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Mary Bell

Labor Party Trends

(17 December 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 51, 17 December 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Two significant events of the past two weeks testify that the wholesale disgust of labor – CIO, AFL and UMW – with the labor-backed Truman Administration can become a groundswell for the formation of a genuine independent labor party.

The first, most forthright and most significant was the approval by the UAW strike committee representing 42,000 workers in Flint, Mich., one of the principal centers of General Motors production, of a resolution calling for the formation of an active political force to represent labor under its own name. The resolution Requested the conference of 200 UAW representatives of GM locals which met in Detroit last Saturday to:

  1. Mobilize the American people against the anti-labor conspiracy in Congress.
  2. Lay the groundwork for the formation of a labor party.
  3. Mobilize a mass march on Washington to halt congressional offenses against labor.

The second and less forthright, but nevertheless significant event was the action taken last Sunday by the New Jersey State Industrial Union Council, CIO, which followed the suggestion of the National CIO Executive Board that all state industrial union councils take over political action committees, and ordered the formerly autonomous New Jersey PAC to become a committee of the state council. A move for the outright formation of a labor party was defeated in the New Jersey meeting.

These events were preceded by the radio address of Philip Murray, analyzed last week in Labor Action, which announced the first break in a ten-year alliance of the CIO with the Democratic Administration.

President Truman, inheritor of the policies of former President Roosevelt, has provoked the anger of both ranks and leaders of the entire organized labor movement by his strike breaking, pro-corporation intervention in the General Motors strike.

Organized labor is fast finding out that in order to gain higher wages, strikes, picketing and economic action are not enough.

The United Auto Workers, massed in the union halls and on the picket lines of the country, have found out that economic action is not sufficient to win their battle. They have demanded in their struggle for higher wages that the auto corporations OPEN THEIR BOOKS, that is, reveal their profits and their wage costs, so that the union may demonstrate that it is possible to pay .the wage increases and yet maintain prices of GM products so that the consumers will not be penalized by increased costs.

The company has said in effect: labor and the consumers be damned! Our ability to pay is none of your business! Determination of prices and profits is the prerogative of private enterprise! And swiftly to the aid of the corporations come their legislative representatives in Congress and their friend in the White House with his strike-breaking proposal and his “fact-finding” committees.

The action of the Flint strikers to buttress their ECONOMIC CLASS ACTION with POLITICAL CLASS ACTION must not only be lauded by union men and women everywhere. It should be EMULATED by them. They know that a labor government in Washington would not stand for the arrogant, public-be-damned attitude of the corporations. They would have control over their own labor representatives in Congress, just as the corporations now control the capitalist politicians who represent them there.

The company’s books would be opened quickly if a labor government was in Washington. If the corporations showed that they were unable to manage their enterprises so that labor could receive a decent wage and security, a government of the workers would nationalize industry and so plan production under workers’ control that unemployment would be eliminated and a high standard of living secured for all.

The Flint workers are moving in the right direction.

It is impossible to say how definitive is the break between Murray and the other CIO leaders with Truman. The break may be only temporary. It may lead merely to the support of another Democratic politician a little friendlier to labor, such as Wallace. It may lead to the support of a “progressive” Republican of the Willkie school, such as Harold Stassen. Or it may lead to the formation of a “third party” that is not a labor party but an aggregate of farmers, labor and middle class elements such as was proposed by the Communists in the.New Jersey CIO.

Any of these alternatives to the formation of a real labor party and an all-time break with capitalist politics will keep labor in the same old rut of electing “friendly” capitalist politicians, that is – friendly enemies.

Labor should take the road of the Flint workers. Break once and for all with the enemy parties of labor, Republican or Democrat, and get on the high road of independent labor politics.

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