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David Coolidge

Steel, Packers, UE, FE Set to Go!
Unify the Struggle!

(14 January 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 2, 14 January 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Millions of industrial workers in the United States are on the mark, set and ready for militant mass action, as a class, against the capitalist ruling class.

Labor in the automobile, steel, electrical, textile, meat packing and farm equipment industries awaits the call of its elected leadership to form the picket lines and begin the too-long-delayed struggle against their capitalist exploiters and oppressors.

These CIO millions have spoken in the clearest possible manner to the leaders of their Internationals and to the top leadership of the CIO. In every one of the Internationals mentioned they have voted, by overwhelming majorities, to strike, to mass their numbers against the tremendous economic, social and political power of the employers.

Outside the CIO there are thousands of workers on strike from other labor organizations. The grievances of labor in the CIO, AFL, UMWA, railway brotherhoods and the non-affiliated unions are basically identical. All the legions of labor are demanding a living wage, the guarantee of economic security, a permanent job, the opportunity to live and develop as human beings.

The working class now knows more than formerly. We know that it is not enough to be concerned with wages alone and in a narrow way. We know now that wages are inextricably related to production, profits, dividends and prices and that therefore wages cannot be separated from or negotiated without taking production, profits and prices into consideration.

This is why the demand of the UAW that the General Motors Corporation open its books to union inspection represents a correct beginning in the matter of dealing with wages in the present concrete situation. That is why GM rushed into the capitalist press screeching about a “finger in the pie.” That is why Ford demands “company security.” That is why Kaiser proposes his bonus (incentive pay) fakery. This is also the reason why President Truman intervenes in the conflict with his “fact-finding” boards.

Who doesn’t know the facts? Truman? The employers? Congress? The CIO? The working class? Everybody who knows anything knows the facts, for they are clear. Before the beginning of the Second Imperialist World War the working class was in the breadlines for ten years. The capitalists had demonstrated that capitalism was bankrupt in the sense that this decayed and rotten system could no longer feed, house and clothe decently the masses of the people. The masses were fed in soup lines, housed in the streets and “Hoovervilles” and clothed in rags. When the war came the masses were herded into the tank, airplane and atomic bomb factories to manufacture the instruments of imperialist devastation and barbarism. This was the capitalist solution to the unemployment crisis.

The Facts

When Germany had been reduced to rubble and the atomic bomb had conquered Japan, the imperialists began to close their factories again, pocketed their billions in blood profits and threw the workers into the streets. These are the facts, Mr. Truman, and no fact-finding boards are needed to discover them.

What are some other facts that do not need to be discovered by President Truman’s “fact-finding” boards? Here are some of them: At the beginning of the war the capitalist free enterprisers refused to produce for THEIR government until THEIR government met their demands for an increase in profit guarantees. They won their demands from THEIR government. During the war they demanded that THEIR government build plants for them to manage and that they also be subsidized by THEIR government. When the war was over they demanded that THEIR government reduce corporation taxes and guarantee to corporations a return in taxes if profits fell below a certain amount. They won all of their demands from THEIR government.

When organized labor, after the war, demanded a modest increase in wages, the capitalist employers at first said: “We can’t pay it.” Then they admitted that they could pay more wages. Getting bolder they later said that they would not pay, but suggested that they might consent to a little increase if they could be guaranteed “protection” by the unions. When GM was confronted by the demand of the UAW that the union have a look at General Motors’ accounting system, the whole pack of the capitalist employers yelped, in unison that it was not really a question of wages or the ability to pay, but WHO IS TO BE MASTER IN THE HOUSE? Who is to have a “finger in the pie”?

The capitalist employers are correct. This is the main question today: WHO IS TO BE MASTER IN THE HOUSE? Who is to run the country? Who is to run industry and the government? Who is to control production? Which class? What kind of government shall we have and in whose interest shall the government operate? Shall industry continue to be privately owned and run by those who say that they cannot or will not pay decent wages? Shall the government continue to be composed of those who represent the exploiters and oppressors of the masses?

Capitalists Have General Staff

The capitalist employers have their general staff, their NAM, their Chamber of Commerce, their Republican and Democratic Parties. They have their general staff to plan, organize and lead them. The general staff of the capitalist ruling class operates and functions iq every phase and aspect of the life of the capitalist ruling class. It functions today as millions of workers prepare to form their ranks on the picket lines. The capitalist employers will have their strike council to coordinate their strike-breaking activities. They will not function as individuals or as separate units of industry. The steel, automobile, farm equipment, electrical, meat packing and textile industries will not go it each for itself. They will be together: one class protecting its class interests.

We said above that labor is ready for militant mass action. But to carry through effectively in the present situation it is necessary that the efforts of labor be coordinated and unified. Big and decisive unions of the CIO are involved in this strike situation. The GM strike is the spearhead. Tomorrow when the steel

workers go out they will play a most important part in the action because of the basic importance of steel in the production of other commodities. Proper organization and coordination of the activities of the various CIO internationals will bring all of the UAW, including Ford and Chrysler, into action. Philip Murray knows this and he trembles at the prospect of being forced to the head of a nationwide militant action of the CIO as a whole. While millions of workers strain at the leash Murray and his lieutenants pale at the sight and scheme to apply the brakes.

Labor Needs General Staff

We say coordinate the projected strike actions of the several CIO internationals. Every worker in every international, local and shop should demand this. Let there be a National Strike Council, democratically elected by the locals in all the internationals involved. This would be a CIO National Strike Council authorized to coordinate the actions of the striking internationals, to plan and lead the strike, to adopt the slogans and formulate the demands of the workers.

The National Strike Council might well adopt the slogan: “OPEN THE BOOKS!” Let us see all the books – U.S. Steel, Jones & Laughlin, National Steel, Republic Steel, Youngstown Sheet & Tube, Westinghouse and General Electric.

The Workers Party takes this position because this is no ordinary situation. This is not mere bargaining for wages. The working class is at a higher level of understanding today than ever before. in its history in the U.S. The fight of labor and its demands have gone beyond the pure and simple trade unionism of the past. The main problems of labor today, cannot be solved by pure and simple trade union action. The strikes themselves cannot be confined to old-fashioned wage demands, as Murray wants to do. The UAW in its demand to see the books of GM, demonstrates at least an elementary understanding of the problem.

For a Workers’ Government

The demand for “Open the Books” is itself a part of the demand for workers’ control of industry. We must see the books and examine them. Is this a mere trade union demand in the old sense? Of course not! The capitalist employers and their press are correct when they point this out. We are correct also when we make this demand.

To demand that the books be opened, that big industry be nationalized under workers’ control is a political demand, a demand for political power. Furthermore, the mass militancy of the working class today is a political struggle in its most elementary form. It cannot be confined to the old-fashioned trade union procedure.

To have political power a class must have its own government. For labor this means a WORKERS’ GOVERNMENT. For the capitalist ruling class it means also its own government, the present government at Washington.

In the present strike situation the working class must have its general staff. Its general staff for the present strike situation: the GENERAL STRIKE COUNCIL elected by the locals in the striking internationals. We must have our over-all political general staff: a national political party of workers and based on the trade unions, a mass Labor Party freed from all connections with and control by the capitalist Republican and Democratic Parties.

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