Monday, July 29, 2019

Jew-hate foreshadows a diseased condition in European civilization

Excerpts from: Remnants of a Race
The Economist, 12 January 1946.

....European Jewry’s desire for a new exodus is undeniable. Zionist organizations, especially of the extremer kind, are stimulating it; and they are trying to force its pace before the survivors of European Jewry again strike root in their old countries.

....Anti-semitism invariably reflects or foreshadows a diseased condition in European civilization. Its rise and fall is perhaps the most sensitive index of Europe’s moral and political sanity.

....What bourgeois liberalism achieved for Jews in western Europe, only Bolshevism was able to achieve for them in eastern Europe.

....The grave of the Jewish middle class became the cradle of a new gentile middle class in eastern Europe. At the height of the slaughter a Polish paper wrote: ‘The Nazis are solving the Jewish problem in our favour in a way in which we could never have solved it.’

....These new ‘middle classes’ are undoubtedly suffering from a guilt complex which makes their temper extremely nervous and brutal. They look tensely and anxiously into the faces of the few Jews who now seek to return home. Has the rightful owner of the shop come back? Or his child or relative?

....Possession is in any event nine-tenths of the law—zoological anti-semitism provides the last tenth.

....what has the civilized world to offer the survivors of Belsen, Auschwitz, Dachau, and Majdanek? After the first World War it offered the Jews two hopes: the Balfour Declaration on the Jewish Home in Palestine and the Protection of Minorities by the League of Nations. The Protection of Minorities has proved to be a scrap of paper. The scheme for a Jewish Home has met—as could easily have been foreseen—with the overwhelming opposition of the Arab world. Is it possible that the great, democratic nations of the world should have become so helpless that they cannot offer the Jews a strip of land somewhere on the globe or a few hundred thousand entry visas to their countries?

*    *    *

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Joseph Hansen on moon landing

Read issue here:

Joseph Hansen:

The age-old fantasy of reaching the moon 
finally became a reality. The feat consti-
tutes a major milestone in the history of 
mankind, particularly the development of 

Watching the coverage of the event on 
television, who could fail to be impressed 
by the technological level that has now 
been reached? 

First of all, that man's first steps on 
another planet could be viewed by millions 
of persons all around our own globe 
at the very moment these steps were taken 
would hardly have been credible only a 
few years ago. This advance itself is one 
of the fantastic consequences of the space 
age with its Telestar relay system. 

Equally remarkable was the display of 
reliability, not to mention clarity in voice 
and image, of the communications system 
linking the astronauts with their Houston 
base. How much depended on this can be 
judged by what would have happened to 
Armstrong and Aldrin after they landed 
if a single link in this system had failed. 
Even more impressive was the revela-
tion of the sophistication reached in the 
computers that carried out the continual 
calculations as to the orbits and rendez-
vous of the two space ships. Hardly born, 
the computer is already automated, mini-
aturized, coupled with radar and brought 
to a level of dependability that spoke for 
itself in the Apollo 11 mission. 

As to the power of the jet engines, this 
met all the requirements long laid down 
by the better science-fiction writers. 
Perhaps the most outstanding feature 
of the entire mission was its superb orga-
nizational level- at least this was what 
struck many Americans, who incline to 
be connoisseurs of the organizational side 
of human endeavors, ranging from the 
performance of teams in the field of sports 
to work forces numbering in the tens and 
hundreds of thousands. 

Most of the labor in the Apollo 11 mission 
went into planning and preparation, the 
actual mission representing only a live 
performance of drills already performed 
thousands of times. The contrast to ex-
ploration in previous centuries was strik-
ing, a convenient gauge happening to be 
available in the news about the failure of 
Thor Heyerdahl's attempt to cross the 
Atlantic in a papyrus-reed boat. 

The truth is, of course, that an enter-
prise of the scope of this one -like the 
successful production of the atomic bomb-
is beyond the capacity of private enter-
prise. Only a government could assemble 
500,000 persons, allot $24 billion, make 
available the resources of the Army, Navy, 
and Air Force in a concentrated effort 
of such breadth for almost a decade. Which 
does not mean, of course, that it was not 
a highly profitable business for the compa-
nies that got the contracts. An accounting 
on this would be highly revealing....

