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B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(14 November 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 87, 14 November 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Fresh examples of how the labor bureaucracy becomes part and parcel of the war machine appear almost daily.

The Canadian section of the CIO announces its autonomy because it wants a completely free hand to aid the government for Britain.

The Canadian CIO leadership publicly declares it will do its part to help British imperialism keep over five hundred million colonial peoples in virtual slavery.

Chauvinism permeates the labor bureaucracy so deeply that it even wants to discard a semblance of internationalism expressed by the unity of the American and Canadian sections of the CIO.

Serve Masters

British and French labor leaders are doing their best in the service of their capitalist masters. A special committee headed by Sir Walter Citrine, prominent British faker, and Leon Jouhaux, French sell-out artist, are going to confer monthly to work out a close solidarity of the workers in these two countries behind the war machines.

Mr. William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, doesn’t have to perform quite that openly yet for his masters. However, he is doing a fairly good job of warming up.

Naturally, Green would go after the militant workers who are fighting for their elementary rights, namely the autoworkers.

The crime of the CIO autoworkers, according to Green, is that they resorted to slow-down or sit-down strikes in protest against the terrific speed-up in the auto plants.

Of course, the effectiveness of the auto workers’ tactics and their solidarity are what Green is really objecting to.

But there is something much more insidious in Green’s blast against the auto workers. After all, he always opposed militant action.

Green’s criticism of the auto workers in reality is a bid to the American war machine for becoming “the outstanding labor leader in war time.” That is, Green says in so many words, if you played ball with us we guarantee there won’t be any strikes. We’ll keep labor pacified. The CIO leaders won’t.

The whole purpose of the Green statement is to express his willingness to be the agent of the bosses and the military machine during war-time.

These examples serve to indicate what revolutionists mean when they classify the labor bureaucracy as agents of the capitalist class.

But Not the Workers

The attitude of the rank and file, however, is different.

The attitude of the rank and file on the question of war is not given any vocal expression because of the censorship and persecution.

A hint of how the British workers are reacting is contained in a brief dispatch telling the story of a young worker who was called before a special court after refusing to be drafted.

“I am a slave of the capitalist system. It is their war, not the workers. I refuse to shoot down my fellow workers, even though you line me up against a wall and shoot me,” the worker declared.

How many other unknown heroes of the proletariat are there in England, France and Canada? They are the real voice of the proletariat. The labor bureaucrats merely repeat their master’s voice.

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Last updated: 16 April 2018