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Price Rises Hit Workers’ Pockets

UAW Calls National Stoppage to Halt Price Jump

(22 July 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 29, 22 July 1946, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, July 15 – At the call of the United Automobile Workers Union, thousands of workers supported by members of Negro, veterans, consumers, and labor organizations will demonstrate in Cadillac Square on the afternoon of July 16 to protest the end of price control.

This demonstration is the direct outcome of a mass meeting attended by over 1,000 CIO shop stewards and local union officers two weeks ago where Walter Reuther, outlining the program of the policy committee of the UAW, called upon Phillip Murray to convene a United Labor Conference of all American labor to discuss action to repulse the anti-labor offensive of Congress and to restore price controls. At this meeting resolutions were passed asking the CIO through Murray to call a one-day national labor holiday and failing that, insisting upon a one-day work stoppage in the Detroit area.

But Murray has been totally silent throughout the price crisis. He has outlined no program of his own and is reported to have vetoed the idea of a one-day national holiday and to have frowned upon even a stoppage of work in the Detroit section. The Tuesday demonstration is therefore a compromise with the views of Murray. It is not called as a general 24-hour work stoppage. Instructions to local unions are to shut down the plants for part of a shift in agreement with their respective employers and if this agreement is not forthcoming to close the factories “for not more than two hours on any one shift on the day of the demonstration.”

To repeat: it is the UAW which is calling this demonstration. Similar actions will be called on the same day, where possible, wherever the UAW has strength. The International Executive Board of the CIO has yet to be heard from.

The program outlined by the UAW embraces three main points: 1) The calling of protest demonstrations in every community on July 16; 2) A buyers’ strike; 3) United resistance to rent increases. The general objective of these three points is summarized in the slogan: “Congress must be forced to act.” The main point of emphasis for all UAW policy has become to achieve the restoration of price controls by Congress.

Even the idea of a buyers’ strike is linked up with a fight to force Congress to act; for it is obvious that the people cannot refuse to buy the necessities of life forever. There must be some point at which the strikes can come to an end. The UAW program proposes:

“We must urge all our members and every consumer to buy only the minimum of food, milk, and absolute necessities until Congress enacts a price control law with teeth in it and the administration staffs the OPA with men with guts enough to resist big business pressure.”

The terrible weakness of the UAW program is this: It makes everything depend upon action by CONGRESS after it has been proved to the hilt that this Congress is the sworn enemy of price control. Suppose Congress does NOT enact and enforce a real price control bill? And that is the unfortunate likelihood. What shall labor do then? There is no reply in the UAW program.

The program adopted by the UAW for the General Motors strike insisted that wage increases could be achieved without price increases by the simple device of taking them out of the profits of the parasitic capitalist class. It is necessary to go at least one step further now. We must have a program of ACTION by labor to carry out the ideas of the GM Program and that involves a program to stop price increases.

The workers themselves must control prices! We cannot and must not rely upon Congress ... that is the road to defeat. FOR PRICE CONTROL BY LABOR!

The UAW proposes to control the price of housing (rent) by mass flying squadrons which will compel the landlords to keep down the rents. The same idea must be applied to ALL commodities (for housing is itself a commodity and its price is the rent).

The workers in the mines produce the raw materials. The workers on the railroads transport the raw materials to the factories. The workers in the shops fabricate the parts. Other workers finish and assemble the products. More workers transport the product to where it can be sold to the consumer. BUT THE CAPITALIST CONTROLS THE PRICE!

Let the workers form union committees for the purpose of regulating and setting the price of the products that they themselves produce. These committees can control the price of the product at every stage of production. That is the only practical program for price control. It is a thousand times more realistic than reliance upon a Congress which represents the landlords, capitalists and bankers.

Price Control by Union Committees!

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Last updated: 5 July 2019