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A Labor Party

Jack Ranger

Chapters from a New Pamphlet

A Labor Party –
A “Must” for American Workers

Chapter 12
What Program for a Labor Party?

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 39, 27 September 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THE labor party will be based upon and controlled by the unions. The policies of the labor party will be determined by the unions.

A democratic union is a forum for various programs.

The union members with different viewpoints put forward their own political and social programs for the union. This is right and proper. In the long run, if the union is democratic, that social and political program which best defends and advances the interests of the union and the working class will win the support of the union.

We socialists of the Workers Party will also put forward our program for the union and the labor party and seek by all democratic and honest means to win support for this program. But if this program is not the one which the labor party adopts, the Workers Party will still loyally support the labor party in its struggles against the old capitalist parties. Where we believe the labor party in principle or practice falls short of defending and advancing labor’s interests, we shall criticize it. At certain times and places, where in our opinion the interests of the working class will best be served by such action, the Workers Party will run its own candidates for office, on the platform of our own party.

If the unions were to put a national labor party in the field now, the Workers Party would advance the following program for that party:

  1. Repeal the Taft-Hartley Law and all other anti-union legislation. For the unrestricted right of labor to organize and strike.
  2. For price control by labor and the consumers. Wipe out profiteering and high prices. Labor must have the decisive voice in determining the prices of consumer goods. For wage increases without price increases. For popular price-control committees.
  3. For a living wage. For an immediate wage increase to meet the high cost of living. For job and wage security through a guaranteed annual living wage, at a minimum of $5,000 annually for each family.
  4. Clear the slums, build homes. For a $250 billion five-year program to provide decent housing at low rentals for all. For a national plan to begin work immediately on the erection of 25 million permanent low-cost housing units. For modern mass-production techniques. Give the AFL building-trades workers first priority on factory jobs building prefabricated houses at union wage scales.
  5. Tax the profiteers. For a $25,000 ceiling on all annual incomes. No taxes at all on incomes under $5,000. Shift the tax burden to the rich, force them to pay for their wars.
  6. Nationalize big business. For the nationalization of the big monopolies – the industrial establishments, transportation and communication systems, the mines and the banks – to be owned by the nation and operated under workers’ control.
  7. End discrimination against the Negro people. For full social, political and economic equality for Negroes.
  8. Open the doors to the Jewish refugees. For full and unrestricted immigration to the United States by the persecuted and homeless Jews of Europe. For the right of the Jewish people to unrestricted immigration to Palestine or any country of their choice.
  9. For generous economic and educational opportunities for veterans. For a veterans’ wage of $40 a week for single men and $55 for married men for on-the-job training, plus $5 a week for each additional dependant. For immediate granting of a federal bonus of $1,000 for each year of service.
  10. For peace and freedom. For the right of all peoples and nations to decide their own future. For self-determination for all nations. For freedom of the colonies. For the withdrawal of all armies of occupation. Bring the American troops and ships and planes home. For an end to conscription and the increasing militarization of the United States.

    For a socialist America, a socialist United States of Europe, a socialist world federation!


Chapter 13
How Long Will It Take?

THERE is no guarantee. It took the British trade unions a generation before they convinced the majority of the British people that labor should lead the nation.

On the other hand, in a critical situation somewhat comparable to labor’s situation today, it took the new Republican Party only six years to start from scratch (in 1854) and spring into undisputed leadership of this nation. As against the slave-holding group which controlled the Democratic Party, the young Republican Party then represented the progressive capitalist class – just as today, the infant labor-party movement represents the progressive working class as against the old and decaying capitalist class.

It may take four, eight, even twelve years for the labor party to take over the reins of government. It will almost certainly take more than four years, unless the whole capitalist system meets some unlooked-for catastrophe that finally enlightens tens of millions of people as to its monstrous, murderous character.

Even if we get the bulk of the union movement and its leaders to subscribe to and work for a labor party and to run a national slate, the real crisis will come at the first election when we fall short of the goal.

Then all the hidden enemies and “plants” of the old parties in the ranks of labor will try to stampede us back to their rotten political machines. They’ll start whispering campaigns; they’ll whine that the whole thing is a mistake; they’ll encourage the summer patriots to introduce proposals that the labor party give up its fight and that labor resign itself to subservience to capitalism; they’ll strive to water down the program of the labor party with the argument that the movement is too radical for the people; they’ll try to organize deals with the old parties.

We must prepare for such moves and be prepared to thwart them. We must understand in advance that the fight will be a long one, that a thousand obstacles, some of them unforeseen, will be thrown in our path, that a thousand tricks and manuevers will be used against us. (Churchill’s Conservative Party in Britain was not above using forged letters against the British Labor Party in 1924.)

We must become inured to the permanent red scare which will be the obvious weapon of capitalism against us, even if the Stalinists are a negligible factor in the labor party. This red scare will never let up, it will become more and more hysterical, as we begin to open up a path of hope for the people, it will batter at the labor party and try to terrorize it in all sorts of ways.

Union men and women who are serious about fighting for a labor party must learn how to shrug off contemptuously the red-baiting of the capitalists and their politicians, must learn how to expose its roots and to counterattack, to educate, to enlighten, to explain, and thus to render ineffective the reactionaries’ appeals to ignorance and prejudice.

