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B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(11 September 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 68, 11 September 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Green Repeats

It isn’t taking long for the conservative American labor leaders to show their true colors in the war crisis.

William Green, AFL president came out this week for the slogan “Let the People Vote on War.” ONLY, he was talking about Germany!

The German people don’t want war, Let Hitler let them vote and they’d all vote for peace, Green says. Correct!

But how about setting a fine example for them? How about Mr. Green shouting “Let the People Vote on War in the United States!” Green is as silent on this as Hitler is in Germany. If it’s a democratic right of the people of Germany to vote on war, why isn’t it for the American people? We say it is.

Green’s actions show that he is going to pursue completely the exact course of betrayal he followed in 1917–18. Green is going to help enlist American workers in this present world slaughter.

Lewis Is Smarter

John L. Lewis, president of the CIO, is a trifle smarter in his approach.

Speaking on Labor Day, Lewis declared properly that the American workers want no war or any part of it. This is the sentiment of the huge majority of workers. They have nothing to get from war.

So what does Lewis propose the American workers do to keep out of war? Fight for a popular referendum? No! Fight against repeal of the neutrality bill? No! What program does Lewis have to offer? None!

Instead, Lewis very insidiously prepares the minds of the CIO workers to participate in another world war. “The CIO is the bulwark of democracy. The true defender of democracy!” Remember that one? President Wilson, aided by John L. Lewis, among others, used that in 1917–18 to recruit the American workers in the last phoney war to save the world for democracy.

Mr. Lewis also showed what he has in mind by another speech given that day by James B. Carey, secretary of the national CIO (who obviously spoke with John L.’s approval).

Carey said he didn’t like the present War Resources Board. Did Carey object to the dictatorial powers given it by President Roosevelt? Of course not. Did he point out that the creation of this board was a major step in preparing for American participation in the world war? Hardly! That this board was going to run industry the way it saw fit and the hell with wages, hours and working conditions ? Not one word of serious criticism.

Mr. Carey objects because labor doesn’t have a representative on this union-busting, strike-breaking, dictatorial board. You see, it isn’t fair, according to Mr. Carey, to allow the bosses to break the unions during war-time. They’ve got to be assisted by a labor faker.

Would anyone be surprised if Carey’s candidate for this post of labor representative on the War Resources Board was Mr. Lewis?


The American labor leaders have enough contact with their rank and file to know that no one, even the golden-voiced F.D.R., is going to sell them on the idea of giving up their lives in another war in which the whole show is exposed beforehand.

The War Resources Board is a crude set-up at present. Too many J.P. Morgan men on it. Too many known opponents of Organized Labor. Hard to sell that kind of an outfit to workers. Hard to make anyone believe in the baloney of “war for democracy” when such flagrant rule of the bosses is revealed.

What the CIO leaders are trying to do is show Roosevelt and Wall Street the “correct” way to enlist the workers in another slaughter. Give them a post here and there. (What’s one vote among ten, especially when it’s sewed up too for the bosses.) Give the workers the illusion that they are having something to say about how the slaughter is being conducted. Then maybe they’ll fight. Maybe.

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