Ernest Rice McKinney Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

David Coolidge

Mass Action

(2 April 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 15 (actually No. 14), 2 April 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Capitalist Press and the Miners

Labor could learn a lot about how to carry on working class propaganda by paying attention to the way the ruling class does the job in its own capitalist, press. Not from the Hearst or McCormick papers, which are merely the asinine, vicious and puerile babblings of two old men and their paid street-walkers, but from a paper like the New York Times. Here is an “impartial” journal, “independent” and giving “all the news that’s fit to print.”

In a leading editorial on the UMWA and the coal negotiations entitled “Believe It or Not,” the Times opens up as follows:

“If there is a strange spectacle anywhere in the world to-day, it is the spectacle of the government of the United States solemnly preparing to poll the coal miners, under its official auspices, on the question whether they want to cripple the American Army and the American Navy with a wartime strike.”

And further:

“... here is the government of the United States moving with all its majesty and the logic of some character out of Alice in Wonderland, to ask the coal miners whether they would or would not like to wreck the whole war effort in the event that they are dissatisfied with the action on their wage demands.”

The Times’ Secret

Then the Times lets its readers in on a secret, evidently known only to the Times. “This fantastic situation is all in strict accordance with the Smith-Connally Act, the so-called ‘anti-strike law.’” It seems the miners didn’t know about the Smith-Connally Act. They just filed that strike notice because they wanted to give the employers an opportunity to change their minds and the government an opportunity to enter as “conciliator.”

What is important about this editorial is the fact that the Times editors know how to prepare propaganda in the interest of the capitalist class, which the Times serves. Some workers and labor leaders will read this editorial and exclaim that “The Times is unfair to labor,” “The Times has distorted the dispute between the miners and the coal operators,” “The Times is more reactionary than Smith and Connally.”

All of which is pure nonsense and beside the point. As spokesmen for capitalist “free enterprise,” the Times editors know precisely what they are about. They are not primarily concerned with the law or the. Smith-Connally Act They are primarily concerned with strikes, with the stopping, of production, They know that the chief function of a strike is to halt production.

A halt in production has two features, both of which are very disagreeable to the capitalist employer and to the capitalist press, the mouth-piece of the employer. One thorn in the side of the employers and stockholders is that a halt in production may have an effect on profits, which may affect the big salaries and dividends. Also the strike might be won by the union if it is strong enough and militant enough to confront the employer (and the employer’s government) face to face for a showdown. In that case, the employer will be forced to raise wages, which also affects profits, dividends and the big salaries.

This is really what the Times is talking about. The Times and the rest of the capitalist press did not adopt this attitude for the period of the war. This is their permanent attitude in connection with strikes and even in the matter of labor organization. This was the attitude of the capitalists as far back as the first quarter of the nineteenth century, when the workers were hauled into court and convicted for “conspiring to raise their wages.” And all they had done in this instance was attempt to form a union.

Speaks for Capitalism

The Times is particularly concerned now with strikes because the ruling class, for which the Times speaks, is engaged in the Second Imperialist World War. Out of military victory in the war the capitalist ruling class in the United States expects to attain world domination for United States capitalism, financial and commercial.

It is or should be understandable to any worker why any banker, manufacturer or capitalist journalist, seeing such a prize within grasp, will writhe in agony and fury when confronted with the possibility of a strike and the stopping of production. The fact that a part of Poland and a half dozen little countries are tossed into the Russian wolf pen, or that “democratic” Britain, will come out of the war with all her millions of colonial slaves accounted for, does not destroy the central fact that the capitalist ruling class and its government at Washington fight the present war for imperialist domination of the world.

It would never do of course to say this; that is, it would never do to tell the masses of the people the truth. The capitalist ruling class is class-conscious; it knows how to carry on the class struggle, in peacetime and in wartime. With them the politics of war is basically identical with the politics of peace. Even the use of armed force, which is the chief characteristic of wartime politics, is not peculiar to the wartime functioning of the ruling class. This class never hesitates to use armed force in peace-time to defend its class interests against the demands of the working-class.

The Times therefore, all the capitalist press and the government, which Karl Marx called “the executive committee of the ruling class,” construct their propaganda in such a way as to further and protect their class interests. What other meaning can be given to the demand for the no-strike pledge, the Little Steel wage formula, job-freezing, the Smith-Connally Act and the new Roosevelt-sponsored totalitarian slave labor bill?

For Whom? Against Whom?

Whose interests do these measures serve and protect? Which class? Which class are they directed at and against? Which class makes unlimited profits and disburses to itself unlimited cash dividends while Davis, Vinson, Byrnes and Roosevelt “hold the line”? Which class raises prices through the black market and other devices of “free enterprise” while the OPA pats itself on the back? Bill Green, Johnny Green, Phil Murray and R.J. Thomas should answer these questions for the membership which pays their salaries.

The Times says that the government is preparing to ask the miners whether or not they want to cripple the Army and Navy. Or whether or not not they would like to wreck the whole war effort. Unfair? Biased? Perhaps, but that is beside the point. The point is WHO is “unfair” and for what purpose? Who, which class is ignoring the miners’ side and to what end? The Times does a little tear-jerking too in this editorial. “And so we are treated to the spectacle of the same august government passing out rations on Iwo Jima with one hand and strike votes with the other.”

This is good capitalist propaganda. It has been a complete success up to now. That’s what the Times, is published for. That’s how it makes its profits. It is a factory producing capitalist propaganda. It pays dividends, too. Every daily paper in, the U.S. does the same thing. (The Daily Worker is different only in that it doesn’t pay dividends, unless they carry lend-lease to Russia on their books as dividends.)

Need a Labor Press

Of course the capitalist press ignores the miners’ side. But they don’t ignore the coal operators’ side, the automobile manufacturers’ side and the steel corporations’ side. The capitalist press defends the class which supports it with “earnings” filched through the unpaid toil of the working class.

The CIO News, the American Federationist of the AFL, the papers of the railway brotherhoods, and the publications of the CIO internationals should be giving the miners’ side and defending their interests.

Labor must have its own daily papers to print its own side. The capitalist press distorts and lies. We do not need to distort and we will not lie. We can and must tell the truth. The imperialists must lie. They must lie about the war, they must lie about their profits, they must lie about the miners and all the other unions that stand up and fight. Churchill and

Roosevelt must lie about Yalta, Stalin must lie about his slave dungeons, his deportations, his anti-union depredations and his murders.

The whole propaganda of imperialism is a mass of distortions, trickery and lies. The imperialist governments are staffed with distorters and liars who go under the name of “diplomats.” The capitalist press is staffed by liars and distorters who go under the name of editors, reporters, correspondents.

One problem of the working class today is to have our own working class press to tell the working class truth, to spread working class propaganda, to fight for labor and not for Roosevelt. There should be no whimpering over the “distortions” and the “unfairness” of the capitalists, their press and their government.

Ernest Rice McKinney Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 5 December 2017