Another obvious weapon that will be used, especially at election time, is that of seeking to induce the young labor party to make “deals” with the discredited capitalist politicians who, seeing that they cannot lick us, will try to join us. Many forms of “all-party” committees and political blocs will be proposed, many squeezed lemons among the capitalist politicians will try to jump on our bandwagon and mislead the movement.

We must particularly guard against the proposal – which is sure to be made by one or another of the old parties – that we run our own candidates in the state elections but support one of the capitalist politicians on the national scene. The labor party must show such people and such proposals the back of its hand.

While the labor party will welcome and encourage and win thousands and hundreds of thousands of supporters from among the intellectuals and the middle class, these people must come to the labor party on its own terms, understand its goals, recognize labor’s right to lead the movement and determine its course. Why labor’s right? Because labor, by its position in capitalist society as the most exploited class and at the same time the class best organized by its position in the factories, is the only class that can lead a progressive struggle against the capitalist class.

The labor party must take particular efforts to win over the farm organizations and farm cooperatives, by advancing progressive demands that defend the interests of these people, by conferring with them and giving sympathetic consideration to their plight and their ideas.

Today, it may seem unlikely that a labor party can win much mass support from the farmers. But we base ourselves upon tomorrow. We know that this present hopped-up, artificial and uneven prosperity cannot possibly last. We know that so long as the capitalist system survives, longer and longer depressions will follow briefer and briefer periods of prosperity. The farmers who today may disregard labor’s overtures, tomorrow will frantically look to us for aid in giving them leadership to solve their problems. And they will aid us in solving our problems.

A particularly fruitful field for the labor party will be among the youth, in the colleges and in the factories.

Since the end of the war, the labor movement has lost contact with the youth, especially the veterans in the schools and colleges studying under the GI “bill of rights.” While the federal subsidy to such students has been grossly inadequate, yet it has been enough to separate them for a period from the working class. In the colleges they have had their heads stuffed with all sorts of nonsense about the grandiose prospects capitalism has for them.

Unless we misread the signs, just about the time many of these young veterans are to graduate from college the depression of 1929–40 will have resumed its sway. There will be few jobs for the millions of graduates, and what few jobs there are will pay little. Reality will strike these youth like a bolt of lightning. We can expect a very rapid radicalization of the youth.

One can expect that the youth will seize upon the labor-party idea and help to carry it far along the path to success.


Chapter 14
What If a Labor Party Is Not Built?

HAVE you thought of what is in store for the union movement if it doesn’t find the resources within itself to take the road of independent labor political action?

Failure to take this step will inexorably lead to the weakening of organized labor, the cutting down of the unions, loss of membership, and finally the disintegration of the very organizations which the old-time labor leaders think to save by their “sane” tactic of pressure politics and “support of the lesser evil.”

These are new times. The tactics that worked from 1890 to 1940 don’t work any more. Capitalism is going downhill fast. In Europe it is already bankrupt. Big business in the United States can no longer afford the luxury of strong unions and union wage scales, union working rules, the luxury of civil liberties.

This is the meaning of the Taft-Hartley Act, the proposals for abolition of the forty-hour week, the increasing attacks on workers’ rights by most of the state governments, the proposal to outlaw union contracts on a national scale, the red scares, the growing militarization of the nation, the influx of Wall Street men into policy posts in Washington. This is the meaning of high taxes upon the workers.

The union movement is facing a major crisis, and its leaders haven’t the courage to sound the alarm, to mobilize the ranks for an all-sided fight.

Their tactic of tailing the old parties in the 1948 election will only lead to new disappointments, to more cries of “betrayal” as the politicians whom they now label “liberal” and “friends of labor” obey their real masters after elections. Given the tactic being follower by Murray, Green, Hutcheson, Whitney & Co., it is inevitable that reaction will continue to grow after the 1948 elections.

The passage of the Taft-Hartley Act should have opened everyone’s eyes to the true state of affairs. There is no explaining away the hard fact that the majority of both old parties voted for the slave-labor act. And the even more ominous fact that the non-union public itself raised no outcry.

Why didn’t the people protest against the Taft-Hartley onslaught on labor? Because too many people have lost confidence in the labor movement. Because many people, watching the antics of the big union leaders, believe that labor is as selfish and narrow as are the monopolies, that labor is interested only in protecting its own rights, that the unions are only job trusts, that the union leadership has no higher ideals than the corporations and the capitalist politicians.

The people see the AFL building-trades unions con spire with the building-materials trust and the contractors and local political machines, to prevent an easing of the housing situation by the introduction of modern prefabricated housing.

The people see a brutal bureaucrat like Dan Tobin run his teamsters’ union as though he were Czar of All the Russias, crushing democracy in local after local, issuing edicts to the members as though they were soulless serfs, precipitating jurisdictional strikes whose only “aim” and “ideal” is that of forcing more dues-paying members into the teamsters’ union.

The people see Gorman of the AFL Butcher Workmen, obviously carrying the ball for the packing trust, come out against meat rationing at a time when prices have placed meat beyond the reach of the average American family.

(Chapter 14 continued next week)

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