Hansen concludes:

....What can be achieved through central-
ized organization and the application of 
scientific knowledge has been shown in a 
way that will sink deep into the conscious-
ness of the masses. 

Why can't similar organization and 
scientific knowledge be applied to make 
our everyday lives more secure and liv-
able? If we can go to the moon, why can't 
we assure food for everyone? Provide de-
cent housing? Adequate medical services? 
Guaranteed yearly incomes? An end to war? 
It is now all the harder for the powers 
that be to dismiss such questions as uto-
pian. They proved that itwas even possible 
to go to the moon! 

Before too long science may thus have 
its revenge on those who have diverted 
it to inhuman ends-to profit-making at 
the expense of human needs, to mass 
murder, to the construction of fiendish 
weapons capable of exterminating man-

New layers of humanity will now see 
in a more vivid way how insane capi-
talism has become and what a world 
could be built if the technological base 
humanity has constructed could be placed 
at the disposal of the people and utilized 
in accordance with rational planning. 

The most important feature of the Apollo 
11 triumph may yet be the impact it has 
on bringing man, the tool-making animal, 
to realize that he has become sufficiently 
skilled with tools, and that now he must 
master his social and economic relations 
if he is not to perish from what the tool 
has become.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Seals in the rafters: Jack Barnes on Ross Perot

A portion of a talk by Socialist Workers Party national secretary Jack Barnes, titled, "The Vote for Ross Perot and Patrick Buchanan's `Culture War': What the 1992 Elections Revealed." This talk was presented at a Militant Labor Forum in New York on Nov. 7, 1992, just four days after the U.S. presidential elections. It will be included in Capitalism's World Disorder: Working Class Politics in the 21st Century by Jack Barnes.

....The vote for Perot is the thing bourgeois pollsters were most wrong about this year. I do not usually pay much attention to opinion polls, since they rarely reveal much about what is really going on in politics and the class struggle. But the polls caught many of the trends in bourgeois politics pretty accurately this year. They were right about the shift after the Republican convention, when bourgeois public opinion swung decisively against Bush. They were right about how the Clinton- Bush race was turning out.

Why were the polls so wrong on the vote for Perot, then? I think they were wrong because a substantial number of people who intended to vote for Perot did not tell the truth when they were selected at random to be surveyed. Why? Because these people considered the pollsters - like reporters, news photographers, and most "professional politicians" - to be part of the conspiracy.

I watched the televised reports on Perot's huge rally in Long Beach, California, on Sunday night before the election. He stopped suddenly in the middle of a sentence and began shouting, "Look, look up there! There are seals! There are seals up in the rafters!" I figured, this is it - he's gone around the bend on nationwide TV. But then the camera panned the audience, and they were all cheering. Many of them knew exactly what he was talking about. He was pointing to members of the navy SEALs - the U.S. Navy's special forces, like the army's Green Berets. And then he explained to the whole audience, and to everyone watching on television, why he does not accept Secret Service protection. For his protection, Perot said, he counts on "our boys" who are trained to protect this country, to protect all of us. (Earlier this year, the New York daily Newsday reported that Perot has a "devoted following in the military, notably within the special-operations community.")

Perot told the crowd in Long Beach that he had watched videotapes of the televised presidential debates; he called attention to how many times his eyes blinked versus how many times Bush's and Clinton's eyes blinked. It sounds bizarre, doesn't it? But if you are prone to believe in conspiracy theories, then isn't eye-blinking a wonderful test of who is telling the truth? Watch their eyes blink! Then watch mine!

These things sound irrational to us. But they get a hearing because millions are trying to find answers that can explain the irrationalities of capitalism. Millions want to know what can be done about the destabilizing consequences they fear for themselves and their families. In the absence of real explanations, the "theories" of a Perot can seem to solve the mystery of what is happening to the country, to the government, to the world, to jobs - to any semblance of security in their lives.

