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David Coolidge

Labor Needs General Strategy Board to

Unify the Strike Actions!

(28 January 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 4, 28 January 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The bungling of the strikes by the top leadership of the CIO and the AFL, the resoluteness of the capitalist employers in refusing to grant wage increases, the intervention of the government with its “fact-finding” new Little Steel formula, all these indicate the correctness and urgency of the position of the Workers Party: the labor movement needs a general staff.

The capitalist class, the capitalist employers, have their general staff. The general staff of the capitalist employers – steel, automobile, packing, electrical and all the rest of capitalist industry – is a political general staff. This includes their Chambers of Commerce, the NAM, their Iron and Steel Institute. These are political bodies which make it their business to prepare political programs for their government at Washington and insist that the government adopt these political programs.

This is what is going on today right under the nose of labor, right now while over a million workers are on strike, on strike with no central democratic direction. The strikes are not unified and coordinated. There is no democratically- elected General Strike Council. Labor has no general staff.

The President of the United States, in his message to the Congress, calls for a law giving his ‘‘fact-finding” boards more power in the handling of “labor disputes.” These so-called fact-finding boards have already demonstrated what their role and function are to be. They will be wage-stabilization committees functioning in peacetime, just like the WLB functioned during the war.

The top men in the labor movement have already accepted these fact-finding boards. The leaders of each international union and the leaders of the CIO have already accepted the recommendations of the Truman fact-finding boards in the present strikes. They have receded from their original demands for wage increases higher than those recommended by the “fact-finders.”

The big capitalist corporations like General Motors and the steel companies have rejected the recommendations of their government that they give a very miserly wage increase. Thereupon Murray, Reuther and the others rush to the side of Truman to fight together with him against the capitalist employers.

That’s what they think, these bureaucratic and stupid leaders of over a million workers on strike. They become righteous and indignant that U.S. Steel and GM refuse to abide by decisions of the government.

If they know, why don’t they tell the million workers on strike and the whole labor movement exactly whose government it is? Furthermore, why don’t these fat ten- and twenty-thousand dollar a year bureaucrats give the members of their international unions an opportunity to vote on the question of accepting the recommendations of the fact-finding boards of a capitalist government? What do they mean by agreeing that labor shall take a cut in real wages and have a new Little Steel formula hung around its neck?

Not So Brave

The UAW leaders, including Reuther, evidently, feel that they have done a very brave thing. After accepting the “award’’ of the government “fact-finders,” and after it was firmly rejected by GM they now announce that they will return to their original demand for a thirty per cent increase.

While these labor leaders take their place at the side of Truman and the capitalist government, Murray at the same time sends a letter to this same government praying for a revision of tax exemptions to the steel companies. He says that if the steel companies only break even in 1946, “that is, do not make any profits,” they will receive “guaranteed profits that are 29 per cent above the level of pre-war earnings.” The U.S. Treasury will “actually pay to the industry 149 million dollars,” says Murray. This means that if the present steel strike should last a whole year the steel industry would nevertheless receive 149 million dollars from the government.

Murray closes his letter to the government with a call to the government of the steel barons to “terminate this outrageous condition permitted to develop during the war whilst the attention of the American people was fully concentrated upon the defeat of the nation’s foreign foes.”

Boldness Needed

During the war Murray, Thomas, Bill Green, Reuther and the others chained the labor movement with a no-strike pledge, supported “the President’s foreign policy,” and his domestic policy which included this “outrageous condition” about which Murray now whines to Vinson and the government. Murray is indignant at the “unmatched boldness” with which the “steel magnates” rejected the “determination of the President of the United States.” This is really a tragic pronouncement coming from the president of the CIO while a million workers he leads are on strike.

If Murray can’t learn from any other source he might at least learn something from Fairless and the “steel magnates.” How about a little “unmatched boldness” from you, Phillip Murray, in the interest of the million workers now on strike and the other millions who look to you to lead them to victory?

While Murray whines and pouts, Mr. Truman resurrects the economic philosophy of Alf Landon.

“We speak a great deal about the free enterprise economy of our country. It is competition that keeps it free. It is competition that keeps it growing and developing. The truth is that we need far more competition in the future than we have had in the immediate past ... Both management and labor have identical interests in the long run. Good wages mean good markets. Good business means more jobs and better wages ... substantial wage increases is good business ... capacity production means an active, healthy, friendly citizenry enjoying the benefits of democracy under our free enterprise system.” (Truman may go down in history as the “friendly” President.)

This is Truman’s solution: more friendliness between labor and capital, more capitalist competition, more free enterprise that is really free. There would be no strikes if there were more good will between Ford and his workers, Fairless and the steel workers, Dupont and the automobile workers.

Where Is PAC?

Where are the PAC congressmen while this battle of tears goes on? What are they doing about the strikes and the “rights of labor,” which they so ardently defended before they were elected by labor? They are silent. They hope that the strikes will be over and forgotten before they enter the lists again as the “champions of the rights, of the little people.” Instead of whining to Vinson why don’t Murray and Hillman call together the PAC congressmen and demand that they take the floor in Congress against the big corporations, IN SUPPORT OF THE STRIKES, and against Truman’s attempts to saddle labor with a new Little Steel formula?

The Workers Party says again: the working class needs a GENERAL STAFF, a political general staff, an INDEPENDENT LABOR PARTY.

Right now, for the strikes, labor should demand a General Strike Council. A General Strike Council democratically elected by the locals. A General Strike Council to plan, coordinate and direct the strikes!

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