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Gertrude Shaw

Labor Action – The Paper
Every Worker Should Read

(1 May 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 18, 1 May 1944, pp. 7 & 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Just four years ago the first issue of Labor Action came out.

It was dedicated to the interest of the working people.

Today tens of thousands of agricultural and industrial workers who read Labor Action know that it speaks for them.

We hope that tens of thousands more working people will become readers of Labor Action for this same reason, namely, because it never pulls its punches against the enemies of labor; never shuts an eye to the mistakes of labor; never ceases to clarify the economic and political needs of the working people; is untiring in explaining the course of action that will lead to the triumph of the useful and exploited members of society over the useless and exploiting.

As we mark another year of our progress in this task we have set ourselves, we wish to review Labor Action’s performance for the past year.

We Backed the Striking Workers

A year ago the miners’ struggle was the biggest thing in the labor movement. Issue after issue of Labor Action was devoted to supporting this crucial fight and to pointing out that the miners were fighting a battle for the whole of labor. Labor Action cut the ground from under the pay-triots who sought to discredit the miners/by exposing the huge war profits of the capitalists as against the hard existence of the miners plodding along on the edge of actual want.

To the false argument of the capitalist class that the miners were sabotaging the soldiers, we replied that miners and the sons of miners, workers and the sons of workers, form the great majority of the drafted army, and that it is up to the workers at home to protect the labor front from collapse before the onslaughts of the capitalists using the “war emergency” as their excuse.

Every strike of workers against grievances in the plants, to end stalling by the corporations and the government, to get better wages and conditions, to reaffirm their right to strike, has had whole-hearted support in the pages of Labor Action. It has showed that the so-called “wildcat” and “unauthorized” strikes were “wild” only in the sense that the workers have been made wild with resentment against the way they are getting it in the neck. It has shown that the strikes are “unauthorized” only because, labor leaders saw fit to make to the government a no-strike-pledge NOT authorized by the rank and file?

Union Problems Discussed in L.A.

In the past year there have been several most important union conventions: that of the CIO, of the AFL, of the UAW, and others: Concerned with the continued development of militant and progressive unionism, the pages of this paper carried many articles both before and after the conventions. Before the conventions, we sought to give such guidance as we are capable of to rank and file delegates who earnestly wished to solve union problems. After the conventions, Labor Action pointed up the hits and the misses, hoping that next time there will be more hits and fewer misses.

We have reason to believe that the campaign; carried on by Labor Action against incentive pay – that fancy name for the return to piecework, sweat-shop labor, pushed mainly by the capitalists and the Stalinists – had its influence on the unions which so definitely rejected it. On other major issues, Labor Action’s voice has been heard. Our insistence today on the restoration of real collective bargaining and the right to strike – as against the no-strike pledge and the WLB run-around – is being accepted as plain common sense by larger and larger numbers of workers.

Furthermore, many progressive unionists now understand that the columns of Labor Action are open to them for reporting situations in their locals, for discussing the problems confronting them and for posing plans for progressive action within their locals. This trend toward becoming the forum of the most class-conscious elements in the unions has been emphasized.

We Handled Jim Crow, Anti-Semitism, Fascism

The past year has seen an alarming outbreak of Jim Crow terrorism, commonly known as “race riots.” Labor Action has not called these evidences of the underhand work of KKK and the American fascist gangs, “race riots,” because the implication of the latter is that the Negro was responsible for these instigated outbreaks. Neither does Labor Action – as do so many of the Negro and white liberal papers – caution the Negro to be patient, to be satisfied with a dry bone, to go hat in hand begging for another dry bone on the steps of the White House. Labor Action demands for the Negro every right, every necessity, every luxury that human beings are today entitled to, and furthermore points the way to get these things.

It is significant that in Detroit, at the height of the so-called riots, Negro and white workers continued their tasks side by side on the production line; that in neighborhoods where Negro and white workers live together in peace, they continued, in peace throughout the disturbance. Labor Action has been proved correct in its view that in solidarity between Negro and white worker lies progress for both. Negro progress and labor progress are two sides of the same coin, and the place to cash it in is through the labor unions.

In the past year the emboldening of the fascist forces in this country, manifested both in more open anti-Semitism and in a distinctly fascistic anti-labor development, has also been of paramount concern to Labor Action.

The assorted crack-pots and the more dangerous Charles Coughlins and Gerald Smiths have received their due in these columns. But the interest of the working people require more than just an exposure of the fascists.

Labor Action explains the reasons for fascism itself. It hammers in the point that fascism is only another stage of capitalism; that fascism is the ruthless iron-heel dictatorship resorted to by the ruling class to save itself against a working class whose needs the rulers cannot supply. Fascist suppression, in a word, is the ultimate answer of the capitalists to the demands of the working people.

