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David Coolidge

A New Crisis in the Labor Movement

Reviewing the Current Situation

(January 1943)

From The New International, Vol. IX No. 1, January 1943, pp. 3–8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The organized labor movement in the United States is faced with a new and deep-going crisis arising from the effects of the Second Imperialist World War on the entire working class. This crisis reveals the trade union movement faced with severe trials which accompany its efforts to function in the interests of its members, and the working class in general, in a world dominated by a war of vast proportions and charged with potentiality for evil and trade union defeat.

The present crisis began with the retreat of the union bureaucracy when the demand came from the bourgeoisie and the government that the unions must “voluntarily” relinquish their right to strike for the duration of the war. This was the beginning of a planned offensive against the working class by the ruling class. The trade union bureaucracy, however, did not see the matter in this light. To these dull-witted class collaborationists, giving up the “right to strike” meant that both classes were to make important sacrifices and that relinquishing the strike weapon was a simple concession to be made by labor. In turn, the bourgeoisie would yield a few of its cherished “rights.” For instance, big business men would give up, among other things, their right to hundred thousand dollar salaries, a half dozen automobiles, yachts and castles. They were to be satisfied with only one cup of coffee a day, five tires and pants without cuffs. Along with these sacrifices it was evidently assumed that the bourgeoisie would yield its right to insist on the sixty-hour week, the pegging of wages and the demand for higher income taxes on the lower paid workers. In addition to this, it was assumed that business would facilitate the processes of collective bargaining to such degree that it would be unnecessary for workers to even think about the strike and the fact that labor had yielded this precious and time-honored weapon.

Since the proposals had come from the President, it was clear to the trade union leaders that they would be enforced over the protests of any doubting Thomases among the business leaders. It was a tripartite arrangement: business the government and labor, all for the purpose of winning the war. “Victory Through Equality of Sacrifice,” said the United Automobile Workers.

But things did not turn out as the CIO-AFL bureaucrats had hoped and prayed. After the bourgeoisie obtained its no-strike agreement the whole conspiracy against labor began to show itself. The attack was universal. Following the no-strike agreement, which was really negotiated with Roosevelt behind the backs of labor and without the consent of the unions, the bourgeoisie came forward with the demand that labor give up the “premium pay.” The trade union bureaucracy consented to this. Not only did the CIO leaders consent, but they sent a demand to Washington that all companies be ordered to cease paying time and a half for Saturdays and double time for Sundays and holidays. They called on the government to force those companies which for reasons of their own continued the “premium pay,” to cease and desist. It was then that such an order was issued from the White House in favor of a plan for time and a half for the sixth day and double time for the seventh day. This did not place much of a burden on industry because it is very easy to arrange work schedules in such a way that there will be little or no double time under such an arrangement. Saturday and Sunday were clear and definitive and there was no easy way to escape.

It was claimed that the premium pay interfered with production, but none of the production geniuses of business or the unions was ever able to explain just why a man whose pay was $8.00 a day would do less work if he got $16.00 for working on Sunday or on a holiday. There has been a theory in the United States put forth by some leaders of industry and government that high wages are an incentive to increased production and better workmanship. The withdrawal of the premium pay was certainly out of line with this theory and the reasons for the change must be looked for elsewhere than in the field of production.

The Principle of Wage Stabilization

The next move was for the “stabilization” of wages. To this day no one knows exactly what this means formally and officially. However, again the trade union bureaucracy was for it. They were against a “ceiling” on wages but were all-out for “stabilization.” Since there had to be a norm of some kind it fell to the lot of the War Labor Board to determine a stabilization formula. This they did in the Little Steel award. The steel workers had asked for a dollar a day increase in pay. A panel of the War Labor Board declared that in order to keep the living standard of steel workers during 1941 up to the 1941 standard, an increase of 21 per cent would have to be granted. A dollar a day advance would mean only an increase of 11 per cent. But the board cut the increase far lower and granted a wage boost of only 44 cents a day!

