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C. Charles

Unions Offer Own Plans
for Handling ‘Priorities’

(September 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 38, 20 September 1941, pp. 4 & 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Alarmed by the obvious capitalist mismanagement of industrial production, various unions have endorsed plans to do away with priorities unemployment.

The plans aim to increase production in their respective industries or propose a method of shifting workers from civilian to military production without any loss of employment.

Every one of the plans so far proposed is based on the formation of a government-management-labor council in each industry.

The CIO Plan for Strengthening the National Defense Program was the first plan presented. It was drawn up in December 1940 by Philip Murray, chairman of the CIO.

The Murray Plan

According to this plan, the labor-management-government council would:

  1. Ascertain the military and non-military “requirements of each respective industry to coordinate the production of each industry to meet these requirements speedily arid accurately and to expand production facilities where they are inadequate ...”
  2. ”Re-employ unemployed workers in each respective industry and in the communities and regions in which the industry operates as quickly as the accelerated pace of the industry permits, fill the labor requirements of the industry from the available supply and train workers for those occupations in which the council finds a shortage.”
  3. “Achieve the greatest possible output as quickly as possible by bringing into full use all the production facilities in each respective industry. This covers the granting and re-allocating of armament contracts, fulfilling in advance known domestic requirements so as to clear the way for the peak in armament production and eliminating bottlenecks created by one concern having a disproportionate amount for armament contracts that it can not complete within the necessary limit of time, and other bottlenecks caused by contractual or technical factors.”

Murray also presented a specific plan along these lines for the steel industry.

The Reuther Plan

Another plan is that of Walter Reuther, a member of the executive board of the United Auto Workers (CIO), and one of the supporters of Hillman.

Reuther in his plan proposed to alleviate the intensely seasonal character of auto work and avoid mass layoffs when the steel would be rationed for the auto industry. He hoped to achieve this by producing 500 planes daily within the present auto plants and machinery. The auto workers would man the defense plants.

The Reuther plan consists essentially of the following ideas:

  1. That a survey of the automotive industry around Detroit be made to show the plant and machine capacity was available for airplane work above normal and seasonal needs of the auto industry.
  2. The blue print of a plane should be broken down into it’s various parts and these parts be assigned for mass production to the plants which could best handle them. Finally the plane would be assembled in a central hangar.

The UE Plan

The United Electrical and Radio Workers Union (CIO), whose members in the washing machine, refrigerator, home appliance, radio and similar goods have been hard-hit by priorities unemployment, issued an emergency program on July 26th which provides:

  1. Opposition to arbitrary reduction in production of consumers goods.
  2. Before any reductions are instituted, the companies affected must be given defense work to take up slacks.
  3. Workers laid off get first claim on jobs in the community working on government contracts.
  4. Excessive overtime, when unnecessary, must be abolished, but present total income shall be maintained through increases in wages.
  5. Union-government-management co-operation in administering this program.
  6. “The President of the United States should immediately call a national conference of labor, agriculture, government and industry ... to compel the giant corporations to stop defrauding the nation and its citizens by monopolistic practices – which practices are now creating scandalous artificial shortages in materials ...”

The Aluminum Plan

N.A. Zonarich, president of the Aluminum Workers of America, has proposed a plan for the raising of aluminum production to 3 billion pounds yearly.

The plan urges full priorities in all construction materials for creation of new aluminum plants; the use of the Aluminum Company of America’s plants as a training school to supply workers for the new factories; a 500% expansion of the Arkansas bauxite mining operations with the industry council allocating the material to the companies which need it. Non-defense rationed.

From the attitude adopted by the capitalist class to the Reuther Plan we can get a picture of the bosses’ attitude toward all these plans. The organ of the machine tool industry, the American Machinist, in its issue of April 2, 1941, says:

“The CIO Reuther (500 planes a day) plan to use Detroit capacity for aircraft has been definitely rejected. It was rejected squarely on its essential features, treatment of the auto industry as one firm with work parcelled out in semi-compulsory fashion, and labor participation in management, rather than on the rather irrelevant arguments as to whether the plan could actually produce 500 planes a day ...”

According to the capitalist class, the question of production of 500 planes a day is “irrelevant.” (But when an aircraft union walks out on strike, they shout to the high heavens at the lack of patriotism of the workers.)

What is “relevant” to the capitalist class is that it does not in the least want to share its power with the workers.

The fact is that the monopolies do not want even the slightest infringement of their “right” to run the industry as they please. They want to interfere with their “right” to monopoly profits, cost what it may to the masses in unemployment and high prices.

The plan to organize industry as a unit would mean that the monopolies would have to give up some of their backlogs and contracts and profits to other concerns not now getting them.

But suppose these plans were put into practice?

Labor would be outvoted by two to one on the government-labor-industry boards on all the important questions, on all questions where important interests of the bosses would be involved.

The plans are all founded on the illusion that the government represents an independent factor in modern society, above the workers and above the bosses and impartial so far as both are concerned. The truth is that the government represents the capitalist class and is concerned first and foremost with protecting its interests. Labor would be only a prisoner on these boards.

Reuther, Murray, Zonarich and the others who propose these plans of “co-operation,” are only blinding the workers to the fact that to the government and the bosses, “cooperation” means subservience to their profits and interests.

The profit-mad bosses don’t want proposals to really plan economy – they want only the right to continuous profits. And even if any of these plans should be formally accepted by them, they would, utilize their control of the boards to see to it that there would be no interference with those profits.

Instead of leaving control of industry in the hands of the capitalists, where it now is, and instead of plans to give control of industry to a coalition of capitalists and government representatives, which is what the Murray and other plans propose, the unions must fight for workers’ control of industry. In this way alone can they open up the road toward planned production.

While struggling for this, the workers must also demand the sliding scale of hours. All the work on hand should be divided among the available workers. Total wages in this period should not be cut because of the reduction in hours for each worker. Although the plans described do not answer the problems of production and unemployment, they do show that labor no longer has any respect or confidence in the ability of capitalism to run industry.

What labor needs is a plan to establish planned production on a basis of national ownership of the expropriated war industries, operated under workers’ control.

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