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Susan Green

Congress Readies
New Labor Blows

(24 June 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 25, 24 June 1946, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Congressional refusal to go along with the President on his proposed labor-draft legislation and the Presidential veto of the Case bill by no means end the anti-labor attack. There will now be a short intermission for the reshuffling of scenery and then the play will go on. The capitalist class, through its politicians, has not given up its ambition to straight-jacket labor.

The vetoed Case bill had totalitarian aspects. It would put strikers behind prison bars; it would rob unions of their funds and thus lessen their power to function.

The debates in Congress were very revealing, though mostly hidden from the public in the Congressional Record. For instance, the question was raised, if the Truman proposal were passed and the government took over struck plants and drafted strikers, would they be paid soldiers’ or workers’, wages? Again, discussion developed around the consequences of drafted strikers refusing to obey the army command to return to work. How could thousands of workers be forced to work if they refused to? They couldn’t. Would they then be mowed down by machine gun fire? Or would they be punished by herding them into concentration camps? Those were the points raised in Congressional debate.

Why the attempt to use these Nazi methods in this “arsenal of democracy?” This is serious business and must be understood.

On Top of a Volcano

American capitalism has come out of the war top dog, but its peak is a volcano. The intensified international rivalries after World War II may erupt into open conflict. The suffering, hungry, war-torn masses of Europe and Asia constitute a revolutionary threat. American capitalism can exist only if it can stop up, at least for a while, the crater of war and revolution. In its own interests it is creating a peacetime military establishment superior to all. In its own interests it is bolstering tottering governments financially. At the same time it must hurry to capture world markets before war-crippled competitors stage a comeback with this very American money. If the international volcano can thus be stepped up, American capitalists see the possibility for the largest profits in history—if only the American workers would be content to bear the burdens.

But American labor is not willing to be the goat. The workers do not understand why they should not now get at least the same take-home pay that they received during the war. They have seen what American industry can produce for war, and wonder why not for peace. They feel that costs and profits are no longer the bosses’ business alone. They have a series of demands to give them security in life, including a guaranteed annual wage, a thirty-hour work week, and so on. Labor has started to fight for these needs and its militancy is bound to continue.

A fighting working class does not help capitalism solve its crisis, but deepens that crisis. What is the capitalist class to do? It tries to take away from labor its ability to fight. Labor must be suppressed; the unions weakened. For in this era of capitalist decline the ruling class must establish a single command. That is why totalitarianism raises its head in this country too, although still enveloped in the legal processes with which the Congress and Administration concern themselves.

The Totalitarian Threat

These developments in democratic America support the prediction of Labor Action and the Workers Party about the world today. We have said that capitalism in this era can brace itself only on repressive measures against the workers. We have said that capitalism is bound to become totalitarian, to trample human rights, to abandon human values—to become a form of barbarism. History poses against this the struggle for Socialism. The choice between Socialism and capitalist barbarism is placed before the American masses by the serious trend towards totalitarianism evidenced in the attempts to regiment and suppress labor.

In milder form we have here a trend historically similar to the developments in pre-war Germany culminating in the triumph of the Nazis. There the ruling class, in a state of deep crisis, planned to re-establish itself by means of successful war. But it could not prepare war against British and American imperialism without first taking away the power of the workers to fight it. Therefore, the Nazis liquidated the powerful workers’ organizations so successfully that they won the admiration of many “democrats"—and this admiration still glows in their hearts.

This is the light in which the people of this country must understand the repressive anti-labor measures. The historic choice between capitalism declining into barbarism and Socialism leading to a new birth of human freedom and well-being, has to be made.

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Last updated: 22 January 2019