Art Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Art Preis

Truman Stands Pat on War Policy

Old-Line Reactionaries Rule Democratic Party, Congress

(22 November 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 47, 22 November 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Truman Administration and ruling Democratic Party are now getting down to “business as usual” at the same old stand. Talk of “gluttons of privilege” and “Wall Street reactionaries” is already stored away with the forgotten ballyhoo of bygone election campaigns.

Nothing is basically altered. The Democratic Party, of which Truman is now the acknowledged head, is still run by the same big city bosses and Southern white supremacists. On foreign policy, Truman has hastened to make clear he has not moderated his drive toward militarism and war. And on domestic policy, his demagogic election promises are already being diluted, particularly his key pledge about unconditional repeal or the Taft-Hartley act.

One of Truman’s first moves has been to seek reconciliation with the reactionary Southern Democrats, who retain the balance of power in Congress. While Truman may attempt to purge the Democratic Party of a handful disloyal to him personally, such as the irreconcilable Dixiecrats, he is extending “peace feelers” to the bulk of the Southern dissidents.

That is the meaning of his declaration that he is “not mad” at anybody and of Senator McGrath's assurance that his chief is inclined to “forgiving” Democratic regulars guilty of only minor offenses.

Old-Line Control

Although the labor vote was decisive in the Democratic victory, the union leaders remain frozen out of the inner councils of the party, which is controlled from top to bottom by the old-line politicians, reactionary to the core, it is the latter who call the tune in congress, composed in its majority of boss-ruled machine Democrats from the North, Southern Bourbons and Taft-Hartley Republicans. All important House and senate committees, which exercise a powerful influence on legislation and can sabotage any progressive bill, will be headed by reactionary old time-servers, including a sizeable number of official and unofficial Dixiecrats.

Truman is in position to resume his “hard cop-soft cop” tactics – of threatening labor with something worse” from Congress if it does not take less than he promised in his election campaign or than labor demands.

The reactionary character of Truman’s main line is most immediately and sharply expressed in foreign policy.

Some people were taken in by Truman’s election campaign gesture toward, “man-to-man” dealings with Stalin. They took this as a strong hint, at least, of a slowing down of Truman’s war drive. On Nov. 17, Truman squelched that illusion.

Truman Doctrine

In his first formal press conference on his future policies, he spoke once more in the familiar bellicose tones of the Truman-Marshall Doctrine. He announced emphatically that he stood pat on the provocative and truculent policy being pursued toward Russia. He praised Marshall to the skies, “emphasizing that he and Secretary Marshall were and had always been in complete agreement.” (N.Y. Times, Nov. 17) In short, so far as Truman is concerned, the question of war or peace remains in the hands of the tiny clique of Wall Street bankers and Big Brass who have been deciding and conducting U.S. foreign policy.

Truman’s basic program – the Wall Street bi-partisan war program – stands as an absolute guarantee against any fundamental social reforms, all his demagogic election promises notwithstanding. Truman cannot reduce prices and taxes while fueling inflation with his vast arms budget. He cannot and will not provide more than miserable sops by way of social benefits.

“Some Rewriting”

This is the real reason – more than any explicit statement he and his spokesmen have made – why Truman intends to hedge as far as possible on his promise of unqualified repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act. When asked by reporters whether he now stood for outright repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act or even blanket restoration of the Wagner Act, Truman said that he stood for repeal of the Taft-Hartley Law, but that in the legislative process some rewriting or the Wagner Act might be necessary.

Administration spokesmen have already indicated that included in this “rewriting” may be many of previous Truman proposals for government injunctions against strikes directing “public welfare”; “fact-finding” commissions with binding authority; “cooling off” periods before strikes; continuation of the “non-communist” oaths; outlawing of certain types of strikes involving secondary boycotts, etc.

If the shadow of all these developments hang darkly over the “victory” celebrations of the pro-Truman union leaders, they give no hint of any awareness.

At the AFL convention this past week, the top moguls talked about a “modified” Wagner Act in place of the Taft-Hartley Act – modified, that is, in the direction of more restraints on the unions, particularly in halting large-scale strikes. They even propose to go beyond the Taft-Hartley Act itself with an even more vicious requirement for yellow-dog “non-communist” oaths, imposed not only on officers but every paid employee of a union.

Charles J. MacGowan, head of the AFL Boilermakers and member of the AFL Executive Council, went so far as to advocate the outlawing of industry-wide strikes and the. imposition on all labor of a law like the Railway Labor Act, under which the railroad workers have been driven down from first to twenty-third position in comparative wages with other industries.

It is a true measure of the cowardice and downright reactionary character of many of the union leaders that they are ready to hand away labor’s rights not under the hammer-blows of a powerful reaction, but right after a tremendous demonstration of popular resistance to this reaction. They are offering “concessions” at the very moment labor is in position to make the greatest demands.

One thing that is going to become clear very shortly to the workers is that if they “wait for Harry,” they are going to have a long disappointing wait. Truman and the reactionary Democrats, now that they are safely back in control, are going to hedge all along the line on their promises, trying to settle for “substitutes” and minor sops.

Labor is going to have to fight for every real concession. If the Taft-Hartley Act is to be repealed without any “substitutes,” if an effective civil rights program is to be achieved, if adequate housing is to be secured, labor will have to be mobilized in a program of united action.

Right now the call should go forth for a National Congress of Labor to convene in Washington, D.C. This Congress of Labor, with representation from the rank and file of all unions, should confront Truman and the 81st congress on the day the new session opens. No dependence on the capitalist government of Truman and the Democrats! Labor’s own independent, united, militant action is the one and only assurance of victory against Big Business reaction.

Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 28 March 2023