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Carl Davis

It Certainly Can Happen Here!

(February 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 8, 19 February 1945, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

1. Thunder in the Senate

The May-Bailey “work or jail” bill, passed by the House in response to President Roosevelt’s request for a National Service Act, is now before the Senate, Military Affairs Committee. The Senate committee is presently holding secret hearings on the bill before reporting it out. These come after a report that the Senate committee had agreed on the House bill and would send it to the senior legislative body to be voted on.

Now it has been revealed that a sharp fight took place between the Military Affairs Committee and the “brass hats.” The House passed the May-Bailey bill with a proviso that manpower control be lodged in the Selective Service. There was much opposition to this aspect of the bill, particularly in the Senate. It was then that the War and Navy Departments reached an agreement with the Senate committee to turn over control of manpower to James F. Byrnes, or any committee he selected. The Senate committee then voted the bill favorably.

The Senate Military Affairs Committee did not oppose the labor draft for private profits on principle, although many members of the committee did not agree that it was urgent. They said they were responding to the demand of the President. But between the passage of the bill in the committee and its formal presentation to the Senate some shenanigans had taken place.

The “brass hats” turned around and through several of their supporting senators had the bill turn manpower control over to Selective Service. A terrific howl came from committee members, more notably, Senators O’Mahoney and Johnson. They charged that the Army had double-crossed them!

The committee then decided to hold hearings, which it had previously agreed to forego, and to hold these hearings in secret. New testimony is being taken, supposedly in secret, although Assistant Secretary of War Patterson made public his evidence in favor of a labor draft as part of the

pressure campaign to force it through the Senate. But the senators, fully cognizant of labor and mass opposition to the bill, are taking their time. The majority of them are reported opposed to national service, especially in view of the Allied advances on the military front.


2. Why Does FDR Insist?

Many of the senators publicly question the need of a labor draft in view of the situation on the military front. Labor leaders who have punched holes through the Administration propaganda and lies about the manpower shortage, ask similar questions. If there is no real manpower shortage, and no shortage of supplies and munitions, which the brass hats admit have been produced in abundance, why do Roosevelt, the Administration, the War and Navy Departments insist upon it?

The answer is not difficult to trace. The truth is that manpower and supplies and munitions were never the real reasons why Roosevelt and the military wanted a National Service Act. Certainly it isn’t the war with Japan that will still be fought after the defeat of Germany, because American imperialism has been able to fight on both fronts without a labor draft. Then why?

American imperialism is preparing for a great post-war struggle for the economic and political domination of the world. The Administration and the ruling class it represents need totalitarian measures to assure a greater control of the country in preparation for economic dislocations at home after the war, and the same kind of totalitarian control to make it more effective to carry out its world aims of subjecting the economies of all other countries to it.

A free labor movement and a relatively free working class fighting for its own economic existence at home against mass unemployment and a declining standard, of living, as well as a big business offensive against unionism, will make it difficult for American imperialism to effect its world aims, which depend on a peaceful home front.

If this seems a little difficult to grasp at first glance, remember this: the closer the war comes to an end in Europe, the more determined is Roosevelt to get a labor draft. And remember this too: A labor draft is not only for the duration. It will extend for as long as the Administration thinks it necessary. The time to fight the labor draft, then, is not after it is passed, but right now before it is a law of the land. Once it is a law, it will be doubly and trebly more difficult to get rid of it.


3. PAC Is Still Silent

It is a good thing to see the AFL, the Railroad Brotherhoods and the CIO organizing a stronger opposition to the labor draft for private profits. Labor is powerful enough to wage an effective struggle against labor slavery a la Roosevelt. But it is interesting to note how totally quiet and inactive is the PAC in this whole tremendously important fight over the National Service Act.

There is hardly a peep out of this important subdivision of the union movement, which gave up millions of man-hours, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and tremendous energy to elect Roosevelt on the false theory that he was labor’s candidate. The PAC is also very quiet about the many senators and representatives it elected who support or have voted for the slave bill. As a matter of fact, the majority of legislators elected by PAC influence, activity and money support the labor draft.

We surmise that one of the reasons for the silence of the PAC is sheer embarrassment at seeing all the professional politicians it supported, from Roosevelt down, act as instruments to enslave the American working class.

There is a deep lesson in all of this. Labor should get into politics, but independent politics, that is, independent labor politics, through its own party and its own program. End the frightful sham of tying labor to the political machines of capitalist political parties and candidates who betray labor the moment they get into office.

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