USA - The unions' backing for US imperialism. Part I - From one World War to the next

Mar/April 2002

In the present war against terrorism, the American unions offered Bush their full backing regardless of his terrorist aggression against Afghanistan. This is nothing new. Just as in Britain, the US union bureaucracy has a long tradition of lining up unconditionally behind US imperialism. The following text is the first part of an article recalling the record of American unions in this field, which was written by the American Trotskyist group The Spark. The second part of this article will be published in the next issue of Class Struggle.

On Sunday, October 7, the US began its bombing attack on Afghanistan. Two days later, the AFL-CIO Executive Council took out two-page ads in the most important newspapers in the country, proclaiming, "we're standing behind our President in the counterattack on terrorism." Two days after that, the UAW took out similar ads, announcing: "America stands united. We are united in combatting terrorism at home and around the world."

Both ads complained that Congress was not repaying union efforts: the AFL-CIO reproached it for cutting airline worker relief out of the airline company bail-out bill; the UAW, for considering "fast-track" authorization of free trade agreements. In neither of the union ads both filled with patriotic, flag-waving graphics was there any recognition of the fact that the US was actually bombing Afghanistan, not to mention any acknowledgment of the horrible consequences for the Afghan population. No, this president, whom they "stood behind," was simply "combatting terrorism."

In the months since, the official union movement, with the exception of only a few local officials, has done everything it can to promote support for the war, hiding the significance of it for the Afghan population and talking only about terrorism.

When contending for the leadership of the federation in 1995, the Sweeney slate, along with the leaders of the unions like the UAW which supported them, hinted vaguely that they disagreed with the way the old leadership had used the AFL-CIO as an instrument of US foreign policy.

But the first time their disagreement was put to the test, they simply joined the long line of union officials, stretching back more than a hundred years, who had allowed the union federation to carry out imperialism's dirty work.

The AFL offers its support

It was during the Spanish-American War that the American Federation of Labour (AFL) began openly to align itself with the foreign policy of the US state. Before then, the federation and its member unions had, in general, opposed foreign adventures. Of course, in the 1880s and early '90s, there were relatively few not counting the attempts to exterminate the Native Americans, which the AFL ignored. At that time, the AFL may have spoken about international working class solidarity and denounced oppression of the colonial peoples, but its "non- interventionist" policy was essentially an isolationist one, viewing the rest of the world as something better left alone. Like many other union officials at the turn of the century, Samuel Gompers, president of the Federation from its formation in 1886, was a declared pacifist but a very flexible one. In the years leading up to the Spanish-American War, the federation publicly opposed war with Spain; but, as war fast approached, Gompers became a sudden partisan of Cuban independence and thus of a war against Spain. Immediately after the war, the AFL opposed the annexation of Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. But behind its talk about international solidarity, lay the AFL belief that annexations would open the doors to unlimited immigration of low-wage unskilled labour, bringing pressure to bear on AFL wages. The AFL regularly demanded limitations on all immigration, but when it came to China and other parts of Asia, it demanded an outright ban, arguing that "the maintenance of the nation depended upon the maintenance of racial purity." In reality, vulgar racism underlay AFL opposition to the annexation of Spain's former possessions, more than any feelings of real solidarity with the people of those islands.

Speeches by federation leaders had long been marked by the isolationism which was common in the country at the time. A 1909 statement by Gompers was typical. After visiting a number of European countries, he declared, "The Old World is not our world. Its social problems, its economic philosophies, its current political questions are not linked up with America. All the people of the globe may be on the broad highway to social justice, peace among men of all tongues, and universal brotherhood, but all nations and governments have not reached the same points on the road. In the procession, America is first."

This kind of isolationist America-firstism did not prevent the AFL from supporting the moves of the US state to open the world's markets to American exports. Just the opposite. In 1898, in a speech to a pacifist committee of which he was part, Gompers declared: "We do not oppose the development of our industry, the expansion of our commerce, nor the power and influence which the United States may exert upon the destinies of the nations of the world."

The AFL regularly pushed for free trade and elimination of tariffs on the assumption that US labour would thus benefit. US labour was, according to Gompers, "the most efficient, intelligent, alert, conscientious and productive.... America's supremacy as an exporter of manufactured goods is certain and inevitable.... Never was labour better organized and more alive to its interests than now and never was America's foreign trade so stupendous as now." (From a 1901 article Gompers signed in "The Federationist.") Of course, markets could not be kept open without resorting to military force, and as soon as the US state moved to impose the "free market," the AFL was ready to back it up.

