Martin Harvey

Workers Party Pre-Convention Discussion ...

On the Issue of Factory

(13 May 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 19, 13 May 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The articles that appear below are DISCUSSION ARTICLES published as part of the pre-convention discussion in the Workers Party. Because our space is limited, it will be impossible to devote more than two columns per issue to this material. Contributions will therefore have to be brief, not exceeding 750 words. Pre-convention discussion articles are also appearing in The New International and in the Workers Party Bulletin. Copies of the latter may be obtained by sending 25 cents to the Workers Party; 114 West 14th Street, New York 11, N.Y. Readers will understand that these articles represent neither the views of the party nor of Labor Action, but are written with a view toward establishing policy at the coming convention of the WP.


Propaganda for factory committees should play an important part in the propaganda and agitation of the Workers Party in the coming period. The education of workers in the meaning and significance of these rank and file shop committees serves two important functions.

First, it would make clear and concrete the meaning of our basic demands. Socialism, nationalization of industry and the like remain vague concepts associated with bureaucracy and control from above if we do not make clear that they rest directly on the working class organized in the factories. The workers state is nothing more than the assumption of the powers of government on a national scale by factory committees (and farmers’ committees, soldiers’ committees, etc.)

Recently in Detroit the UAW opposed the handing over of a naval arsenal from private to government management because the transfer would result (as it did) in lower wages and a weakening of the union shop. We can only oppose such nationalization with the demand that control of production and working conditions in the plant be in the hands of the union, that is, that the union committee take on the functions and characteristics of a factory committee.

The second aspect of the question is even more important. Propaganda for factory committees helps to move workers in the direction of workers power while struggling for immediate and concrete demands. There are at least two important examples to indicate how appropriate this is today. One is the issue of prices and inflation. The demand that workers and housewives committees take over directly the enforcing of price controls, if not received with universal support, will surely be understood by most workers and will be accepted by the more advanced. In Buffalo, this very thing was proposed to CIO members by an official representative of OPA. In Detroit, the UAW, together with a consumers’ cooperative, has laid plans for boycotts, picketing and other actions to keep prices down in the event that OPA is smashed. This last is being organized bureaucratically from above and may not be carried through, but it is our duty to raise the question in the unions.

In Relation to Speedup

The second issue which makes possible the introduction of the idea of factory committees in a concrete and understandable manner is the speedup in production which is being universally attempted. One of the results of the recent strike settlements has been the granting of wage increases in return for increased discipline in the factory and increased production from the workers. This is meeting with universal resistance in the shops, a fact which is highlighted by the unanimous decision of the Briggs workers in Detroit to strike bn this issue only several weeks after their new contract was adopted. What could be more appropriate in such a situation than the proposal that no new production schedule go into effect without prior approval from the stewards or shop committee and, further, that the shop committee control production in the plant? Will everyone approve the idea? Probably not. But they will understand it and when the pressure of the company increases they will remember it for it has the advantage of being concrete and can be acted on by the workers directly.

This observation is born out by the experience in my own shop where the speedup is an important issue. When I presented the idea that a department meeting should be held at which we would set our own productive standards, disregarding the demands of the company, it was universally accepted. Yet other questions, such as the Labor Party, which do not effect the worker so immediately, do not get such widespread support.

Thus, in the struggle around concrete issues, it is possible to introduce factory committees – which we called “dual power in the factory.” It is very possible that in the next period many workers will make the transition from the union pure and simple which recognizes the full authority of the boss over the factory, to the factory committee which challenges this authority and does not limit itself to bargaining for concessions.

The need for such an approach in the United States is presented to the Workers Party in the resolution of Comrade Johnson on the American Question.

Last updated on 19 January 2019