Tom Kerry Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

C. Thomas

Roosevelt Demands Slave Labor Bill
in First Congress Message

Calls For Immediate Action On Forced Labor Measures

Political Agents of Big Business Combine
to Enslave Workers and Paralyze Unions

(13 January 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 2, 13 January 1945, pp. 1 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Following on the heels of a national campaign to whip up sentiment for labor conscription, Roosevelt submitted his annual message to the new Congress demanding immediate enactment of forced labor legislation. Roosevelt’s lengthy message can be boiled down to the following specific proposals: (1) a National Service Act to be adopted ‘at the earliest possible moment;’ (2) immediate legislation providing for the conscription of those now classified as 4-F (3) universal peacetime military training for American youth; and (4) amendment of the Selective Service Act ‘to provide for the induction of nurses into the armed forces.’

These four measures were the only concrete legislative proposals made by Roosevelt. In essence they embody the domestic program of the fourth term administration. These measures are intended to supplement Roosevelt’s job-freeze decrees, to place practically the whole working population under the control of a military caste, to Prussianize American life, and to straitjacket the labor movement.

Wall Street Plan

The plan to conscript labor for work in private industry was conceived in Wall Street. It was originated by Grenville Clark, a notorious Wall Street lawyer. It was embraced by Roosevelt and is being spearheaded by his brass hats. It was kept hidden during the recent election campaign to enable the treacherous labor bureaucrats to deceive the workers. It is advanced now at a “psychological” moment when rumors of tremendous casualties are causing great foreboding.

Those solely and directly responsible for the recent military reverses are attempting to fan this alarm into an emotional blaze against the labor movement. They have whipped up an hysteria under cover of which Big Business aims to enslave the workers by chaining them to their jobs at wages, hours and working conditions dictated by the employers. Roosevelt is the instrument through which these aims are being advanced.

In introducing his forced labor proposal, Roosevelt departed from his usual deceitful window-dressing. A year ago, when he first proposed a forced labor law, Roosevelt made it part of a “5-point program.” The “program” called for laws to take “undue profits out of war,” to place a ceiling over food costs, and to re-enact the “stabilization” statutes.

“These five measures taken together,” declared Roosevelt, “form a just and equitable whole, I would not recommend a national service law unless the other laws were passed, to keep down the cost of living, to share equitably the burdens of taxation, to hold the stabilization line and to prevent undue profits.”

In view of what has occurred, the 5-point program sounds like a hideous jest. War profits have soared to the highest levels in history. An increasing load of taxes has been burdened on those least able to pay while the corporations have accumulated billions in tax reserves and refunds. The cost of living has continued to rise, due largely to skyrocketing food prices. The only point of Roosevelt’s “program” that has been rigidly enforced is the wage-freezing Little Steel formula.

“The Great Liberal”

In his latest proposal for labor conscription Roosevelt failed to utter “a mumbling word” about his abortive 5-point program or of his equally defunct 7-point “stabilization” program. Nor did he bother to sugar-coat the bitter slave labor pill. He bluntly demanded a national service law that would assure “the right numbers of workers in the right places at the right times.” Roosevelt demands that the workers be degraded to the level of oxen driven to labor in field and factory. Be wants them shifted from place to place without regard to their desires. He wants them kept in abject submission to a profiteering taskmaster who sole concern is to squeeze the last ounce of profit out of the blood and bone of his wage slaves. This is the man the labor “statesmen” dub “the greatest liberal of them all!”

Under the impetus given by Roosevelt a number of forced labor measures have already been introduced into Congress. The most vicious of these measures are the bills designed to conscript 4-F’s into labor battalions. It is this type of legislation which Roosevelt demanded Congress enact “immediately” pending “action by Congress on the broader aspects of national service.”

A Scripps-Howard staff writer indicates what the brass hats have in mind for the 4-F conscript:

“He would be in uniform, doing hard work without benefit of high civilian pay – but also without the benefits voted by Congress to men in the armed services. He would be in a stigmatized service.”

Anti-Union Bills

Undersecretary of Navy Bard testified that the object of 4-F legislation is to make “work battalion” service so unattractive “that practically no one in his right mind would be interested in joining it.” Chairman May of the House Military Affairs Committee, author of a 4-F bill, stated that he would oppose any “compulsion” on 4-F conscripts to “join unions if assigned to closed shops.”

Another Roosevelt Democrat, Representative Colmer of Mississippi has introduced a bill providing that “strikers in essential industry or workers with bad absentee records” be drafted into labor battalions. Other Democrats and Republicans criticize the 4-F bills for not going far enough. They want a full-blown national service act that would conscript all men and women between the ages of 18 and 45.

Both the AFL and CIO are on record against labor conscription. It was labor’s vote that elected Roosevelt. By their unconditional support of the fourth term candidate the labor “statesmen” freed Roosevelt from any restraint in carrying through the program of Big Business. Hillman, Murray and Co., boasted of their great “election victory” and hailed the election of a “progressive” Congress. Yet not a single voice in Congress has been raised to defend the labor movement against this drive to paralyze the unions and enslave the workers.

Tom Kerry Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 4 April 2018