In any case, all this rested at the level of pronouncements, since the bourgeoisie didn't have much use for the AFL during these early years.

The AFL asks to be made a junior partner

It was only the approach of World War I that brought sections of the American bourgeoisie and, more particularly its state apparatus, to see what a useful role the AFL could play both inside the country and outside.

When war finally broke out in Europe in 1914, most of the AFL leadership denounced it, and warned against the US entering the war. This reflected the sentiments of a big majority of the working class and the farming population. The Federation also opposed moves in the US toward conscription, but only to argue for a better paid professional army.

By the beginning of 1916, however, Gompers had started to advocate, even if only indirectly at first, that the US should intervene in the war. Gompers and some of his associates took part in "preparedness rallies" organized by right wing and business organizations. Supposedly aimed at building support for a naval defence of American cargo ships crossing the Atlantic, these rallies were in fact propaganda vehicles aimed at preparing the population for war. Often they were made up of thugs who went on to attack anti-war demonstrations organized by the IWW, anarchists, socialists and local peace councils. Within the AFL leadership, Gompers carried out a systematic campaign to get it to shift its isolationist position.

Finally, in October 1916, Wilson appointed Gompers as labour's representative to the Advisory Commission of the Council for National Defence. It was the first time organized labour had been so recognized its first official position. Gompers used the appointment to argue that if labour wanted further representation, it had to join forces with the Wilson Administration. The war was going to happen, labour couldn't stop it so the AFL needed to be inside government circles in order to defend labour's interests. There was, however, some opposition on the AFL Executive Council. The Mineworkers Union was completely opposed to any US war, and other unions, including the Teamsters, argued that the AFL shouldn't "push the president" into the war.

Nonetheless, Gompers was able, in March of 1917, to put the AFL Executive Council on record in support of US intervention: "But, despite all our endeavours and hopes, should our country be drawn into the maelstrom of the European conflict, we, with these ideals of liberty and justice herein declared, as the indispensable basis for national policies, offer our services to our country in every field of activity to defend, safeguard and preserve the Republic of the United States of American against its enemies whoever they may be." The last phrase, "enemies whoever they may be" was a bit disingenuous since, by this time, Gompers was regularly denouncing the Kaiser and the German autocracy.

In return for their support, AFL leaders asked for posts on all commissions and boards set up to carry out the war; it also asked for government limits on profits; trade union wage rates in military goods industries and equal pay for women. They got the posts.

Gompers, asking the government to recognize the AFL as the representative of workers, organised and unorganised, wrote to Wilson, "It may be said as a truism that either the government and the employers will have to deal with the representatives of the bona fide organized constructive labour movement of the country or they will have the alternatives of being forced to take the consequences of the so called IWW with all that implies."

One month after the AFL gave its advance approval, the US entered the war. Gompers in his autobiography later was to explain the AFL's position: "Organized labour realized that the most valuable service it could contribute to winning the war was to help maintain and raise production levels."

World War I opens the door to markets and the AFL

The summer of 1917 was marked by an important wave of strikes, particularly in the west where the IWW was strongest. It was in this situation that the AFL endorsed the recommendations of the War Labour Conference Board, on which its representatives sat, that there be no strikes and no lockouts. The prohibition on strikes was acceptable, said the AFL, because the board also declared that workers would have the right to organise trade unions and to bargain collectively during the course of the war. (Of course, they could not use "coercive measures of any kind to induce persons to join their organization, nor to induce employers to bargain or deal therewith.")

As soon as the US entered the war, the Socialist Party, which at that time had real roots in the working class and among the small farmers, held an emergency convention. Restating its opposition to the war and to any US intervention, it called for a massive mobilisation against conscription, and it pledged its member sections and militants to carry on "continuous public opposition" to the war. A tiny minority, grouped around some of the SP's well-known intellectuals, offered a pro- war resolution to the convention. After getting less than three per cent of the vote at the convention, this minority left, soon to begin working with the AFL leadership to drum up support for the war.

