Max Shachtman

Workers Party Speaks
to the Union Movement

(October 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 40, 4 October 1943, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Workers Party is a national labor political organization, but it is not a trade union. Labor Action is a national labor paper, but it is not the organ of any trade union.

Why, then, do both the Workers Party and Labor Action concern themselves with the affairs of the American (and for that matter, the international) trade union movement? Why, indeed, do they devote nine-tenths of their time and activity to the work and problems of the trade union movement? Why are they so much interested in the “internal” affairs of the unions, as well as the relations of the unions to the employers and the government?

These are questions that any trade unionist may legitimately ask. They deserve a simple and clear-cut answer. The occasion of several important CIO union conventions, and especially now the convention of the UAW, which is the most important of all, is fitting one for such an answer.

The Workers Party is not, we repeat, a trade union, although ninety per cent of its membership belongs to trade unions. It is a political organization; but a political organization of a special kind.

In the first place, the Workers Party, as its name implies, is a working class organization through and through. By this we mean that it stands first, last and always for the working class, for its immediate interests and for its historical interests. In every fight labor engages in, regardless of who “started” it or what mistakes labor may be making, the Workers Party is one hundred per cent on the side of the workers and opposed to their class enemies, the capitalists and the capitalist governments.

In the second place, the Workers Party is a socialist and internationalist organization. It works for the establishment of a socialist society, that is, a society organized without class division or privilege or rule, and operating exclusively for the benefit of the producers of wealth, the men and women who work with hand and brain. Such a society, we believe, is possible and necessary. It is an inevitable successor of the bankrupt system of capitalism under which labor is now exploited and oppressed.

Such a society of free men, living and working amid abundance and in security and peace, can be established only by a workers’ government which lays the foundations for it. A workers’ government is simply a government ruled by the workers in their own interests, and not in the interests of a handful of capitalist monopolies.

We cannot even think of such a government except as one established by the organized working class, certainly not as one established “in its name” by a minority which does not enjoy the support of organized labor.

The organized working class today is the trade union movement. Without the agreement and active support of the majority of this movement, any hope of a workers’ government, to say nothing of socialism, is an empty dream. We therefore say openly that the winning of this support for socialism is the main aim of the Workers Party.

But the struggle for socialism is not merely for something far-off. It is a fight for the best interests of the workers NOW, as well as tomorrow. Why? Because if these interests are not defended today, there will be no working class movement tomorrow capable of fighting for its highest and noblest goal – complete freedom.

To fight for the best interests of the workers today, now, means, from our point of view, to transform their existing organizations into organizations much better equipped for fighting labor’s battles than they actually are – better equipped from the standpoint of understanding, of program, of leadership.

The fact is that nine-tenths of the American labor leadership think only in terms of preserving capitalism, which is the source of our troubles, and of keeping the unions under the direction of capitalism. The Stalinists of the so-called Communist Party think and act only in terms of bringing the trade unions under the domination of the reactionary Russian bureaucracy.

We of the Workers Party simply aim at having the workers take over complete, democratic control of the unions. We want to see a thoroughly militant and aggressive working class policy adopted in the unions, so that labor no longer truckles to the bosses and their government, but fights them consistently with the aim of establishing their own government.

We urge a radical break with all capitalist politics in the unions (which is the kind of politics the labor leaders are now carrying on) and the adoption of working class politics, beginning with the formation of a National Labor Party, completely independent of the two capitalist parties.

Naturally, the trade union leaders, the bureaucrats and the Stalinists do not like our program and the educational work we conduct. That is why they fight so bitterly against our ideas and even lie about them. Therefore, we are compelled to fight against them and their harmful activities. That is why we are compelled to speak up clearly and boldly about all important union problems and actions.

These problems are not the private affairs of bureaucrats, but of the whole working class, which we are part of. And we permit ourselves to say that we are a million times more a part of the working class and the labor movement than are the capitalists and capitalist spokesmen with whom the present labor leadership works hand in glove and whom they always invite to union conventions for speeches and “good advice.”

Always with the workers! Always in support of the workers and their struggles! Always with the union movement! That is the position of the Workers Party.

That is why its members are among the most faithful and devoted union men, for otherwise they would not be tolerated in our party for a minute.

That is why we invite the attention of the most militant union men to an examination of our program and our work, and to affiliation with our party if they are prepared to join the great, world-wide fight for the free socialist society of tomorrow.

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