Why capitalism appears more corrupt

Perot taps into a conviction growing among millions of people that the established bourgeois politicians are incapable of addressing the social crisis. More and more people are open to the suggestion that these figures are at worst plotting conspiracies; at best they are immoral, not fit to be in office. Millions are convinced that the government is rotten; Washington and all it represents is morally degenerate; the parliamentary and democratic institutions under capitalism are cesspools where thieves and bureaucrats and maneuverers hide. And more and more believe that something radical must be done to break through this spreading corruption.

The ruling class and its political spokespeople today appear to be so much more corrupt, so scandal-ridden, because of capitalism's deepening and irresolvable problems. Actually, the propertied classes and their politicians are corrupt in all periods. They have always cheated each other and used the government to enrich themselves and their friends. Why else do "public servants" stay in government? The difference today is only that the scope of the social crisis makes it more difficult for the exploiters to hide what they have always become and what they have always ended up doing.

Even when the capitalist class was on the rise historically in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the executive branch of the government was always careful about what it said publicly, including in front of parliaments and congresses. 
Presidents, prime ministers, and their deputies lied continually. What changes in capitalism's decline, however, is the growing power of the executive branch. What changes is the executive power's need to hide more and more of what it must do to defend imperialist interests against working people at home and abroad, growing numbers of whom have won the right to be at least a part of the "political class."
The Watergate crisis surely had little to do with the episodes from which it got its name-the break-in at the Democrats' national committee office in the Watergate hotel, organized by the Nixon campaign committee's "offensive security" volunteers. No. Watergate registered the implications for the U.S. ruling class of Washington's defeat in Vietnam. It marked the end of the historic high point of U.S. imperialism's strength and stability. Similar problems for the U.S. rulers - revolutionary developments in Central America and the Middle East in the late 1970s and 1980s - are behind the so- called Irangate and Iraqgate scandals too.

This tendency, in the context of sharpening political polarization, increases suspicions of the rulers and their government representatives. Perot plays on this growing distrust of politicians, even as he offers a Bonapartist solution that would in fact greatly tighten the grip of the presidency. Congress is an obstacle, says Perot. Gridlock! Gridlock everywhere! Gotta cut through the gridlock! Gotta get rid of corruption to end the gridlock! Gotta watch out for conspiracies that lead to gridlock!

Perot uses insinuation effectively. How do people like Bush and Clinton end up so wealthy? Ross Perot is a self-made man -an effective businessman, not a Washington insider, he boasts. There's no mystery how he made his money. "I'm spending my money, not PAC [political action committee] money, not foreign money, my money- - take this message to the people," Perot aggressively asserted during the second televised presidential debate last month.

But what about Bush and Clinton? How did they get their wealth? How do they explain how they got where they are? Ability? Moral stature? Hardly. So what is the explanation? "Who would you give your pension fund and your savings account to, to manage?" Perot said in his closing remarks during the final presidential debate. "Who would you ask to be the trustee of your estate and take care of your children if something happened to you?" And he returned to that theme in Long Beach the other night. "If you had a small business, would you hire either one of these guys to run it?" he asked to thundering shouts of "No!" from the crowd. But wouldn't you trust your money with Ross Perot? The guy's a billionaire, after all. He claims to be beholden to no one - no lobbyists, no bankers, no "foreign interests," nobody. He says he spent millions of dollars of his own money on the campaign. Ross puts his money where his mouth is - his own money. That's Perot's pitch....
Perot, the self-made man, isn't afraid to explain why everybody has to accept pain, why "we all" have to sacrifice, he explains. 
Social Security can't be sacred, Perot says, at least not for well-off people like himself who don't need it. (That is his "populist" foot in the door, to open the assault on Social Security as a universal social right, guaranteed for all.) A higher tax on gasoline may be necessary, too. The federal budget deficit has to be slashed at all costs. But "we" in America can do this, Perot says. Can do!

Perot did not win the election, but we should all watch what happens to domestic policy in this country over the next twenty- four months. Perot's economic program will come closer to what the Clinton administration and bipartisan Congress actually implement than anything either the Democratic or Republican candidates talked about during the campaign.

A warning to workers movement
Perot's radical, demagogic appeal gained a hearing from millions this year, as the election results show. I repeat: the vote for Perot is the important outcome of the 1992 elections, and it is a warning the workers movement ignores at its own peril....