The growing pacifist movement had important roots inside the AFL itself, with local leaders joining the IWW and the Socialist Party, as well as other opponents of the war in establishing local Workmen's Councils, which were part of a broader movement to establish a nationwide peace organization, called the People's Council. In New York City, where the Workmen's Councils had got their start, over 90 local unions, representing 900,000 workers were enlisted in this movement against the war. The People's Council called for a nationwide founding convention for September 1917 in Minneapolis.

Gompers proposed that the AFL, along with the pro-war socialists, set up a competing organisation, the American Alliance for Labour and Democracy, whose purpose was to "increase working class enthusiasm" for the war. It provided propaganda materials, organised rallies, circulated "loyalty pledges" in workplaces. The Alliance also called for a pro- war conference, also in Minneapolis and at the same time the People's Council was to meet. Minnesota's governor then blocked the meeting of the People's Council. The Alliance conference pledged support to the US government until "complete military victory" was gained. Echoing Wilson's claims that the US was fighting a war to "make the world safe for democracy," the Alliance declared that anyone who publicly disagreed with the war "should be repressed by the constituted authorities." So much for "democracy."

While the Alliance was, to all appearances, a creation of the AFL, it was in fact funded and directed by the bourgeois state. The Committee on Public Information one of the new governmental bodies set up to serve the war effort began to transfer funds secretly to the Alliance. Moreover, George Creel, a veteran newspaperman who headed the Public Information committee, called on various capitalists to contribute money to the Alliance also secretly.

Creel, in fact, directed the Alliance, writing its publications and resolutions, proposing its activities. Labour simply provided the foot soldiers for carrying them out. Among other things, he advised Gompers to use the kind of radical language which would not threaten the war effort, but which would give the appearance of "independence" to the Alliance and to the AFL: it should favour free speech, for example, but not condemn the governor of Minnesota for preventing the People's Council from meeting.

In any case, the AFL had initiated the tri-partite arrangement through which organized labour would work closely with business and government, providing a cover for US policy at home and abroad, something which would become even more important during and after World War II.

In November 1917, Wilson addressed the AFL Convention, which was being held in Buffalo. Not only was his trip to the convention his first outside of Washington since the US had entered the war, Wilson was the first American president ever to appear at a labour convention. Delegates opposed to the war found it difficult in this situation to oppose the patriotic steamroller that Gompers had organised. The convention passed a resolution demanding that aliens be inducted into the armed services or be deported. The next year, the AFL followed this up by endorsing the Espionage Act of 1917, which effectively made it illegal to oppose the war, and the Alien and Sedition Act of 1918, which made it a crime to criticise the government during wartime. It was under the Sedition Act that Eugene Debs, Socialist Party candidate for president, was prosecuted and sentenced to ten years in prison.

In February of 1918, the AFL, through the Alliance, organised a one week nation-wide "labour loyalty" program, drumming up support in the workplaces for the war. The AFL made a constant barrage of propaganda against strikes: "No strike should be inaugurated which cannot be justified to the man risking his life on the firing line."

It is the same cynical argument heard over and over in every war: opposition to government, its wars and its policies is an attack on... the troops. No! The government which sent them into battle to defend profit is the one who attacks the troops.

The AFL was not able fully to overcome the strong sentiment opposing the war, but it certainly helped mute it, just as it helped block the development of the strikes that had broken out in the early months of the war.

In the last months before he came out openly for the war, Gompers had declared: "No class renders such sacrificial service during war as does labour. In war labour sees the results of years of struggle for wider justice swept away." This is as fitting a description as any of what World War I meant for the working class.

"Labour statesmen"

In the spring of 1917, President Wilson invited the AFL to send a representative with a US delegation going to Russia after the fall of the Czar in order to convince the new provisional government of the need to remain in the war against Germany and to try to moderate the Russian movement. James Duncan, AFL vice-president, later said he went to explain that "the right to strike does not mean that we want to strike....responsibility sobers men and makes them more careful in their action." Gompers wired the Soviet in April, saying that "freedom is the product of evolution, not revolution." In May, he wired again, calling on the Soviet to disregard all movements for peace, which could only be coming from "German agents."

Needless to say, the AFL's first attempt at "labour diplomacy" was not a roaring success. Nonetheless, it marked another new step for organised labour. It was the first time an American administration had asked labour's help in carrying out foreign policy. It was not to be the last. Cables regularly flew across the Atlantic from Gompers and other AFL leaders. Labour missions were sent to various allied countries, with the aim of reinforcing the commitment of the British Labour Party as well as other European socialists to the war. When Europe's "moderate" socialists, reflecting the wa-weariness of European workers, began to raise the idea of an international peace conference regrouping labour and socialist delegations from both sides, the AFL stalled it, arguing that any movement for peace coming then could only serve the Kaiser. Autocracy, the Kaiser, German expansionism are lurking behind every peace move this was one of the AFL's regular refrains.

