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David Coolidge

AFL Post-War Proposals

(8 May 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 19, 8 May 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

This is the second installment of David Coolidge’s article analyzing the AFL recommendations for the post-war world.

Parts Three and Four of the AFL statement oh post-war planning deal with Guiding Domestic Principles and Immediate Domestic Program. The first guiding domestic principle reads that “our immediate responsibility is to win the war.” The AFL leaders bestow great praise cm the’m-selves for “suspending the exercise of the hard-won right to strike.” The result has been “an achievement of production without precedent in the history of mankind.” No mention is made of the important fact that this production resulted in the highest profits in the “history of mankind.”

Neither is it mentioned that giving up the right to strike resulted in the stabilization of wages, job stabilization, the Little Steel formula, the lengthening of the work week, the movement for piece work wages, the passage of the Smith-Connally Act and numerous state anti-labor bills; organized employer-WLB drives against the unions and the Administration’s demand for a national service act.

The statement then launches into a line of airy nonsense about the AFL being “an organ and an expression of American democracy.” This is true in only a limited and very narrow sense. It would be difficult to convince the Negroes or the white mass production workers that the AFL is an organ of democracy for them. “The essence of slavery ... is to be compelled to work at the dictation of another.” This is not the “essence” of slavery, but even if we accept the AFL statement, it is necessary to add that workers have no alternative but to work at the dictation of another so long as we tolerate the existence of capitalist society. The working class must toil at the dictation of the capitalist ruling class so long as capitalism exists. We can better our condition by militant and aggressive mass actions but we cannot escape capitalist class dictatorship while capitalism continues.

”The right to work and the right to quit work are among the most basic rights of free men ... the right of the worker to unite with his fellows to protect and advance his interests has been made a part of the law of the land. The AFL is determined to defend this “right against any and all forces that may challenge it.” How and when will the AFL defend these rights? By giving up the right to strike? By boasting about production and saying nothing about profits, salaries, dividends and interest? We shall see later What the positive contributions of the AFL are to the defense of workers’ rights.

Words That Have No Real Meaning

Remembering the present high production, the AFL says that it will riot “tolerate the “defeatism which holds that under a democratic regime of freedom it is not possible to make. this abundance actually available to our people.” Available to what people? Who are the AFL’s people? Abundance and superabundance are already available to some of the people. Even under rationing, the capitalists and their immediate beneficiaries suffer not at all. Also, what does the AFL plan to do to see that “this abundance” is available to the working class and the poor? Give another no-strike pledge? Continue to make sweetheart agreements with big business? Support Martin Dies for re-election to Congress?

The AFL is for checking the “concentration of economic and governmental power.” It wants the common people to “exercise effective control over the conditions which determine their livelihood.” But if they are to do this, “the trend toward private monopoly and the concentration of wealth” must be reversed. What does this mean? How can the common people exercise control over an economy which they do not own; an economy owned by capitalists, operated for private profit, and this ownership and operation protected by a capitalist government?

For “Free Enterprise”

Furthermore, the AFL is for the perpetuation of this system of private profit. The leaders of the AFL are in full agreement with Eric Johnston, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They want “free enterprise” unencumbered by too much government regulation. They want the capitalist government to take its hands out of capitalist “free enterprise.” What do these doddering old men think the government is? Suppose the government, with its police, state guards, auxiliary military police, secret police and army, took its hands off the unions? What would become of the no-strike pledge, the Little Steel formula, job stabilization and the Smith-Connally Act?

The AFL leaders see only a “trend” toward monopoly and concentration of wealth. In 1944 these evils are just getting under way, presumably. Green, Woll & Co. have read nothing, they see nothing, they learn nothing and they understand nothing, save “free enterprise” and per capita tax. They have never heard of U.S. Steel, A.T.&T., the Big Five in the packing industry, Rockefeller, Morgan, Mellon and the Sixty Families.

The AFL leaders want the capitalist bosses. “We recognize that organizations of business, of finance, of farmers and of the various professions, as well as of labor have their indispensable part to play ... Each of these groups should press for the adequate recognition of its own peculiar interests ... Fortunately, each of the major functional groups is beginning to perceive that the impoverishment of other groups endangers its own security and prosperity.”

Every worker will shed a flood of tears at this tender solicitude of the AFL leaders over the plight of the manufacturers and bankers. With profits and dividends rolling in by the hundreds of millions, the capitalist ruling class is in danger of “impoverishment.” From whom? Evidently from the demands of the working class for more wages. If the steel workers get their seventeen cents increase that will impoverish Morgan and U.S. Steel.

It is interesting that the AFL statesmen recognize that the groups in society have “peculiar interests” and that each should press for the recognition of its interests. Do Green and Woll believe that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the NAM are not pressing hard enough? It is true that the workers have “peculiar interests” as a class but how can we press for the recognition of these interests, as workers, while we have the no-strike millstone around our hecks, placed there by the Greens and Murrays?

(To be concluded)

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