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Emanuel Garrett

For a National Demonstration AGAINST

Government by Injunction

(17 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 11, 17 March 1947, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The Supreme Court decision holding John L. Lewis and the United Mine Workers Union guilty of violating an injunction is a matter of far-reaching concern to the labor movement. The action of the Supreme Court is of a piece with the various schemes that are now before the two bodies of Congress to curtail the rights of labor. These schemes extend from the wildly reactionary Ball bill, which would outlaw the closed shop, to the “mild” curbs proposed by Truman and such Republican “friends” of labor as Senator Wayne Morse.

Together, the Supreme Court decision and the anti-labor proposals being considered by Congress are part of a comprehensive offensive launched by the captains of industry against labor. Both have essentially the same immediate background – the electoral swing last fall, which they interpret as a decline in the power and influence of the labor movement. It is a commonplace of American journalism to say that the Supreme Court follows the election returns. It will, therefore, be up to the labor movement to make it unmistakably clear to the Supreme Court and the Congressmen that they have read the signs incorrectly – namely, that they have overlooked the .invincible power of a MASSED and UNITED labor movement.

We have here, in the Supreme Court decision against the miners, several things that are in many respects far more dangerous than the craziest schemes designed by labor-hating Congressmen.

There is GOVERNMENT BY INJUNCTION. Few things are more abhorrent to the labor movement than this. Of necessity it compels the concerted effort of a unity of action that embraces every form of protest and demonstration, including STOP WORK OR STRIKE ACTION.

There is GOVERNMENT BY JUDICIARY. In years past, and often in connection with injunction attacks on the rights of labor, it aroused the common protest of the labor and, more generally, the liberal movement. Even the most dewy-eyed liberal can see the danger it spells, for it means the substitution of government by court order for representative government, however emasculated the latter may be under capitalist rule.

Together, GOVERNMENT BY INJUNCTION and GOVERNMENT BY JUDICIARY represent an invasion of democratic liberties that can be more severe in their consequences than the vilest strike-breaking machinations. They represent an attempt to bind labor without coming face to face with its mass strength.

We have often commented that however many may be the anti-labor bills in Congress, the Senators and Representatives will think twice before they enact any measures that will provoke the instant indignation of the millions upon millions of organized workers. Nevertheless, we have warned against permitting even the mildest of restrictions to be legislated. if Only because they invariably become entering wedges for more severe measures.

Strength of the Unions

So, too, in noting the bold pronouncement of the steel industry that it means to clip the unions’ wings, we doubted that they would seriously try to effect their intentions – not so long as an alert and vigilant and tremendous steel workers’ union is there. Dividends do not come in for long when steel mills are silent, except for the tread of pickets outside.

It is precisely because the big industrialists appreciate the immensity of union organization that they seek now to rely on legislative and judicial means. They do not, for the present, dare call on their goons and professional union-busters, armed with shotguns and tear gas. Hence, they seek to turn the clock back to devices that were employed when the labor movement was younger. They hope to employ them more effectively because conditions have changed.

Government intervention in the affairs of industry and labor has kept pace with the increasing concentration of wealth. We have had ample opportunity in the last few years to observe how every struggle immediately involves the government, exerting its centralized authority on behalf of its masters, the monopolists and profiteers. Executive intervention has-not been enough, regardless of how supine the labor leaders were. The ranks of the men and women who man the machines have kept pressing for wage increases, for better living standards – and the labor leaders have had to listen to one degree or another. Thus we have the “refinement” of GOVERNMENT BY INJUNCTION and GOVERNMENT BY JUDICIARY.

New Methods Needed

Neither of these can be tolerated! If the monopolists are using old methods in new and more highly developed circumstances, the union movement is able to take countermeasures in keeping with these hew circumstances. The union movement was able to vanquish GOVERNMENT BY INJUNCTION when it was infinitely weaker. At all times, whether a magnificent figure like Eugene V. Debs was involved or merely a Samuel Gompers, labor refused to submit to injunction procedure, fought it, and witnessed victory in its fight with passage of the Norris-La Guardia anti-injunction act in 1932. That act is now by way of being dumped without benefit of legislative alteration. Various injunction maneuvers were attempted this past year before the Supreme Court decision; these will now be multiplied. We are, however, in a position to stop the trend dead in its tracks.