Productivity was another. In the spring of 1918, Gompers proposed to send labour delegations "to inspire the workers in Allied countries to the same single-minded devotion to prosecuting the War that characterised the American working man." Secretary of State Lansing instructed the US ambassador to Britain to give the delegation whatever aid it needed, adding that it was coming "to discuss labour conditions and to seek the most effective way in which the labouring classes can cooperate with and advance the policies of their respective governments in prosecuting the war."

AFL leaders began to look upon themselves as "labour statesmen." They had been given positions and status, which had been denied to labour before. They were now ready to be the loudest supporters of "total victory."

In the waning months of the war, Gompers made a tour of the Allied countries. Going to speak, supposedly, to the workers of the Allied powers, he in fact spent most of his time being feted by US diplomats, government ministers, kings and queens and European and US businessmen. He went to the front lines (more exactly, near them) in each country, where he had his picture taken for home consumption. When he did speak to European audiences, it was essentially to argue that peace can be attained only through military victory. To a meeting of the Genoa Italy Chamber of Commerce, Gompers declared: "Germany must be destroyed; she must not only have the consciousness of her defeat but also the suffering." After Germany proposed to negotiate an end to the war, based on Wilson's 14 Points, Gompers attacked anyone who favoured negotiations as traitors to their own country. His statement to this effect ended a meeting in France, which erupted in an uproar after his denunciations.

He and other AFL leaders attended an Inter-Allied Labour and Socialist conference held in London in September 1918, where they wrote the conference's statement on war aims even though they were in the minority at the conference after having threatened other members of the resolutions committee with their dossiers which Scotland Yard had transmitted to the AFL leaders, via the US ambassador.

Returning home, Gompers declared, "America is more than a country. America is more than a continent. America is an ideal, the apotheosis of all that is right." Apparently, "all that's right" was not above using police threats to get what it could not get by force of argument.

"America's manifest duty"

With the conclusion of the war, Gompers took his place beside Wilson when Wilson went to Versailles. In a sense, Gompers played hard cop to Wilson's soft cop, continuing to oppose any idea that working class leaders from both sides of the war might sit down together, demanding that Germany be made to pay the cost of "its" war. And he took the chair of the International Labour Commission set up at Versailles diverting its discussions into the development of legislation to be presented to the various governments to ratify. At the same time, he proclaimed that the US could not be bound by any decisions taken there, and in fact argued against many of them on the grounds that they were too "socialistic." In any case, the Labour Commission was a dead letter from the start, its main purpose having been to prevent any declarations of support for the Russian workers' revolution, and to block any postwar conference that would have grouped workers organizations from both sides of the war, something which socialist and labour organisations in Europe had been calling for.

On the return home after Versailles, Gompers took the podium against the recurrence of isolationist sentiment growing up in the US, arguing that it was "holding America back from her manifest duty." In arguing that the US now enforce an "Open Door" for American products around the world, not only was Gompers reaffirming the AFL's long-time stand, he was also acknowledging the aims for which the US had entered the war: to be able to break Europe's hold over areas that US corporations wanted to enter.

Gompers also acted to block support growing for the Russian workers' revolution, even inside the AFL itself, where there were calls for recognising the new Soviet government, lifting the blockade and withdrawing US and other troops from Russia. In both the 1919 and 1920 AFL Conventions there were sizeable minorities raising these issues. In 1919, Gompers substituted a vague resolution calling for the withdrawal of all troops from Russia, "at the earliest possible moment," ignoring the question of recognition. In 1920, the final resolution was nothing but a condemnation of the Soviet government.