The vice-chairman of the board, Dr. George W. Taylor, had some interesting and significant things to say in attempting to explain the meaning of this award. What he had to say about the award were known as “principles” and were set forth as follows in Labor Action for July 27, 1942:

“From January 1941 to May 1942 the cost of living increased about 15 per cent. If any workers have received less than a 15 per cent increase in hourly rate of pay for this period ‘their peacetime standards have been broken.’ That is, they can’t eat as much now as they could before January, 1941. But if they have received an average 15 per cent increase than their ‘established peacetime standards have been preserved.’ That is, they can live in the same shack they lived in before, wear the same old clothes and buy the same amount of food, even though it wasn’t enough.

“Any workers ‘whose peacetime standards have been preserved’ can only get an increase from the board if they can prove that there are ‘inequalities’ and sub-standard conditions ‘specifically referred to in the President’s message of April 27, 1942.’”

The leaders of the Steel Workers Union objected to this formula but their objections were based mainly on the size of the increase granted. They did not enter into the real problem, that is, the matter of elevating the low standard of living by insisting on an increase in real wages. Furthermore, the union bureaucracy did not lay sufficient stress on the recommendations which had been made by the WLB panel to the effect that if the steel workers did not receive more than the dollar a day increase demanded by the union, the standard of living in the steel industry for 1942 would be below that of 1941.

These concessions by the trade union leadership are the immediate cause of the present crisis in the labor movement. The procedure of the WLB in the matter of sanctions for wage adjustments combined with the contention of the labor bureaucracy that although the WLB has many “weaknesses” it should be continued, further intensifies the crisis. Since there can be no wage increase without approval from the WLB, it is necessary that all wage contracts and schedules go to this powerful body. It was reported at the CIO convention that 4,000 of these contracts repose in the WLB’s morgue like so many departed derelicts who have been picked up on the city streets.

The Office of Price Administration also enters the picture, for the reason that usually when a manufacturer is faced with the demand for a wage rise he immediately insists that it will be necessary to increase his selling price. Therefore collaboration between the WLB and the OPA is necessary. But in the meantime the workers wait to find out whether their “peacetime standards have been preserved” or whether they are entitled to an increase because of “inequalities and substandard conditions.”

Who Dominates in Washington?

Government boards have never been models of speed and efficiency when dealing with labor cases. But now they are slower than ever. The War Labor Board is not the old National Labor Relations Board and it does not function in the era of the New Deal. Nor does it have a free hand. It is subordinated to the general war plans, to the War Production Board, to Byrnes, whatever his function is, and to the organized pressure of “our system of free enterprise” in the form of the National Association of Manufacturers and other pressure groups of the bourgeoisie. This condition was graphically described by a delegate at the recent CIO convention who remarked from the floor that “the same gang that was driven out of Washington in 1932 is back today stronger than ever.”

In a very important sense this is true. While the ruling class was not driven from the capital in 1932, its most reactionary members were pushed into the background for a season. But now the “economic tories” have returned in full force. The bourgeoisie has stationed its biggest guns in Washington: the chairmen of the boards and the presidents of the biggest corporations. They do not rely today on the judgment and the prestige of their junior executives. The big men “resign” their posts as a “patriotic” duty and place their splendid talents and experience at the “service of their government” in its hour of peril.

These men dominate the Washington scene. It is they who determine the policies of the government in relation to labor. It was they who put through the no-strike agreement, the abolition of the “premium pay,” the increase in taxes on the poor and the general slow-down in the settlement of labor cases. They infest every important office and board in Washington; they have crawled into the bureaucratic pile in the capital and lie there working in ways which are hidden from the public gaze.

These men are extremely class-conscious and carry on a consistent struggle in behalf of their class. And those “public servants” who deviate from the line are eliminated, as witness the departure of Henderson.

All of the biggest corporations are represented by their top men in the government boards that determine the conditions under which the proletariat works and lives. United States Steel and General Electric are there; General Motors and Standard Oil, the shipping interests and the machine tool industry. They have the ears of cabinet officers and of their favorite senator or representative. They swarm all over Washington and carry on in the interest of their class. This is really the sort of regime that the labor bureaucracy consented to have when they began their retreat and eventually capitulated to the demands put forth by Roosevelt. The organized labor movement did not understand this, for reasons which we will go into later.

