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Sam Adams

Labor Lookout

CIO News Places Labor’s Woes at Everyone’s Door but FDR’s

(24 July 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 30, 24 July 1944, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Everybody knows that the recent congressional action extending the life of the OPA in a new bill was legislative enactment of a measure in the interests of big business against the consumers. The adoption of a slightly modified version of the Bankhead bill now permits the textile companies to raise prices – an action which will cost consumers an estimated additional $150,000,000 a year.

This bill was passed despite the opposition of labor, the President and his supporters in Congress. Yet the bill was not vetoed and it became law. The added income resulting from higher prices will not go to the cotton farmers. It will go to manufacturers, who get all the gravy in such situations.

CIO News Comments

The lessons to be drawn from this affair are many, but they are not understood and correctly indicated by the CIO News, which reported this in one of its recent issues. This is what its Washington report says:

“One of the strongest arguments for CIO’s wage case and for labor political action was furnished – at considerable expense to the workers – in the enforced raising of cotton textile prices this week.”

There is hardly a worker in the country who needs strong arguments in favor of wage increases, which is the “CIO’s wage case.” So far, so good. What is the actual situation in the country? There is a wage freeze! President Roosevelt is primarily responsible for it, since it is incorporated in his seven-point program, of which the wage freeze is the only one to be carried into effect!

How is the wage freeze carried out? Through the war stabilization program under the direction of James Byrnes, Roosevelt’s assistant. The specific instrument employed to measure wage increases or the denial of them is the Little Steel formula. The Little Steel formula is one of the most vicious obstacles to wage increases. And the War Labor Board, which acts on the matter of wages, operates on this “principle” to deny wage raises to the hundreds of thousands of workers who need them and who have requested them.

Roosevelt’s War Program

All of this is part qf Roosevelt’s home front war machinery. The War Labor Board, stacked against labor, operating under the Little Steel formula, was set up by Roosevelt. The War Stabilization Board, under Byrnes, was set up by Roosevelt. These are his creations, and the wages of labor have been frozen by his acts.

Roosevelt’s defenders, however, say that his whole program was defeated by Congress and that is why there is no “equality of sacrifice.” But the obvious answer to that is, if Congress rejected six-sevenths of Roosevelt’s program, why did the President carry through the remaining provision, which has hurt the workers of the country?

Sure, Congress is reactionary and anti-labor. What, then, does this make of Roosevelt’s program? We shall soon indicate the answer.

The CIO News is absolutely correct in saying that what has happened took place “at considerable expense to the workers.” But the Bankhead amendment, which was incorporated in the congressional bill extending the life of the OPA, was signed by Roosevelt (with criticism!). This is what is really important.

The CIO case for higher wages needed no additional evidence. All the evidence for higher wages, is present in the high cost of living and the fact that there is a wide discrepancy between wages and living costs. But here are additional facts: the demands of the textile workers, rubber workers, mine workers, auto workers were all rejected by Roosevelt’s, boards and executives! Now the steel case is before the WLB. This is an election year and anything can happen. But in the meantime, the workers go without necessary wage increases and their living standards decline.

What Kind of Action?

What about labor political action? We agree, these conditions ar the “strongest arguments ... for labor political action.” How does the CIO News interpret this? It means by labor political action, the setting up of bodies, like the Political Action Committee, to support capitalist candidates of either the Republican or Democratic Parties. In the case of the presidential elections they are actively campaigning for the fourth term. The sum and substance of the CIO “labor” political action is to become a tail-end to one of the boss parties.

You would think that their story, referred to above, would indicate the necessity for really “independent” political action, yet we find that in spite of all the damaging evidence against both parties and their banner-bearers, from Roosevelt to the most unimportant congressman, the CIO leaders are playing a game calculated to defeat the best interests of labor.

The political policy of the CIO means support to Roosevelt, his party and the leaders of that party. They include not only the liberal wing of Wallace et al., but the reactionaries and Bourbon poll-taxers from the South. Hillman and his aides, many of them hired directly from the list of Democratic unemployed politicians, are working day and night to tie labor to the party of Roosevelt, Byrd, Rankin, O’Daniel, Kelly, Farley, Hauge, Flynn, Byrnes, etc.

Yes, the whole situation in the country dictates the necessity for labor political action, but it dictates the necessity for “independent” action. It dictates the necessity for labor to organize its own political party, to run its own candidates and to develop its own program which seeks to advance the interests of labor against those of big business. Roosevelt’s program is a program designed to aid big business. If you don’t believe that just compare the attitude of the Administration toward wage increases on the one hand, and the huge war profits that industry is getting out of the war effort on the other.

Can labor build its own party? With the great union movement it can be done. The Political Action Committee has raised and will spend almost a million dollars for a campaign to support capitalist candidates. Such energy, organization and finances applied to the task of building a political organization of the. workers, a Labor Party, would yield phenomenal results, This is a prime task of the American labor movement.

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