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David Coolidge

Union Leaders Rely on
Truman, Not on Labor!

(26 May 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 21, 26 May 1947, p. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Hartley Bill has passed the House, the Taft Bill has passed in the Senate and both bills are now in the hands of a committee of the two Houses. While these bills were being debated, after they had passed and now while the bills are being prepared for final passage, the leadership of 15 million organized workers did nothing that makes any sense, nothing that will make any impression on the Congress or raise the morale and self-respect of labor.

The labor leaders know, or ought to know, what is the source of this labor control legislation. They know, or ought to know, that the Republican Party, the most reactionary and most moth-eaten political section of the ruling class, is ravenously hungry and wants to stay at the trough today and from 1948 on. The labor leaders should know that this party is directly amenable to suggestion from the big business interests, because of its traditions, because it has been away from the trough for 14 long years. Also the Republicans believe that they can depend on the support of the middle class.

The labor leaders should know that the Republicans have allies in the ranks of the Democrats: that there is a bloc between the Republicans and the Southern Democrats, and that Truman himself wants some form of “union-control” legislation. That is, the leaders of the 15 million organized workers ought to understand by now that both the Republicans and Democrats are in favor of anti-labor legislation. The fact that Wagner says he will vote against the bill, that Senator Green calls the bill a plan of “the industrial bourbons,” that O’Mahoney is mad and that Kilgore is against the bill, will make no difference whatsoever. The Senate-House bill will pass despite the opposition of these “liberals.”

With all these brutal facts staring them straight in the face, the leadership of labor does nothing. They provide no leadership, not enough to justify even one-half the salaries they are paid. They have no program and no plan of attack. Labor sits and waifs for same sign of leadership, but sees none.

The trade union leadership today has abdicated everything except its offices, salaries, expense accounts and its bureaucratic hold on the unions. They are incompetent, sterile and senile. They are well-fed, paunchy, well-groomed, and listless except when some worker in his union takes the floor to exercise his democratic rights to demand action, to demand that something be done to halt the depradations of the employers and the Congress of the employers. Then, these crafty and aging bureaucrats come to life and spring into action. After they have squelched the “revolt,” they return again to slumber or the quiet repose of the union headquarters. They do nothing that makes sensfe about the Hartley and Taft Bills. They do nothing which does any good about wages and the high cost of living. They do nothing about the fact that their members live in shacks, that they don’t get enough decent food and decent clothing. They meet in the union convention to brag and bluster about the progress the union has made, but they have no program for the continuation of that progress in the face of the attack being made on labor by the employers and the government of the employers.

Waiting for a Veto

These labor bureaucrats don’t know enough to unify the labor movement. They don’t even know enough to come together for united action against the assaults on labor, and the masses. They are alert to their own bureaucratic interests but they have no program for the protection of labor which they are paid to serve.

They have learned from reading the papers that Truman might veto the Taft Bill. Immediately they pounced on this and adopted the veto as their program. That’s what they are depending on now: a Presidential veto. They expect Truman to be a “friend of labor.” It would never occur to Green and Murray to depend on the 15 million organized workers. They quake at the very thought of calling on labor to assemble at Washington and show its power and numbers. A 24-hour stoppage by millions of workers would not be “responsible unionism” in the minds of the Greens and the Murrays. They wait on Truman and rely on Truman.

Bill Green spoke over the radio recently against the Taft-Hartley bills. He uttered a great deal of nonsense as Green always does. John L. Lewis remarked once that he had looked into Bill Green’s head and, said Lewis, “I give you my word, there’s nothing there.” Green called the Taft-Hartley bills “slave-labor legislation.” This is not strictly correct of course. And if this characterization were correct; one would be at a loss to understand Green’s amazing ineptitude and lethargy in the face of his belief that the labor movement was about to be enslaved. The only way that capitalism can enslave labor today is to resort to fascist action. Does Bill Green believe that fascism is on the way in this country? If so he will have to find a better weapon than his wailing radio orations.

