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Jack Wilson

Labor’s Balance Sheet Since Last May Day

(May 1932)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 18, 4 May 1942, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The ceaseless struggle of labor to defend its interests from the attacks of ihe economic royalists and their agents has reached a crucial stage this May Day, because of the extension of the Second World War to global proportions.

One year ago the union movement was celebrating its victories over Ford, symbol of the open, shop policy in America, over Bethlehem, International Harvester and other industrial barons.

Although the shadow of imperialist war loomed ominously overhead, the storm had not yet broken over these shores and the labor movement was busy consolidating organizational and economic gains.

Today the labor movement finds itself enmeshed in the deadly spider-web of war, with its very existence threatened by slow strangulation and the ever-increasing burdens placed Upon its already overloaded shoulders.

The economic royalists, masters of this powerful industrial and financial system, attack labor directly or, through congressional hatchetmen, drive for a return to the open shop everywhere, and ply their nefarious trade on a world scale which earned for them, besides fabulous profits, the odious description: “Merchants of Death.”

The chiseling on all union standards and the rising cost of living against the background of war profiteering, as well as the mounting scandals exposing the Merchants of Death, have fomented a deep resentment and uneasiness among the shop workers.

Industrial Barons on the March

Bitterness increased when the: industrialists utilized the “Munich Pact” agreement signed by AFL and CIO officials under government pressure, to carry on an all-out campaign against all labor rights and standards. Since the CIO and the AFL leaders gave up their strongest weapon, the right to strike, the industrial, barons have been proceeding in their drive with complete impunity.

The appeasement policy adopted at the Washington conference already has cost the shop workers a wage cut, in the form of taking away their union standards for overtime on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

It was this tragic consequence, hitting the pocketbooks of the workers, of the AFL and CIO appeasement policy which militant workers opposed at the auto and shipyard conferences held recently.

And for the first time at CIO conferences, direct references were made to the big salaries and expenses of the CIO and AFL bureaucrats, who suffer no personal inconvenience in wage cuts!

There is no question about it: The present appeasement policy of the trade union bureaucracy has alienated the vast majority of workers from the top leaders; and the division between militant workers defending the best interests of the union movement, and the bureaucrats, retreating ignobly before every capitalist onslaught, becomes sharper every day.

Role of the Stalinists

Each day finds the labor bureaucrats and the Stalinist machine clashing with the ranks in the shops. The Stalinists’ reactionary role in the labor movement is demonstrated by every action they take. It is not merely a question of their bureaucratic methods, their violation of all trade union principles of democracy, but of their functioning as stooges for the companies. They become “efficiency experts” in the same crude manner of the company efficiency experts, that, is speed-up artists.

The fact that our movement’s policies of defending the rights of labor, of attacking the war profiteers, and of exposing the Merchants of Death finds the greatest sympathy and response among the workers in the shops, accounts for the Trotskyist witch hunt the Stalinists have begun on a national scale.

As one delegate at the shipyard conference told some Stalinists: “You see a Trotskyite under your bed every night.”

For Trotskyism today is becoming synonymous with defense of labor’s rights. The fusion between the movement and the masses is becoming a reality. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the widespread increase in the working class circulation and support for Labor Action – and the fact that the Stalinists continually seek to suppress its appearance (as well as that of other radical papers) before the workers.

In many unions in America, for the first time, the ranks, feeling both their own strength and the exploitation of the industrialists, are re-sifting and finding themselves called “Trotskyists.”

Militants and “Lewisism”

Since the John L. Lewis forces in the labor movement are an imposing machine, it is understandable and regrettable that many militants find themselves partly gravitating toward “Lewisism” rather than finding their way into the ranks of the movement.

But a greater drive and more activity among the workers, especially the expansion, of Labor Action, to present the views of the Workers Party, will make our movement more of a magnetic force of attraction.

Sticking to the ideals and purposes for which May Day has become an historic symbol is part of our May Day celebration, our re-dedication, to the rich tradition of this workers’ holiday, and the Stalinist mockery of May Day, serves to make clear to the workers the division between these two political tendencies.

The fact that the ranks of labor resist at every step the attacks of the bosses, and that they fight to reject the reactionary policies of the despicable turncoats who are at the top of the union movement today is the best sign on this May Day of the bright future of tomorrow.

In the present situation, and its development during the coming period, the prospects are unlimited for the movement. As always, the key question becomes one of building cadres of workers, of building the Workers Party, thoroughly imbued with the great teachings of Marxism.

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