A vote anywhere close to the size of Perot's is rare for a third-party candidate in the United States in this century. Remember the John Anderson campaign in 1980? Anderson got less than 7 percent of the vote, running against Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. In 1948 two third-party movements broke off from the Democrats - Strom Thurmond's segregationist States' Rights Democrats, and the Progressive Party ticket of Henry Wallace, backed by forces in and around the Stalinists and some liberal milieus. Those two parties combined, however, got less than 5 percent of the vote, and Democrat Harry Truman won the election and started consolidating the national security state for U.S. imperialism.

But Ross Perot got nearly 20 percent of the vote - 4 to 5 percent more than predicted on the basis of those who said beforehand they would vote for him. The Perot vote registers the growing view that no established Democratic or Republican party candidate will ever be any different. It registers the glorification of the armed forces and their special elite units that gains momentum at times of social crisis - no corruption there! It converges with the glorification of the cops. It reflects the elevation of the so-called self-made businessman (like Perot) who knows how to cut through red tape. "I'm Ross. You're the boss!" - that became Perot's demagogic, populist watchword as the campaign progressed. Together, we will cut through the pretense of democracy in Washington, the gridlock of elected institutions, and get things done!

To get a feel for the way similar forces evolved earlier in the century in the United States, it is useful to read a novel called All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren. It is based on the life of Huey Long, the demagogue who became governor of Louisiana during the crisis-ridden years of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Warren brings to life some of the social reality behind the rise of Bonapartist-minded demagogues such as Ross Perot. This is not a new phenomena in the United States. What is new is the acceleration of the social crisis that begins to provide a social base for such rightist developments again today. These movements all combine populist demagogy with deeply undemocratic attitudes and proposals, always built around conspiracies.

The social and political pressures reflected in the vote for Ross Perot have nothing to do with him as an individual. The vote he received has nothing to do with what may or may not happen to Perot or to his "United We Stand" movement tomorrow. 
What is new is that a candidate running outside the two major bourgeois parties, with the kind of radical demagogy he spouted, got close to 20 percent of the vote in the United States of America in the closing decade of the twentieth century. To drive home how new it is, we should just ask ourselves the question: "What would I have thought if I had turned on the television ten years ago, or even five, and heard a major candidate for president saying these things?"
This kind of movement, this kind of demagogy is going to be a permanent and growing aspect of the intersection of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois politics in the period we have entered. It is an inevitable product of a world capitalist order heading toward intensified trade wars, economic breakdowns, banking and currency crises, accelerated war drives, and their inevitable accompaniment-class battles.

Perot's radicalism is a manifestation of the increasingly brutal politics of capitalism in decline. It is a radicalism that pits human beings against each other and reinforces all the most savage competitiveness and dog-eat-dog values of capitalist society. It singles out scapegoats among the most oppressed and exploited layers of our class. When Perot explains what "we" can and must do, the "we" is a lie. But when he says that "we" must act quickly and decisively, because "time is not on our side," Perot is pointing to a fundamental class truth-he is just deliberately using the wrong pronoun. Time is not on their side-the side of the capitalists and rightist demagogues who seek to salvage their system. But time is on our side-the side of the working class, in the United States and around the world.

That is why it is so important for workers and revolutionary- minded youth to absorb that radicalization per se is not in the interests of the working class. In and of itself it has no class content. Radicalism has staked out a permanent place in bourgeois politics, one that will expand as the crisis deepens. Perot may or may not be among its standard-bearers next time around. But the bourgeois right will win adherents to their own radical-radically reactionary-views and proposals until the working class begins to forge a leadership with class-struggle answers out of the fighting vanguard of the toilers.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Democrat Green New Deal: Same old FDR snake-oil

Liberals’ Green New Deal is trap for working class

Modeled on Roosevelt’s WWII attacks on unions

July 15, 2019

One feature of capitalist politics in the U.S. is the entry of a layer of self-proclaimed socialists — like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who see their mission to rebrand the Democratic Party to better ensnarl workers and to reform and defend capitalist rule while “helping” the working class.

Millions of workers today are looking for something different, as they face an economic and social crisis resulting from the punishing impact of the pro-imperialist, pro-war and pro-business policies of both parties that have boosted profits.

