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David Coolidge

Will Ship Workers Accept
Green’s Bankrupt Report?

(12 June 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 24, 12 June 1944, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

President John Green of the Industrial Union of Marine & Shipbuilding Workers (IUMSWA) made a Report to the Membership on The State of Our Union in the May 19 number of the Shipyard Worker. Brother Green begins with the question, “Where do we go from here?” The IUMSWA is “today at the crossroads ... our organization enters into probably the most critical period in its history.” The days ahead are “as grave as those early formative years of struggle, when the employers aligned themselves against us in their unsuccessful attempt to throttle the rising aspirations of the oppressed and exploited shipyard workers.”

President Green has learned that the employers are at it again. They want “an open shop, low-wage shipbuilding industry.” The AFL Metal Trades Council, he says, is “working together with the employers to undermine the foundations of our organization.”

Everything that President Green says here is true. True, not only of the shipbuilding companies but of all the employers in the United States. Of course they want the open shop, low wages and long hours.

The shipbuilding companies want to boost their profits, dividends and salaries of company officials. That’s what capitalist corporations exist for. Brother Green surely must remember some of these very elementary things about capitalism from the days when he was a member of the Socialist Party. Also, he should remember how he applied some of these ABC political lessons when he was leading strikes on the Clydeside during the First Imperialist World War.

Where Is Green Going?

One would think, therefore, that in his “report to the membership” Johnny Green would follow through on what he has to say about the plans of the capitalist shipbuilding employers. It might be presumed that Green would label the employers as the main enemy to be watched and fought by the shipyard workers. But not so. Brother Green has discovered “provocateurs of the enemy” right in the ranks of the IUMSWA who are ready to “sow the seeds of dissension.” The national officers of the IUMSWA-CIO “see this peril ... and will devote their every effort to root out these threats, expose those responsible and fight to the last ditch against any attempt to undermine what the nation’s shipyard workers have built.”

We might say that these were brave words and well said if we only knew what and whom Green is talking about. He doesn’t say, and we are only left to guess. Why does he not speak right out and tell his members who are the “provocateurs of the enemy,” who is making “threats” against the IUMSWA and who is attempting to “undermine” the IUMSWA?

If President Green would inform Labor Action or the Workers Party who these people are we would join with him to “expose” them. We have been exposing the enemies of the labor movement for many years, week in and week out. We have never compromised on this and never will.

What We Stand For

Labor Action has exppsed and will continue to expose the capitalist employers and their machinations against labor. Labor Action has exposed and will continue to expose those inside the labor movement who act contrary to the interests of the working class. We will expose capitalism and its beneficiaries because capitalism and the capitalist employers are class enemies of the working class. They remain class enemies in wartime just as they were in peacetime. John Green ought to know this unless he has forgotten all the socialism he learned in past years, when he called himself a socialist.

Labor Action will adversely criticize those inside the labor movement when they deserve it; that is when they take positions or act in ways detrimental to the interests of labor. When we criticize the labor leadership we make an important distinction between them and the capitalist employers. We do not call Green nor other genuine labor leaders “provocateurs of the enemy.” Nor will we charge them with attempts “to undermine” what the workers have built. We will not do this for several reasons. For one, we are not cowards fearing to express what our real differences are with them and neither are we liars seeking to establish prestige and influence by distortion and innuendo. The Workers Party is a revolutionary socialist party. It has a program. It defends that program and seeks to have workers accept that program, including the workers in Johnny Green’s IUMSWA.

We oppose the capitalist employers and expose them before the working class because the employers are our class enemy and the working class of which we are a part has nothing in common with them. John Green knows this; he was a socialist, or claimed to be a socialist once. The labor movement is our movement, because we are workers and toilers. We defend that movement against any attacks from capitalism, its stooges and beneficiaries. When we adversely criticize or differ with the leadership of labor we do so from the inside and as an integral part of the labor movement and of the working class.

We ask again whom and what is Brother Green talking about in his “report to the membership”? Is he talking about the Stalinist Communist Political Association (CP)? Yes or no? We can believe that he isn’t talking about them since he joined with them at the IUMSWA convention three years ago to attack the Workers Party and Labor Action as “anonymous vermin” and “a scurrilous sheet,” carrying on “traitorous fifth column activity.” In his resolution Green urged the IUMSWA locals “to track down and stamp out” any activity of “this irresponsible gang” that came “within their reach.”

Green Is Double-Talking

President Green says further that there are “some short-sighted people who question now the policies of organized: labor and of our parent CIO. ... There are some who cannot see turther than their noses, and who thus fall easy victim to the provocateurs and disrupters in our midst. None of these internal enemies will be any longer tolerated.”

Now we ask a few questions.

Politics and Unionism

Labor Action and the Workers Party sympathize with all these workers, and we are on their side. We do not agree with all their acts. We decidedly do not agree with them when they refuse to join a union, or attend union meetings and be active in the locals. We believe they should join, become active and fight for their democratic rights. They should fight for higher wages, shorter hours and better working conditions. They should fight for autonomy and to throw out the little dictators John Green has placed over them. Is this what Brother Green calls being “provocateurs” and “disrupters”?

The shipyard and all other workers should get into the unions, be active and fight for democratic discussion and the democratic administration of the locals and the internationals, they should fight “for the institution of programs of labor education in the IUMSWA and for a real and aggressive campaign against AFL craft union penetration of the yards. They should fight against and not be intimidated by any threats made by President Green against militant workers who want to see this kind of working class trade union program carried out. Is this what John Green calls being “provocateurs” and “disrupters”? Perhaps President Green has other ideas in mind. Are the “provocateurs” and “disrupters” those who disagree with him and other CIO leaders on the war and Roosevelt? Are these the “internal enemies” of the IUMSWA?

Labor Action and the Workers Party are against Roosevelt, and we are against imperialist war. This is no secret. It has been printed in millions of copies of Labor Action. We do not speak of the war With weasel words. We never gave up our principles. We are not EX-socialists. We are against the no-strike pledge. This is not a secret. We do not boast of our PAST militancy as strike leaders while telling the sorely oppressed workers today that strikes are a crime or a luxury which the working class cannot afford.

We are against Roosevelt because he is the defender of capitalism and the chief spokesman for the capitalist employers. We are against him because he is the head of a capitalist government: a government of the Little Steel formula, the anti-labor WLB and NLRB. He heads a government which guarantees high profits to capitalist employers and demands a national service slave act for labor.

We are against Roosevelt or any of the other aspirants for the White House, Republican or Democratic, because they and their kind in Europe helped bring on the Second Imperialist World War.

For Powerful Unionism

We are for strong, powerful and militant unions and a strong, powerful working class political party. We are for this today and after the war. We need that party today because this is the only way that we can get what we want and what we must have. That is the only way now that we can establish collective bargaining, establish a higher standard of living and defeat the efforts of the capitalis class and its government to destroy our unions. The puny and shrivelled efforts of President Green will never accomplish this.

As revolutionary socialists we want to see our class establish a political party, of the toilers that will inspire the masses to a victory over capitalism and capitalist oppression. We want to see the world delivered from capitalist imperialist wars, from fascism and any threat of fascism. We believe that only the working class can do this and that the time to start is now.

President Green pretended once to believe these things because he once claimed to be a socialist. He has become a turncoat to his principles.

Are we to be condemned because we have not?

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Last updated: 17 October 2015