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Farrell Dobbs

“Why We Support the Striking Seamen
and New York Truckdrivers”

Radio Address by Farrell Dobbs,
SWP Candidate for N.Y. Governor

(12 September 1946)

Source: The Militant, Vol. IX No. 38, 21 September 1946, p. 2.
Transcription & Mark-up: Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Full text of the radio speech made by Farrell Dobbs, Socialist Workers Party candidate for Governor of New York State, over Station WJZ, New York City, Thursday, Sept. 12, 10:45 p.m.:


You have read the scareheads in the Big Business press about the maritime and truck strikes. You know that a vast and well-financed propaganda drive has been unleashed to arouse hysteria and turn the people against the strikers.

I will tell you the facts the daily press has not seen fit to print. I will tell you who is behind the lies and slanders hurled at the strikers and who is really responsible for shortages falsely blamed on the strikers.

Election time is the season when the woods are full of so-called “friends of labor,” Politicians of both major parties, Democrats and Republicans alike, have oiled up their political hunting rifles and are gunning for labor’s votes. They are setting out their old lures and decoys – the promises they always use in vote-hunting.

But even in advance of the elections, living events are testing their promises. While Mead and Lehman, and Dewey and Ives, are swearing undying love for labor, their words are being tested by great events and great struggles.

Right here in New York City tens of thousands of workingmen have been forced into bitter strike struggles to defend their standard of living. These men – these fathers of families, most of them – work in two of the most dangerous and difficult occupations. They are seamen and truckdrivers.

All year long they risk their lives on the sea-lanes and the highways. And all they have asked is decent working conditions and sufficient wages to maintain their wives and children in decency and health.

Where are the voices of Mead and Lehman, of Dewey and Ives, today? Why have they not said a single word in defense of the seamen and truckdrivers? During their long political careers they have never said one word on behalf of any workers in any strike.

Are the workers always wrong? Are the people who do the useful work and produce all the necessities – are they never right in their demands against the tiny capitalist minority who live off the labor of others?

To the politicians of the Wall Street parties, the Democrats and Republicans, the workers are always in the wrong when it comes to a showdown with profiteers and exploiters. Just let the workers stand up and fight for their rights – just let them demand a small share of the profits they produce for the employers – and then these election-time “friends of labor” reveal their true stripes.

I speak here tonight to denounce and expose all these spurious “friends of labor.” I speak here tonight on behalf of justice for the striking seamen and truckdrivers.

Case of Truckdrivers

Let us take the case of the truckdrivers. These men have not had a raise in more than two years. The last raise they received amounted to $2.50 a week. Can anyone, in all conscience, say that even the 30 per cent wage increase they now ask will compensate for the rise in the cost of living in the past year? The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics admits that living costs have gone up 11 per cent just in the past three months – and its figures‘are notoriously low.

The big truck fleet owners have been raking in staggering profits. Throughout the war, and right to this day, their trucks have been operating day and night. The trucking industry received its full share of juicy government war contracts.

The trucking corporations are protected by tax laws that provide rebates of profits taxes and carry-back clauses covering losses. Their regular profits taxes have been greatly reduced by Congress. They are sitting pretty – that’s why they can arrogantly reject the demands of the truckdrivers. That’s why they can offer the truckdrivers an insulting raise of about five cents an hour. That’s why they deliberately provoked a strike.

I know what the life of a truckdriver is like. For many years in Minneapolis I was a member and organizer of the famous Minneapolis Truck Drivers Local 544. I was a picket dispatcher in the great 1934 Minneapolis drivers’ strike. I served as secretary-treasurer of Local 544, and I was secretary of the 11-state area committee which secured the first union contract for 250,000 over-the-road drivers in the Northwest.

Who Is to Blame

Have you ever hauled a 30-ton load in a giant trailertruck? Have you ever tried to steer a truck through crowded city streets, or down a long icy hill? Have you ever helped to load 80,000 pounds on a truck, and then helped to unload it after hours of grueling driving?

You won’t find anyone who has ever done such dangerous and back-breaking work condemning these striking truckdrivers. Only persons who sit in swank offices and rake in profits, only the paid flunkies and propagandists of the rich are howling against these truckdrivers.