Ocasio-Cortez promotes a “Green New Deal,” backed by many of the Democrats running for president, as the central vehicle to accomplish this. She says, “We are facing a national crisis,” a catastrophe from fossil fuels and “climate change,” that requires a massive strengthening of the capitalist state to address it. And, she adds, the massive mobilization it would mount would create jobs.

But for working people the main question about the plan is not the “green” description in its title, but its model — former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, which subordinated workers’ interests to “national unity” in order to turn all the country’s resources to the victory of U.S. capital in the second imperialist world war.

Ocasio-Cortez churns out stories of Roosevelt, the New Deal and World War II as the high watermark of U.S. capitalist rule. It’s a lie. The truth can be found in the pages of the Militant for those years, from the Northwest Organizer, the paper of the militant SWP-led Teamsters union in Minnesota, and in books like Labor’s Giant Step by Art Preis.

Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal demands an “economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal,” which was preparation for the imperialist war. While Roosevelt and his backers said their aim was to “fight fascism,” in fact the rulers’ goal was for Washington to replace both its allies and enemies as top imperialist dog worldwide, the better to allow U.S. bankers and bosses to reap superprofits. And to accomplish this, Roosevelt planned to strangle the labor movement.

“When FDR called on America to build 185,000 planes to fight World War 2, every business leader, CEO, and general laughed at him,” the “talking points” for the Green New Deal Ocasio-Cortez released says. “At the time, the U.S. had produced 3,000 planes in the last year. By the end of the war, we produced 300,000 planes. That’s what we are capable of if we have real leadership.”

But “we” did no such thing. There is no “we” — like all capitalist countries, the U.S. is class divided, and government policies aim to advance the interests of the ruling families and make the working people pay.

Roosevelt’s labor conscription bill

Without explaining it, Ocasio-Cortez points to what the Democrats’ New Deal had in store for the working class and their unions. She says her proposals “build on FDR’s second bill of rights.”

SOCIALIST APPEAL/CARLO (JESSE COHEN)Cartoon in Socialist Appeal, precursor of Militant,graphically shows how Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal developed into the war deal as U.S. rulers headed into second imperialist world war, fought for imperialist dominance.

That was in Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union address, which came on the heels of the 1943 United Mine Workers strike — called in defiance of the federal no-strike “pledge” — and the Democratic administration’s unsuccessful effort to defeat the miners. In that speech, Roosevelt demanded Congress enact a compulsory labor conscription bill (a “national service plan,” he genteelly called it).

“A national service law — which for the duration of the war, will prevent strikes,” Roosevelt said, “and, with appropriate exceptions, will make available for war production or any other essential service every able-bodied adult in this nation.”

The “exceptions” were intended for his class and their enablers.

Ocasio-Cortez sugarcoats the U.S. rulers’ anti-labor imperialist war polices. The Green New Deal states that Roosevelt’s war moves “created the greatest middle class that the United States has ever seen.”

The plan’s authors cite Washington’s massive war expenditures today, and bailouts extended to banks “too big to fail” in 2008, as examples of how the funds for the Green New Deal can be raised, “[T]he same way we paid for World War II and all our current wars.”

Their praise for the U.S. rulers’ victory in the second imperialist war to divide up the world for exploitation ignores the crimes inflicted on millions of people by the U.S. war machine, including the systematic firebombing of civilians in German and Japanese cities and the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Do we need a bigger government?

The Green New Deal scheme is aimed at strengthening and expanding the capitalist state, building in more weapons to defend capitalist rule. It contains a series of reforms and concessions to make life more palatable for workers and family farmers who face the carnage from the crisis of capital today. The meritocrats proposing it see working people as needing their help to “do the right thing.”

Like Roosevelt’s New Deal, Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats today view workers and farmers as the objects of government policies to be administered, rather than people who are not only capable of fighting to change the conditions the bosses and their governments impose on us, but to transform themselves through that fight to take political power.

The capitalist rulers are incapable of finding a way to reverse the crisis of their system today. Democrats present a false account of the New Deal to convince working people that something can be done to lessen the abuses we face by better “managing” the capitalist economy.