What the union movement could do years ago, it can do today, on an infinitely more effective scale. Since the early struggles against GOVERNMENT BY INJUNCTION, the AFL has grown in size, added millions to its ranks. The CIO has come into existence with its millions of militants. The Railroad Brotherhoods and various independent unions are larger. They must act together, and acting together they can check the miscellany of anti-labor schemes, among which we include GOVERNMENT BY INJUNCTION and GOVERNMENT BY JUDICIARY.

Regardless of how they felt about Lewis, virtually all sections of the labor movement rallied to the side of the miners when the Goldsborough injunction, now upheld by the sedate gentlemen of the Supreme Court, was first issued. They stood with the miners in defying the injunction. When the miners retreated, agreeing to take the case to the Supreme Court, the CIO, for example, entered a brief on their behalf.

These signs of solidarity have proved insufficient. More is needed. Basically, of course, a united labor movement, a combined CIO and AFL would be in the best position to act. But the urgency is great, and the achievement of unity between the CIO and AFL not immediate. Lacking unity, the representatives of the mighty union organizations’ must come together and plot their GENERAL STRATEGY AGAINST GOVERNMENT BY INJUNCTION, GOVERNMENT BY JUDICIARY and AGAINST EVERY KIND OF ANTI-LABOR PROPOSITION.

We do not propose to deliberate for such a conference of union representatives. But we do think that such a conference must meet, and that it must consider a NATIONWIDE PROTEST DEMONSTRATION under whatever form the conference thinks best – A GENERAL PROTEST STRIKE OF SPECIFIED DURATION, SYNCHRONIZED STOP-WORK ACTIONS, MONSTER MASS MEETINGS, ORGANIZED MARCHES, all of it dovetailing with INDIVIDUAL UNION PLANS.

In the past two years we have had occasion to raise the demand for a DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED AND COORDINATED GENERAL STRATEGY BOARD. We have raised it in connection with the strikes that swept the country last year, proposing specifically that there be a GENERAL BOARD TO COORDINATE STRIKE STRATEGY, just as the big industrialists plot their strategy in connivance with their servants in government. We raised it in connection with wage action, with price control and, generally, in connection with every issue that labor faces.

Certainly now is the time for such a step. Our individual unions are powerful. That is true. But that strength is not even comparable to that which resides in the combined effort of all unions.

A Workers’ Government

There is much else that requires deliberation in this situation. Above we have only touched upon one immediate need. GOVERNMENT BY INJUNCTION and GOVERNMENT BY JUDICIARY are but different phases of CAPITALIST GOVERNMENT. We can do many things to restrict their use. We can campaign to weaken the powers of the Supreme Court, or to abolish it. (That will seem a shocking statement to some people. Was it a very shocking idea in the days when Roosevelt inveighed against the Nine Old Men? It is worth observing, as we do in an editorial that appears on page 4 of this issue, that the Supreme Court now consists for the most part of Roosevelt, and Truman appointees!) But the main thing that needs doing is to rip apart ‘the entire fabric of capitalist government by replacing it with a WORKERS’ GOVERNMENT.

That cannot be done overnight, admittedly. Many things are necessary first, among them an understanding of the role of political action. The day when politics and economics could be separated is long past, if it ever existed. What is incontestable is that today they are inseparable. We require political programs and political activity, undertaken by us as a class entirely independent of the capitalist class and its politicians.

Concretized, that means we need an INDEPENDENT LABOR PARTY, based upon the mass organizations of labor, challenging the bankrupt rule of capitalism with the political aspirations of the working class. We cannot meet the grave issues that face us, be they GOVERNMENT BY JUDICIARY or any of the designs and schemes of the capitalist class, without a political instrument that corresponds in political action with the economic action of our unions. An INDEPENDENT LABOR PARTY is a must. In such a party, we of the Workers Party will strive to put forward a program aimed at achieving a WORKERS’ GOVERNMENT.

The Supreme Court decision is an especially good time to speak of this. It will not meet with the approval of John L. Lewis or William Green or Philip Murray. It is consequently a job that has to be done directly on the spot, on the union floor, in the shop, in the mine. We must do everything to defeat today’s menace of GOVERNMENT BY INJUNCTION and GOVERNMENT BY JUDICIARY. A national demonstration is indicated. A common board of union strategy is indicated. Beyond that, and to prepare in advance to meet the attacks that will come tomorrow, we have to start organizing our political strength today, laying the foundation of an INDEPENDENT LABOR PARTY. That is the important lesson of the Supreme Court decision in the miners’ case.

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