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Susan Green

Senator O’Mahoney and Labor Politics

Pulling Wool over Labor’s Eyes

(9 August 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 32, 9 August 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Perhaps it’s a bit out of season to write about wool in the middle of the summer. However, the stores are beginning to show fall clothes, and even in the heat of early August one shudders at the prices. But this article is not about wool alone. It is about price control, about Joseph C. O’Mahoney, Democratic Senator from Wyoming, and especially – about labor politics.

Senator O’Mahoney has built up, at least for public consumption, a record of progressivism. In the press he appears as a crusader against monopoly. He hits the front page on inflation; he is “against.” In April 1947 he warned manufacturers to reduce prices or “they will find they have priced themselves out of customers.”

Recently, when the steel industry again boosted prices, O’Mahoney thundered that that monopoly was “surrendering to inflation” and he threatened:

“I shall introduce legislation at the special session to require producers of basic commodities ... to submit all proposed price increases to public scrutiny by an appropriate public agency ...”

Furthermore, and more important, Joseph C. O’Mahoney, Democratic Senator from Wyoming, is one of the darlings of the CIO.

Wool over the Eyes

In the July 16 issue of the CIO News there is published a guide to voters. Here are listed and explained sixteen legislative actions in which the CIO was vitally interested. The voting record of each member of the Senate and of the House is given. On thirteen of the sixteen issues Senator O’Mahoney voted “right” from the CIO point of view; on the other three he did not vote “wrong” but merely abstained. Therefore, according to this method of recommending capitalist politicians to labor voters, O’Mahoney stands very high and is one of the CIO chosen ones.

This is the face – or shall I say the mask? – that Senator O’Mahoney shows to the public and particularly to the labor public. In the secret places of his heart, O’Mahoney harbors a deep interest, which can hardly be called for the general good. Like a shepherd worrying over his flock, O’Mahoney guards the interests of the sheep industry producing sheep’s meat and wool – wool that goes into blankets and winter clothes that we all soon will be needing.

It is well known that the wool industry has long been so well protected by tariff legislation that it is a virtual monopoly for domestic producers. According to reports, notably that of Edward H. Collins in the financial columns of the New York Times, Senator O’Mahoney “has long regarded it as an essential part of his duty to help perpetuate one of the most notorious and unnatural monopolies ever created by American tariff legislation.” Thus Senator O’Mahoney, crusader against inflation, has championed the wool monopoly and the artificially inflated prices of wool for many years before this post-war inflation began to victimize us on all fronts. Nor has O’Mahoney corrected this “inconsistency” in recent years.

On April 7, 1947, three days before the Senator solemnly warned manufacturers to reduce prices, as noted above, the Senate – convinced by the eloquence or more probably by the give-and-take attitude of O’Mahoney and others – agreed that the price of wool should be supported by the government at “not less than the 1946 level.” It was, of course, just an accident that the 1946 price of wool – 42.3 cents a pound – was perhaps the highest in all times. The pre-war price was 22.3 cents a pound.

Again in June 1948 the Aiken bill for permanent support of farm prices was up in the Senate. Once more, by back-scratching arrangements among the Senators, the bill provided support for wool at around 46 cents a pound for 1948 and at around 48 cents for 1949. Mr. O’Mahoney’s labors on behalf of the wool industry are quietly rewarded and wool prices are pegged at more than twice pre-war levels. On the front pages of the press O’Mahoney thunders against inflation.

His Politics a Trap

Now if two-faced O’Mahoney were to introduce, as he threatened, legislation to require “producers of basic commodities” to submit all proposed price increases to public scrutiny, you can bet every last of your hard-earned dollars that wool, now double pre-war prices, and sheep’s meat, now triple pre-war prices, would not be listed in his bill as “basic commodities.” After all, they are needed only for clothing and for food – and how basic is that!

This story of wool, price control. Senator O’Mahoney and CIO politics is of course told to show what a snare and what a delusion is so-called labor politics as practised by certain labor leaders. What kind of price control can the people get from capitalist, special-interest politicians such as the Republicans and Democrats by nature are? What kind of progress can accrue to the masses from such progressivism?

While the labor movement indulges in the folly and futility of recommending capitalist politicians, people disgusted with the old parties are attracted to the Wallaceites pursuing other special interests, the special interests of the Stalinists and of the Kremlin.

Isn’t it time for the labor movement to crystallize its political power in its own labor party? Isn’t it time to recognize the O’Mahoneys for what they are?

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