The newspapers are weeping crocodile tears about the truck strike holding up food and other necessities. They yelled “wolf” even when Mayor O’Dwyer – who is no mean “wolf”-shouter himself – admitted there was no cause for alarm.

We heard such hysterical raving last spring when the tug-boat strike was on. Mayor O’Dwyer even went to the fantastic lengths of shutting down the city for 16 hours. After the strike was over, federal officials admitted that the propaganda about shortages was a lie.

If there are shortages due to the strike – who Is to blame? Isn’t it the arrogant truck owners who are trying to get out of paying justified wage increases? If the capitalist newspapers and the truck operators and Mayor O’Dwyer are so concerned about shortages, they can end the situation in a minute. Let them grant the workers’ just demands!

And while we are on the subject of shortages – I want to speak about some real shortages that no one can say is due to strikes. The working people of New York and of the entire country are facing a meat famine. This meatfamine is caused by the deliberate withholding of meat by the profiteering meat-packers’ trust.

The big packinghouses made stupendous profits during the war. They diverted meat into the black market and violated all price ceilings. They robbed the people blind – or denied them meat.

Now the OPA has granted new price increases of as as much as 16 cents a pound. But the grasping meat trust has cut off the meat supply like turning off a faucet. A handful of multi-millionaire monopolists are depriving the whole nation of meat. They are blackmailing the people for robber-prices. But you hear no cries of indignation about this from the press, or from Mayor O’Dwyer, or from any of the politicians of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Yet Democratic Mayor O’Dwyer, political henchman of Mead and Lehman, doesn’t hesitate to intervene on behalf of the rich truck operators. He has tried to force the truckdrivers to accept a wage offer that would mean as little as one dollar a week more in their pay envelopes.

O’Dwyer Threatens

And now O’Dwyer is issuing threats against the truckdrivers. He is threatening force against them. Isn’t that the meaning of his words to AFL Teamsters President Daniel J. Tobin, that if Tobin doesn’t halt the strike “it is very possible that bloodshed and injury win result?” O’Dwyer was put into office less than a year ago with the workers’ votes. Today, he is threatening to spill their blood.

O’Dwyer is dragging the old red herring across the trail. He is raving about the “reds” and “communists.” That is one of the oldest and smelliest methods of trying to smear striking workers.

The overwhelming majority of truck drivers have rejected O’Dwyer’s phony compromise proposal. They are not staying out on strike just because they like to lose pay. They are not putting up such a determined stand just because communists or anyone else told them to do so in a leaflet. O’Dwyer’s yell about “Communists” is an insult not only to the intelligence of the truck drivers but to the whole working populace of New York.

If by “communists” O’Dwyer means the Stalinists of the Communist Party – didn’t he himself welcome their support and votes in the November 1945 elections?

The case of the seamen is another example of double dealing and injustice against the workers. In this case, an agency appointed by President Truman has tried to reduce the wage increases granted by the ship operators themselves.

Over 6,000 merchant seamen died at sea during the war. The reward to the surviving seamen for terrible risks and sacrifices was to get a $45 a month cut in pay after V-J Day. The ship operators, as their reward, got hundreds of millions of dollars from the government. The government is turning over six billion dollars’ worth of ships built with our money as a virtual gift to these ship operators.

One of the biggest steals in all history is being engineered in Washington to benefit the ship operators. At the same time, Truman’s Wage Stabilization Board chisels $5 to $10 a month from the wage increases negotiated by the AFL seamen.

Cause Is Just

As the Socialist Workers Party candidate for Governor, I wish to state here and now that my party and its entire ticket stand four-square behind the striking seamen and truckdrivers. We make no reservations whatsoever.

I say further, that if I were Governor, I would make it my first duty to support the picket lines of my fellow-workers. I would use every power of office to force the employers to satisfy the full demands of the strikers. Instead of persecuting strikers, I would investigate the records of the employers with a microscope. And I would crack down on every dishonest employer with the full power of the law.

To the truckdrivers, seamen and their families, let me say: Your cause is just! You deserve the support of every right-minded person! Stick to it! Your fight is the fight of all labor!

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