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Detroit Elections

Ben Hall

On the Detroit Elections

(November 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 49 (should be 48), 29 November 1943, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Concluded from last issue)

What were the real issues in the Detroit campaign?

Here, where the CIO has its most powerful stronghold, the home of the UAW with its more than a million members, was the opportunity to strike against the nation-wide assault against labor, its rights and its standard of living. The union membership was fully aware of this fact. That is why FitzGerald won a remarkable victory in the primaries.

FitzGerald dissipated his support because he could not, would not, and did not face any of the real questions. That is because he is NOT a labor candidate, but a capitalist candidate endorsed by labor. W. Kelsey, writing in the Detroit News, hinted at the real nature of FitzGerald’s campaign:

“... As a lawyer, Mr. FitzGerald knew that any promise he might make, either to labor or to the Negroes, must be conditional ... He had to avoid those issues in which, as the primary had demonstrated, lay his strength.”

That is the stupidity of the Detroit elections. Labor supported a man who had to avoid all issues affecting labor!

For a Labor Party

There was only one possible force which could have driven Jeffries, the Klan and the daily press into retreat. That was a fighting, independent Labor Party with its own independent candidates, with no ties to either of the two old capitalistic parties.

A fighting Labor Party could have pointed out dramatically and effectively how the big monopolies are profiteering during wartime. It could have denounced the infamous Little Steel formula, which, together with the skyrocketing prices uncontrolled by the present Administration, mean terrific wage cuts for labor. It could have demanded a shifting of the costs of the war from the back of the workingman who earns his money by his own labor and onto the shoulders of the rich monopolists, the “Sixty Families” who rule this country and who receive their money through OUR labor.

Issues like these, raised so loudly that no one could avoid them, would have revealed to all exactly where Jeffries and his backers stood. That they were the tools of the big capitalists and open enemies of the people would have been made clear.

Even assuming that in this case the candidate backed by the Labor Party had been defeated, as was FitzGerald, the tremendous vote that it polled would be a victory in itself, for it would warn all sections of Congress and the national administration that labor had ceased to rely on the discredited “friends of labor” and intended to go into battle for itself. That alone would win many concessions, even from the most reactionary sections of Congress, which fear the rise of a fighting Labor Party a thousand times more than they do the victory of “friends of labor.”

A fighting Labor Party could have exposed the true character of the anti-Negro campaign run by Jeffries. It could have made clear that this was an attempt to throw a smokescreen over the genuine campaign issues outlined above, and to hide the fact that Jeffries was the banner-bearer for the monopolists.

Jim Crow would stand exposed as a weapon of the capitalists for splitting the labor movement and diverting it from its real goals.

And as a complete reply to the race hatred of the capitalist candidate a fighting Labor Party would declare and explain the absolute necessity of complete social, political and economic equality for Negroes in the fight against labor’s enemies.

Why No Labor Party in Michigan?

The leadership of the CIO is against the formation of an independent Labor Party. The last convention of the Michigan State CIO a few months ago decided to explore the possibilities for the formation of an independent Labor Party. Nothing has been heard of it since. Instead we have seen the organization of the Labor Political Action Committee, whose aim is to continue to support capitalist “friends” and to stymie any attempt to form a real Labor Party.

At the last CIO convention, Philip Murray declared against a Labor Party and for a continuance of the old policy oh the ground of preserving unity with all “progressives.” FitzGerald is one of these.

What have been the fruits of this old policy?

In Detroit in the previous mayoralty campaign in 1941, the CIO supported Jeffries as a friend of labor. This “progressive” friend turns out to be a reactionary enemy.

The leaders of the CIO, in an attempt to discourage the formation of a Labor Party, will doubtless argue that the recent election returns prove that the labor vote is weak and that we must cling ever more closely to the apron strings of our “friends.”

Break with Discredited Friends

This idea is one hundred per cent false and equally suicidal. It is not LABOR that is weak but the so-called friends of labor who are weak, in disrepute and discredited.

The New York Times reports that the elections demonstrate “a reaction against the Administration’s handling of home affairs” and a “disillusionment among Negroes as to the purpose or ability of the New Deal Administration to guarantee them the place which they seek in the nation’s economic life and particularly the war effort:”

Walter Reuther spilled the beans in his resolution at the last UAW convention.

“It will be impossible to mobilize the same degree of continued enthusiasm and support for the candidacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt and for his election for a fourth term if the present Democratic Party policy of appeasement of the foes of progress continues.”

Put in plain, everyday language this means: the people are getting sick and tired of this rule by the so-called friends of labor, who really knife labor. Not even support by the unions guarantees their victory!

Only one course of action can bar the way of the reactionaries. Away with support to the so-called friends of labor! Form an indeperident, fighting Labor Party which breaks all ties to the Democratic Party, the Republican Party arid the Roosevelt Administration!

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