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David Coolidge

FDR for Slave Law!

(17 January 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 3, 17 January 1944, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“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 services every able-bodied adult in the nation.”

This is the heart, the core and the very essence of Roosevelt’s message to the new session of Congress. Roosevelt calls on Congress to take the final step for forcing labor into a legal straight-jacket which will leave the workers at the mercy of the capitalist bosses and their henchmen in the federal government.

Roosevelt asks Congress to enact a law “which for the duration of the war will prevent strikes.” How are strikes to be prevented? By making “available for war production or for any other essential services every able-bodied adult in the nation.”

In other words, Congress is to establish a LABOR FRONT, United States style. In this labor front not only will the workers be harnessed to the job selected for them by the government bureaucrats but their wages and hours of toil will be supervised by these same government bureaucrats.

Under such a law, the assault on collective bargaining will have been completed, and, should they submit, the unions may as well fold their tents, surrender and be prepared to submit to the snarls of every foreman and the unified attacks of the whole class of capitalist employers. The proof that no worker is to be allowed to escape the regimentation intended by Roosevelt is in the phrase: “... will make available for war production OR FOR ANY OTHER ESSENTIAL SERVICES every able-bodied adult in the nation.” Not only are the war workers to be included in the labor front but even those who are not engaged in war work. This is a demand on Congress to pass a law that will “unify” the working class, that will forcibly regiment labor as a whole in support of the Second Imperialist World War.

Roosevelt is clear and forthright in his demand for a national service law that will “prevent strikes” and make, every last man and woman (except the halt and the blind) available for labor in the factories, mines and fields. But he isn’t so clear and forthright in connection with profits, salaries, dividends and interest.

The “greatest President since Abraham Lincoln” asks for “a realistic tax law which will tax UNREASONABLE PROFITS ...” He demands “continuation of the law for the renegotiation of war contracts which, will prevent EXORBITANT PROFITS and assure FAIR PRICES to the government. For two long years I have pleaded with the Congress to take UNDUE PROFITS out of war.”

This is all that Roosevelt has to say about the billions in profits the capitalists have already taken and are taking in from the sweating of the workers in the field, factories and mines, and the blood being poured out by their brothers on the battlefields of the world.

What About the Profiteers?

Why didn’t Roosevelt demand that Congress include in his national service law that ALL the profits be taken out of the war? What does he mean by “unreasonable profits” and “undue profits”?

Why doesn’t Roosevelt demand that every dollar of profit from war orders go into the federal treasury?

Why doesn’t Roosevelt demand that, for the duration of the war, not a dollar of war profits go to pay dividends or interest?

Why doesn’t Roosevelt demand that, for the period of the war, every government official (including the President) and every corporation official have his salary and income “stabilized” in the same manner that the wages of the workers have been “stabilized”?

That is, why doesn’t Roosevelt demand that government officials (including the President and members of Congress) and all corporation executives have their salaries and incomes reduced to a bare maintenance level?

Why didn’t the President demand that corporation officials and their subordinates be tied to their jobs just as the workers are?

Roosevelt demands none of these things. He leaves the capitalist bosses just as they are today: in full control of their corporations, their salaries, dividends, and with all their tremendous power over the masses of the people untouched.

Roosevelt knows this and he knows also that Congress understands fully that it is not his intention to disturb the power and incomes of the capitalist bosses in the slightest degree.

What Is Labor Serving?

Congress understands fully that the national service act is to be directed at labor, and at labor alone. It will be a law aimed at smashing the unions.

This act will be aimed straight at the UMWA, the railroad brotherhoods, the steel workers and at all unions that show any degree of militancy.

This recommendation of Roosevelt to Congress is a warning to the steel workers, who are demanding an increase in wages, to tuck their tails between their legs and bow down before the coke ovens and the blast furnaces.

The national service act is to be a warning to Murray, Green and Lewis not to get out of line, not to give heed to the pressure of their rank and file. Lewis has authorized strikes of the miners, the leaders of the railway unions have been taking strike votes arid 75,000 of the steel workers in Murray’s union took a “holiday” away from the mills. Roosevelt now tells Murray, Green and Lewis that they are to close ranks with him, Congress and the capitalist bosses against labor.

The national service act (Labbr Front) which Roosevelt tearfully submits to a waiting Congress, will increase the power of the capitalist employers over labor and guarantee that the profits of the bosses in 1944 will be bigger than in 1943. There will be no avoiding this if the trade unions permit this act to become law. This will be the inescapable result, for the reason that this labor front act will so weaken the unions that they will not be in position to maintain collective bargaining rights either with industry or the federal government.

The message of Roosevelt takes nearly a full page in the capitalist press. It is so welcome to the bosses and their press that ten pages would be used if the message required it. There are many other questions. raised in the message but they all relate to the main point: to “prevent strikes” and round up the workers. All the rest of the message is mere decoration calculated to make the organization of a labor front more palatable to labor.

The Murrays, Greens and all the other labor lieutenants of the Roosevelt government, and all the labor recruiting sergeants for the imperialist war have their answer and their reward. They are being paid in full for their stupidity and treachery to the millions of workers they are supposed to represent.

Where Labor Stands

At the CIO convention Murray said, that he was displeased with what was going on in Washington. He wasn’t ready to endorse Roosevelt for a fourth term.

At the AFL convention, the numbskull Green was also displeased with the attempts to regiment labor.

At the UAW convention, Thomas said that before the war he had authorized more strikes than any other international president. After the war Thomas says that he will do the same thing if the bosses try to give the workers the run-around. But Thomas will be relieved of this now and after the war if the national service act becomes law. His friend Roosevelt will take care of the situation for him.

Perhaps now, considerably late, the working class will begin to understand what Labor Action and the Workers Party have been talking about for months, in issue after issue, when this paper has advocated independent political action of labor; that the working class shall break with the Republican and Democratic

Parties; shall break with the capitalist bosses and their government and form an independent mass labor party. This is one sure way to defeat the national service act and all similar anti-labor proposals.


Editor’s Note: There are other questions raised by Roosevelt in his message to Congress that will be treated in subsequent issues of Labor Action.

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