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Jack Ranger

The Truth

President, Congress Agree Each Is Worst

(5 July 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 27, 5 July 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Republican Congress calls Truman “the poorest president since George Washington.” The President calls the 80th Congress, just ended, “the worst in history.” There is an awful lot of truth in both charges, and it is high time the trade union movement acted to defend the American people from the old capitalist parties.

From the viewpoint of labor’s rights, housing, prices, civil liberties, freedom from militarism, and aid to the world’s oppressed, the working class majority in the United States has been hit hard in the past year and one-half.

What Congress Did

First, let’s look at what Congress did:

  1. It passed the Taft-Hartley bill, thereby placing formidable obstacles, in the path of the unions, and making it many times more difficult for unions to function in the interests of their members. The federal Anti-Labor Law has revived the use of the injunction, has subjected unions and union members and leaders to huge fines, has permitted government snoopers to stick their long noses into union affairs, and has made it much more difficult for workers to choose their own union and their own leadership. The boss parties are already agitating for an amendment to the Taft-Hartley law which would outlaw industry-wide bargaining, thus whittling down the unions to a size where they would be all but helpless to defend workers’ interests.
  2. On housing, Congress upped rent 15 per cent, and left large loopholes for greedy landlords to drive for still higher rent boosts.
  3. It turned over $13,000,000,000 to the armed services – a larger amount than the whole average pre-war annual budget.
  4. So for as foreign policy is concerned, Congress and the White House teamed up to support reaction everywhere in the world, aside from that peculiar form of reaction represented by the Russian government and its subject peoples. Washington is supporting monarchical reaction in Greece, fascism in Spain, imperialism in the Far East, militarism in China, despotism in Korea – and everywhere in the world, Washington is defending the interests of Standard Oil and the other large corporations with extensive interests abroad.
  5. Congress pushed through a peacetime draft bill to subject the youth of the nation to enforced service in the armed forces.
  6. It passed a tax bill which saved pennies for the poor and literally billions of dollars for the rich.
  7. It passed a bill outlawing portal-to-portal wage suits, thus depriving workers of billions of dollars.
  8. It waved the Mundt-Nixon “anti-Communist” bill over the country for weeks, as a means of terrorizing political minorities.

What Congress Didn’t Do

What Congress didn’t do is as important as what it did do.

  1. Congress didn’t lift a finger to control prices, at a period when most economists warn we are in for a session of “hyper-inflation,” and at a time when the cost of living is again reaching new all-time peaks.
  2. Congress didn’t lift a finger to defend civil liberties, to outlaw poll taxes, to make lynching a federal offense, to require employers to hire without discrimination, or to end Jim Crow in the armed forces.
  3. Congress didn’t lift a finger to put a roof over a single American family.
  4. Congress shrugged its shoulders as the big monopolies continued to pick the pockets of the people. Just to demonstrate sharply Its reliable service to monopoly, in the closing days Congress shoved through the Bulwinkle bill exempting the nation’s railroads from the anti-trust laws.
  5. Congress refused to increase the legal minimum wage, at a time when a fourth of the American people are going more deeply into debt each month.
  6. Congress refused to enact a government health insurance program.
  7. Congress refused federal aid for education, at a time when the nation’s educational system is grossly inadequate for the needs of the people.

Even in the little things, Congress catered to selfish interests. After making handsome gestures, it left the silly and unfair taxes on oleo; jammed through high tariffs on wool and other commodities; continued farm legislation in the interests of the big farmers.

Truman’s Record

Truman was not a shade better than Congress. The Democrat in the White House exercized equal energy in kicking labor in the face.

Truman’s criticism of the Republican Congress is as phony as the counterfeit $10 bills which have recently been flooding Chicago.

The Wall Street Journal in its June 22 editorial took care of Truman on this point. After listing some of Truman’s “must” legislation which Congress dumped, that paper stated:

“Now each of these passed-over measures was first suggested by the late President Roosevelt at a time when he had as complete control over Congress as any President has ever had. Mr. Roosevelt had a Democratic Congress and the bills weren’t passed then.

“President Truman took over the Roosevelt program and proposed all these same things to Congress while he, too, had a Democratic majority in both Houses. Again the Congress rejected the administration’s plan! Curiously, although both Presidents Roosevelt and Truman included these matters in their messages to the Democratic Congresses, THERE WAS NEVER MUCH PRESSURE FROM THE WHITE HOUSE FOR ENACTMENT UNTIL A REPUBLICAN CONGRESS CAME ALONG. (my emphasis – J.R.).

“It strikes us that if two Democratic Congresses were dubious of the wisdom of the social legislation offered by a Democratic President it is hardly justifiable suddenly to berate a Republican Congress for showing the same cautions.”

Neither the Democratic nor Republican wings of the boss political monopoly can criticize each other with either justice or grace. But the workers who are fleeced by the capitalist political machines can certainly do so.

That’s the record of the President and the legislators who were elected to office, most of them with the support of the conservative trade union leadership.

That record provides new proof that what labor needs is not a new deal, but a new party – a national labor party – to take over Washington and form a labor government. We’ll never get justice from the Wall Street-dominated old parties.

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