Emanuel Garrett Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Emanuel Garrett

Convention Faces Challenge to Knit
Labor Front Against Boss Offensive

(31 October 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 44, 31 October 1949, p. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The week has had its full share of rumors, many of them blessed by the usually “well-informed” sources close to the White House, that the steel strike will end within a matter of days. But in the realm of verifiable fact the situation remains very much as it was last week – a major contest between capital, represented by the steel profiteers, and labor, represented by the CIO’s Steel Workers Union.

It is, however, possible that such action may be taken within the next few days as can hasten the end of the strike. On labor’s side, we refer to the decisions of the CIO convention which opens its session later this week. We have no pipeline to the arrogant minds of the steel bosses, but we do not doubt that they are eyeing the CIO convention, calculating how far they can go in their attack.

What Steel Is After

As we have observed in previous issues of Labor Action, the steel companies, masterminded by the fabulously gilded U.S. Steel, are not making a stand merely to avoid paying non-contributory pensions. It has been demonstrated over and over that the cost involved cannot possibly be the issue for Big Steel. They try to make it seem so.

The day before Olds spoke his latest piece, former Ambassador to Germany James W. Gerard, one of the largest-stockholders in U.S. Steel, attacked the company’s refusal to accept the fact-finding board’s recommendations on pensions. Gerard, asserting that his family owned more stock in U.S. Steel than the board of directors, challenged the lie that the company cannot afford to pay employer-financed pensions.

The opinions of Gerard will influence the board of directors little. They know the facts themselves. If Gerard does not wish to play ball with their political-economic objectives, they view it as his headache. What they are after is beating down – not breaking or destroying (an utterly impossible thing) – but beating down the steel union on its demands, no matter what they are, to assert their mastery over labor, to compel the unions into docility, to buttress the structure of Taft-Hartleyism.

Can Pick Up Challenge

Conversely, the steel union is fighting for more than pensions. It is defending labor’s battle positions – against Taft-Hartleyism, against employer domination. And this is precisely where the CIO convention comes in. Here at the CIO convention a substantial section of U.S. labor can pick up the challenge.

The CIO convention has before it the important business of the Stalinists, their split orientation, and related matters. These we discussed in last week’s issue. Stalinism, which is alien to the working class, must be dealt with, and it is consequently an issue of central importance for the delegates. But no matter how that is handled – well or poorly, properly or improperly – it is not and cannot be, whatever its immediate importance, the sole occupation of the convention. Beyond the problem of settling with the Stalinists lies the over-all problem of settling with the bosses.

It goes without saying that the steel strike will come before the convention. The executive board has already announced that the CIO unions have undertaken to support the strike financially. A mighty important thing – and no mistake about it. But finances alone will not win this particular strike. The employers are out for big game.

Taft-Hartley hasn’t proved to be as much as the bosses had hoped for. Also, labor has given signs that it is getting over the shock of its defeat. Moreover, the steel profiteers see the possibility of T-H being legally scotched – if not this year, then in 1950. Hence their determination to set labor (the steel union) back today. They are far-seeing people, these big profiteers. They think and act politically. They keep in mind the overall interests of their parasitic class. Labor can beat them only if it manifests the same, or a greater, degree of understanding and determination on its own behalf. And the CIO convention is a wonderful place to show that understanding.

We do not presume to outline the details of the required strategy. We can however, suggest that once financial support is guaranteed, there is the further necessity of involving all the unions in a common strategy to defeat the steel monopolists, and all other employers, who enter into the fight.

What Can Be Done

Why not a decision by the convention to form a board of strategy, representing the union’s ranks as well as the leadership, to sit together and map common plans to beat the steel industry, etc.? Why not an invitation to other unions – AFL and independent – to join hands in the fight, to link and decide strategy in common? If we cannot speak of the great problem of labor unity, for that is not easily accomplished, why not the steps of coordination that can win the battle today and can lead ultimately to unity?

WHY NOT, ABOVE ALL, A FORTHRIGHT DECLARATION OF POLITICAL INDEPENDENCE, WHICH WILL DO MORE THAN ANYTHING TO MAKE THE STEEL BOSSES QUAVER IN THEIR ARROGANCE? Why not, specifically, plan at this convention to call local and national conferences of all the political bodies set up by the unions, AFL and CIO, to consolidate their plans and strength?

The necessity, as we see it, is to present the employers with so determined and so aroused and so understanding a union movement, ready to go all-out in defense of any one of its sections, and laying plans for greater objectives, that U.S. Steel and other bosses will have to beat a retreat, run for cover. The CIO convention can make an accomplished fact of this necessity. It can pick up the employers’ challenge and win – for the steel workers and for all labor.

Emanuel Garrett Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 24 August 2021