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Susan Green

Leaders Duck Labor Party Issue

(17 June 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 24, 17 June 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

At the March convention of the United Auto Workers-CIO, President Walter Reuther was asked at a press conference whether he considered an independent Labor Party in the cards. Reuther answered: “Not in the immediate future.” Labor Action commented: “Just what is he waiting for?”

When on May 27 in Detroit Reuther announced a proposal, presumably backed by top leaders of the UAW-CIO, for a national united labor conference of all unions – AFL, CIO and Railread Brotherhoods – to take measures against the vicious, fascistic attack on labor by the Congress and the President of the United States, there was reason to hope that perhaps this is what Reuther was waiting for. Perhaps now such a conference would actually be called and the question squarely posed to utilize labor’s economic and political power in an independent class party.

Since May 27 the International Executive Board of the UAW-CIO met in Cleveland. The principal resolution passed by the board on the political crisis in which labor finds itself is a glaring example of craven labor leaders ducking their responsibility to the class they supposedly lead and clinging frantically to the coattails of capitalist politicians. The announcement of May 27 appears to have been a phony.

Program for Inaction

No militant call for a nationwide conference of all labor came from the heads of the largest and most militant union in the country. As a miserable substitute the IEB resolution contained these clauses:

“We call upon our local unions to join together in their own communities with AFL and Railroad Brotherhoods local groups to pretest against the President’s proposals and all anti-labor legislation.

“We call upon all organized labor to Join together nationally in a united protest against such legislation.”

That is all!

Congress is moving to take away labor’s right to strike. The President wants to clap military controls approaching totalitarianism on the workers. And all that labor’s leadership proposes is that the local unions and all organized labor meet to “protest against.” That, Messrs. Reuther, Thomas, Leonard, Addes, et al., is not positive action – and positive action is what the present political crisis demands.

Instead of going forward to an independent Labor Party, severing the chains that bind the workers and the mass of common people to the parties of the capitalist class, the resolution adopted by the IEB of the UAW-CIO looks back nostalgically – to what? “To the program and policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt!” Says the resolution:

“When Harry S. Truman took the oath of office as President of the United States he pledged that his administration would carry ont the program and policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He has violated that pledge.”

And again:

“The President is directly responsible for many of these betrayals of Franklin Roosevelt’s policies.”

And more to the same effect

What misleading nonsense about the “program and policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt!” What program? What policies? Did not FDR himself bury the New Deal, such as it was, in an interview with Dilworth Lupton, columnist of the Cleveland Press, at the end of 1943? Did not FDR himself call in “Dr. Win the War” – Dr. New Deal having served the purposes of American capitalism? And was it not FDR who started the firing of New Dealers, bouncing Leon Henderson off the OPA and Henry Wallace off the Board of Economic Welfare, as well as off the Democratic Party ticket – all as concessions to the reactionaries?

Not that Labor Action or the Workers Party ever put any stock in New Dealism as anything but a capitalist maneuver to keep the working class in tow at a time of crisis, but the labor misleaders did – and do! The rank and file should know the score.

FDR’s Strike-Breaking

Furthermore, just how did Truman “betray” Roosevelt’s policy on the labor draft? In FDR’s statement to Congress on June 25, 1943, he said:

“I recommend that the Selective Service Act be amended so that persons may be inducted into non-combat military service up to the age of 65 years. This will enable us to induct into military service all persons who engage in strikes or stoppages or other Interruptions of work in plants in the possession of the United States.”

Is this not the essence of the Truman strike-breaking totalitarian proposal? And don’t think that FDR gave up easily his attempt to regiment labor. For again in his message to Congress in January, 1944, he urged:

“A national service law, which, for the duration of the war will prevent strikes and, with certain appropriate exceptions, will make available for war production or for any other essential service every able-bodied adult in the nation.”

It is not Truman who is betraying Roosevelt. On the contrary, the former only applies in the peacetime crisis of capitalism the same antilabor policy that the latter sought to establish in time of war.

The betrayal is by the labor leaders of their rank and file!

Have They Forgotten?

It cannot be that these leaders have forgotten how all of them – CIO, AFL and Railroad Brotherhoods – protested against FDR and condemned his attempt to put labor into the straitjacket of militarism. And it cannot be that the top labor leadership has forgotten a most humiliating interview at the White House in January 1944 where Philip Murray tried to dissuade President Roosevelt from his draft-labor proposal, as “quack medicine.” Victor Riesel, labor editor of the New York Post, reported the President’s arrogant defiance of Murray, Green and the other leaders present, and his reiterated determination to sign any bill that would restrict labor.

These policies of FDR were well known to the labor officialdom when they supported Roosevelt in the 1944 election and went along with his support of Truman for Vice-President, a choice made to placate the reactionaries. The CIO squandered the money and energies of the PAC to get out the vote for this team of capitalist politicians. Now Truman is following the reactionary path already indicated by Roosevelt!

The labor bureaucrats look back to a Roosevelt paradise that never existed because they refuse to look forward. Events cry out the direction labor has to take. It has to break with capitalist politics. The PAC, with its human and material resources, has to be transformed from a tool of the capitalist parties and used as the foundation for an independent Labor Party. This is what the present crisis demands if labor is to save itself.

Dubinsky’s Call

Almost at the same time that Reuther and his colleagues were meeting in Cleveland, another labor leader, David Dubinsky, president of the International Garment Workers Union, AFL, spoke for what he called a “National Labor Party” at the convention of the United Hatters, Cap & Millinery Workers in New York. He denounced the labor “statesmen” whose “main object is to bore from within in the existing parties.”

“Have these statesmen prepared an independent labor political movement in this country so they could send their own people to Congress?” asked Dubinsky. “No! On the contrary, they have always been against a third party. They have told the reactionaries in advance: ‘Don’t be scared; we have nowhere else to go; we will have to vote for you anyhow’.”

That sounds like something, doesn’t it? At least it indicates that Dubinsky sees the handwriting on the wall, and feels the still unexpressed desire of the rank and file for something more than “protests against.” However, Dubinsky has a record. He is leader of the Liberal Party in New York. This Liberal Party, under Dubinsky, has played capitalist politics without hindrance from him. In 1944 it went all out for Roosevelt and the Democratic Party.

This year Dubinsky and the Liberal Party have indicated their support for Senator Mead, Democratic Party man, if he receives the nomination for Governor of New York. The Dubinskys may consider such politicians “their own people,” but will the workers and the masses of common people? What Dubinsky wants is merely a third CAPITALIST party. What the workers must have is an independent labor party, a class party, based on the unions and other mass organizations, cut free from all capitalist parties and politicians. What more proof is needed than the present attempts of capitalist parties and politicians to take away labor’s right to strike and to make involuntary servitude the law of the land!

Walter Reuther may be waiting for something else. But will the rank and file wait for Reuther!

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