Fair Deal Parrot or 'Architect of the Future'?

Submitted by AWL on 10 July, 2013 - 9:51

Don't Echo Truman - Speak Up on War!

(Article from Labor Action's annual May special issue, 1951)

The failure of the American labor movement to develop a bold and independent foreign pol
icy of its own has been costly. Its cost is to be seen in the bulging mail sacks that heaped support 
for Taft, Hoover and their colleagues during the discussion on military policy for Europe. It is to
 be seen in the frenzied cheering crowds that stamp over each other for a chance to greet the great 
man from Japan, MacArthur, the would-be leader of the crusade into death in the depths of Asia.

This hysteria will die down, to be sure; sobering months will intervene. But who can ignore 
the fact that world events are stimulating an ever-growing dissatisfaction among the American people and that every discussion on foreign policy has revealed a swing away from the so-called Fair
 Deal Truman Democrats and a shift toward the only powerful political force that seems to offer a change?

Ironically, the Republicans who profit from increasing discontent are dangerous hypocrites who would push us more abruptly into atomic war and who would leave the United States to carry on world war against Russia more isolated than ever before from friends and allies. But-

All over the United States, people
 seek a new road in foreign affairs.
 They want some way to defend democ
racy, to beat back Stalinism and at 
the same time avoid terrible and un
necessary shedding of blood and de
struction of civilization. They fear that 
the Korean war is a continuing catas
trophe. They begin to feel that the loss 
of life is useless and needless; and they 
begin to understand that a new policy
 must come. The tragedy is that these 
most natural and sensible feelings are 
twisted and distorted into sympathy
 for the reprehensible adventuristic
 line of Taft-MacArthur. And why? 
The people see no other way; they
 hear no other critical voices.

The labor movement has nothing to 
offer. It has no foreign policy of its 
own. It simply repeats in duller words and flatter intonation the apologetics of Truman.

Every once in a rare while, a union leader will startle 
himself by carefully phrasing a feeble complaint against 
some aspect of, Truman's foreign policy. A studious 
scholar can detect the note: but the ordinary citizen is 
left in the dark; for labor's objections are mildly put and 
humbly presented.

It is politely suggested that perhaps the State De
partment should cease bolstering dictator Franco against 
the Spanish labor movement. Some unions hint that they 
find it distasteful when U.S. troops preserve the power 
of a reactionary landlord's man like Syngman Rhee in 
Korea. Others report with distinct annoyance that Marshall Plan funds in Europe go to enrich the rich; that 
the principal beneficiaries are not the workers of Europe 
but their employers.

Leaving America Leaderless

All this represents the first weak glimmerings of un
derstanding of the true role of a capitalist United States 
in world affairs. But union leaders get no further. They 
continue to trust and hope that a gentlemanly word ut
tered in the right bureaus will give a more liberal and
 democratic tinge to American foreign policy. And they
 continue to hope in vain.

Year after year, they make the same respectful pro
tests and always with no results. But they learn very 
little from their disappointing experiences. They only 
skirt the fringes with their criticisms. On every decisive 
question of foreign affairs, they tag along docilely with 
Truman.

The labor movement does not fight aggressively for its 
own foreign policies. And this is the tragedy that leaves 
the American people leaderless in the greatest crisis of their international history.

Most humiliating was the abject obsequiousness of 
the powerful labor movement toward every nod from
 Truman during the Korean crisis.

Send troops to Korea, ordered Truman when the
 fighting first began. Thus he pushed the nation into war
 without even consulting Congress. A few mutterings of 
discontent are heard in the country. Perhaps Truman's 
actions are unconstitutional. . . . But no hesitation from 
the labor unions. Without a second's thought they piled 
onto the bandwagon. Truman's voice becomes the nation's 
call, the dictate of every patriot. Send troops to Korea,
 the labor leaders obligingly repeat.

Some months pass. The Chinese Stalinists have in
tervened and the U. S. faces an unprecedented crisis.
 The American people are plunged into debate: Shall we 
keep fighting a useless war? Shall we withdraw our 
troops and bring the boys back home? These are the ques
tions that begin to disturb millions.

But the unions have nothing to say, no doubting, no
 thinking, no searching for a new policy. Truman says 
keep the troops in Korea. The labor leaders echo, yes, it 
is the duty of every patriot to keep the troops in Korea.

Other months intervene. The war drags on futilely 
without prospect of conclusion. The same irresponsible 
petty political hacks, particularly the Republicans, who 
a few days before were demanding the withdrawal of
 all U. S. troops from Korea and the end of the war are 
now insisting upon extending the war to all China and
 demanding the mobilization of new thousands of troops
 for war in Asia. Another furious national debate on for
eign policy begins.

