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Walter Jason

Reuther Speaks on Pie in the Sky

(27 February 1950)

From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 9, 27 February 1950, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT – At a time when 400,000 coal miners are fighting for the life of their union against a combined attack of the coal operators and the Truman administration, and 125,000 auto- workers are out of work because Chrysler won’t negotiate a good contract and pension plan with the United Auto Workers, Walter Reuther, president of the UAW, made an important policy speech – and it is something to think about in the context of the living events around him and the union movement.

Reuther spoke before the second National Study Conference of the Church and Economic Life, under the auspices of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America.

The main idea that Reuther suggested was that a voluntary conference of labor, management and farm leaders be called to deal with the whole range of national problems affecting this nation. The idealistic basis for this conference would be a “moral equivalent” to the H-bomb, through “applied Christianity.”

Of course, in his analysis of what’s wrong, Reuther made his usual brilliant and devastating criticisms of the status quo. But Reuther, who prides himself on being, realistic and tends to be very impatient with “impractical dreamers,” offers a solution which is pure “pie in the sky” – as they say in the UAW.

How does Reuther propose to convert the coal operators, who are acting like a pack of wolves following the Truman administration in the hope of smashing the coal miners’ union? And how does one “Christianize” Chrysler, except by “brute force,” that is, strike action?

A Practical Proposal

We think a more modest and more practical suggestion would be far more valuable both to the labor movement and the world than Reuther’s fantastic scheme. We’d suggest Reuther, call for an emergency labor conference in Washington to take up the burning problems of today.

Such a conference would have a tremendous unifying effect on labor, and could force the Wall Street capitalists (whom neither Reuther nor anyone else will “Christianize”) to call off their offensive against labor.

And Reuther could propose HIGH on the agenda of this conference – which should be called immediately – that American labor, the CIO, AFL and the independent unions, solidarize themselves with the fight of the British Labor Party against the Tories – and propose a labor party in America.

Then, it would seem to us, Walter Reuther would begin to be a practical man, instead of a futile Don Quixote tilting against windmills, while the ranks of labor suffer and sacrifice in bitter struggle against the industrialists who live by the laws of the jungle.

Neither Stalinism nor capitalist imperialism will be defeated by appealing to the good nature of man, be he a GPU agent or a coal operator. Nor will the H-bomb be abolished because it signifies mass murder. Harry Truman, whom Reuther supports, will tell him that. It’s full speed ahead and damn moral principles, if we may paraphrase the brass of today.

And only a labor government in America, based on the working people and poor farmers, could begin to be an effective counterforce to the hysterical race toward World War III, so eloquently denounced by Albert Einstein recently.

Last and by no means least, we’d suggest that Reuther, or anyone else for that matter, making important policy speeches in the coming period, also read Einstein’s view on the scientific validity of socialism as the only hope of humanity. Then they could begin to talk with real knowledge and facts, instead of being lost in the world of wishing-will-make-it-so.

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Last updated: 8 March 2023