But it is only by relying on workers own capacities to struggle together against those who exploit us — the same bosses who degrade both labor and the environment — that working people can chart a course forward.

Replacing capitalist rule with workers power can make possible “social relations that are based on human solidarity and serve our interaction with and protection of the natural sources of all well-being and culture,” explains the SWP resolution “The Stewardship of Nature Also Falls to the Working Class: In Defense of Land and Labor,” published in New International no. 14. “What more powerful reason for workers, farmers and youth to commit their lives and futures to advancing the historic line of march of the international working class.”


Roosevelt's War Labor Curbs


....As Roosevelt summoned the nation after Pearl Harbor for his military crusade to attain the "Four Freedoms"-especially "freedom from want" all over the globe, the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a mid-April 1942 report, revealed truly shocking facts about "freedom from want" here at home.

Over 25 per cent of all employed workers in December 1941 earned less than $20 a week. Over 50 per cent earned less than $30 a week. Only 13 per cent of income earners in industry, including supervisory and executive employees, earned as much as $50 a week, a sum below the minimum decency and comfort standard of living fixed by the government itself.

Pearl Harbor accelerated the speed of rising living costs. By the end of January 1942, the CIO leaders felt impelled by rank-and file discontent to initiate a drive for industry-wide wage increases. Meeting in New York City on January 26, the CIO National Executive Board issued a call to all affiliated unions to demand "substantial wage increases." President Murray said that by March 1942 living costs including taxes would be 20 per cent above the January 1941 level. This would wipe out all 1941 wage gains and impose an actual ten per cent general wage cut.

To quiet the growing demands for wage increases, Congress passed and Roosevelt signed the War-Time Price Control Bill. This bill, giving the Office of Price Administration power to fix prices of consumer goods, was designed actually to give a legal cover to price gouging. Roosevelt himself had to admit, as he signed the bill, that he had "doubts as to the wisdom and adequacy of certain sections of the Act." On January 30, OPA, headed by Leon Henderson, issued a statement saying it expected "nothing sweeping or radical" from the measure but hoped it might have at least a "psychological" effect on manufacturers and merchants. The January 28 New York Times quite candidly denounced the bill as "a thoroughly bungled and discreditable job, a mere mockery of its own declared purposes."

The "declared purposes" of this price control law were to prevent a general rise in prices; fix maximum prices that might legally be charged for certain goods; and to set up agencies for policing prices. The real purpose was to provide a basis for the claim that prices were being controlled and, therefore, wages must be controlled. The prices of war goods sold to the government were fixed by the corporations themselves, acting through their "representatives" in the war procurement divisions. As for retail prices of civilian goods, it would have taken a vast army even to begin to police the millions of daily transactions. Price control was a fraud.

This was pretty much the belief of the industrial workers. For instance, United Automobile Workers delegates from 90 General Motors plants met in Detroit on February 7, 1942, and adopted demands for a dollar-a-day pay increase and the union shop.

Motivating the wage demand, Walter Reuther, then GM director for the UAW, pointed out that the auto workers were "worse off than they were a year ago" despite the 10-cent hourly boost in the previous spring.

The GM workers' major demands followed those the United Steelworkers had made on four of the Little Steel corporations: Bethlehem, Republic, Inland, and Youngstown Sheet and Tube. Murray had immediately shunted the Little Steel demands into the hands of the War Labor Board. The UAW leaders followed suit with the GM proposals. Murray's move indicated what he really had in mind when he had promised at the CIO National Executive Board meeting to "fight" for "substantial wage increases" and union security.