The real internal crisis became visible when labor began to evince dissatisfaction and develop a restlessness that expressed itself in numerous slow-downs and spontaneous strikes. These are the strikes that the labor bureaucrats and the capitalist press call “wildcat strikes.” But they are no more wildcat than any other strikes. That is, they are not wildcat in the sense that they have no sound basis or in the sense that the workers have no genuine grievances. They are wildcat only in the sense that they have not been called and are not approved by the top leadership of the unions. The fact is that this is the only method available to the rank and file of the unions for putting pressure on their leaders to cease and desist from “negotiating with our enemies against us.” This was the expression used by a delegate to the April 1942 conference of the Automobile Workers Union.

The antagonism and the contradiction between the objective and subjective interests of the workers and the 100 per cent pro-war, class collaboration position of the trade union bureaucracy, is the real heart of the crisis in the labor movement. The two do not and cannot go together. They cannot and will not be reconciled. The proletariat is beginning to have some primitive understanding of this fact. To the extent that they develop and increase this understanding, to that same degree will the crisis deepen and broaden.

The Influence of the New Deal

In order to get a clear appreciation of the present situation it is necessary to look for its source and examine its history. It is the opinion of this writer that the roots of the contemporary crisis of the proletariat lie in the New Deal set-up and the ideas on capitalist planning that were assumed to be the lifeblood of that ill-fated nostrum of the “liberal” bourgeoisie. The real meaning of the New Deal was and always has been obscured by the hosannas of praise that were heaped on the New Deal by every variety of liberals and by organized labor. They closed their ears and their minds to the very clear and definitive statements made by Roosevelt even when in the midst of a campaign for re-election. The chief protagonist of the New Order of 1933 said again and again in very positive tones that the purpose of the New Deal was to save capitalism. In his Syracuse speech in 1936 Roosevelt told the “economic royalists” that he had saved them, that if it had not been for his administration and the measures he had taken there would have been riots and serious social disorders.

This was the central theme of the New Deal: save the profit system, protect bourgeois rule, keep the social order from collapse or from being overturned by an increasingly militant proletariat. This fact was buried beneath all the paraphernalia of the NIRA, Section 7A, the WPA, PWA, AAA, HOLC., etc. To this should be added the pro-CIO decisions of the NLRB and many other beneficial but temporary aspects of New Deal legislation. All of these labor Magna Cartas rolling from the halls of Congress, like pension bills, served to blind labor to the real meaning of the New Deal. It was here that the present crisis in the labor movement had its beginnings.

The United States, along with the rest of the capitalist world, was in the grip of the severest economic crisis in history. The question was being asked whether it was possible for capitalism to go on for another decade. Those whose business it was to study the course of capitalist development and draw political conclusions therefrom said that capitalism was at least in the next to the last stage of its decline. The proletariat was told that it was now faced with the greatest ordeal of its career: the crisis and the world decline of capitalism. This would be accompanied by mass unemployment, misery and imperialist war.

The central question of the day was put to the ruling class: “Can this system which you so tenaciously defend, feed, clothe and shelter the masses of the people? Can it dispel their misery and grant them peace, security and happiness?” To this question the ruling class had no answer. All one could get from these giants and honored patriarchs of the Republic was incoherent babbling about “the American Way of Life” and “Our System of Free Enterprise.” They were socially bankrupt. The breadlines of every city, the desolation of the farms, the steady wandering of able-bodied men and women from place to place, the fact that garbage cans became the banquet table of countless unemployed, all this attested to the bankruptcy of the bourgeoisie.

Roosevelt, as the representative of the so-called enlightened bourgeoisie, understood all of this but labor did not. Hence he and his New Deal were hailed by labor and its “friends” throughout the land. Roosevelt knew then and he knows today that some concessions had to be made to the working class, to the masses of the people. The steady march and tramp of the unemployed legions had taught him this much: not only must the masses be appeased but they must even be coddled a little. The most stubborn among the bourgeoisie were chastised and made to accept the new program for their own good. Both capital and labor were brought together under a regime of governmental paternalism.

Both capital and labor were to have their “rights.” The Roosevelt government would guarantee this. Labor would have the right to organize and bargain collectively. They must have “good wages” and decent hours. Capital must also have the right to organize and bargain collectively with labor. Capital also must have “good wages,” that is, a “fair profit.” Both capital and labor were forbidden to interfere with the rights of each other. Labor accepted the New Deal and Roosevelt with trust and confidence. The Marxists were unable to stem the reformist tide.

