From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 8, 23 February 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
A major policy of the CIO officially advocated at every opportunity is the Murray Plan for labor’s role in the war.
Murray’s plan visualizes the President of the United States establishing “a council for each basic and vital defense industry. Each council shall consist of an equal number of representatives of management and of the labor union in the industry, together with one government representative, the latter to serve as chairman.” The councils would be known as the steel industrial council, the auto industrial council, etc.
Over these industry councils would be the decisive National Defense Board, with equal representation for industry and labor, of which the President would be chairman. It would plan and control the entire war production drive.
The objectives of these organizational proposals would be, in the words of Murray:
“1. To guarantee the production of armaments in needed quantities and on time, by achieving the highest possible productive efficiency of American industry, through the full and complete cooperation of industry, organized labor, and government.
“2. To guarantee the production of domestic or non-military goods in adequate quantities so as to further improve and extend the American standards of living through a more equitable distribution of the national income, thereby improving the morale of the American people, and preventing a chaotic breakdown of our domestic economy when the national defense program is completed.
“3. To preserve the basic democratic rights of the American people; namely, freedom of speech, assembly, and worship, and the free right to organize into independent associations for lawful purposes, such as the right of labor to organize into unions of its own choosing for collective bargaining and other mutual protection.”
Since the Muffay Plan was presented long before December 7, 1941, the first observation to be noted is that it was not approved by two of the three necessary parties to any such action, namely, industry and the President.
That Murray understands at least partly why his proposals have been cold-shouldered is indicated in the report he made to the CIO convention. “It is because labor does not trust the employer, the employer in too many instances, does not trust labor, government doesn’t trust either. And it seems to me that neither labor nor the employer trusts too much in government,” he declared.
The starting point of an analysis of the Murray Plan must then be in seeking the underlying causes of the antagonisms which Murray describes. For surely, no plan which proposes a love-and-kisses relationship between capital and labor can succeed unless the causes of the present antagonism between the classes involved can be eliminated!
Let us begin this examination by reviewing the incidents arising from the attempts to apply the Murray Plan itself, or rather an application of the Murray Plan to the auto industry, the Reuther Plan. Why didn’t the auto barons accept the Reuther Plan? Why was there such a sharp cat and dog fight between them and the labor unions, despite the fact that the latter support the war?
C.E. Wilson, president of General Motors, gave the answer: “We made 32 cents on the dollar on auto sales, and only nine cents on the dollar on war orders.” The longer the auto industry could oppose conversion to war production – despite the fact that such conversion was in its general, basic class interests – the more immediate profit it could make.
And as everyone knows, that is the main purpose of business – to make profit. Nothing more nor less!
Even when industry was forced to convert to war production, it kept clearly before its eyes the reason for its existence, namely, the gathering of profits.
Could there have been any more dramatic and convincing proof of industry’s preoccupation, with profits before all else? And that’s why labor doesn’t trust the industrialists! They are economic enemies; their basic interests conflict.
In asking labor to have faith and trust in the employing class, Murray asks an action on the part of the workers which would betray their class interests, he asks them, in effect, to have faith in and to aid their enemies.
Once we understand why labor doesn’t trust and opposes the bosses, then it is easy to see why the bosses feel the same way about labor, especially organized labor. They know that unions are the most effective means in the workers’ struggle for at least enough wage’s to live on.
The czars of industry will have faith in the labor unions only when labor gives up its straggle for a decent standard of living. Which means that the bosses will trust labor only when labor cuts its own throat! That’s the price that Murray and the CIO leadership would have to pay if they really want to gain the “confidence” of the bosses.
We have seen therefore that what Murray described as the antagonisms of the present moment are in reality basic to the form of society in which we live: capitalism. Capitalism is a society in which a few men own the means of production and operate them for their private profit. The government, regardless of how “liberal” it may be, functions in the basic interests of this capitalist class. So long as this economic system continues to exist, the antagonisms between labor and the bosses, between labor and the government will continue to exist, no matter what Murray or anyone else may wish.
There is only one antagonism which Murray describes, which is not basic to capitalism and which exists because of the present peculiar situation. That is the antagonism between the bosses and the government, to the degree that it exists at all.
It should be remembered that on all the basic issues of the day industry and the government agreed the continuation of the capitalist system, of exploitations; the prosecution of the imperialist war for profit, to name only two of the most important. But on one thing there is some disagreement between industry arid the government.
Industry dislikes the Roosevelt regime because it puts brakes on the more obvious and ruthless employers’ exploitation of workers. Big industry wants to return to the “good old days” of the open shop, when union men were fired at will and wage cuts came any time the companies wanted to increase profits.
