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Jack Weber

March of Events

(16 February 1935)

From The New Militant, Vol. I No. 10, 16 February 1935, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Roosevelt’s Open Offensive Against Labor

Nothing restores the feeling of strength and confidence to the capitalists so much as the flow of profits into the tills. The American ruling class was willing to submit to the inconveniences of the NRA and the demagogy of the New Deal, holding out illusory promises to the despairing worker, only so long as it was necessary to tide over a, dangerous period of crisis. Now that the bosses scent the possibilities of an upswing of business, they have exerted the utmost pressure on their government to sweep aside the paper concessions made to labor and to put the workers back in their places. This became perfectly clear when Roosevelt obeyed the voice of his masters (Ford, Sloan, Swope, etc.) and blocked the attempt to organize the unorganized workers in the mass production industries – steel, autos, machinery – by legalizing the company union. Roosevelt was seconded in his attack on independent unionism by the class collaboration policies of those lackeys of capitalism, the A.F. of L. bureaucracy But the next move of the capitalist government in its attempt, to bring about “recovery” (of profits) in the basic construction industries, is directed not against the extension of unions into new fields, but at the very heart of the old A.F. of L., the unions of the once well-organized building trades workers. In accordance with the general Internal reorganization of American imperialism with its drive on the living standards of the entire working class, Roosevelt has now taken over the task of restoring profits to the building contractors by a drastic drive on the wages of the workers in this field. This means an attack on the very existence of the unions in the building trades.

* * *

Shall the Unemployed Be Used Against the Employed?

The method to be used in this drive is to pit the unemployed against the employed workers. Roosevelt proposes that there shall be no more direct relief in the form of doles, but that relief is to take the form of pay for public construction work. Under the thin disguise that the worker is not to be discouraged from accepting private employment, it is proposed that the wage rates on public construction be considerably less than prevailing rates in the different localities involved. Actually fifty dollars a month has been set as the proper rate. The A.F. of L. has met this menace in its usual style, by attempting to use the backstairs method of congressional amendment to the Roosevelt proposal so as to establish a “prevailing rates” clause. Unless this Is combined with the rallying of the entire working class, employed and unemployed, into a mass movement of protest and militant action against This open offensive of the capitalist class, the bosses will succeed In their plot against the unions. Here is a clear-cut issue on which all workers can be united. Our Party must take a leading role in strengthening the unions of the building trades workers and aiding them to resist the concerted drive prepared for long in advance by the propaganda of the contractors and construction monopolists.

* * *

New Methods of Unemployed Work

In this connection our whole task among the unemployed assumes a new and more concrete aspect. By its present tactics the capitalist state, through Roosevelt, offers us a means of uniting the employed and the unemployed in a common struggle. It becomes clearer than ever to the employed workers that it is necessary to secure cooperation of the unemployed. The employed workers must, through their unions, offer every help to organize the unorganized in relief workers’ unions as auxiliaries to the regular unions. Our answer to the attempt of the bosses to destroy the building trades unions by utilizing as tools the unemployed in the form of relief workers, must be the complete organizing of the unemployed as well as the employed to secure higher wages for both. The recent militant strikes of relief workers in Arkansas for higher pay give us excellent reason to believe that our task is one that will meet with ready response. Already the organizations of the building trades workers are seething with revolt against the direct blows aimed at them by Roosevelt.

* * *

The Workers and the State

It is clear that Roosevelt no longer finds it necessary to even appear to cater to the A.F. of L. bureaucrats. When it becomes necessary in the eyes of the capitalist class to make a drive directly forward against the A.F. of L. unions, the A.F. of L. “leaders”, only yesterday sitting at the same table with the bosses and their government representatives, are unceremoniously shown the door. The resulting outcry of “Judas” on the part of the labor fakers is quite understandable. But the workers face a problem more difficult, but more educative, than ever before. Their enemy now becomes the combined force of the capitalist class and its political expression, the capitalist state. The building trades workers will find themselves mare and more in conflict with the state itself. It becomes clear that the government must take on a more and more repressive character to achieve the bald and undisguised aims of American imperialism.

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