New Unionism and the CIO

With this development the trade union movement, notably the CIO, entered upon a new career. A new theory of labor struggle was born and put into practice. It was the theory of government as a non-class institution which would not only mediate between capital and labor but would really be a partisan of organized labor. Labor, as its leaders saw it, entered a new existence: the ward of the federal government.

The bourgeoisie did not accept its new status as partner in the tripartite arrangement that was to exist between government, capital and labor. They remained principled protagonists of class struggle and bided their time: the time when they would be needed and when the New Emancipator would be forced to call on them for help in prosecuting the next war. They knew their place in society and their rôle in history. Above all they knew that their interests lay with the class to which they belonged.

It is necessary to understand and underscore the failure of the trade union movement to perceive what was going on. The bourgeoisie was faced with the steady downward course of capitalist society and bourgeois democracy. The factories were idle, cargo vessels were at anchor, land transport was unused, banks were collapsing, stocks and bonds were far below par, dividends were of the halcyon days of the past and profits were a hope for the future. Therefore the bourgeoisie was faced with the dire necessity to do something “radical” for the salvation of their reign and their system. Their answer was the New Deal. And the proletariat – despite the fact that the objective conditions were ripe for a real New Order, for a workers’ New Order – had no program of its own, no insight and no leadership capable and adequate for the task that history had placed before it.

The working class was propagandized to accept the alleged fact that now it had the “right to organize.” This was supposed to have been provided by Section 7A of the National Labor Relations Act. The labor movement went into rhapsodies over this “fact,” even though it already had this right which on more than one occasion was given legal sanction by the Supreme Court. But the fanfare of trumpets about the “right to organize” was part of the concession that the bourgeoisie was prepared, under pressure, to grant the proletariat. And there was legislation for collective bargaining and the social security program. This, then, was to be the “workers’ century.”

The whole program of the New Deal was aimed at industrial peace in a period of turbulence and of the inability of the bourgeoisie to quell the unrest by satisfying the material needs of the people. Its aim was to neutralize the class struggle and harmonize the interests of the two classes, which was necessary in order to give a wounded and gasping capitalist democracy time in which to repair its broken limbs and to rehabilitate itself.

In this whole development one sees the source and beginnings of the present difficulties in the labor movement. For it was during the New Deal days that labor was tied to the government. In this sense the trade union movement was coralled by the bourgeoisie. Behind this phenomena was the real contributions made by the New Deal to the material welfare of the working class. In a period of mass misery and despair, only the absence of a revolutionary leadership and party prevented the independent political development of the American proletariat. It therefore succumbed to reformism. All it could do was wait for a leader who could tap the federal Treasury and the tremendous accumulated financial reserves of the bourgeoisie. This Roosevelt did. In a sense, therefore, the New Deal was a bribe – a bribe paid to the proletariat in a potentially revolutionary period.

The Shock of the War

But this dream of labor was shattered. This vision of an Elysian existence under the benign and paternal glance of the government was decomposed by events over which neither labor nor the New Dealers had any control. Three thousand miles of ocean on one side and 7,000 on the other no longer kept the United States immune from “foreign entanglements.” We were about to get the first real and potent demonstration of the oft-repeated saying that capitalism today is an international economic order. The barbarian invasions under the banner of fascism were covering the whole of Europe with concentration camps and bringing industry and finance under the control of Germany’s ruling class. The bourgeoisie in the United States had maintained its equanimity throughout the period of the destruction of the trade unions, the blood purges, and the hounding, robbing and murder of the Jews. As a matter of fact, they were quite happy over the German experiment. They had gone their profit-seeking way after the sack of Austria and Czechoslovakia. So long as they could convince themselves that the main aim of Hitler was the destruction of the Soviet Union they were undisturbed lovers of the peace. But when the Nazi hordes turned westward, Hitler made it clear that his aims were more elaborate than the subjugation of a Poland or the rescue of his kinsmen in the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakian exploitation.

