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Farrell Dobbs’ Talk Over
ABC Radio Network

(7 June 1948)

Source: The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 23, 7 June 1948, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcription & Mark-up: Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The following is the text of the speech on Capital and Labor in 1948 delivered by Farrell Dobbs, Socialist Workers Party Presidential candidate, over the ABC network on May 29.


The speaker this afternoon is eminently qualified to deal with the topic under discussion which involves the problems of the trade union movement today.

Farrell Dobbs was one of the leaders of the great Minneapolis truckdrivers strikes in 1934 and Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 544 of that city. Subsequently he directed an organizing drive which brought 200,000 motor transport workers into the union. During the recent war Farrell Dobbs was railroaded to prison for his defense of democratic unionism and for his opposition to the imperialist war. In recent years he has been editor of The Militant, weekly newspaper of the American Trotskyists.

Farrell Dobbs has been nominated by the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party as the Presidential candidate of the party in 1948. The nomination is subject to approval of the national convention of the party which will be held in New York, July 1st to 5th.

Copies of the speech this afternoon can be obtained by writing to the Socialist Workers Party, 116 University Place, New York 3, New York.

It is my privilege now to introduce Farrell Dobbs.

* * *

FARRELL DOBBS: The unceasing war between labor and capital is the outstanding issue of this election campaign. This is well understood by the rich, and they determine their politics accordingly. It is not fully understood by the great mass of the working people. Yet this conflict of capital and labor has been greatly intensified during the past year.

The employing class, aided and abetted at every turn by the government at Washington, has been conducting a furious offensive against the workers. Their object is to beat down living standards, and- make the workers pay for the Third World War. They aim to break up the trade unions and impose upon the people of this country a military and police dictatorship.

Workers Have Suffered Defeats

At the very start of our analysis we must begin with incontestable facts. The anti-labor offensive of the employers and the government has scored numerous successes during the past year or so. Due to the false policy of the union leadership the workers have suffered a number of serious defeats on the political as well as on the economic field. The danger of still greater defeats and even catastrophes for the workers of America is inherent in the present drift of things.

Let us review in brief the price that the workers have already paid in the last year or so for tolerating the misleadership of the present labor officialdom and the false policy that is imposed upon the unions.

Labor’s purchasing power has been driven down 15% since V-J Day. At the same time corporation profits have soared to unprecedented billions of dollars.

Concessions to the unions are bitterly resisted. The steel trust rewarded the no-strike pledge of Philip Murray, president of the Steel Workers Union, with a cynical refusal to grant any cost-of-living wage increases whatever. Henry Ford II has even had the effrontery to demand that the Ford workers take a wage cut.

Congress Serves Wall Street

Today Congress works directly from the blueprint laid out by the National Association of Manufacturers. Price controls were obediently smashed and taxes reduced for the rich when the NAM cracked the whip. With the corporation heads dictating policy, the Washington government enacted the Taft-Hartley Slave Labor Law, a dagger aimed at the very heart of the trade union movement.

The Taft-Hartley Act fosters company unions, legalizes scabbing, sanctions the firing of union members and restores government by injunction. It restricts freedom of speech and freedom of press, entangles theunions in a maze of red tape and proscribes political activity by the unions.

Under the Taft-Hartley Act, the National Labor Relations Board operates openly as an agent of the employers, as it did when it obtained anti-labor injunctions against the Typographical Union.

The Democratic and Republican politicians in the state capitals have not lagged behind their Washington cousins. Widespread state legislation has been adopted restricting the right to strike and picket, undermining union security in collective bargaining agreements and interfering in the internal affairs of the unions. These repressive laws have been passed not only in agricultural states, but even in major industrial states like Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The Democrats are no less guilty than the Republicans for the bitter governmental attack on the unions. President Truman has dragged the coal miners into court three times in 18 months in strikebreaking assaults against them. Truman has twice used the army to break strikes of the railroad workers. The President has been eagerly assisted by Judge T. Alan Goldsborough. Judge Goldsborough – one man – proclaims, “I am the law.” This one man vetoes the will of 600,000 coal miners, tens of thousands of railroad workers, and ultimately, the will of 15 million organized workers.

The Republican governors of Iowa and Minnesota called Out the national guard to break up picket lines of the packinghouse workers, fighting in self-defense against the greedy meat trust. New York City’s Democratic mayor, William O’Dwyer, sent his cops into Wall Street to club the striking AFL financial employees away from the doors of the stock exchange.