The end of the war brought a stupendous strike wave that swept the country, including the Seattle General Strike and the Great Steel strike. The new "labour statesmen" strove to show their sense of responsibility. Gompers denounced the "red menace," and "Bolshevism raising its head in the US labour movement." In some places, AFL leaders tried to block strike movements particularly in steel. But the AFL was not able to channel this vast movement behind it, nor even to slow it down very much. The state moved with force against the strike movement, expelling immigrants in the Palmer raids, organizing the Sacco and Vanzetti show trial, killing and imprisoning native born strike leaders of this vast movement. The first targets may have been the IWW, anarchists, socialists and rank and file fighters. But the attacks which the corporations and their state carried out spilled over into attacks on the AFL. Gompers and other leaders proposed no way to resist. The federation saw its numbers, which had increased during the war, drop precipitously. Standing at more than four million in 1920, AFL numbers had declined to less than three million by the time the financial markets crashed in 1929.

If Gompers expected to go on playing the diplomat's role after Versailles, he was sorely mistaken. He continued to denounce the Soviet menace; he supported the US invasion of Nicaragua in 1927. But there were no more invitations to accompany the president, no more dinner invitations.

A permanent position in the state apparatus

It required the coming of the next war for the bourgeois state to recall labour back into service. By this time, however, the AFL did not stand alone. It had been joined by the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organisations), formed by the second great explosion of the unskilled workers in the sit-down strikes of the mid to late 1930s. In many ways, it was the CIO bureaucrats who played the most important role during World War II, precisely because they sat on top of the federation whose unions had won the confidence of the most combative layers of the working class during the strike waves.

World War II was World War I all over again, just writ large. Once again, the US stayed out of the war, letting the European powers weaken each other before it finally intervened. And once again, the sentiment of large parts of the population opposed US entry. That can be seen, for example, in the widespread movement for the Ludlow amendment to the US constitution, which would have required any decision to go to war to be submitted first to a popular vote by the population. Certainly, as documents and records of discussions recently released have shown, the Roosevelt Administration was very aware of the problem: Roosevelt's advisers told him that without a first strike by Japan, it would be almost impossible to muster the support needed to carry out a new war.

By 1940, it was evident that the Roosevelt Administration was preparing the "home front" for war. It passed two new laws to deal with the opposition it would face in carrying out this war: one, the Smith Act, an addition to the World War I sedition acts, which now declared it a crime simply to publish or circulate seditious literature or to establish an organisation that would "teach, advocate and encourage" sedition. The other was the Voorhis Act which required all organisations affiliated with an international body to give a list of their members to the government apparently in the event that any organisation tried to build an international solidarity campaign in opposition to the war.

At the same time, the government moved to block the development of further strikes with the support of many CIO leaders. On the one hand, it was ready to push recalcitrant companies like Ford and "Little Steel" to recognise a union; on the other hand, it prepared to move against strikes which the new bureaucrats couldn't control. The year saw an especially high number of strikes, some of which hit companies already heavily engaged in war production. The most notable of these were the Vultee, Allis-Chalmers and North American Aviation strikes, which were all denounced by the Roosevelt Administration as "blows to national defence." With his attack on the North American Aviation strike in the middle of 1940, Roosevelt stepped forward openly as a strike-breaker. He sent combat troops, armed with heavy weapons (including mortars and anti-aircraft guns!) who broke the picket lines and drove workers from the area near the plant. Martial law was declared in the area. When workers returned to work, troops stood at the gates, pulling out strike leaders, preventing them from going in. This vicious attack was supported by CIO leaders. Amalgamated Clothing Workers President Sidney Hillman one of the leading lights of the CIO was photographed at Roosevelt's side when he telephoned the order for the troops to move. National UAW leaders finished the job after the strike was broken by suspending all local officers.

In the middle of 1941 came another key attack in preparation for the war: the indictment and trial of 29 people who had been connected with the strikes and organising drive of the Teamsters throughout the upper Middle West, including the three Minneapolis strikes in 1934, which had opened the flood gates to the strike wave that built the industrial unions. With ink on the newly passed Smith Act barely dry, the government used it to prosecute the defendants, most of whom came from the Trotskyist organization, the Socialist Workers Party. This trial was an attack on the one political organisation that continued to oppose the coming war and, at the same time, on one of the most militant centres of the union movement of the 1930s.

The national leadership of the Teamsters rushed to the government's aid in fact, it had attempted to take over the local organisation in the months leading up to the indictments, without success. Now it sent in hired thugs to attack workers in the Minneapolis area, while it formally took the "local" over.

There would be no recognition of "constitutional rights" in the trial which railroaded the SWP militants to prison, just as there were none in Debs' trial during World War I. The new war to "save the world for democracy" was to be carried out on the home front every bit as undemocratically as the previous one had been.

