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David Coolidge

Mass Action

(24 December 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 52, 24 December 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Ford hasn’t accepted the “security plan" presented by the UAW leadership. The young scoundrel probably feels that if he holds out a while longer, Thomas, Leonard, Reuther and Addes will come forward with something better. Ford reports that the company is considering an "annual wage” scheme. He cannot consider the UAW leaders’ sell-out proposals until he has his “annual wage" plan concocted. What Ford wants to do, of course, is to kill two birds with one stone. He wants to fabricate some complicated annual wage scheme and tie it to the “security plan” presented by the UAW leaders. If the annual wage should turn out later to be less than expected, as it surely will, then Ford will have his workers thoroughly shackled with the aid of the UAW top leaders.

The company “protection plan” presented by Leonard, seems to be headed for the rocks in the union itself. Leonard told the company that the union-would have trouble enough selling the security proposals to the rank and hie even if a substantial wage increase was granted. This statement by Leonard is in itself an admission that the company security' plan is a betrayal of the UAW membership. What Leonard is saying is that even should Ford grant wage increases, the workers in the Ford locals would still be hard to convince that it is their business to protect the Ford Motor Co.

Why should the UAW leadership want to adopt a plan which they believe will be unacceptable to their membership? Why was this plan presented to Ford and made public before it was discussed and acted upon by the membership? The reasons seem clear. The UAW leaders knew that if they went before the membership with this sell-out proposal it would be rejected by the Ford workers. Therefore they presented it to Ford, hoping that he would accept it and that this would give them a club with which to beat back any opposition in the Ford locals.

It seems clear that this Ford proposal was connected with what was going on at GM. Reuther had run way in front of the IEB with his radical GM demands for opening the company’s books and determining the price of automobiles. Instead of presenting the same demands to Ford and Chrysler, Thomas & Co. got scared and decided to throw the Ford workers to the lions. This would balance things: radical with GM, conciliatory with Ford. This would prove that the UAW leadership was not so radical, that they were “reasonable men,” “responsible” trade-union leaders.

Furthermore, by this maneuver, more of the top leadership of the UAW would have an opportunity to shine in the limelight, get their names in the press and bask in nationwide publicity. Reuther, the “radical,” would command the GM front. Leonard would retreat at River Rouge, While Thomas would dash off to negotiate with Henry Kaiser at Willow Run. Addes, of course, would remain in Detroit to hold things together and take charge of the per capita.

A Clever Maneuver

R.J. Thomas got a bright idea last week. His research staff informed him that the British Labor Government owned 434,000 shares of GM common stock. Thereupon Thomas dispatched a message to Prime Minister Attlee which informed Attlee that the UAW was confident that the GM management does not reflect the “thinking” of the “vast majority of the owners of the corporation.” Thomas went on to say that “for that reason and because a statement by the Labor Government of Great Britain would be a welcome demonstration of the solidarity that binds together the working people of all nations, We are hopeful that you will be able to make known to the management of General Motors Corporation your belief that profits are, indeed, the concern of the Workers and owners of any corporation.”

It is very difficult to guess what, if anything, was in Thomas’ head when he sent this message to Attlee, in the first place, the “vast majority” of the owners of GM is the du Pont family and the top managers of the corporation. It is difficult to believe, that this management does not reflect the “thinking” of itself and of the du Ponts. Furthermore, just what does Thomas think the British Labor government is? Hasn't he been reading the papers? Don’t his “aids” keep him posted on what is going on in the world? In Java? Indonesia? Or in England?

We are certainly most strongly in favor of international labor solidarity. We should certainly like to see an expression of solidarity with the GM workers come from the British Labor Government. But this seems too much to expect right now. An urgent task before Attlee and his fellow ministers is to express in action a feeling of solidarity with the British Labor Party and the British working class. They haven't done this yet. Also, we should like to see that government express in action a feeling of solidarity with the Indonesians, the Javanese, Indians and Africans. That is, we should like to see the British Labor Government take just one step toward obeying, in action, the mandate which was given them when the British masses decided that a change was necessary and voted the Labor Party ticket.

We say again that we are far more in favor of international labor solidarity than is Thomas – for one good reason, if for no other: we understand it, know what it means and the fundamental steps toward such a consummation. The strongest action that Thomas can take today toward international or national labor solidarity is to have the IEB withdraw its disgraceful Ford proposals and substitute the GM proposals. The next action is to ignore Truman’s “fact-finding” fakery and all other arbitration proposals. Let the IEB decide to arbitrate this dispute by way of the picket line. That’s where it belongs.

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