Strikebreaking is the one field in which government monopoly is replacing “free enterprise.” The bi-partisan coalition of Democratic and Republican politicians are in the strikebreaking business up to their necks.

What are the official labor leaders doing about it?

Instead of mobilizing the workers for defensive battle, they have retreated before the corporations and the government. They have tried to buy friendliness in the circles of wealth and state power by so-called “labor statesmanship.”

Wall Street’s Crimes

CIO and AFL officials alike eagerly support the Marshall Plan. Both unions have sent representatives abroad to sell the program of Wall Street imperialism They have stood as apologists for the bloodthirsty monarchist government in Greece – a Government which decreed the death penalty for strikers.

Two weeks ago, Philip Murray rammed through the convention of the CIO steel workers’ union a resolution empowering Murray to decide union policy on peacetime military conscription. ‘Phis undemocratic procedure is nothing but preparation to capitulate to brass hat demands for the Prussianization of American youth.

When the union rank and file tried to mobilize last year to block passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, the “labor statesmen” sabotaged the struggle. Then they capitulated to the Slave Labor Law by rushing to sign the “yellow dog” affidavits.

The top union officials, servile and cowardly before the enemies of labor, are very tough against the militant union members who want to fight back against the union-busters Government-inspired red-baiting is today running wild in the unions, led and encouraged by the top officials. Democracy in the unions is under attack because the leaders, are acting against the interests of the rank and file. They dare not permit freedom of discussion and criticism.

Packinghouse Defeat, a Warning

The defeat of the packinghouse workers’ strike is an ominous warning that the union officialdom is following a fatal course. It is a crime against all organized labor that the packinghouse workers were left isolated and unaided, while the meat trust starved them out, and the courts, police and national guard broke up their picket lines.

This grim lesson has not caused the union officials to change their course. On the contrary, they cling tighter than ever to the skirts of the capitalist politicians. They strive desperately to breathe new life into the Democratic Party, while they cynically tell workers who want to build an independent labor party: “Now is not the time.”

Thanks to the spineless union officials, the night-riders of reaction seem to have everything their own way. But the rank and file of the unions have not yet said their last word: They want to fight and they know how to fight. That was firmly proven after V-J Day when the great troop demonstrations from Berlin to Tokio forced the brass hats to bring the veterans home; when four million embattled workers forced the monopoly corporations to grant wage increases; when veterans, industrial workers, white collar workers and the middle classes united solidly and victoriously against their common enemy, America’s Sixty Richest Families.

Weak and Cowardly Leadership

The basic reason for the present frustration of the workers in their efforts to smash the anti-labor offensive can be stated simply and correctly as follows:

The exploiters of labor are conscious of their class interests. They are united in the fight against the workers. And they have the governmental power on their side. The basic weakness of the workers in the capital-labor war as it stands today is to be found in the union leadership and their false policy. Instead of recognizing that the conflict between labor and capital is irreconcilable, the labor leaders preach the ridiculous idea of the brotherhood of labor and capital and the identity of their interests – a formula which causes the most raucous laughter in the councils of the rich. Instead of recognizing that the workers can never get a fair deal from government until they set up a government of their own, the labor leaders restrain and sabotage every movement of the rank and file to set up their own political party, which would aim at the formation of a workers’ government. They support the imperialistic government of the capitalists in its monstrous program to enslave the whole world. They act in effect as agents of the capitalist ruling class in the ranks of the workers.

The retreat of the labor movement must be halted. The rank and file of the workers must recognize the reality of the war of capital and labor and create within the labor movement a new policy and a new leadership corresponding to this reality.

Independent Political Action

Twelve years ago, when the workers in basic industry were beginning to organize their industrial unions, they soon found that the old AFL leaders were not an aid, but an obstacle to the campaign. It was necessary to thrust aside the old leaders and raise up new, young leaders from the ranks.

Today organized labor is compelled to take the road of independent political action. Capitalism must be fought and defeated on the political, as well as the economic field. For that big task, leaders of broad social vision are needed; leaders like Eugene V. Debs, Big Bill Haywood and Albert Parsons; leaders who can tell one class from another in the present class society.

Workers of America! Close your ranks against the union busters! Defend democracy in your unions. Seek out the able young men and women in your ranks who can lead you with a correct program. Combine your economic struggles on the picket line with independent labor political action.

Unite with the Socialist Workers Party to rid America of the plague of capitalism with its wars and depressions. Build a socialist party of peace, freedom and plenty.

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