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Susan Green

Hobbs Bill Initiates Congressional Attack on Labor

Now Is the Time to Form a Labor Party!

(15 February 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 7, 15 February 1943, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The CIO, AFL and railroad brotherhoods, together with the National Farmers Union, representing 13,000,000 organized workers and working farmers, have formed, a “common legislative front” to fight anti-labor legislation such as the Hobbs so-called “anti-racketeering” bill.

Such united action is, undoubtedly, a forward step. But it is hardly enough in the circumstances. In fact, in going so far and no farther, the leaders of these millions of working people act like frightened swimmers who, when they can grab a log, nervously, catch onto a straw.

The leaders of these organizations realize fully that we are on the eve of the most reactionary attack on labor that capitalist politicians have ever launched. CIO President Murray, in announcing the “common legislative front,” declared that “the unholy alliance of poll-tax Democrats with the most reactionary wings of the Republican Party ... have served notice of their intention to attack labor and reduce labor standards without regard to health or productive efficiency of war workers.”

In face of such an attack, the “common legislative front” is altogether inadequate because it still places laborers and working farmers at the mercy of Democrats and Republicans, i.e., capitalist class politicians. To be sure it is the “good” Democrats and Republicans that Murray, Green & Go. will rely upon to “protect” labor.

But isn’t that exactly what labor has been doing up till now? And hasn’t this policy of “rewarding labor’s friends” landed the workers in such a vulnerable position that today their basic standards can be taken away from them?

Why should 13,000,000 organized working people – with their families and friends and the mass of unorganized workers behind them – be beholden to “good” capitalist politicians for political “protection.”

In these organized workers lies the broad base for independent working class action. In them lies the strong base for an Independent Labor Party. That is the log labor must firmly grasp – or it will sink in the maelstrom of reaction.

A Well Planned Thrust

In the light of the above, let us consider the Hobbs so-called “anti-racketeering” bill. It is a shrewd, well planned thrust at labor’s heart – dressed up in the garb of innocence. It simply calls for “equal treatment” of all racketeers guilty of “robbery and extortion.” That is all.

When it is pointed out that there already is an anti-racketeering law – passed in 1934 – which includes protective clauses for labor organizations and legitimate union practices, and that the Hobbs bill carefully omits these protective clauses, the supporters of the Hobbs bill retort that there are no protective clauses for other organizations, either. Then why for labor? they “innocently” ask.

You see what “absolute equality” this bourbon Democrat from poll-tax Alabama aims at. Even “good” Dem’ocrats and Republicans can fall for such an abstraction – especially if they have pressure put on them “by their generous campaign contributors from the boss class.

But rank and file workers on an Independent Labor Party ticket would know better. Their class experience has taught workers that even protective clauses in the laws do not prevent pro-capitalist injustices. Their class instinct tells them that when these protective clauses are not in the laws, anti-labor judges and juries take it as an invitation to go the limit against labor,

Let there be ho mistake about it, an Independent Labor Party will mot cure all the ills that beset labor. For that a workers’ government is needed. But, sitting in Congress as representatives of the working people, workers and working class farmers elected on an Independent Labor Party ticket could use the tribunal afforded them as congressmen to blast to hell such anti-labor frauds as the Hobbs bill. THE PEOPLE OF THE COUNTRY WOULD SOON KNOW THAT IT IS NOT RACKETEERING THE POLL-TAX CONGRESSMEN ARE CONCERNED ABOUT.

For what is the poll-tax, if not a colossal racket depriving millions of citizens of the right to vote? What are the cost-plus war contracts of big business but a form of racketeering? What are the farm bloc antics in Congress, if not racketeering by big business farmers to get bigger pickings, while squeezing out the little fellow?

Half-Way Measures Inadequate

Independent Labor Party candidates elected to Congress would give out with the real McCoy. (We are speaking of a genuine Independent Labor Party which has no connections with the boss class.) They would be accountable only to the working people. They would be successful only to the extent that they furthered the class interests of the working people.

Nor could an Independent Labor Party merely fight a defensive battle to maintain the status quo. In reality there is no status quo – but only progress or reaction. We would have to give an Independent Labor Party a program of militant working class demands covering the gamut of questions that press for solution. And, once we have realized our political and economic strength, we would then proceed beyond the tasks of the Labor Party to the next step: vanquishing the fundamental iniquity of class exploitation at the point of production by wresting from the capitalists the factories and the mills which properly belong to labor.

The CIO has revealed that it has a legislative program, to be followed by each of its locals. It consists in organizing local committees “for purposes of basic contact with our representatives in Congress.” These CIO committees are furthermore to “operate jointly with AFL and railroad brotherhood locals, farm organizations, church and community organizations.” And “the views of these groups must be brought to Congress by joint committees of these various organizations, by joint rallies or demonstrations and delegations to congressmen.”

All these plans are excellent. Such pressure on capitalist politicians has always been and still is a necessary supplement to militant working class action. But it is only a supplement to the main line of independent political action – FOR WHICH THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE.

For the representatives in Congress are NOT OUR representatives, They are candidates of the Democratic and Republican Parties which are boss parties, and they are therefore boss politicians.

Everything considered, the decision of the CIO, AFL and railroad brotherhoods to form a “common legislative front” along the lines more fully explained in the CIO statement quoted above, is only a half-measure. The intensity of the reactionary forces today demands all-out progressive action from labor. Labor’s political interests can be defended and furthered in and out of Congress only by a political instrument wielding the solid economic strength of the unions – an Independent Labor Party, free of all boss ties, and with its own working class program.

Let the unions use pressure on capitalist politicians, yes. Let them gain the support of communities in rallies and demonstrations, yes. But the basic political perspective of the working people must be a nationally organized Independent Labor Party!

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