In the interests of war production

In World War II, even before the formal declaration of the US entry, AFL and CIO leaders demanded that labour be given "full representation on all government defence agencies." In December of 1940, Hillman was appointed an associate director of the Office of Production Management. Murray, head of the CIO, proposed to create industry councils, with labour representation, to coordinate production, train workers and "promote industrial peace." Murray and an AFL official were given spots on the 9-member National Defence Mediation Board.

Immediately after Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt called a labou-management conference, both sides of which agreed there should be no strikes during the duration of the war, an agreement the top union bureaucrats, with the notable exception of United Mineworkers' President, Lewis, steadfastly kept to. Echoing Gompers, RJ Thomas, then head of the UAW, proclaimed, "Our union cannot survive if the nation and our soldiers believe that we are obstructing the war effort."

To be more exact, union survival, from the bureaucrat's perspective, meant not opposing the government. In return for their loyalty, the Roosevelt Administration gave the unions "maintenance of membership clauses" in the military industries. The ruling of the War Labour Board which first awarded "maintenance of membership" expressed the government's interest in this affair: "Too often members of unions do not maintain their membership because they resent the discipline of a responsible leadership. A rival but less responsible leadership feels the pull of temptation to obtain and maintain leadership by relaxing discipline, by refusing to cooperate with the company, and sometimes with unfair and demagogic attacks on the company. It is in the interests of management, these companies have found, to cooperate with the unions for the maintenance of a more stable, responsible leadership." Commenting on the ruling, the chairman of the War Labour Board said: "We're going to have to call on the leaders of labour to put this [wage stabilisation] over. That being so, this is another reason for the maintenance of a more stable, responsible leadership."

During World War II, the bureaucrats organised "defence" rallies, pushed "war bonds," set- up "victory gardens" and all the other propaganda activities which were designed to build active support in the working class for the war. But their most important duty was to blunt any expression of the workers' growing anger over the sacrifices they were being called upon to make at the "homefront." Starting as early as 1942, the number of strikes spread practically all of them wildcats, most of them short-lived, but nonetheless indicating that the working class was much less ready than the bureaucrats to keep to agreements which penalised the workers and which the companies, in any case, were not respecting themselves. By early 1944, the Wall Street Journal complained, "Workers ... seem to be grabbing almost any excuse for a strike these days."

The bureaucrats could not have put down these strikes by themselves. For that, they needed the Communist Party, which had enlisted in the war effort, as a "struggle against fascism" and a "fight to defend the Soviet Union." Its militants, who had earned the confidence of the workers in the many fights they had organised during the 1930s, in many ways were the best placed to bring these strikes to an end. And, with few exceptions, they regularly stood hand in glove with the AFL and CIO bureaucrats who moved to break strikes.

The most important defiance of the no-strike pledge came during the widespread series of strikes carried out by the soft coal miners in 1943, which pushed United Mineworkers union leader, Lewis, to openly defy the Administration. When Roosevelt's threats of drafting the miners didn't bring an end to the strike, his administration offered the Smith-Connelly bill (the same Smith whose name is attached to the 1940's sedition act). This bill included a series of measures whose aim was to make striking a crime, carrying heavy prison penalties. When Roosevelt vetoed the measure (which was quickly passed by a Democratic Congress over his veto), the heads of the AFL and the CIO immediately wired him their thanks ignoring the fact that Roosevelt explained he had vetoed the bill because it did not contain all the provisions he wanted and specifically one which would have made all workers between the ages of 18 and 65 subject to "labour conscription."

Certainly, throughout the war, AFL and CIO bureaucrats complained that the administration wasn't really keeping to its promise (which it had never really made) to control prices. But they never called on the workers to defend themselves against inflation. What's worse, they condemned the workers who did try.

World War II was a replay of what happened in World War I, with this difference: by the end of the war, the American bourgeoisie had come to recognise the advantage the unions could play in providing stability and cooperating to achieve "more efficient production." The attack that would be waged at the end of the war was not against the unions themselves, but against the militants who had led the struggles of the 1930s or the wildcat strikes during the war. In this attack, they had the willing support of the bureaucrats who by then had become fully enlisted as junior partners in the state apparatus of bourgeois society.

It was from this point that the AFL and later the AFL-CIO developed the organisations that allowed them to play point man for US policy around the globe for the next half century.

to be continued

1 March 2002