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David Coolidge

Apology, Bombast, Jingoism
at CIO Convention

(18 December 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 51, 18 December 1944, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A highlight of the CIO convention was the speech of R.J. Thomas on the WLB. Thomas began his speech as follows:

“I want to make an apology to the convention due to the fact that I am a member of the National War Labor Board. I think I was appointed to that board under false pretenses. We were told when we were appointed to that board that we would have some voice at least in determining the wage policy of the workers in America. I assure you that labor has not gotten that sort of recognition. ... I don’t think that the CIO has made many mistakes in its history, but it has made one that I know of. A week or two ago, when the resignations of three public members of the NWLB were given to the President ... I think the mistake we made was that every member of the CIO should have sent those three members of the WLB a wire of congratulation on their resignation.”

Thomas then goes on to explain why these telegrams should have been sent. The public members “have certainly been very weak in the present situation,” and “it is impossible to get them to take a position any more.” This is certainly sad.

One might be excused for thinking that before Thomas sat down he would propose that the labor members get off the WLB. He is ashamed to be a member of the WLB and apologizes for his past sins or stupidity – as the case might be. For Thomas supported the resolution on the WLB which contained the following: “For the duration of the war there must be an agency such as the WLB. to adjust all disputes between labor and management which cannot be resolved in collective bargaining. The CIO reaffirms the need for a NWLB that will provide the forum for a peaceful and equitable disposition of all disputes that may arise between labor and management which cannot be resolved through collective bargaining.”

Yet in his speech Thomas said that the WLB is “breaking down collective bargaining.” He has sympathy for “the regular labor members who sit there day after day” pounding “their heads against stone walls, and are able to accomplish nothing.” In discussing the WLB, Murray said “In too many instances ... the operation of the collective bargaining contract and the grievance machinery for all practical purposes has been suspended.”

Any worker who can make sense out of all this is truly a wise man. Thomas beats his breast and apologizes. The labor members of the WLB beat not their breasts, but their heads, against stone walls. They “accomplish nothing” on the WLB. The WLB is “breaking down collective bargaining.” “Grievance machinery ... has been suspended.” And what will Murray, Thomas and Green do? They will pass a resolution supporting a WLB. They will not get off the board. Obviously they want a stone wall to beat their heads against. They may be all right for Murray, Thomas and the rest of the labor bureaucrats, but how about the men and women in the factories? How about the unions? Shall they be beaten to pieces?

These labor leaders don’t have the guts to get off the WLB. Roosevelt has them in his hip pocket. They can’t breathe. They writhe, gasp and gulp. They are chained to their no-strike pledge, to the WLB, to war-mongering, solicitude for the welfare of business, and to “Our Commander-in-Chief.”

They want to organize, but labor can’t get very far in an organizing drive, especially in the South, with a no-strike pledge hung around its neck. They want collective bargaining, but collective, bargaining, they say, has been blighted by the government through its WLB. They call for the repeal of the Smith-Connally Act, but this act was passed by the Democratic Party, which they supported in the election. They want homes, built for workers, but the money for the homes must come from the government and the government is controlled by people who protect the interests of private real estate dealers and banks. A resolution is passed on education demanding federal aid to the states. But the Southern states, wherein there is the most ignorance, don’t want federal aid unless the money is controlled by the states. These states fear that they may be forced to give equal educational advantages to Negroes. Furthermore, more money for education, means higher taxes on business and the rich. The rich fight today for a lowering of taxes.

They are against the poll-tax but the party they just got through returning to office is heavily influenced by men who are elected because there is a poll-tax. These leaders, want jobs for all and an “Economic Bill of Rights.” But where will this come from? Surely not from the capitalist employers and their capitalist government. Certainly not from the Democratic or Republican Parties. The CIO wages a good fight against racial discrimination. There should be no question about this. But racial discrimination in the United States is part of the lifeblood of capitalism Capitalism thrives on the division between Negro and white workers, native and foreign born, Jew and Gentile, Catholic and Protestant. The CIO leaders call for international solidarity of labor. Good, but do they know that capitalist employers and capitalist governments cannot be depended on to give any aid to the development of international labor solidarity? On the contrary, capitalist governments will do all in their power to keep the working class in every country tied to its own capitalists, all the easier to exploit them.

Every good and correct resolution which we have mentioned above as passed by the CIO convention can be made to work; can be put into operation by labor if, when and only when labor is organized politically; only when labor resolves to “take over control in Washington.”

The low point of the CIO convention was reached in one sentence in the resolution on. “international security and complete destruction of Nazism and Japanese, militarism.” The resolution calls for the “right of self-determination for “India, Ireland, Africa and Asia.” These countries “should be provided the maximum opportunity to manage their own affairs with a view toward achieving self-government.” This is excellent and as it should be, but before this we read the following sentence in the resolution: “The German people must be taught that they shall atone for the crimes and horrors which they have visited upon this earth.”

What crimes have the “German, people” committed? Are the German workers a part of the criminal “German people?” Are the thousands of workers and anti-fascist little people in Germany a part of the criminal “German people”? How about the German workers and other anti-fascists in Hitler’s concentration camps? Are they criminals, too? How shall they atone? After the fascist oppressors have been forced off the backs of the German workers and the concentration camps have given up their thousands of emaciated victims, what new tortures would the leaders of the CIO propose? Starvation? Forced labor? If not, what?

Every decent human being who reads this sentence should spit and cast it from him lest he be contaminated. Will the leaders of the, CIO say that the British PEOPLE should atone for the crimes of the British RULING CLASS in India, Africa and China? Who will atone for the massacre of Indians, for the bombing of Hottentot villages, for the forcing of the opium traffic on the Chinese people? The British people – or the British ruling class? Is there no difference in the minds of the self-righteous and pious Murrayites?

Who will atone for the crimes against the Negro in the United States? The white workers in the CIO, who fight day in and day, out against these crimes? They are a part of the white people in the United States. Or shall we place these crimes where they primarily belong – on the backs of the ruling class; the planters, the mine operators, the manufacturers and bankers?

We do not care what happens to the German ruling class; they can not atone for their crimes. We want to see the German working class destroy them. We should extend the helping hand to the German workers. They have nothing to atone for; and only a fool could make any such demand.

The labor members of the WLB beat their heads against a figurative stone wall. The German anti-fascist workers beat their heads against this real barbed wire of the concentration camp. Murray & Co. don’t have the courage to get off a WLB, but they demand that the helpless and betrayed German workers, with no help from the outside world, escape from their concentration camps and prisons and destroy Hitler.

We say again that every decent human being who reads this sentence should spit.

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