The New Deal became the War Deal and after a series of political maneuvers extending over a period of three years the bourgeoisie entered the Second Imperialist World War. Just as the labor movement had failed to understand the crisis of capitalist democracy in the days of the “great depression,” it now failed to comprehend this greater crisis that bourgeois democracy faced. While the depression was world-wide it was nevertheless possible for the ruling class, through the New Deal, to use a part of the enormous wealth that had been accumulated for a program of internal welfare work that would alleviate the terrible suffering of the masses. Foreign entanglements could not be a major factor in this program. But the new crisis for the bourgeoisie brought it face to face with a powerfully armed external foe, out for world domination. Its very existence was at stake and there was no time to be concerned with the “socialistic” experiments of the New Dealers.

The labor movement failed to understand that the change over from the New Deal to the War Deal was not a change in the primary aims of the bourgeoisie and the government. Even during the days of the New Deal the chief aim was the preservation of capitalism and the capitalist way of life. While formerly the struggle was against the national proletariat, now with the coming of the Second Imperialist World War the struggle of the bourgeoisie is not only against its own proletariat but also against another imperialist ruling class. The class struggle in the United States continues, but to this is added an inter-bourgeois struggle on an international scale, a war between the German-Japanese-Italian ruling class and the Anglo-American ruling class.

That the class struggle in the United States continues unabated is a fact that the organized proletariat is only beginning to understand in a vague sort of way. The assault on labor is just beginning to reveal the true relationship between the classes, yet the workers believe, because this is what they are taught by their leaders, that big business is concerned with smashing the unions because they don’t like unions, or that big business men are simply concerned with getting their big salaries and dividends.

The situation is not so simple. In the present circumstances the American bourgeoisie fights for its very economic and political life. It fights for its national existence. To fight for national existence means to fight for world domination. In this sense the present war differs from the First Imperialist World War. In that war one could say that it was a war for the redivision of the world. England dominated the world’s trade and protected this domination with the powerful British fleet. Germany wanted a part of this trade and more colonies. But even the colonies which Germany held were taken away from her and turned over to France and England under a mandate arrangement. France organized and financed the armies of the little refurbished “republics” of Central Europe and dreamed of domination over continental Europe.

The war has changed many things. Hitler seeks world domination for the German ruling class. This means to bring world trade, raw materials, agricultural areas, mineral resources, the colonial regions and the “democratic” nations under the domination of the German ruling class. But this is not the aim of the German bourgeoisie alone. The national bourgeoisie of England and the United States is caught in the same vise of necessity. To fight for its life today is to fight for imperialist expansion, for world dominion.

When a ruling class is faced with such a dilemma, it cannot tolerate its government, its executive committee, posing as a friend of labor. This is too dangerous. It demands that its government become the overseer of labor. The ruling class does not always use such harsh language, of course. In the first stages it employs a milder approach. Hence the demand for “national unity.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: “equality of sacrifice.”

The working class does not understand that the demand for national unity, no matter in what soft tones it may be made, is a demand for the subordination of the proletariat to the bourgeoisie. Carried out in practice – and practice is what the ruling class insists on – national unity is a demand for the working class to do all of the sacrificing.

“Equality of Sacrifice” and the Workers

The demand of the ruling class for “equality of sacrifice” is only a corollary to the demand for national unity. Some of them couch this demand in very crude terms and say that this is labor’s war, that labor has more to gain by winning the war than any other group. Ralph Bard, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, told the last CIO convention that “it’s largely your war. There are more workers than there are lawyers or bankers or corporation executives.” The fact that the ranks of labor can sit peacefully while such insults are uttered by government officialdom is an indication of the bourgeois poison that has seeped into labor’s ranks.

Militant workers who do not agree with what is taking place in the unions find themselves in a very embarrassing and harassing situation. They are in disagreement with the program of their own leadership. Being unable to untangle the complex web of relationships that exist between the labor bureaucracy, the government and the employers, and the reasons for the actions of their leaders, they either become discouraged or follow in a listless and uninspiring manner. The trade union bureaucracy is responsible for this situation. While no one should expect the present-day trade union leaders to break through the capitalist integument and become proponents of revolutionary thinking and action, it is not necessary for them to bend so far backward that it is difficult to distinguish them from the government and industrial bureaucrats. This is not required for a trade union leadership even in the present wartime situation. The labor leaders today are full-fledged “labor lieutenants of capital” and it is extremely difficult to isolate their thinking and their action on working class problems from that of Roosevelt and the bourgeois “friends of labor.” They merge the interests of labor with the interests of the bourgeoisie, dosing their eyes to the fact of class divisions in society and the realities of class struggle.

