Reforms: Concealed Measures of Reaction (1947)


Reforms: Concealed Measures of Reaction
from the Weekly People, July 5, 1947
as reprinted in The People, April 6, 1991, page 6

It has been said that the new shackle-labor law would turn the labor-relations clock back to "before the Wagner Act." This is wrong. It is an appraisal which fails to comprehend the real nature of the new law or the Wagner Act. Before the Wagner Act, the political state stepped in with its court and police and militia to lend a helping hand in breaking strikes. But the state had no authority for dictating to employers and workers the rules under which they should negotiate the purchase and sale of the latter's labor power. The Wagner Act established the principle of government regulation of labor relations.

Except for a classconsrious few, the workers failed to grasp the sinister nature of this principle. To the average Joe, it seemed as though the capitalist state had suddenly become a champion under whose benign protection he could join a union without losing his job. The feet that, along with the new "rights" it gave to the workers, the state asserted its own right to be the dominant voice in capital-labor affairs held implications too subtle for him to grasp.

They were not too subtle for the United States Supreme Court though. When the The People Wagner Act was validated, the court hinted broadly, in reply to the charge that the act was "one-sided," that it was "dealing with the power of Congress, not...with the extent to which the policy should go." There was nothing in the Constitution, said the court, which forbade "cautious advance, step by step." In time, Congress could extend the application of the new principle until the collective capitalist (the state) had the workers right where the employers want them.


The lesson -- a vital, though costly, one for the workers-is this: The Taft-Hartley Act expands and extends the principle which the Wagner Act introduced to American capitalism, and which the Wagner Act first made palatable to the American working class.

More -- the Wagner Act, often misnamed "labor's Magna Carta," was an important step to the present bold attempt to strait-jacket the workers. The workers had first to accept the idea cf state regulation. Once they accepted it, the force of their protest over the extension of state regulation was weakened.

It is important that the American workers face up to the fact that the Wagner Act was what the SLP called it from the start -- a concealed measure of reaction.

It is important because only when reforms at this stage of capitalist dissolution are recognized as traps and lures is the working class prepared to initiate a movement aiming for its emancipation.