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B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(3 October 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 75, 3 October 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Until recently, British labor leaders were recognized universally as peers in the fine art of selling out the interests of the workers under the guise of obtaining a victory. Cooperating with the “enlightened” British ruling class, the labor fakers did quite splendidly. Rewards of knighthood and baronage testify to that fact.

However, we are willing to risk the charge of chauvinism and state plainly that in this art the American labor bureaucracy, assisted by the clever Mr. Roosevelt, is now surpassing its British prototype.

In England, the labor fakers and their masters slipped up badly in chaining the union movement to the war machine. His Majesty’s Minister of Supply, Leslie Burgin, advised poorly by dull labor leaders, forgot to consult officially with the trade union movement on war production.

Roosevelt Strategy

Meeting only with big business representatives, the Minister of Supply ignored certain inevitable problems which arise in war production; maladjustments, unemployment in some industries, speed-up, working hours, etc. The result was widespread dissatisfaction among union men, and this week the General Council of the Trades Union Congress is conferring to handle the problem. Labor representation will be demanded and probably granted. But the seeds of dissent have been sown.

In America, some naive people have been quite concerned that President Roosevelt would make the similar “mistake.” Mr. Roosevelt recently appointed a War Resources Board,which was ballyhooed as the controlling body of American industry for war.

Liberals were shocked by the composition of this Board. Four men from the House of Morgan, including Edward Stettinius, president of U.S. Steel, were selected. And no representative of the labor movement was among the committee of seven.

Both the CIO and the AFL top leaders worked up a righteous indignation over this omission. John L. Lewis, thundered forth in his Olympian fashion. William Green preached his usual sermon on democracy and labor’s rights.

Friendly correspondents, sympathetic columnists, and “left-wing” New Dealers kept a steady barrage of criticism against the personnel of the War Resources Board.

Victory or Fake?

This week Roosevelt announced that the Board would make a report and then go out of existence in a few weeks. WAR INDUSTRIES BOARD TO GO! UNDER FIRE AS REACTIONARY! said the head-lines.

What a “victory” for labor and the true democrats! This will be the theme of every speech for the next few weeks in the camp of Roosevelt supporters. Labor probably will get a representative on a new board. Maybe two, one from the CIO and one from the AFL.

No British muddling through in the Roosevelt strategy. It’s as slick as a whistle. For Roosevelt kills two birds with one stone. General Hugh Johnson, who had a little experience in these matters during the world war, let the cat out of the bag before Roosevelt finished his magic act.

Road to War

The selection of the Morgan men was a deliberate move, calculated to arouse antagonism against the present War Industries Board. Taint it with Morgan-British world war infamy! Keep labor off. Give the liberals and labor fakers a phoney issue to howl about.“This isn’t democracy. Labor isn’t represented.”

The pillow fight rages. Then Roosevelt calmly announces the dismissal of the Board. He retreats before “progressive” pressure. A new board is chosen. Labor is represented! Lewis and Green claim a big “victory.” Liberals cry that this proves America is really fighting a war for democracy.

And labor’s rights are strangled by this “victory.” For this very victory spells the road to war, with Lewis and Green showing the way.

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Last updated: 17 February 2018