Therefore, the Jews, the Negroes and the whole of labor are warned by Labor Action against relying on the capitalist government or on any agencies of capitalism for protection against fascist attacks. Protection lies in the organization of neighborhood and union guards – from labor’s own ranks – to combat racial attacks as well as attacks on unions. The interests of the working people require that these truths be stated. Labor Action has been stating them over and over again.

We Talk Turkey on the War

The great black cloud overhanging humanity is, of course, the war, how in its fifth year. Labor Action tirelessly teaches that the war is an imperialist war for the division of the earth – just as the last war was, Nothing has changed, except that a more brutal form of capitalism in Germany has given the capitalist democracies a chance to pretend that the war is one against fascism. Labor Action exposes this trickery. As evidence, we held up to view first the machinations between the Allied “democrats” and the French fascists in Algiers; and now, with Badoglio and Mussolini’s tribe in Italy.

Nor does Labor Action – like the soft-as-silk liberals – feel that Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin are just making a mistake – the poor things are so busy waging a war, don’t you know! No, their policy of collaborating with fascists is deliberate; it is what they choose; it is the choice between fascists and the revolutionary masses. Labor Action wants all workers to understand this. The most progressive thing in the world today is the action of the masses – as best shown in Italy – in the direction of throwing out the old powers and establishing workers’ governments. Labor Action wants all workers to know that the United Nations’ statesmen bolster fascism in Italy against the workers.

On the home front, Labor Action draws aside the curtain of hypocrisy behind which the capitalist war profiteers are hiding. The merchants of death who make billions out of war materials and are not too particular about delivering perfect goods – regardless of the toll in unnecessary deaths this means – get front-page “honors” at the hands of Labor Action. The enormous war profits of big business, the unheard-of high salaries of industrialists, the system of dollar-a-year control by big business of government supply agencies and other government functions – all get their due in Labor Action. The connection between high prices, the black market and the capitalist system of private profit are made clear week after week. And Labor Action doesn’t pull any punches.

It doesn’t hem and haw, and say, “Well, these are the bad capitalists – the monopolists, the cartelists,” as do the only-go-so-far liberals. Labor Action tells the workers that this is no exception but the rule; that this is capitalism, which is today monopoly capitalism – without any ifs, ands or buts. Labor Action can do this because it believes that if civilization is to continue, the workers will have to shove capitalism out of their way. But the liberals throw capitalism out of the window, only to let it in the door – while the Stalinists clasp the barbarous profit system to their bosoms.

There are indeed few papers in the country that have handled the war. abroad and at home directly from the viewpoint of the working people, and not allowed war propaganda to becloud the facts.

All Out for Independent Political Action by Labor

The most recent and the greatest task which Labor Action and the Workers Party have undertaken thus far is their campaign for an independent Labor Party, to be based on the unions and to be organized to wage political warfare against capitalist politics. This is indeed the crux of labor’s struggle – for through a class party lies labor’s road to power.

While labor leaders and the despicable Stalinists hold onto Roosevelt’s political coattails, Labor Action sees that the rank and file has learned from first-hand experience about the “friendliness” of this “friend of labor.” A stabilization policy that freezes wages and places into profits a dose of yeast for rising – a labor draft law that will make industrial chattels of workers – these are some of FDR’s “friendly”, offerings to labor.

Liberals and their like make a distinction between the “reactionary Congress” and the President – if the President only had a liberal Congress! But Labor Action knows and presents to its readers a few facts on this score. The President is not only playing political basketball with the reactionaries, he is actually giving them a few baskets by default. The poll-taxers are in the political party of which the President is the leader – and what does he do about it? These and similar facts tell the story,

Labor Action raises the slogan: “On to working class power through an independent class party of labor.” It tells labor to find its political legs – to take its hand out of the misleading hand of the capitalist politicians in the Republican and Democratic Parties.

This, in general review, is a picture of the pages of Labor Action from May Day 1943 to May Day 1944. t has lived up o its dedication – TO SERVE THE CLASS INTERESTS OF LABOR – TO FURTHER THE PROGRESS AND THE FINAL EMANCIPATION FROM CAPITALISM. OF ALL THE WORKING PEOPLE.

We hope that im the year to come tens of thousands more workers will become faithful readers and supporters of the paper, realizing that in it they will find the true facts, the realistic interpretation of facts from the point of view of what is good for the working people, and also guidance to progressive action. But also we hope that more working people will come to realize that Labor Action is a forum where the problems, mistakes and victories of the working people can be discussed freely and fairly – THUS TO LEARN FASTER AND TO STEP FORWARD WITH FIRMER STEPS.

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