Again, nothing is heard from labor, until. . . Truman
 says: No extension of the war in Asia, no more masses 
of additional troops. The labor leaders now realize: Yes, 
it is the duty of every patriot to be against the extension 
of war in Asia and to resist the pouring in of additional 
thousands of troops.

The President Hath Spoken...

To send troops, to keep them in Korea, not to send 
any more - labor rallies to each slogan in turn, not on the
 basis of its own class interests, not on the basis of a sober
estimate of international realities, but simply because the 
words of the administration is its highest law.

CIO President Philip Murray congratulated Truman 
for the removal of MacArthur. But until Truman acted, no CIO official presumed to criticize the mighty general. 
Quite the contrary.

When MacArthur led his troops across the 38th parallel and to the Manchurian border for the first time, a
 storm of protest broke out all over the world. One hundred British labor members of Parliament signed a petition denouncing this action and attacking the contem
plated bombing of China. MacArthur was accused by
 world opinion of exceeding his authority. But not by 
U. S. labor!

Not for a moment. Truman, at that time, confirmed
 MacArthur's actions. Said the president: The general
 is merely carrying out loyally, and in the strictest legal
ity the decisions of the United Nations. Of course, concluded our labor leaders, the general . . ., etc., and no
 loyal patriot will criticize him.

But now Truman has spoken and the CIO quickly
 discovers what became so obvious only after the fact:
 "Americans rightly have an instinctive resistance to any 
effort by the military to gain control of the policy-making 
powers of government."

Truman has cut down labor's old hero and now sets 
up a new one. All in the day's work, the CIO begins to
 worship the new idol.

The president turned MacArthur's command over 
to Gen. Matthew W. Ridgway, a first-class fighting man. After our crushing defeat in Korea last year, it 
was Gen. Ridgway who regrouped our forces and fought
 his way back to the 38th parallel.

Fortunate is the great genius whose prowess was over
looked at the time but who now takes his rightful place.
 But what is this great man doing at the 38th parallel? 
What can democracy gain from this unending war? These
 questions are not raised by the labor movement . . . they 
are too important for union leaders to tackle.

And thus the labor movement abandons the leadership of the American people and surrenders the conduct 
of foreign affairs to the capitalist class.

The labor movement does fight inside the nation in 
the interests of the American people. It battles for price
 control. It strikes for higher living standards. It resists 
discrimination. It fights for pensions, for insurance. Its
 frequent militancy at home makes a sharp contrast with
its submissiveness on foreign policy.

But even after fighting aggressively for its own
 policies at home, the labor movement cuts short its strug
gle and elects the political representatives of its class
 enemy. It persists in supporting capitalist politicians
 who enact a program hostile to labor and counter to its
 expressed program.

Demand Real Freedom!

U. S. labor does not fight consistently even for itself. A labor movement which does not carry out its duty to 
itself can hardly be expected to fulfill its responsibilities
 to the peoples of the world. A working class which con
signs its own political fate to capitalist politicians at 
home can hardly understand why it is necessary to resist
 the domination of the world by these same politicians.

American labor will take the first step in defense of
 democracy throughout the world when it begins to fight at home aggressively and without compromise in its own
 interests; that is, when it forms its own independent la
bor party. .

But the converse is likewise true. American labor will
 not begin an all-out fight in its own behalf until it begins 
a real fight on behalf of the people of the world. It already understands that world labor must be defended
 from reactionary Stalinism. It must be ready also to de
fend world democracy against American imperialism.

Labor will be asked to sacrifice to prepare for a Third
 World War. It will be pressed to work long and tedious
 hours; it will be compelled to pay higher and higher 
taxes. It will be asked to pour out not only its labor and
 money but its blood. What will be its reply?

If the American working class is to defend itself, its 
bitterly won standards of living and its cherished union
 rights, it will have to begin to understand the nature of
 modern war preparations in capitalist America. Let it in
sist upon a democratic course in foreign affairs!

Let it demand real freedom and democracy for all
 people. Let it fight hard against supporting dictators
 and totalitarians. And it will discover that the very 
capitalist politicians that undercut the demands of labor 
at home slash away at democracy throughout the world.

It will discover that just as labor must take over 
leadership of the country in the struggle for a real 
Fair Deal at home it must take over leadership of the 
nation's foreign policy and lead the struggle for demo
racy on a world scale.