The Roosevelt Administration understands that labor is too powerful for that kind of treatment, that gigantic struggles would ensue if the pig-headed methods of management were openly employed; so it seeks to act as a buffer.
If the war continues to go adversely for the Allies and they must therefore have a perspective of a long, gruelling war – as now appears certain – it becomes clear that this disagreement will in large measure disappear and that the capitalistic government will necessarily (from its own class point of view) be forced to adopt more and more of the open repressive measures now advocated by certain sections of of industry. More and more there would then be agreement on the “need” for smashing at labor’s standards and rights.
The capitalists and military brass hats look with considerable envy at Hitler Germany, which has demonstrated that in order to achieve Point 1 of Murray’s plan (”Production of armaments in needed quantities and on time”) under capitalism and to do so with a profit for the capitalists too, it is “necessary” to destroy the union movement.
Here, then, is the first and basic contradiction of the Murray Plan. Its first objective – UNDER CAPITALISM – can be accomplished fully ... by destroying the trade union movement.
For capitalism to conduct this war with the efficiency required to destroy its Nazi opponent, it will find it increasingly “necessary” to adopt Hitler’s methods: subordination of labor’s class interests to the interests of Wall Street and its war, rnilitary dictatorship or semi-dictatorship to smash the labor movement.
Naturally no worker is for such class slavery. Where workers criticize the production plans of the present industrial and war machine, it comes from a recognition of the incompetence of the capitalist class, its social decay and degeneration which make it impossible for it even to conduct its own war efficiently; and not from any desire to see the adoption of Hitler’s methods in America. The conclusion to be reached from such criticism of the inefficiency and incompetence of capitalist war production, is not that capitalism should adopt the methods of Hitlerism, but that rather socialism should be substituted in order really to smash fascism and its roots.
It is clear then that to criticize the capitalist industrial and war machine from this point of view is completely different from supporting the Murray Plan.
The second main objective of the Murray Plan is to provide “guns and butter.” Murray points out, and correctly, “the production of domestic or non-military goods in adequate quantities so as to further improve the American standards of living ... [is necessary] ... to improve the morale of the American people ...”
Doesn’t he know in this war the choice is guns OR butter! And hasn’t the recent experience of the American people shown that the Roosevelt regime has made its choice: GUNS!
And the only “butter” the American people will get is the amount of wage increases the CIO can wrest from the bosses in struggle (steel; aluminum and auto today).
Isn’t is plain that only in so far as the CIO struggles against the workers paying the burden of the war, which both the Roosevelt Administration and business desire, can Objective II of the Murray Plan be achieved. Not in cooperation with the bosses and the Administration but in struggle against their aims to load the workers down with the war cost!
Objective III of the Murray Plan is an excellent summary of the purposes of the CIO, its struggle to extend democratic rights, its determination to organize all unorganized workers, etc.
But Murray forgets to ask a simple question. Against whom does the CIO have to struggle to obtain democratic fights, to organize and bargain collectively? The very people with whom he proposes to enter into a love-and-kisses relationship, namely, the industrial barons.
In so far as the CIO has achieved some democratic fights for the workers in the mass production industries, it did so through years of hard and bitter struggle against the bosses, who wanted to keep labor unorganized because that meant more profits for the companies.
All the speech-making, conferences, pleas for cooperation with management fell on deaf ears. Industry listened only when labor demonstrated its might and power. When the General Motors workers won the sit-down strike in 1937, when Ford was conquered on the picket lines, when the steel workers avenged the Little Steel massacre!
After 100 years of bitter struggle against labor, Murray proposes that the bosses change their spots. He, proposes that the bosses surrender peacefully to the establishment of more democratic rights, or bigger and more powerful unions.
When Murray preaches this mutual faith and trust between capital and labor, he is deceiving the workers, for such a condition is impossible. The class interests of the two contenders are fundamentally different. And the whole history of the development of the CIO demonstrates this fact irrefutably.
To summarize: The Murray Plan is a utopian dream based on a world that doesn’t and can’t exist. Its basic error flows from Murray’s failure to recognize the simple fact that in present-day society there are two antagonistic classes always in struggle of one kind or another.
The first objective of the Murray Plan flows from open and full support of the imperialist war. It means, in practice, as we pointed out, to subordinate labor defense to the defense of Wall Street’s world imperialist interests. It is in direct contradiction to the last two aims of the Murray plan.
Those aims in the Murray Plan which appeal to the workers, the achievement of a higher standard of living, the attainment of more democratic rights, the organization of the unorganized, can be accomplished only if the CIO stands on the policies which marked its formation and successes of recent years: the policy of militant and direct struggle against the bosses.
Last updated: 25.4.2013