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Emanuel Garrett

CIO Breaks with Truman!

Need for Labor Party Posed by GM Strike

President Truman Plays Role of Strikebreaker

(10 December 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 50, 10 December 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

It takes exceptional gall to suggest that the auto workers return to work while a committee “finds facts.”

It takes equal gall to propose that Congress legislate a “cooling off” period before strike action.

Yet both have been proposed. By whom? By the President, that is, by the head of the government.

That should give those of us who do not yet understand the role of the government as strike-breaker something to think about. Specifically: it demonstrates that the kind of government we now have is a government of the capitalists, a government that serves them, a government that acts in THEIR interest. Specifically: it demonstrates that the kind of government we need is a WORKERS’ GOVERNMENT, a government that will serve us, act in OUR interest.

Let us look into these outrageous proposals made by President Truman before we go any further.

Here is the situation: 225,000 auto workers have struck General Motors’ plants from coast to coast. The auto workers’ union, the UAW, has presented a bookful of irrefutable FACTS – facts that demonstrate not only the necessity of a thirty per cent wage increase, but the auto workers’ RIGHT to this increase. The union is so confident of its FACTS that it sought to force the company into public negotiations. GM hasn’t even attempted to refute the union’s FACTS. It has refused to negotiate. And so utterly conclusive are the union’s FACTS that even the capitalist press, at least its more honest section, ‘has had to admit grudgingly the validity of the union’s case.

A Lack of Facts?

Is there then a lack of FACTS in the situation? Hardly. But let us say that there are facts still not available to the “public.” Very well, the union provided for this in advance with the slogan that gives this strike exceptional significance: OPEN THE BOOKS! For if there are any facts not yet known, they can exist only in the books. Open the books, then. Let the workers see what they show on wages, prices and profits!

We have no objection to President Truman appointing one or a thousand fact-finding committees. We are always strong for the facts – not the kind that may be dreamed up by a GM press agent while the executives keep a tight lid on the books. Facts, real facts, are mighty weapons in labor’s struggle.

We don’t care how many committees President Truman has poking around for facts ALREADY presented in all their incontrovertible truth in the union’s brief. We do, however, object strongly to the brazen request that the auto workers return to their jobs while a committee “explores” the situation. What other effect can it have than to break the strike? The auto workers know this and they are fighting it.

Strikes are won on the picket line; they are not won in committees (and certainly not in government committees weighted on the side of the employers). We repeat: strikes are won exactly where the auto workers are now – on the picket line! Go back to work while a committee looks for facts, while arbitrators leisurely confer? That is equivalent to breaking the morale of the strikers, of breaking the strike. And that is precisely what Truman has in mind.

You doubt it? Link it with his second, long-range proposal for handling the growing strike wave: to enforce by congressional enactment a cooling off period. John L. Lewis has called this an effort to straight-jacket labor, and he is right.

The strike is the only real weapon labor has at its disposal in redressing grievances, in winning its demands. Workers in any industry decide that it is necessary to use their strike weapon. Their determination is high. Their plans are made. They must choose the moment best suited to THEIR struggle.

What would happen, though, under the Truman proposal? Workers decide to strike. The strategic moment to strike might be the next day or the day following. Under the Truman proposal they “cool off” for approximately thirty days, dissipating their energies in Congress-decided procedures. Meanwhile, the employer, gaining time by this anti-strike legislation, makes his plans to fight the strike.

What About Workers’ Government?

No, we don’t think this proposition will kill the strike action of the American working class. Labor just isn’t in a mood to take that kind of stuff as gospel. We think it will respond to “cooling off” by getting indignantly hot.

It’s because of this mood that Truman dares not go further in his strike-breaking. He can’t get away with it any more than the government or the capitalist class it represents could get away with an explicit union-smashing drive today. American labor is too powerful, too well organized – and it is confident!

But Truman has gone far enough. If conditions allow, he’ll go further. For, and we cannot repeat this often enough, the government HE speaks for is not our government.

What would our government, a workers’ government, do in this situation? Yes, it would publish the facts. It would then tell GM: you say you cannot pay those who actually do the work a decent living wage, guarantee them security; we will therefore end your private ownership, the thing you call “free enterprise”; we will nationalize your plants and put them under the workers’ control.

