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Reva Craine

World Politics

(22 January 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 4, 22 January 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A Man to Admire

A week after he wrote that he thought that “Churchill had made a case for the British attempt to maintain order in Greece provided the facts were as he stated them in his speech,” Norman Thomas leader and standard-bearer of the Socialist Party, salutes Mr. Churchill on the courage which took him to Greece. In The Call of January 1, Thomas writes:

“Sharply as I have criticized and shall continue to criticize Winston Churchill, I salute the courage, moral and physical, which took him at his age to Greece. At the least he accepts responsibilities for situations which he has done so much to create as Roosevelt does not.”

Everyone even vaguely connected with the labor movement should know that it was not courage, but rather the necessity for British imperialism to try to palm off another puppet on the Greek people which compelled Winston Churchill even at his age (Thomas ought to know!), to travel to Greece. The Greek workers, at any rate saluted Winston in somewhat different fashion from that of Norman Thomas.

Thomas goes on to enlighten us a little more about the Greek situation.

“And speaking of Greece, where does ELAS get all those arms? Did it capture them from the Germans? Or did the Germans leave them behind on purpose to aid the expected civil war? Or do Stalin and his Communists know ... something about it? Popular Greek support for ELAS may explain much. It cannot explain those arms.”

In the first place, who, besides Mr. Thomas, is now asking for an explanation of those arms? It is not where the Greek people got their arms – the people always know how to get arms when they want them – but for what they used these arms, that is important. What does Thomas think of that?

Secondly, Thomas should refer to the man he so admires for an answer. Churchill himself acknowledged that the British helped arm the Greek people when they were struggling against German oppression. Now that the Greek people have shown themselves ready to struggle against even British oppression, along comes Norman Thomas, the man who stands for “socialism in our time,” to raise questions about where the people got their arms, and to insinuate that they might even be working for the Germans.

When the Greek workers win their struggle, which is proving to be a hard and bloody one, despite the Stalinist leadership of ELAS, which has sold them down the river, they will, we are sure, take time out to give Norman Thomas a detailed accounting of the source of their arms. Right now, there are battles to be won.

* * *

Social Justice in Portugal

The Lisbon radio broadcast the following announcement of government labor policy on November 8:

“The Under Secretary for Corporations has published a just and necessary order which aims at ending erroneous ideas and blatant abuses. It is laid down that, once minimum wages have been fixed under an order from the Under Secretariat, employers affected are forbidden to pay any higher rates, except in special cases where maximum rates may also be fixed. Carrying out this principle should present no difficulties. It is a pity that even in these days there are still people who do not understand what is meant by social justice and the cooperation of capital and labor. There are none so blind as those who won’t see.”

It is obvious that carrying out the principle which forbids paying more than the minimum wage should present no difficulties to the employers especially if that is the law. Too bad, but the workers of Portugal somehow cannot see the justice in this principle. But they are not blind. On the contrary, their eyes have been opened to the extent of seeing that cooperation of capital and labor means that capital gets all and labor a fixed minimum wage which becomes the maximum

* * *

Belgian Coal

The coal crisis is so serious in Belgium that the Allied military authorities have begun an investigation. Major-Gen. Erskine charges that theft and dishonesty on the part of the coal industry are responsible for the situation. Coal allocated for civilian use is being pilfered from the yards and sidetracked into the black market. Military trains are held up and the coal stolen and sent, to the black market.

General Erskine further charges that some of the trouble arises through the close links between the mines owned by certain industries and the industries controlled by the coal owners. They seem incapable, the General said, of forgetting their own interests and pooling coal as directed!

The mine owners and industrialists have never forgotten their own interests; not even under Nazi Occupation. At that time the coal miners refused to work the mines. They went on a four-year strike. Thousands of them preferred unemployment and its attendant sufferings to any collaboration with the invaders. The Belgian mine owners, on the other hand, operated the mines with scab labor. They collaborated with the Nazis and assured the continuation of their profits.

After the “liberation” of Belgium, the coal miners, who had fought the Nazis in their own way, wanted their jobs back. The government of “liberation” replied by placing them on the relief rolls, and retaining those who had worked the mines under the Nazis on the job. The mine owners, collaborators of yesterday, naturally, retained their ownership and continue their profiteering at the expense of the Belgian population. In the entire coal crisis, this little detail has been overlooked.

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