to the specific conditions of the market, both domestic and foreign, which we have previously discussed in the magazine, the capitalists are in a position to boost prices to fantastic heights. (We, of course, struggle for price control by consumers’ and workers’ committees in the same spirit as we struggle for our other transition demands.)

With the end of the Second World War the dominant capitalist community was determined to sweep away most of the governmental price controls. And they have the power to do so. They simply refused to produce after the war except under their own terms, just as they refused to go into war production five years ago until Roosevelt told them to write their own ticket. Now this capitalist control of economy cannot be fundamentally eliminated until capitalism is destroyed. The inflationary process in the US had been predicted before the recent strike wave got under way and would have taken place if the strikes had never occurred. The capitalists simply seized on the wage increases as a convenient excuse to attempt to place the onus for inflation upon the labor movement. Reuther attempted, not without success, to expose this fraud and to place the onus where it belongs, on the profit-greedy capitalists. The falsity of the argument of the pseudo-leftists is thus clearly seen. It incorrectly implies that the present price increases are due to the wage increases.

What is correct to say is that the gains won by the workers will soon be dissipated because of the violent inflationary rise. Therefore the trade unions must gird their loins for continued struggle for wage increases, must begin the propaganda for a sliding scale of wages to meet the increases in the cost of living.

The heightened morale of the whole labor movement is again being displayed. We see it in what is an almost infallible sign: The drive to organize new millions of unorganized workers. The CIO is going into the South. It is launching another million-dollar campaign. The older CIO unions are likewise undertaking their own organization campaigns. The UAW has already pledged to organize the tens of thousands of white collar workers of the automobile industry. This organizing campaign spells new big struggles. This added to the fact that all labor will be goaded into fighting in order to keep up with rising prices means that the coming period will, indeed, be a turbulent one.

The unions revealed superb power in the strike wave. Such power that the capitalist masters saw in them a dangerous threat to their very existence. The capitalists will now prepare more thoroughly for the next engagement. That is why in the major industries, guerrilla warfare is a thing of the past. The trade union struggle is passing over into a social struggle. That is what the present strikes proved. In this sense, American trade unionism is at the crossroads. The objective conditions demand that the trade unions now discard the old, outworn hit-and-run tactics and narrow trade union aims which were of value when the unions were weak and their objectives small and now adopt a broad social program and strategy that the times demand. That is what the American working class is instinctively reaching out for, as the victory of Reuther in the UAW indicates.

Great social ideas were raised in the course of the strike struggle, such as the demands voiced by Reuther and Murray’s radio speech in which he broke with Truman. But these were left dangling in mid-air. Reuther did not propose any political action to implement his social demands. Murray refused to work for a labor party after his break with Truman. The social aims remain to be realized.

The growing numbers of left-wingers in the key mass production unions have the task of convincing the broad ranks that the labor movement must now become a social movement if it is to survive and prosper.

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