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[Susan Green]

Of Special Interest to Women

At the CIO Convention

(2 December 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 34, 2 December 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Printed in leaflet form with the title Workers’ Education in a Nut Shell, the following pointed story went the rounds of the CIO convention:

A teacher in home economics eloquently described how to make the most nutritious soup by boiling cheap bones. After a detailed account both of the methods of stewing and the good results obtained thereby, she paused for questions. The silence finally was broken by a gaunt Scotch lady, who arose at the back:


I add an imaginary sequel to the above pointed story:

Mr. Moneybags sat down to his sumptuous breakfast in the sunny dining room of his luxurious home and opened the morning paper, called The Boss Press. His brow wrinkled with anger as he read the headline: SUBVERSIVE ELMENTS DISCOVERED IN HOMECONOMICS CLASS.

Eagerly he scanned the news item: “A housewife rose and indicated her desire for meat when the Instructor had just ably given detailed directions on how to cook bones to be soft, tasty and nutritious. Such wayward desires must be ruthlessly suppressed. They signify an alarming lack of patriotism in the national emergency. The national defense calls for sacrifice, not for meat. Such subversive tendencies will be dealt with as the national emergency requires.”

Mr. Moneybags’ brow cleared. A smile of contentment spread over his fat pan. He looked with interest at his plate of thick brown lamb chops with the rich juices oozing out of them: He opened his vest to allow for expansion, and started to eat.

While the CIO held its sessions during the day, the wives of delegates who had come as representatives of the Women’s Auxiliaries of the CIO unions, met in the evenings and planned for the growth of the women’s contingent of the CIO movement.

The members of the Workers Party and the staff of LABOR ACTION remember with admiration the important part played by the mothers, wives and daughters of CIO men in the great strike struggles that accompanied the birth of the CIO. The moral support and active participation of the women in labor’s fights with the boss class are indispensable. The organization and strengthening of the Women’s Auxiliaries are indeed needed.

What surprised me was the basis on which the future work of the Women’s Auxiliaries was being planned.

There was a tendency to regard the period of militant participation in labor struggles as over. Speakers used language something like this: “Now that the CIO unions are stabilized and agreements are entered into by negotiation rather than by striking, we must consider how to function when there are no strikes”.

Insofar as this was meant to be a declaration that the Auxiliaries have work to do in the most “normal” times, it was perfectly correct. But insofar as it expresses a tendency on the part of some of the women of satisfaction with the status quo it was out of tune with the whole spirit of the convention.

The whole outlook for the immediate future of the CIO is certainly not merely to maintain the status quo.

At the convention sessions, every reference to organizing Ford and Bethlehem was cheered to the rafters by delegates and visitors. So was every declaration to organize the other masses of unorganized workers and to bring the membership of the CIO up to the 10,000,000 goal set at the San Francisco convention. So was every demand not only to resist attacks on the workers’ standards but to fight for improvement of those standards. Inevitably such action at any time, and certainly in these times, will mean struggle. I believe the Women’s Auxiliaries must prepare themselves for participation in this struggle.

They have had experience in militant action and will have to give their assistance and leadership to the wives and women relatives of the unorganized men, whose recruitment into the CIO may be accompanied by bitter struggles with the bosses. Where there are strikes to maintain or improve standards, the women will have the double job of helping the men and of using their influence in communities to get the people behind labor in these struggles – so that people will not be on the bosses’ side, carried there on the wave of national defense hysteria. Such are some of the important tasks before the Women’s Auxiliaries of the CIO. This is no time to recline upon the laurels of the past.

One of the most heartening sights at the convention was an old Negro woman, delegate from the tobacco workers union in the Richmond area. She sat right up front and gave earnest and undivided attention to everything that went on. At a point in the proceedings she stepped up to the platform and, in a voice just audible even through the microphone, spoke of the problems of her union of 300 tobacco workers, who are being discriminated against by the bosses.

The next day I saw her in the lobby pointing out to another Negro delegate where her little speech of the previous day appeared in the printed proceedings. She was proud. That evening, after the Thanksgiving banquet and show given to the delegates and visitors, I met her outside of the hotel. She said she had had a lovely time. She was happy. Among her brothers and sisters of the CIO, this Negro woman, coming from the most exploited and brow-beaten of the land, felt like a human being.

It was no easy matter for this worker to arise from the lowest depths of social being to where, through belonging to the CIO, she now has a small measure of control over her life. She had to overcome the tradition of slavery behind her, the intimidation and brutality used by the southern bourbons, the habit of waiting for someone else to do something for her. She risked her life and limb. But she fought and is fighting to better herself, her people, and the whole working class – IN THE ONLY WAY IT CAN BE DONE.

Labor Action and the Workers Party are also engaged in this fight. We join with the CIO in its militant struggles against the bosses and the boss politicians. BUT WE FIGHT ALSO FOR A SOCIETY WITHOUT A BOSS CLASS.

As this Negro woman has learned from her union experience, both in industry and in government, THE BOSSES stand between the workers and the good life. We will gladly risk life and limb so that the workers may finally own all industry and have A WORKERS GOVERNMENT.

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