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C. Thomas

Brass Hats Raise Fake ‘Morale’ Issue in Drive
to Put Over Slave Labor Law

(17 February 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 7, 17 February 1945, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

As the war in Europe approaches a climax, the campaign for additional instruments of labor repression is intensified. The Roosevelt administration is using all the pressure tactics at it’s command to jam a slave labor law through Congress before the military collapse of Germany. All the tricks of “psychological warfare” are being employed to whip up sentiment for a National Service Act and batter down the opposition. The brass hats are conducting an all-out drive to regiment labor under control of a military caste. They look upon the war as a heaven-sent opportunity to straitjacket the unions and are fearful lest “V-E Day” arrives before they can succeed in fastening the American working class in the totalitarian fetters of forced labor.

Spearheaded by the brass hats, a number of administration spokesmen have appeared before closed hearings of the Senate Military Affairs Committee to urge the immediate enactment of the May-Bailey labor conscription bill. This bill provides fines and imprisonment for workers who leave their jobs “without permission,” and who refuse to take jobs when directed by their draft boards to do so. It places the entire male working population between the ages of 18-45 under full control of the Selective Service system. As Selective Service is an auxiliary of the military service, the bill would actually place labor under direct control of the brass hats.

Strong opposition has developed to placing civilian labor under direct military control. A substantial section of the employers fear that the concentration of too much power in the hands of a military caste would threaten their prerogatives. This fear was voiced in an editorial by David Lawrence in the United States News on Feb. 9.

“It is difficult to see,” said Lawrence, “how the Congress, if it enacts the pending manpower bill, can hesitate to remove all ’profit from any enterprise where there is forced labor. If forced labor is to be construed as service to one’s country, let it be clearly for that purpose alone, and then, logically, management and ownership must be conscripted, too. It will be a surprise if the AFL and the CIO, who are opposed to the ‘forced labor’ bill, do not insist on such legislation to cover management and ownership. There would be widespread sympathy for such a proposal.”

Employer Objections

The employer opposition exemplified by Lawrence does not object to -the principle of compulsory labor for private profit. But they favor the extension of the existing “work-or-fight” and “work-or-starve” decrees, administered through the War Manpower Commission and Selective Service, as the means for hog-tieing labor. In essence their opposition boils down to the demand that the WMC be granted statutory authority to enforce the executive orders issued by Roosevelt chaining workers to their jobs at frozen wages. These decrees have already imposed a “limited” form of compulsory labor on a substantial section of the working class. This attitude was summed up by Ira Mosher, head of the National Association of Manufacturers in a letter to the N.Y. Times.

“The NAM program,” wrote Mosher, “requires more effective functioning of the existing WMC machinery and regulations. It requires adequate statutory authority for the WMC respecting the establishment of employment ceilings in all industries, the use of controlled referrals and compulsory releases. It calls for immediate application of the work-or-fight principle, within the present framework of the Selective Service authority and machinery.”

The brass hats are resisting any change in the May bill which would deprive them of direct control over the administration of the proposed slave labor act. Having already concentrated tremendous power in their hands, they are reaching out for full control of the economic and political life of the country. They hope to crush all opposition to the imperialist aims of Wall Street’s war under a military dictatorship. They are prepared to use any means to accomplish their purpose. Having been reduced to the argument that the immediate enactment of the May bill is now necessary to “boost the morale” of the soldiers, they deliberately set about manufacturing “evidence” to support their spurious contention.

“Evidence” on Order

In the midst of the Senate hearings on the May bill, an editorial appeared in the Paris edition of an army newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, endorsing the May bill. According to one of its writers, this “marked the first time any service publication had taken sides on an American political issue.” The N.Y. Times reported: “Some members of the staff of the paper were so incensed at the publication of the editorial that they proposed to call a meeting tomorrow to protest the use of the soldiers’ publication for political purposes. They contended that the paper should be edited only for soldiers and not on behalf of any project which might interest high-ranking officers of the War Department.”

The editor of the publication admitted he was “asked in messages from a War Department officer and from Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson whether Stars and Stripes had commented on the May bill.” “The text of the editorial,” he added, “had been cabled at Mr. Patterson’s request to Washington so it would be in his hands for Senate hearings on the May-Bailey bill.” In a footnote to this incident the N.Y. Times reveals that: “The editorial was written by the editor, Lieut. Col. Arthur Goodfriend, formerly an advertising writer, who received his promotion from major yesterday.” This is how Patterson got his “evidence” that the soldiers’ are clamoring for the May bill and also how the “editor” got his promotion.

This whole incident is typical of the fabricated evidence used to support the demand for labor conscription. The inspired Stars and Stripes editorial was picked ip by the N.Y. Times and ballyhooed as conclusive proof that the “fighting men themselves” are demanding the immediate enactment of the May bill. “This factor of morale,” editorialized the Times, “is a consideration which we cannot afford to overlook. It is a factor about which we are entitled to believe that Mr. Patterson and General Marshall and Admiral King and Secretary Stimson and Secretary Forrestal, all of whom support this (May) bill, are better informed than are those manufacturers and trade unionists who are opposing it.” Indeed, they are not only “better informed” after the fact, but before!

“This factor of morale” is as fraudulent as the “manpower” and “munitions” shortage which was used as the main pretext a few weeks ago for demanding a forced labor law. The advocates of labor conscription dare not reveal the true aims of such legislation. It is a strikebreaking, union-smashing device, designed to regiment labor under a Prussianized military caste. The May bill is still before the Senate Military Affairs Committee. Labor must voice its uncompromising opposition through resolutions, mass meetings and demonstrations, to halt this attack on labor’s rights and labor’s freedom.

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