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David Coolidge

Procedure in Mine Settlement
Is Not in Labor’s Interest!

(19 April 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 16, 19 April 1948, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The miners are returning to work from a four week’s strike. One day after this is written John L. Lewis will face Judge Goldsborough on a contempt charge. Nothing can be said here as to what will be the outcome of the trial. At any rate that result is relatively unimportant. What is far more important is the manner in which the strike came to be settled.

The manner of the strike settlement is really more important than the settlement itself, because the settlement did not come about from any activity of the miners and their union. To a certain degree the coal-diggers have been misled again by John L. Lewis. They have been used and are being used as pawns in a game being played by Lewis, the Republican party and the Democratic party.

The whole settlement procedure stinks. In part it looks like some kind of frame-up. On Lewis’s side the settlement has a more reactionary cast than his support of Willkie in 1940. From Martin’s side it was merely a cheap little every day political trick. Bridges of course was willing to help out a fellow Republican and friend. It is difficult to say anything about the position of Van Horn. It looks as though he was caught in the Martin, Bridges, Lewis double play.

Here is a strike which has been going for four weeks. The miners have a strong case. Their claims are indisputable. They are holding their line with the usual solidarity and tenacity. Nobody will make a single gesture toward compromise or settlement. Lewis has been ordered by the court to get the men back to work but the men are not back at work. They give no indication that they will ever return to work without their pensions.

Right in the midst of this stalemate and just before Lewis is to be hauled into court on a contempt charge, little Joe Martin, of Massachusetts and the House of Representatives, gets the bright idea that it might be profitable to his future if he can effect a settlement of the strike. After all, a neighbor of his, with just as little brains, had reached the White House on the back of thes logan: “He Broke the Boston Police Strike.” How much better the slogan: “He Got the Miners Back to Work,” thus ending the “most devastating strike in all history.” Such a slogan would be in line with other winners such as: “The Full Dinner Pail,” “A Chicken in Every Pot,” and certainly far more attractive than “Back to Normalcy.”

This may be all well and good for Joe Martin and the Republican party but it is not so good for the miners to be pulled here and there by Lewis in line with his, reactionary thinking. He consents to this little trick of Joe Martin’s and his Republican conspirators as a slap at Truman and the Democrats. The Democrats, of course, may be expected to retaliate. And what has all this got to do with miners’ pensions, wages, working conditions? Nothing at all.

Any miner who has kept himself informed as to what was going on will not be misled by this cheap little political stunt of Republican Joe Martin, aided and abetted by Lewis. Out of the night, or from nowhere, Martin suddenly becomes enamored of the bright idea that he can get Lewis to listen to him. A proposal is made to Lewis that Republican Bridges become the “neutral” member of the pension board. Lewis accepts. Bridges accepts. They get Van Horn. Bridges shows up with a pension plan acceptable from an actuarial viewpoint. He and Lewis vote yes to Van Horn’s no and the play is over. No one had seen Bridges’ plan before he got to the conference. He did it all himself. And behind the scene is little Joe Martin thinking how nice it would be to have 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as his address beginning January 1949.

Indecent Horseplay

Some day the miners will begin to realize that this Republican party horseplay carried on by their president is somewhat indecent, reactionary and not in the interest of the men who dig the coal. We do not mean of course that we would approve if Joe Martin had been a Democrat with whom Lewis was making these questionable deals. Not at all. That would be just as bad. But it is extremely difficult to understand how Lewis’s mind functions.

He pretends to be engaged in opposing the Taft-Hartley act. The act was passed by a Republican Congress. It was supported by Republicans and Democrats, on demand of the NAM and the big capitalist employers. Lewis however, makes a deal with the most powerful Republican in Congress next to Taft and a man no less reactionary than Taft. In fact they are two of a kind. On what ground does Lewis continue to make. this distinction between the Republicans and the Democrats? Does he believe that the Republicans are more “progressive” than the Democrats? Where, when and how?

Who will Lewis support for president this year? Or is he in the same fix as Murray: a labor leader looking for a capitalist candidate to hitch his union to? After Lewis has sold his union down the river to the Republicans, and Murray has sold the CIO down the river to the Democrats, and Bill Green has sold the AFL down the river to both Republicans and Democrats – where will that leave the coal miners, the steelworkers and the rest of the millions of labor? It will leave all of labor right where we are today. We will still have the Taft-Hartley law around our necks. The Republicans and Democrats will continue to be the representatives and protectors of their masters: the big manufacturers. coal operators, planters, insurance companies and bankers. Prices will be just as high as they are today or higher. Profits will be just as big or bigger. Wages will be just as low or lower.

This will be true if the Republicans win. It will be true if the Democrats win. Why? Because whichever party wins of these two, it will mean that the coal operators have won and not the coal miners. A Republican or Democratic victory means that the United States Steel Corporation wins and not the steelworkers. Whether it is Taft or Truman, the automobile manufacturers win and not the automobile workers. A big banker or big insurance executive can pick a presidential candidate by spitting on a chip and tossing it over his shoulder. He knows that they all are defenders of “our system of free enterprise.”

Labor Can Win

The coal miners, steelworkers, sharecroppers, automobile workers, maritime workers etc. can win too. They can’t win though with the politics of Murray, Lewis, Green and Reuther. We can’t win with little Joe Martin, or Dewey, or Taft, or Truman. We can’t win either with Eisenhower; the new desperation candidate of Murray, Reuther and the discarded liberals who make up Americans for Democratic Action. We can’t win with these people because we can’t win by giving our votes to the Republican and Democratic parties.

Every time a worker votes the Republican or Democratic ticket, or for any Republican or Democratic ticket, that worker throws his vote away. It would be far better not to vote at all. That at least would be saying to the Republicans and Democrats:

“We are tired of you and your lies. We are sick of voting for you while you vote every time for the big manufacturers and the big bankers. We put you in office and you keep the big capitalists in power. We’ll form our own party and elect fellow workers from our own ranks. We’ll take over the Government and put you into overalls. If the Lewis’s, the Greens and the Murrays are not satisfied and want to defend you, we’ll give them a season in overalls also.”

Labor can have its own party. We must have our own party. If we have our own party WE will win and not the big bosses. We can have our own party this year 1948, and before the November elections. This does not mean that our party can win this year but we can get started: The present Republican party was formed in the fifties and ran its first candidate in 1856. They didn’t win the 1856 election but they did with Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Labor can’t win in 1948 but we can form our labor party, enter the November elections and get some practice for 1952.

Labor needs lots of experience. We can only get this experience by participating in elections. We can’t learn how to fight the big capitalists by voting for their candidates. Neither can we learn how to participate in elections with our own party by waiting until after the election is over. That doesn’t make any sense.

We should form our party now and enter the November elections. Then we will be ready and in shape to win in 1952.

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Last updated: 22 February 2020