On February 23, in a radio address, Roosevelt explained his program. He stressed "the one thought for us here at home to keep uppermost ….uninterrupted production. I stress that word uninterrupted." He urged "three high purposes for every American": (1) "We shall not stop work for a single day. If any dispute arises we shall keep on working while the dispute is solved by mediation, conciliation or arbitration until the war is won"; (2) "We shall not demand special gains or special privileges or special advantages for any group or occupation"; (3) "We shall give up conveniences and modify the routine of our lives if our country asks us to." One "high purpose" Roosevelt did not mention, as virtually every newspaper noted at the time, was the limitation or elimination of war profits. The CIO leaders seemed not to notice the clear antilabor implications of Roosevelt's "three high purposes." Murray had complained that" certain government and industry officials" were conducting a "premeditated publicity campaign" seeking to "prejudice the public mind, and, if possible, the War Labor Board" against the steel union's demands. The chief culprit whom Murray carefully refrained from naming was Roosevelt. The pro-Big Business press was not so shy. The old New York Sun, a traditional Republican fixture on the tables of the Wall Streeters, had to admit on February 24:

"In his speech last night, the President placed the emphasis definitely upon labor ....this did more probably to brighten the atmosphere in Washington today than anything else he said in his speech last night."

Roosevelt followed his February 23 radio speech with a series of more specific demands and commands, designed not only to freeze wages but to force the unions to surrender contractual conditions already won and enjoyed.

His first move was against premium pay for work on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Union contracts customarily provided for time and a half on Saturdays and double time wage rates for working Sundays or holidays. General Motors initiated the attack on contractual standards when it refused to continue paying double time for Sunday work. This was the first issue submitted to the War Labor Board by the UAW.

Donald Nelson, newly-named head of the War Production Board which had supplanted the Office of Production Management, appearing on March 24 before the House Naval Affairs Committee, stated the Roosevelt administration's position on premium pay. Nelson said that if the unions did not agree within 30 days to give up premium pay for week ends and holidays which did not fall on the sixth and seventh consecutive days of work, the administration would press for a law to compel such surrender. As one New York daily put it, this was a "velvet-gloved ultimatum" to labor.

The top union officials of the CIO and AFL yielded immediately, and without consultation with the ranks. They agreed to abrogate premium-pay clauses in hundreds of newly signed contracts.

This giveaway of their hard-won rights did not go down easily with the workers. Resentment was so rife among the auto workers that the UAW leaders had to call a special national delegated convention in Detroit to cram the decision down the workers' throats.

The most significant aspect of this convention was the united front of the top leaders Thomas, Addes, Frankensteen, Reuther, and the Stalinists against the ranks. The fight lasted for two days. Every trick was employed to break down or confuse the opposition. The resolution to give up premium pay contained a section on "Equality of Sacrifice" so worded as to give the false impression that sacrifice of premium pay would be conditional on measures by the government to eliminate war profits.

One of these measures was described in a letter to the convention from Roosevelt. He promised: "It is the intention of the government to renegotiate contracts with the employers wherever necessary to insure that the savings from relinquishment of double or premium time go not to the employer but the nation."

In this same letter, he said that premium pay "in wartime ... puts a brake upon production. It causes factories to close on Sundays and holidays." This implied that the employers could not afford to pay overtime and premium rates. But when he spoke of the need to "renegotiate contracts," he made it plain that the corporations were being reimbursed by the government for every cent of overtime and premium wages.

In the end, with 150 courageous delegates standing on their feet to vote opposition openly, the UAW resolution to give up premium pay was adopted. Just before the vote was taken, Roosevelt's letter was reread to the convention and Frankensteen bellowed into the microphone: "Are you going to tell the President of the United States to go to hell ?"


Labor's Giant Step: The First Twenty Years of the CIO: 1936–55.

By Art Preis

Correct from the start


Hard to beleive I have not posted on this blog for half a year! My apologies to any of you still out there.

What have I been doing?

Working, living, family. Reading a lot of fiction and lit. crit. And recovering from my April 2 stroke. Just the usual.

Politically a few events have happened. The middle class left in the U.S. has moved more fully in a semi-organized way into the Democrat Party.  When all that counts in U.S. politics is putting a minus wherever Trump puts a plus, you wake up to some strange bedfellows, indeed.

The collapse of the International Socialist Organization was something I viewed with unallowed pleasure: another whateverist roadblock removed from the path of future workers and youth looking for a communist party.

My good friend and comrade David has an excellent blog post on the correctness of the U.S. Socialist Workets Party line. I always thought so, though never more than in the last few years. David has used some great photos to underscore his argument, which show very clearly the roots of his (and my) confidence in the future of the Socialist Workers Party.

7 July 2019