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Henry Judd

Surrender: What Labor Gave Up
Since Pearl Harbor

(June 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 24, 15 June 1942, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Six months have passed since Pearl Harbor and America’s formal entrance into the great war. During that time Labor Action has constantly described and exposed the policy of the official labor leaders who, in the name of “national unity” and “everything for the war,” have steadily given up labor’s gains.

The boss press commemorates six months after Pearl Harbor by summarizing America’s war efforts during that period. But, for a working class newspaper, it is far more fitting to summarize the net results of six months of labor’s appeasement to Roosevelt and his capitalist masters. The sum total is a gloomy picture and should underscore what Labor Action has repeatedly claimed: A continuation of this appeasement policy will be a disaster to American labor and the union movement.

But first let us bear in mind how President Roosevelt works. He is not the bloody and ruthless totalitarian dictator, smashing his opponent at one round-house blow; he does not rule with the rubber truncheon and the steel fist. No. This skilled spokesman for American capitalism achieves his aims at a slower pace – an inch at a time, if need be – but he gets there just the same. He strips his opponents of their weapons, disarms them politically, persuades them to say “yes,” and ends up by framing their signatures on the dotted line.

Here is what this “unconditional surrender” of labor’s rights has meant to the labor movement so far. How much further this will go in the next six months depends on the trade unionists. If it is up to the official bureaucrats and the Stalinists, it will go up to the hilt, an “all-out” unconditional surrender!

  1. Labor’s right to strike has been abandoned. This was the first, and most fatal, surrender on the part of the unions. This sell-out by the officials was sealed in the AFL-CIO strike “truce” immediately after Pearl Harbor.
  2. Labor has been hogtied to the War Labor Board. Instead of relying upon its own strength, initiative and action, the unions run to the boss-government-run WLB. Here they get either (a) a run-around; (b) a sell-out decision; or (c) a postponement until hell freezes over.
  3. Labor has been victimized by priorities unemployment. The failure of the innumerable Washington boards to correctly plan conversion to war production hits labor first and hardest, since it means indefinite unemployment for the affected industries. Forty thousand in the New York garment area is the latest priorities sore spot announced.
  4. Arbitration decisions granting the closed shop are halted. Labor is denied, by the WLB and the arbitration committees, the finest and most satisfactory fruit of its union struggles: the closed shop. The hypnotized bureaucrats nod agreement, like so many puppets.
  5. The work alleviation program is virtually halted. Senator Byrd’s reactionary “curtailment of expenditures” program has been adopted by about 90 per cent, in practice. The CCC is gone; WPA remains only as a vague memory kept alive by a few thousand who still remain on the rolls; the NYA program is either gone, or transferred to training youth for war industries. But there are still 4,500,000 unemployed!
  6. The tax program makes labor pay for the bosses’ war. Income taxes are raised on the lower brackets; the base is reduced to an incredible low ($700 per year); federal excise taxation, etc., has effected everything that labor purchases.
  7. Labor unity was smashed by government-boss interference. The effort to join the CIO and the AFL met the determined opposition of President Roosevelt, who was again aided by the lickspittle union officials. A chance to advance the union cause was scotched.
  8. Drives to organize unorganized workers have halted. With the exception of the Lewis District 50 drive to organize dairy farmers, not a single major union drive is under way today. But there are still millions of unorganized workers in aircraft, textile, machine, etc. Instead of organizing them, the officials stand pat and continue to draw their salaries for keeping the status quo.
  9. Double time for overtime on Sundays and holidays is gone. Even the Lord said a man deserves to rest on the seventh day (if not, he deserves double time pay!). But the bureaucrats – to prove how generous they are – decided otherwise. So the AFL-CIO gave this up, too!
  10. The longer work week is universal. Forty hours is a distant memory for millions of workers (and there are still 4,500,000 unemployed). Fifty-five, 60, 66 hours are familiar now. It’s work, eat and sleep in order to work, eat and sleep again.
  11. No more wage increases, except ... Roosevelt, by his direct interference in the shipyard and aircraft negotiations, has said that his “stabilization of wages” program means wage freezing, for the duration. As for the “exceptions,” the Missouri sharecroppers can’t get even 30 cents an hour, without a bitter struggle. Will the steel workers give up their demand for $1.00 more a day?
  12. The strikebreaking “work or fight” threat is out in the open. Every time a worker demands something, or threatens independent action, he is met by the Hitlerite threat: work as we say, or get drafted.
  13. Every effort is being made to destroy the shop steward system. The Stalinists, hand in glove with Donald Nelson, lead this sabotage of the unions with their “joint management-workers Councils.” But the shop stewards represent one of labor’s remaining molar teeth, and cannot be abandoned.
  14. The end of installment buying hits labor. This step in the curtailment of labor’s ability to purchase accompanies the drive against living standards. Clearly, the end of installment purchasing affects the great mass of small income Americans only.
  15. Skilled labor is “frozen” (chained) to its job. This measure, the latest and most reactionary of Roosevelt’s “inching along” schemes, may destroy American labor’s right to move about independently and thus raise its standards by initiative. It is the most fascist-like step yet taken!

* * *

It doesn’t add up to a pleasant sight, does it? Not when all this is done in the name of “the war for democratic survival.” It smacks all too familiarly of what has happened to the labor movement in Germany and France, which likewise “appeased” the ruling classes.

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