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David Coolidge

Political Trap for Labor Baited
with Truman Veto

(23 June 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 26, 23 June 1947, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A political trap is set for the working class in the United States. This trap is baited with the Truman veto of the Taft-Hartley Bill. Should organized labor, the AFL and CIO, walk into this trap, the only tangible result which will follow will be the capture once again of the “labor vote” for the Democratic Party.

The situation for the two capitalist parties, the Republicans and Democrats, could not have been organized better if the leading political strategists and tacticians of the capitalist ruling class had actually come together to plan this strategy and tactic.

What has happened? First, the Republicans have made a concrete bid for the support of the urban and rural middle class in 1948. They have exploited the prejudices and the stupidity of the middle class by passing a “labor reform” bill. This will please the city and small town middle class immensely. It will also please the thousands of small farmers of the middle West who believe that the mortgage on. the farm is the result of the high wages paid to urban industrial workers. The Taft-Hartley Bill will please Southern planters, manufacturers, middle class elements;‘and many of the most benighted among the white workers who will feel that somehow the Taft-Hartley Bill will promote the maintenance of “white supremacy.”

After the labor bill the Republicans took hold of the tax question and threw half a loaf to the big capitalists and a few crumbs to the little property owners of the middle class. While Truman vetoed this bill and the veto was sustained, the Republicans will say that they did the best they could for “the people.”

Truman’s Strategy

That was the procedure of the Republicans. That was their vote-catching plan for 1948. How about the Democrats? It would have been strange indeed if Truman had signed this bill. He had nothing to gain by signing. The Republicans would get the vote which we have mentioned above. Truman’s only course was to strike out for the “labor vote.” This is the political meaning, or better, the partisan political meaning, or the factional meaning, of the veto. Just as the support of the bill by the Republicans was for the purpose mentioned above, so the Truman veto was for a similar purpose.

Truman, in his radio speech, said that “this is a shocking bill.” We will not argue about Truman’s sincerity in taking that position? We do not deny at all that it is Truman’s position that this bill is a frontal attack on fundamental democratic rights. We can admit this for the sake of argument and still say that what is going on in the contest over this bill is a factional .conflict between the Republican and Democratic parties, looking to the 1948 elections.

Furthermore this is not. merely a factional conflict between the Republican and Democratic parties. Party lines were crossed in the voting on the bill. It is a conflict within the capitalist ruling class as to what is the best procedure to use in order to keep organized labor and the working class under the control of the capitalist ruling class and at the same time retain the allegiance of labor at the voting booth. That is, the problem before the ruling class is how best to hold labor in check, and at the same time not go so far that the working class will be provoked to break from the two capitalist parties and organize its own independent party.

The strategy, of course, is not simple, nor always well thought out.

For instance, the Republicans are hoping that the ranks of labor will be split despite the bill. This plodding outfit believes that there are hordes of workers who will “vote Republican.” By the same token, the Democrats believe that they will receive appreciable support from the middle class. The fact is that the capitalist ruling class is not particularly concerned with the bureaucratic aspirations of either the Republicans or Democrats. The ruling class knows that both parties are the servitors and the political deputies of capitalism and the big capitalist rulers.

How Control Labor?

That is enough for this ruling class. They know that both parties serve the capitalist masters: for a price. Therefore the ruling class is not vitally concerned with the question of which party wins the elections. Their Taft can force through a Taft-Hartley Bill and their Truman can veto the bill. Their Republican Party can incur the wrath of labor and win the friendship of the middle class while their Democratic Party can incur the wrath of the middle class and win the friendship of labor. In either case the capitalist ruling class is the victor.

This is the trap for labor that lies hid in the underbrush of capitalist politics. We say again that this trap is baited with the Truman veto. To put it bluntly we mean by this that should labor rally to the Democratic Party again because of the Truman veto, the capitalist ruling class will profit and not the working class.

When we say all of these things we are not saying that there is no difference between Truman and Taft. There is, but this is not the relevant way to pose the question. For one thing Taft is finished. He will not get the Republican nomination next year. If by some extraordinary piece of skullduggery the Republicans nominate him, the Republicans will certainly be defeated. Truman will be nominated by the Democrats.

What does all this mean? Nothing of any fundamental significance to labor. Taft thinks the bill is alright and Truman thinks it is “shocking.” But the bill is the law. Also, it must be remembered that Truman, like Roosevelt, is capable of acting in an extremely harsh manner against labor when he believes it to be necessary! Truman and Roosevelt, the Democrats, and Hoover, the Republican – all used or proposed to use the army against labor, all acted as strikebreakers! Need we remind anyone of Truman’s action in the mine or railroad strikes?

This means that, while Truman and Taft do not see eye to eye on how to “control” labor, they both seek to establish control. There is a distinction between them based on the fact that they represent a divergence of opinion within the capitalist ruling class on this question. Taft represents the most reactionary, the “let them eat cake” section of the ruling class, while Truman represents the faded remnants of New Deal capitalism and a sort of backwoods democratic emotionalism.

The point we are stressing is that the working class cannot afford to rely on these superficial distinctions. Neither Truman nor Taft is a friend of labor. The same can be said about Morse and Hartley, Wagner and Howard Smith. This can be said about the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. These parties are capitalist parties and their members and leaders are capitalist politicians: all of them without exception.

We say once more that labor cannot rely on the conflicts within the capitalist class. The working class can profit by these differences and conflicts only if labor uses these conflicts to its own class advantage, for the strengthening of Its own class position, by asserting its class and political independence; by breaking away from the Republican and Democratic parties.

Organized labor relied on Truman for a veto. We got the veto. Yet the Taft-Hartley Bill is the law of the land. Will labor vote for Truman in 1948 because he vetoed a bill? Or will organized labor say that labor itself must assume the veto power over the bills and acts of the capitalist ruling class? To do the former will surely not cause any disquietude among the Tafts. To take the latter course will disconcert the Tafts and Trumans together, and the whole capitalist ruling class.

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