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Paul G. Stevens

Events on the International Scene

(19 April 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 16, 19 April 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The French Labor Movement

Last month appeared the first issue of Unité Syndicale (Trade Union Unity), central organ of the new organization which is working in both the Stalinist-dominated CGT (General Federation of Labor) and in the reformist “Force Ouvriere” (Workers’ Strength) Federation for the unification of the union movement in France. The issue contains the Manifesto of the Conference for Trade Union Unity, which declares that the essential cause for the split was the policy of class collaboration pursued in the post-war governments by both the Stalinists and reformists. The rebuilding of trade union unity, it concludes, is tied up with the adoption of a program of genuine class struggle. Active groups of militants are working for this program in a number of unions.

The PCI, French Section of the Fourth International, sent an appeal to various working class parties and other organizations for a united front struggle on minimum economic and political demands relating to wages and the de Gaulle danger. The Socialist Youth and the Revolutionary Socialist Action group have expressed themselves in favor. In several factories of the Paris region, Communists (Stalinists) Party cells are also discussing these proposals, and Trotskyist spokesmen have been invited to present the case of the PCI.

Japanese Strikes and Mac Arthur “Democracy”

Japan’s new’ constitution, as is well known, was modeled on the one in force in the U.S. But that is not the only benefit of American democracy to be bestowed upon the “poor benighted heathen” under the pro-consulship of General MacArthur. A year ago last January, when a General Strike threatened to sweep the islands, the Star-Spangled Mikado issued an order which banned a general labor walkout as a “deadly social weapon.” The strike “plague” subsided considerably thereafter. But recently it has broken out again and the General’s staff has got busy once more with the application of our democratic processes.

According to press reports, some 400,000 Government employees – communications workers, school teachers, municipal servants and even tax collectors – staged 24-hour “vacation strikes” toward the end of March. They paralyzed the public services over large sections of Japan, and the tax collectors’ strike hit the government particularly. The main demand was for an increase above the present monthly average wage of 2,900 yen, which just doesn’t meet inflated prices – the story of wage actions everywhere nowadays.

But that is not all. In spite of all the encouragement given by the American pro-consul to the native Zaibatsu or capitalists, hundreds of plants continued under “workers control of production, in which a union seizes a plant and operates it,” as the April 11, N.Y. Times, informs us.

“The unions,” its Tokyo correspondent says, “seized 144 factories. This was held illegal, but many remained under workers’ management because the owners hesitated to assert their rights lest they be charged with being reactionary. Among the concerns under workers’ control are Asahi and Manichi, the country’s largest newspapers, Yamato Steel Company and Japan Typewriter Company.”

The new wave of strikes has thus caused great panic in. Japanese capitalist circles and MacArthur's H.Q. has had to intervene again. On March 28 his order of January 1, 1947 was declared by his Labor Division Chief to apply as a ban against 24-hour partial strikes as well. This despite the fact that, according to law, Government employees are entitled to 24-hour sick leaves or “vacations”, which the unions duly utilized. Heartened by this new move from the Military Occupation, the government of Premier Hitoshi Ashida has announced that it was “considering legislation similar to the United States Taft-Hartley Act to control insurgent trade unions and to win the confidence of the Allied powers, which are expected to provide credits for Japanese industrial rehabilitation.” Furthermore, “Commerce Minister Kozaburo Mizutani said ... the government would refuse to allocate rationed materials to any plant where (workers’) production control was in force” as a “death blow” to this method of factory seizures in Japan (Times, April 10).

What is behind the Japanese Government’s moves as well as those of Mac’s H.Q.? This is made clear in the same dispatch by an awkward public denial by Premier Ashida of “rumors that the U.S. was willing to grant wide concessions to the former enemy nation to enlist Japan in a war against the Soviet Union.” “The Japanese Government,” Ashida is quoted, “has never told the American Representatives that it will offer Japan as a ‘Bulwark against communism.’ Nor is the Government contemplating converting Japan into a munitions factory of the Far East.”

Can anything make plainer the connection between such “domestic matters” as the Taft-Hartley Act and the not-so-“cold-war” preparations?

And, incidentally, should not American workers be interested in stopping the “export” of the Taft-Hartley Act as well as in obtaining its repeal at home? An even better idea might be to look into the “import” possibilities of workers’ control of production.

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