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Susan Green

Of Course the Workers Can Run Industry
Without Coupon Clippers!

Why Should Labor Be the Tail
to the Capitalist Kite?

(4 May 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 18, 4 May 1942, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Must labor be the tail to the capitalist kite?

Those worthies, the capitalists, and all their political and literary lieutenants answer, Yes. This is to be expected.

What is out of order, however, is that men and women who parade as leaders of labor also answer Yes. For a labor leader – political or in the unions – to wish no future for the working class except as a tail to the capitalist kite, inevitably makes him a misleader of labor.

To the capitalist-dominated labor leadership it is sufficient to fight for concessions from the bosses through Union action – for labor to “reward its friends and punish its enemies” in politics – to sit in on labor-management-government committees, and thus pressed in between the bosses and their government try to get something for labor. But the idea of labor cutting loose from the capitalist kite gives goose pimples to these conservative labor officials and leaders. They fear labor’s power as much as do the capitalists themselves.

The opposition of so-called leaders of labor to the working class taking power is in large measure responsible for the fact that the imperialist classes throughout the world still rule and were in a position to plunge humanity into this Second World War.

The French Turncoats

If in France, for instance, the socialists and Stalinists had not turned traitors to the workers in their great sit-down strikes, the world today would be a better place to live in. The French workers were then ready to oust the capitalists, take over production and reorganize society under a workers’ government. This would have undermined Nazism in Germany and changed the course of events in Europe and in the entire world. But so scared of labor’s power were those turncoats whom French labor had regarded as its leaders that they tightened the knot fastening the working people to the capitalist kite – even though that kite was rapidly plunging to the ground.

Labor Action has unqualified faith in the workers as the future rulers of society. It has nothing but scorn for those who contend that if labor assumes control of production and government, anarchy will result. On the contrary. Labor Action proclaims that because labor does not perform its historic role of establishing a socialist society, it is subjected to the destruction of war and the anarchy of post-war periods.

Long before this war and long before the last war, those revolutionary socialists, who see for labor a future freed from the profit system of capitalism, have proved with facts and figures that the boss class

is entirely superfluous as far as the real productive processes are concerned. The function of the capitalist owners has for a long time been merely to control and maneuver the course of industry to yield the most profits.

The actual production lines are manned by the industrial workers. The real production managers, engineers, inventors, technicians are also paid employees who could carry on under workers’ ownership and control much better because they would be unhampered by the restrictions of the profit motive of the capitalist owners.

They Never Would Be Missed!

Now the war affords fresh and additional evidence that the owners of industry are definitely on the list of those who never would be missed. The present war proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that capitalist industry is a goose laying golden eggs for its owners and that capitalist ownership is a straightjacket on production.

A year ago Packard and other corporations refused to take the first government contracts until they were guaranteed the profits they thought fitting and proper. Today shipyard workers are demanding that such outfits as Bethlehem Steel Corp. be investigated by the FBI because these octopi of industry are more interested in cost-plus profits than in efficient production.

The Truman report has revealed the magnetic charm exercised by the dollar-a-year industrialists in the government to start the flow of war profits in the desired directions. And could there be any more obvious demonstration of the complete uselessness of the industrial rulers than to see them by the hundreds packing up bag and baggage to migrate to the fleshpots in Washington?

Their absence from industry has not caused a single factory wheel to stop turning. “The Dogs in the Manger of Industry” would be a fitting title for the story of modern capitalists.

While the war has completely unmasked the uselessness of the bosses, organized labor has shown itself capable of nationwide industrial planning. The Reuther Plan was so technically efficient that the bosses and the government did not dare adopt it all at once for fear of the prestige it would give labor. But everyone knows that the Reuther Plan was adopted piecemeal before war production got on its way in the auto industry.

The Reuther Plan

One of the editors of such a pillar of the bourgeois press as Harpers Magazine was carried away by his enthusiasm over this contribution by labor:

“The Reuther Plan had been a brilliant natural,” he wrote, “and the more it was kicked around the more of a natural it became, whether the union got in on the management or not.”

The Reuther Plan is the best known, but is only one of the many industrial schemes submitted by organized labor in this period. For instance, there was the union idea for producing refrigerators needed for the preservation of food even though a war is on. Raymond Clapper, columnist for the Scripps-Howard papers, commented:

“The only mystery about this is why, after two and a half years with all the industrial brains assembled bere at Washington, and after all the official studies of what the British are doing in that line, it remains for some union people to bring up the idea.”

While the Bombs Burst

The lack of ideas on the part of both the industrial and political brains is not a mystery. The bosses are too busy making money while the bombs burst over the world, and the politicians are too closely connected with the industrial masters. Here are the fetters on the wings of progressive ideas.

Labor alone is free for progressive industrial planning. Unwittingly Clapper, the columnist for a newspaper syndicate far from friendly to labor, gives the reason why Labor Action has been advocating the conscription of war industries under workers’ control.

The realistic .grasp of the problems of production that organized labor has shown itself to have should give every worker a thrill of confidence in himself and in his class. The glaring contrast between the progressiveness of organized labor and the fear of innovations characterizing both capital and government is something every worker should understand – the working class is the class of the future, while the capitalist class is the class of the past.

It is a great human tragedy that labor’s social creativeness should come to the fore in answer to the needs of destructive war. But what labor does for a war from which it has nothing but trouble to reap, it can do a hundred times better for the constructive pursuits of peace. The Reuthers today are not inclined to lead the workers to their historic goal, to break loose from the capitalist kite and take over production and government in their own right. But what matter? The Reuthers rose from the ranks of labor. There are and will be others from the ranks to lead the workers to the social power that is rightfully theirs – when the working class as a whole wants it so.

On Our Own!

It is time for the workers to laugh in the faces of the demagogues of all political shades, with their windy promises to do this and that for labor. Labor doesn’t need anybody to do anything for it – and furthermore nobody will do anything for labor. Labor can and must get on its own. It has the numbers, it has the industrial power, it has the progressive ideas, it has the executive ability in its own ranks. It needs only to sever the knot that keeps it tailing the capitalist kite.

There are in this period three major threats hanging over the heads of the working people: post-war chaos, fascism rising in this country, future wars. All of these dangers flow from a common spring – the concentration of industrial and political power in the hands of the few against the many.

This war is demonstrating the power and ability of labor to dam up the poisonous spring. The future can be shaped by the workers in their own interests and the interest of the whole of society. To cut loose from the capitalist class, to step out into independent political action leading to a workers’ government, to supplant the useless capitalist class in the ownership and control of production – these are the historic tasks that labor can and must perform.

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Last updated: 16 February 2020