The capitulation of the trade union bureaucracy to the government and the ruling class, however, does not resolve the class struggle. This struggle cannot be dissolved by class collaboration on the part of the union leadership. The struggle can be atomized for a period and the proletariat may be subdued for a time, but the problems arising from ownership of the instruments of production and the concomitant problems of private profit, exploitation and wage labor do not vanish simply because trade union leaders go around giving birth to fervid and plaintive utterances about “the people’s war,” “equality of sacrifice” and “total mobilization.”

The proletariat in the factories know this all too well. It is in the plants that the facts of the capitalist encirclement of the working class reveals itself. It is here that the imperialist war-makers are exposed for what they are. It is here that the workers learn, all too slowly to be sure, whose side Roosevelt is on and whose interests he represents. Millions of proletarians working on war orders have seen the employers attempt to push them to the wall since their leaders gave up the right to strike. Above all they notice that Roosevelt and his various boards have not come to then: aid and assistance.

Therefore, when these workers come to one of their conventions they are completely mystified by the proposals, speeches and recommendations of the trade union bureaucrats. They know that what the leaders are saying contradicts their experience in the shops. They also know that their experiences and the accumulated experience of the labor movement during the past two years is nearer the real situation than the representations of the leadership. But they don’t know the meaning of what the leadership is doing and saying. They do not understand that the labor bureaucracy are not only “capital’s labor lieutenants,” but political recruiting sergeants of the bourgeoisie. Hence their conventions, presumably called to discuss the economic problems of the working class, are from opening to adjournment political gatherings of the proletariat to listen to second-hand reports which the bureaucracy has passively imbibed from Roosevelt or his subalterns. It is in these conventions today that the working class is oriented and regimented toward full political and organizational support of the war. This is the point at which the proletariat dwells in a sort of twilight zone between its understanding of its economic requirements and a lack of understanding of the political situation and its own class needs.

Political Failings Stand Out

Into this welter of confusion, betrayal and ignorance come the Stalinists, the super-patriots running at the heels of Stalin and supervised by the GPU. They have influence in the labor movement, but this influence is placed whole-heartedly at the service of the bourgeoisie and the government. The trade union bureaucracy, which really hates and fears them, is unable to escape their reach because this bureaucracy, on the main question of the war, has politics which is identical with that of the Stalinists. The Stalinists, therefore are political bedfellows of the erstwhile anti-Stalinist labor leadership and of all the war-mongers among the liberals. They warn the workers to step up production and do the will of the War Production Board or this board will take away the maintenance of membership awards. All those workers who express their resentment at the capitulation of their leadership and the assault of the employers are labelled “irresponsible” and “seditious.” They call on the government to suppress labor papers which oppose the war and every worker who is anti-war is a “Trotskyite.”

This is a dark picture, but the light begins to break through. It comes from the only source that it can come from: the proletariat itself. Those who bear the main burden are dissatisfied and they begin to stir. There is murmuring among the people; that is, among the working class. The leadership feels this pressure of the ranks and they are genuinely concerned. Their concern will increase for there is no good reason to believe that the trade union leadership will alter its course or that the workers will continue their retreat.

While the workers dissent and show their feelings in various practical ways inside the plants, their protests are weak, inchoate and disorganized. Here we see the most militant part of the world’s proletarian forces faced with the highest political task of all time, with the threat of becoming engulfed in world fascism, without a class-conscious leadership, with little or no political understanding and no mass political organization. The political and ideological attack of the bourgeoisie is being answered by outmoded and impotent trade union formulas good for a previous era, the era of direct negotiations with the employer and before the direct and constant intervention of the government.

The trade union movement, ten million strong, with millions more crying for organization, is being pushed back and subordinated to the demands of a tottering imperialist ruling class. These demands are being made by this blundering and senile ruling class right at the time when its only answer to the economic demands of the people is to drench the world in blood and visit terrible destruction on mankind. And this, in order to perpetuate and maintain its rule. It asks the proletariat to come to its aid, to assist it in achieving these aims, which when realized can only mean the perpetuation of the enslavement of that same proletariat.

