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Trade Union Notes

(15 June 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 24, 15 June 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

How Not to Defeat Anti-Labor Drive

Despite “tough” talk from some top union leaders in opposition to the anti-labor drive of Truman and Congress, they are beginning to demonstrate once more that they have no stomach for a fight. They are wilting under the Big Business-government onslaught and seeking formulas behind cover of which they can retreat with “honor.”

Such capitulatory moods were expressed by ranking AFL leaders before the fifth biennial convention of the AFL United Hatters, Cap and Millinery Workers, held last week in New York City. Max Zaritsky, UHCMW president, David Dubinsky, head of the AFL International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, and Matthew Woll, AFL vice president, delivered speeches which might be summed up under one heading: How Not To Defeat The Anti-Labor Drive.

* * *

Surrender Labor’s Economic Weapons

Zaritsky proposed nothing less than “this union carry its wartime ‘no-strike’ policy over into the reconversion period.” He boasted that “wage rates and total earnings of members increased substantially despite the fact that the union did not resort to strikes in order to make its gains.”

Zaritsky spoke from the smug and narrow outlook of the head of a union of 40,000 members which deals with a swarm of competing petty manufacturers in a secondary consumers goods industry. Because of various special factors, this particular industry suffers a relative labor shortage, a favorable circumstance for collective bargaining.

In addition, this small union has been able to ride with the gains won by the great industrial unions through their strike struggles against the giant monopoly corporations – a different calibre of opposition than the “cockroach” employers confronting Zaritsky.

Zaritsky’s theory is that the way to avoid repressive legislation is to surrender labor’s strike weapon and depend on “labor statesmen’’ like himself to win gains by ingratiating themselves with the employers and capitalist government. But even “labor statesmen” par excellence, like Philip Murray and some of the railroad union leaders, were forced into leading tremendous strike actions despite all their efforts to put ideas like Zaritsky’s into practice.

* * *

Surrender Labor’s Political Weapons

While Zaritsky proposes that labor yield up its economic weapons of struggle, Matthew Woll represents the other side of the theory of “defending” labor by capitulation. He advocated at the Hatters’ convention that labor “give the other fellow (the ruling capitalists) all titles to property, give him the political power.” With “the invincible power of labor on the economic field,” contended Woll. “I will match his power and I will reign supreme.”

To support his argument that labor should surrender any struggle for political power and rely solely on its “economic power,” Woll pointed to the example of the miners strike. He did not point out, however, how the intervention of the government served to prolong the strike and whittle down the possible gains of the mine workers. He did not show how labor’s weakness in the political field helped the government to break the railroad strike.

Woll’s horse-and-buggy theory of no-politics for labor (in reality he means support only capitalist politics) would keep labor in the position of fighting against the employers with one arm tied behind it.

* * *

New Back-Door Deals with ‘Friends of Labor’

Dubinsky, on the other hand, said he wants labor in politics. He even advocated the idea of an independent national labor party at the convention.

But, while paying lip service to the labor party idea, Dubinsky indicated he was ready to make still another political deal with Truman. The ILGWU president said he did not agree with calling Truman “strikebreaker No. 1.” “I say that the test of judging the position of the President,” claimed Dubinsky, “will be his signing or vetoing of the Case bill.”

Dubinsky is ready to accept Truman as a “friend of labor” even if he broke the railroad strike, tried to smash the mine strike, and is pushing the “work-under-bayonets” bill to draft strikers into the Army. All Dubinsky asks is one little veto.

Zaritsky, Woll and Dubinsky have come up with three tried- and-true methods for leading labor to defeat: give up labor’s economic weapons; give up labor’s political weapons; seek some more back-door deals with “friends of labor” like Truman.

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