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Susan Green

When Labor Downs Its Tools,
No One Can Deny Its Power

(7 October 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 40, 7 October 1946, pp. 3 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

An inspiring demonstration of the absolute indispensability of labor has been given in the great strikes that have swept the country since the latter part of 1945.

What irrefutable evidence of labor’s controlling position in production! Labor is the heart of it all. If it fails, there is paralysis. If it stops, there is death.

Compare this indispensability of the workers with other classes in society. Not all the gold in the treasury of the United States could bring a glow to the steel furnaces. Not all the stocks and bonds in Wall Street – certificates of ownership of the means of production – could dig one lump of coal. Not a capitalist – whose so-called risk-taking and so-called management are supposed to be essential – could produce even a nut for an automobile.

When Plants Shut Down

When a corporation closes down its plants and stops production, it is no proof of the indispensability of capitalists in the production processes. It only points up the folly of the workers in allowing capitalism to stand between them and the plants of which labor is the heart.

Such a demonstration of labor’s might as we have seen in recent strikes also makes clear the relation between engineers, scientists, technicians and the masses of workers. Absolutely necessary as these brain

workers are, without the mass of workers all the engineering, scientific and technical know-how would be wasted. It is toil that makes reality of new ideas. Even if scientists conceive a push-button civilization, it will still be labor that will manufacture the push-buttons. Therefore, both by their all-controlling position in production and by their overwhelming numbers the workers are the mightiest class in modern society.

Who Are the Workers?

This mighty class is by no means numbered by industrial, mining and transport workers only. The agricultural and dairy workers, without whom we would all starve, are part of the working class. So are the various categories of white collar and wage-earning professional workers, all necessary in our intricate society. The middle class people whose security capitalism has completely shaken, is also dependent on the mass of workers for a better future.

So, to repeat: By its all-controlling position in production, by its vast numbers and by its relation to other elements in society whose security has vanished under capitalism, the working class should be up on top, in political leadership, as well as controlling production in the interest of all the people – and, by no means incidentally – directing the efforts of engineers, scientists and technicians away from atom bomb into life-preserving channels.

However, the working class is not on top, it is not in political leadership and it is not controlling production. While the splendid strikes of this period have shown so clearly that without labor there is nothing, the same strikes have shown what limited use the workers make of their power.

The workers have struck for wage increases, shorter hours and improved conditions. Their militancy and solidarity have been beyond reproach. In some cases, as with the General Motors strikers, they won the support of whole communities. As in the case of the New York truck drivers’ strike, thousands of unaffected drivers went out in sympathy so that bosses, politicians and labor leaders were frightened stiff at the working class solidarity.

What Happens Next?

All this is splendid and it has won the workers part of their demands. Then what happens?

The workers put away their might in dead storage! Production is turned back to the capitalists whom the workers just fought with such militancy. The government remains in the hands of the capitalist politicians of the major parties. Then what happens?

The capitalists ask for higher prices. The government, anxious to relieve the capitalists of every “hardship” and mindful of the “risks” of profit-making, grants price increases. The cost of living climbs. The wage increases won in militant struggle are nullified. White collar and professional workers who have suffered in silence see their standard of living reduced. All those who have the wrong end of the rope feel it tighten around their necks. And the capitalists, rubbing their hands, shout: “Produce more, boys, and everything will be okay!”

A Labor Party Needed

As we see the absolute indispensability and overwhelming might of the workers demonstrated in their strikes, the question to be asked today is this: “Why does labor not make permanent use of its strength to break through the vicious circle of capitalism and take with it all

the exploited and oppressed?” Strikes are necessary and splendid weapons for definite objectives and for limited periods. But permanently, the affairs of the country are settled through government. Labor . must use its strategic industrial position, its tremendous numbers, its logical position of leadership of all the oppressed, to control the government of the country – so as to be able to plan and control production in the interest of the people of the country.

From its industry power, labor must project a mighty independent Labor Party, aiming at the establishment of a workers’ government. This is the way to break the crazy and vicious capitalist control. If labor makes up its mind to do this, nothing can stop it.

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