The bourgeoisie today demands obeisance from the trade union leadership and submission from the proletariat under the pretense that it fights against fascism and for democracy.

This is the banner that the workers are asked to rally to. The leaders of government, industry and finance know that the proletariat is and must be the mortal enemy of fascism. The workers have seen the snarl of the fascist dictator and tasted the misery of his concentration camp. They are eternally against the victory of Hitler and all his works. They are for the complete defeat of Hitler, his military defeat and his ideological defeat. This means that the proletariat is against fascism and for democracy. But the democracy for which the proletariat is willing to lay down its life is not guaranteed by this present ruling class. Their record is bad and their credentials are spurious. Their record is displayed all across the land as plain as day for every worker to see and understand. We have recounted that record in this article and every worker has experienced its meaning in every shop, mill, mine and factory and on the farm.

Fascism is not a geographical, racial or national phenomenon. It is political counter-revolution in a period of economic decay and disintegration and may strike in any country where there is prolonged economic crisis. Fascism is capitalism in an epoch during which the bourgeoisie can no longer satisfy the material wants and demands of the people, when the bourgeoisie democratic social services can no longer be supplied and when bourgeois civil liberties and democratic rights may serve as a weapon of the proletariat against the rule of the bourgeoisie. It is capitalism enervated but confronted by a militant, organized proletariat demanding its place in the sun and a larger portion of the wealth which it produces.

The workers of the whole world today stand in the shadow of fascism, not German fascism alone, but the potential fascization of every capitalist imperialist nation. There is a difference between the military defeat of Germany and the defeat of fascism. A military victory over Germany is not guarantee of the continuation of democracy in the victor nations. In fact, it is admitted by all but the most stubborn among the bourgeois that the status quo ante bellum cannot be maintained, that there must be something better, that is, a far more democratic world order.

Political Organization of the Workers Imperative

This is the central problem for this generation for the organized labor movement. It is a problem of political organization to stay the advance of fascism, to improve the economic standards of the working class and to deliver the proletariat finally from the grip of the imperialist exploiters, whether native or “foreign.” As the primary mass organization of the proletariat it is the function of the trade unions today to transform themselves into fighting class bodies with a constant vision of society regenerated and transformed, transformed from capitalist exploitation, imperialist aggression and the danger of fascism into a world of socialist freedom, peace and security.

To carry out this task it will be necessary for the trade unions to proceed in a very practical way. On the basis of their understanding of their needs and the requirements of the period the trade unions must go into action and take the necessary concrete steps. The goal is a practical one: the transformation of the social order and the administration of the new society by the working class, that is, by the majority.

The most obvious practical step required for independent working class political action is political organization. There can be no proletarian class political action unless there is an independent political party of that class. Labor cannot protect its class interests and enforce its political demands in the Democratic-Republican Party or in alliance with this party. Labor should know by now that the Republicans and Democrats do not and cannot in any sense whatsoever represent the trade unions and the workers. If they never learned this before, the course of the war should by now have indelibly fastened this fact in their consciousness.

The formation of a national Labor Party based on the trade union masses would be a tremendous step forward for American labor. This party should have a militant economic program and a class struggle political program. Now is the time to form such a party because it is now that labor is under the severest attack. Such a party is necessary for the protection of the interests of labor, not only right now but to plan for untoward events that may follow any peace or truce entered into by the imperialist belligerents.

The orientation of the trade union movement toward independent class struggle political action and the formation of a workers’ party must be the responsibility of the leading militants in the unions, particularly the militant shop stewards and the union Marxists and revolutionaries. The trade union bureaucracy will not give attention to this task. They are too busy today supporting the war. The militants and the revolutionaries must differentiate themselves from these defenders and deputies of capitalist imperialism. The militants in direct contact with the workers can call on them to stand their ground, halt the retreat, about-face and confront the class enemy. This is the task for today and tomorrow. The militants and the revolutionaries can furthermore point out to the men and women in the shops that labor can start now to prepare for entering the 1944 elections with the first national mass Labor Party in American history.

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