Bosses Can’t Wreck Unions

Green also said that the purpose of the bill is to “weaken and destroy labor unions.” Bill Green either understands nothing about capitalist society today, his role in that society – or he was merely taking up time. Undoubtedly the purpose of the bill is to weaken labor unions. Capitalists do not want strong unions, that is, strong in the sense of being unions that will fight and express the solidarity of the working class. They want unions that will be docile and tender in their approach to the problems of wages, prices and profits. It is not true, though, that the ruling class wants to smash the unions. This is, not the beginning of the 19th century. The capitalist ruling class has no objection to the unions being large so long as they do not use their size in a militant manner, for resolute and determined struggles against the employers and the government. Capitalism today prefers that labor be organized so long as it is under the domination of a leadership which is willing to “sit around the council and arrive at conclusions which are to the mutual interest of both labor and capital.” The capitalists are willing for the workers to be organized under the Murrays and the Greens so long as the Murrays and the Greens corral labor for support of the imperialist wars of the capitalists. The big employers are willing for unions to be large so long as they do,nothing to upset the Jim Crow employment policies of capitalism.

The capitalist ruling class understands today that it cannot destroy or wreck the unions. If they try this, this class will have an aroused working class to deal with that will not be quieted by the Murrays and the Greens. The capitalist bosses know that labor can best be controlled by accommodating labor leaders who are willing to “listen to reason,” as reason is interpreted by the capitalists themselves or their political representatives at Washington.

Not Our Game

When Bill Green talks about the capitalists wanting to destroy the unions he is totally ignorant of what his role in the labor movement should be. He is also ignorant of what the ruling class conceives his role to be. Why should the ruling class want to destroy a labor movement which only marks time while a Hartley-Taft Bill is being passed? Why should the capitalist bosses want to provoke or infuriate a labor movement, which has such pliant and do-nothing leaders as Murray and Green, ever ready to hold the working class in check. What harm will a labor leadership do to the ruling class if it is busy only buttonholing congressmen, or writing letters to the President, or begging for a 15-cent increase, or whining over the radio, or waiting for a capitalist President to veto a bill? Such a leadership will never be effective against disgracefully low wages, high prices, robber profits or anti-labor bills.

It is difficult for Green and Murray to get these things inside their skulls. The Taft crew in Congress, aided and abetted by the “liberal” Republicans and the Southern Democratic Party Southern lynchers, are out to stifle labor as a reward to the middle class to wham they promised a reduction in income and other faxes. After they have given this anti-labor sop to the middle class, they will be in position to make a smaller fax reduction than they promised. After the middle class has been appeased and softened up by the anti-labor bill, they will be willing to accept any slight tax reduction and give their votes to the Republicans next year. At least that is what the Republicans hope for.

Also, Taft wants the nomination. Dewey also wants the nomination. Dewey is working underground to upset Taft. He has his men in Congress. The great “liberal” Ives is Dewey’s man. The Republicans hope that Truman will veto their bill so that this act can be used against him next year when The Man from Missouri makes an effort to keep his present address for 1948–52. Truman, of course, knows these things and he and his advisers are busy trying to expose the Republicans as the enemies of labor. There are Kilgore, Morse, Green, Ives, Wagner, O’Mahoney and Thomas. They are “friends of labor.” But they stay in the Republican and Democratic parties: the party of Taft and Hoover, of the biggest of the capitalist bosses and the party of the Jim Crow Southern lynchers. Friends of labor indeed!

And all the while that this maneuvering and conspiring goes on, the leadership of labor sits and waifs for a veto by Truman. While all the scoundrels of the capitalist ruling class converge on Washington, labor remains in the factories and its leadership tied to their desks. No united action by labor. Labor only remains “at ease.”

The Republicans, Democrats and their masters know that 1948 is coming. They are jockeying again to divide the spoils and keep the plunder in the family. What is the trade union leadership doing? They are hoping that the capitalist bosses will not be too tough, too unreasonable, too “un-American.” They are at their wits end trying to decide which group of brigands to support, which gang to sell labor too: the party of Bilbo or the party of Taft. This was where they stood in 1944, this is where they stand today, and that is where they will stand in 1948.

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