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David Coolidge

“Work or Fight” Ending; Fight to Work Begins!

(28 May 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 9 No. 22, 28 May 1945, pp. 1& 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Willow Run bomber plant and its workers have “WON CAMPAIGN RIBBONS” and are “READY FOR HONORABLE DISCHARGE.” “Willow Run’s job is done.” Thus spoke Col. Nelson S. Talbot, Central district air technical service commanding officer.

Col. Talbot is an officer of the U.S. Army and a representative of the government of the United States at Washington. He represents the man in the White House, who is head of the Democratic Party. This is the party which millions of workers voted for last November, when labor split its millions of votes between the capitalist Democratic Party and the capitalist Republican Party.

What Col. Talbot very brutally admits about the Widow Run plan twill be said about every big war plant in the country: the worker shave won campaign ribbons and are now ready for their honorable discharge— by the shipbuilding companies, the mine operators, the aircraft and automobile manufacturers. The bombs, bullets and tanks are piled up. “Labor has done a magnificent job.”The machine tool industry is ready and equipped for the Third Imperialist World War. The steel industry is ready for a “vacation.”All of the “arsenals of democracy” have produced and produced and produced. “American labor has done the greatest production job in history.”

Labor won campaign ribbons during the First World Imperialist War and was discharged when the war was over. In the industrial upsurge of the late twenties labor also won its campaign ribbons and was honorably discharged in 1929, never to be employed again until the“made-work” fury in preparation for the Second World Imperialist War.

Capital Sitting Pretty

Now that the shooting is over in Germany and fewer bullets, tanks, planes, bombs and ships are needed for the last phase of the war, the capitalist ruling class and its government at Washington don’t know what to do about jobs for the millions of workers and the hundreds of plants that were constructed for war production.

Capitalist industry has put away a nice nest egg for the post-war days. They have over 50 billion dollars in reserves. The captains of industry have feathered their personal nests with their enormous personal salaries, their operations in “black market”meat and their Wall Street stock gambling. All of these billions in profits, dividends, interest and salaries have been made possible because the profits to industry during the war ran as high as 30 percent for manufacturing and financial corporations.

It is only the working class that is ready now for “honorable discharge.”

Attack on Unions

The first step in this direction by the capitalist exploiters is to launch an attack on the unions. They have discovered what they think is a good scheme. They will do it through the ex-service men. They will do it by turning the Negro workers against the white workers or vice versa. They will do it by creating enmity between men and women workers.

One George Romney, an obscure individual, who rose to prominence during the war as “managing director of the Automotive Council for War Production” thinks it can be done by a little vicious and timely weeping over the problem of employment for the ex-service men. Romney attacks the UAW leadership for its opposition to his proposal that ex-service men who have never worked in a plant, be given blanket seniority for all time served in the army, even before they have ever secured a job.

That is, according to Romney, a man or woman who left school, a bank, employment in a strike-breaking agency or any other occupation, and who, for instance, has served three years in the armed services, can march up to an organized plant with three years’ plant seniority in his hip pocket, All this before he has been assigned to a job, before he has been inside the plant. If such a proposal should be accepted by the unions they would be on their way to the graveyard.

Romney says that the union attitude on the matter of seniority for veterans is a “lockout” All the workers among the veterans ought to realize that it was not the unions which locked them out of the factories but the capitalist ruling class and the capitalist government of this class in Washington. The veterans were locked out when they were drafted into the armed forces, to fight an imperialist war for the capitalist exploiters and marauders.

It will do working class veterans no good to lend themselves to any type of scheme proposed by the employers and the government which will in any way weaken the unions. Years after the war is over, when their hero medals have become a mere “hunk of brass, ”when they find themselves in the bread lines, or see their babies gassed to death on a “bloody Thursday” by the army led by some future chief of staff, they will need the union to protect them.

The main problem before labor to-day, as always under capitalism, is: JOBS. All the talk about “reconversion” is mere gas unless we have jobs: have them now and have them continuously.The UAW workers in Detroit finally hit the nail on the head when they say to their International leaders: “forget world problems and do something for the rank and file.” They should have said this when Murray and Thomas gave Roosevelt that infamous no-strike pledge, when Murray accepted the infamous Little Steel formula, when the Smith-Connally Act was passed and when the PAC leadership betrayed labor by helping a capitalist party retain control of the government.

We know that these automobile workers do not mean by their statement that they are not interested in “world problems, ”especially as they affect labor here and in other parts of the world. What they mean, and they are correct, is that the capitalist government should be allowed to run its imperialist war, to take care of its own imperialist interests, if it can.

The Workers Party has a Reconversion Program that labor can fight for and really get somewhere with. But we have to fight for this program. The capitalist employers and their government will never grant it. This program really takes care of the problem of jobs:60 million jobs or a hundred million jobs. Labor, however, cannot win this program if it listens to the promises and the wailings of the labor leaders. To push this Reconversion Program of the Workers Party through, labor will need not only unions far stronger and more militant than our unions are today, but will also need a mass labor party, to take over in Washington; from the White House to Capitol Hill.

Workers’ Party Reconversion Program

  1. The Workers Party believes that “Every worker has the right to a job and a guaranteed annual wage.” Also that “Every unemployed worker has he right to full jobless insurance.” We mean by “full jobless insurance” that single men and women when unemployed shall get not less than $30 a week.
  2. We believe that all w0rkers “thrown into unemployment during the “reconversion period” should be absorbed into industry by a reduction in the work week with no reduction in pay. There is no reason that we should starve just because the capitalists have no work for us.
  3. The demobilized veterans should get two years military base pay. They should have the opportunity to go to school at government expense and their families should have adequate maintenance.
  4. A single worker should have a guaranteed annual wage of not less than $2, 500 a year. A workers family should have a guaranteed annual income of not less than $5, 000. A worker’s family needs this much money for a decent standard of living.
  5. The Workers Party believes that workers should have decent and sanitary homes to live in. Let the government spend 250 billion dollars in five years to build these homes, public works and for rural electrification. We who build the houses should live in them.
  6. Where will the money come from? The Workers Party says that this money should come from those who have it. The war industries should be conscripted. Nationalize the banks, the industrial monopolies and the transportation systems. Then the billions of dollars in profits can be used for the benefit of all the people.
  7. Furthermore, take all the war profits above five per cent on invested capital. This would bring in countless billions of dollars. Those who created this wealth: labor, should have the advantage of it. Cut the salaries of the capitalists to $25, 000 a year. They don’t even deserve that much. Make the capitalist pay for their war by capturing all their accumulated wealth above $50, 000. Even this amount is too much for these exploiters.
  8. Labor should control production. That’s one way of keeping the mines, mills and factories in operation. Workers would run them to produce goods for people to use. We couldn’t possibly have any interest in shutting a plant down because a union was demanding an increase in wages.
  9. The working people will have to have a political party of their own in order to win such a Reconversion Program. That party must be based on the unions and have millions of members. The capitalist employers and the government bureaucrats would tremble in their boots if they saw such a powerful labor party being organized.

If we had such a powerful and militant labor movement organized into a mighty trade unions and a mass political party then we could say to the capitalist employers:

If you can’t run the mines, mills and factories, we can and will. And to the bureaucrats at Washington we could say: If you can’t run the country and supply us with food, clothing and shelter; we ca nand will.

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