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Not in Our Name: The 'One Nation' March — Today's Trade Unions and the Left

There was a time when the mainstream trade union movement confined itself to union concerns -- a union contract that guaranteed a decent standard of living, and in turn for a negotiated agreement with the corporation, guaranteed labor stability and productivity. Large corporations learned quickly, as did the leadership of General Electric in the 1930s, that signing with the union, even as in their case a Communist-led union, meant the opportunity for both profits and economic growth. The stockholders were more than pleased, and the workers represented by the union achieved their rather minimal aims.

The unions accepted the corporation as the essential institution  necessary for economic growth and prosperity, and its leadership understood well that Marxian oriented radicalism threatened their membership’s own freedom and growing higher standard of living. Gerard Swope, the president of General Electric in the 30s and author of a highly publicized plan for a corporatist reorganization of America -- the so-called Swope Plan -- rejoiced when the Communist-controlled United Electrical Workers/CIO organized his plants and won the work force’s allegiance. “If you can’t get along with these fellows and settle matters,” he told one of GE’s vice-presidents, “there’s something wrong with you.” As for the Communist union he and his staff had to deal with, he remarked that they were “well led; the discipline good.” The CP union chief, Julius Emspak, returned the compliment by calling Swope an “enlightened” employer, who understood that “industry would have to recognize” that union leaders might eventually even have to sit on the corporation’s board of directors.

In turn for labor peace, Swope even supported a thirty-hour work week and a federal minimum wage. His goal was to integrate the work force into the system, and make it a patriotic defender of capitalism; not an antagonist.  The current AFL-CIO leadership is far removed from the type of leaders who built the industrial union movement in the 1930s, and whom Swope could easily work with.

They are also removed from the union leaders of the 1950s, such as the social-democrat Walter Reuther. Reuther built the United Automobile Workers into a forceful organization that made auto workers part of the middle-class and led them to become the kind of workers who quickly abandoned revolutionary schemes, as they found that working within our democratic system gave them the ability to realize the American Dream. Reuther also played a major part in purging the Communists from the union leadership in the post-war era, as the Communists’ allegiance to Stalin and the Soviet Union led them to function as a force seeking to align labor with America’s enemies.

I raise all these historical points because they came to mind when I viewed the trade union movement sponsorship this past weekend of the rather pathetic so-called “One Nation” rally. Scores of unions chartered buses and got some of their members to board them for their answer to Glenn Beck’s massive Aug. 28th rally that captivated the nation.

Reuther, were he alive today, would have been horrified to see what the marchers on Washington were saying in labor’s name, as well as the scores of fanatical  communist grouplets that dominated the march and that advocated a blatant anti-American and revolutionary agenda.

Writing on FrontPagemag.com, Rich Trzupek accurately observes how “Saturday’s ‘One Nation’ rally in Washington demonstrated just how far out of step the Left is with America.” Having once sought to condemn Tea Partiers as racist and anarchists, now  “they’re telling America that Tea Partiers are corporate shills.” MSNBC’s talking head, the repulsive and little watched Ed Schultz, told the small crowd that “this march is about the power to the people. It is about the people standing up to the corporations. The conservative voices of America, they are holding you down. They don’t believe in your freedom. They want the concentration of wealth. They’ve shipped your job overseas.”