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B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(7 November 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 85, 7 November 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The blast of the Navy Department against the CIO this week charging that labor was seriously jeopardizing national defense through its struggle for decent wages and conditions was a deadly warning of days to come.

It was in line with the recent charge of the Chrysler Corp. that the auto workers union was sabotaging production.

Both claims are one hundred per cent frame-ups against the labor movement.

The auto workers through R.J. Thomas, president of the CIO-UAWA, were able to expose the fakery of the Chrysler slanders against labor. Similarly, the CIO was able to prove that the Navy Dept. was really trying to smash union conditions and the labor movement.

On Guard!

Surely, it is obvious that if the big corporations and the American military machine are willing to go in for strike-breaking before war, labor can expect nothing except ruthless suppression during war unless a terrific struggle doesn’t take place against this danger.

The strategy of the bosses and the military machine is quite simple: “National Defense” is only an excuse. In the name of national defense, strikes must be suppressed, wage cuts accepted, inhuman working conditions permitted. Otherwise the workers are “jeopardizing national defense.”

Under this slogan, and by fomenting and utilizing a patriotic feeling, the bosses hope to hog- tie the labor movement.

The military machine announces in advance that it will do more than its share to help in a union-busting campaign.

A Lesson from France

How this campaign will culminate in the complete suppression of the labor movement during war, if the bosses have their way, was revealed in another “democracy,” France, this week.

All labor is requisitioned through a special registration. He becomes a soldier in the factory, subject to military discipline. He cannot quit his job or leave it without official permission.

A worker may not refuse to accept any post to which he is ordered. He must work on holidays, with or without pay, as the government sees fit.

These are just the highlights of the new plan decreed by the government. In practice they mean no shop committee negotiations, no strikes, no sit-downs.

Labor is completely conscripted and all life, in the factory or out, is determined by the military machine, This is what French imperialist apologists still call “democracy.”

Would America in event of war be any different? Would labor be guaranteed its “democratic rights?” The attitude of the Navy department gives a clear answer. No! M-Day plans indicate that a course similar to that pursued in France is planned for American labor.

In making its present struggle against the plans of the bosses and the military machine, the CIO must learn soon that a really effective fight can ensue only if it is elevated to a higher plane: a struggle against imperialist war is the only guarantee that labor will not be hogtied in the future.

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Last updated: 16 April 2018