In our opinion, the auto workers have already raised the issue of “free enterprise” and thus pointed to other vital aspects of a fundamental labor program.

Labor Action and the Workers Party take the view that the auto workers have contributed a new and revolutionary factor to American unionism. By demanding that the books be opened, that labor have a hand in determining wages, prices and profits, they have, in effect, challenged the system of “free enterprise” and clearly established that labor, and labor alone, truly stands for the interests of the entire people.

We shan’t go into this aspect here. Last week we devoted a long article to the subject and it is treated elsewhere in this issue, but we will return to it in future issues of Labor Action. For the auto workers’ strike is inexhaustible in its lessons and deductions. So far we’ve discussed primarily the economic implications, the advances in economic principle made by the auto workers. But these principles lead to the further issue of politics – of politics and POLITICAL ACTION.

Labor and Society

In every situation we see how intimately related politics and economics are. Thus we have a capitalist, a boss, economy. The plants, the machines, the buildings are not owned by the men who produce them; they are owned by men who contribute nothing to actual production yet syphon off the profits of that production, by a tiny few who luxuriate in the resources of swollen bank accounts while working men have to take to the picket line to force a wage increase that will provide for the necessities of life.

The government we now have is the government of these monopolists, these industrialists, these capitalists. Its laws, its whole operation, are designed to bolster, to protect, to effectuate in political terms this capitalist system. Its personnel is derived from the parties that represent the interests of this class – principally the Republican and Democratic Parties.

And just as it makes sense for General Motors to resist labor’s encroachments on its system of “free enterprise,” so it makes sense for its government to act against labor. Yes, this government pretends to act for the entire people. But that is as false as when GM says it pretends to uphold the interests of what it calls the “public.”

Labor is truly the champion of the great mass of society. You need proof? Who speaks for the best interests of society in the auto strike – the auto workers, who want a voice in determining prices so that prices may be held down, or GM, which stands on its capitalist right to keep its books secret and charge any price it can get away with? Under Roosevelt the trusts developed the cute theory that they are really the guardians of the “public” interest, operating their colossal “free-monopolized enterprises” in the people’s behalf. But the auto workers have showed that lie to be as colossal as the trusts.

The capitalists have THEIR politics. We have to have ours. Concretely, that means we have first to create a political party of our own. Not a caricature of a political party such as we have too often seen, a party that presumably is labor’s but is actually tied with capitalist parties and capitalist politicians. The auto workers, who have already done much to heighten labor’s position, ought, for example, to put pressure on the CIO’s Political Action Committee to sever its devitalizing and disreputable relations with capitalist political machines and politicians.

What We Stand For

Our struggles on the economic field cannot be given genuine and lasting meaning unless we combine them with independent labor political action. That is why the Workers Party, a party of revolutionary socialism, the party we of Labor Action speak for, declares that a mass political party of labor is our prime need today. Such a party would include the unions, would represent the great body of American labor, would champion the interests of workers, farmers, professionals – of everybody except the exploiters and profiteers. Such a party, did we put it in power, would not put pressure on the auto workers as does Truman; it would put the squeeze on the bosses.

We cannot delay. Class conflicts are becoming sharper, reaching new levels of activity. The auto workers have posed the issues; open the books, Invade the privacy of capitalist industry, intervene in determining prices and profits. Thai LEADS to imposing workers’ control on industry; that leads to nationalization of industry under workers’ control. It must also lead to the creation of a Labor Party which will fight our battle on the political front as unions fight our battle on the economic front.

And all of this leads finally to a WORKERS’ GOVERNMENT that would make our program real. A WORKERS’ GOVERNMENT would not seek to straight-jacket labor the way Truman does and keep it dangling in the pit of capitalist insecurity. A WORKERS’ GOVERNMENT would not run errands for capitalism. A WORKERS’ GOVERNMENT would wrest industry from the hands of the self-confessed bankrupts who admit that it violates their interests to operate industry so that it would provide security and a living wage. A WORKERS’ GOVERNMENT would nationalize industry under workers’ control and usher in the age of freedom and plenty for all.

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Last updated on 26 January 2018