Martin Harvey

Frankensteen Differs Little from Jeffries

(24 September 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 9 No. 39, 24 September 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

DETROIT, Sept. 16 – The Detroit mayoralty campaign in which UAW Vice-President Richard T. Frankensteen is running against Mayor Jeffries is overshadowed at present by the current wave of strikes in Detroit and is marking time during the usual lull between the primaries and the election in November.

The latest development in the situation is the reported admission by top UAW officials that the plan to get nickel contributions for Frankensteen’s campaign from union members has brought practically no response from the rank and file of the UAW. Frankensteen’s position in the UAW has long been that of chief strikebreaker, a position which he made clear in his opening campaign speech in which he bitterly attacked maintenance workers who were striking for decent pay as a “mobocracy.” Now that Frankensteen is turning to this same “mobocracy” for financial support he is being paid back in his own coin.

Compared with Jeffries

It is extremely difficult to find any important difference between Frankensteen and Jeffries in the campaign. The chief issue up until now has been who can more efficiently clean the rats out of Detroit’s alleys. But the workers are more concerned with the problem of finding jobs, of raising wages and of getting decent unemployment compensation. On these questions Frankensteen has little to offer.

Frankensteen’s lack of any program to meet the needs of the workers of Detroit is entirely understandable when you examine what he stands for politically. All his efforts in politics in the labor movement have been directed toward tying that movement to the Democratic Party. In the last presidential election Frankensteen, together with the rest of the CIO leadership, was busy selling the idea that a vote for Roosevelt and other “good” Democrats would bring jobs and prosperity after the war. Almost 400,000 unemployed workers in Detroit today can now testify to the enormity of that lie.

Politically, Frankensteen is not the representative of labor maneuvering in the councils of the Democratic Party. Quite the reverse. He is the representative of the Democratic Party, of capitalist politics, in the ranks of labor. Were it not for the accidental fact that Detroit municipal elections are non-partisan, Frankensteen would be running on the Democratic ticket.

The fact that Frankensteen’s politics are capitalist politics might be of secondary importance if the organized labor movement had any check or control over his actions. But he is responsible to no party of labor and is answerable to no one. What is there to prevent Frankensteen, who used his office of UAW vice-president to break strikes in the past, to use the office of Mayor – and the police that go with it – to break strikes that he finds are “unauthorized” in the future?

The real issue in the Detroit campaign, as in the country as a whole, is the question of jobs, of full employment. That issue can be settled satisfactorily for the workers and the masses of people only by government planning on a national scale for full production and full employment. The present capitalist government can no more do that than could Roosevelt in the thirties or Hoover in 1929. Such planning for abundance is possible only on the basis of production for use – not for monopoly profits.

Labor’s Own Party

Can monopoly capitalism plan for use? Obviously not. But the working class CAN plan for the welfare of the people. But only with their own government – a workers’ government. The first step in that direction is to break with the capitalist parties, to form a Labor Party. Without it, all talk of full employment find sixty million Jobs is so much eyewash.

Does Frankensteen’s campaign advance in any way the building of an independent Labor Party? How? With his program? His program is essentially the same as Jeffries’. Because he, in some way, represents labor? This Frankensteen would be – and is – the first to deny. He claims to represent “all the people,” including, no doubt, the corporation executives themselves. Perhaps because Jeffries and the press which supports him insists on calling Frankensteen a “labor man” and is opposed to the CIO taking over City Hall? But they did exactly the same for Fitzgerald, a hack Democratic politician, who was the PAC-supported candidate for Mayor in the last municipal election.

There is one way in which this election can he used to further the cause of independent political action by the working class. That is by learning the lesson of the campaign: without a Labor Party which the organized labor movement can control the workers remain unrepresented in the election. A Labor Party cannot be built, REAL labor men cannot be run for office until we can distinguish the real from the false. We must first learn that every “friend of labor,” every man with a union card in his pocket (of whom there are dozens if not hundreds among Democratic and Republican office-holders) is not a representative of labor. We must learn that a man. like Lieut.-Gov. Kennedy of Pennsylvania, who is a top official of the United Mine Workers, does not represent the mine workers in the government of the State of Pennsylvania but does represent the Democratic Party in the United Mine Workers.

When that lesson is learned a Labor Party will be built. The instruments are at hand. All that is required is that the Political Action Committee of the CIO be transformed into such a party.

Those who want genuine independent political action should not, throw up their hands at the present political campaign in Detroit. They, too, have a campaign to fight – and the right must start now. That campaign is the building of an independent Labor Party.

Last updated on 29 January 2018