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Susan Green

Record of 80th Congress Spells Labor Party Need

GOP, Democrats – Two Sides of Capitalist Coin

(28 June 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 26, 28 June 1948, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Perhaps the Taft-Hartley anti-labor law is sufficient indictment against the Republican-controlled Congress which has just adjourned, to make any other charges against it almost unimportant. However, this Congress was elected because “the people wanted a change.” But by flipping the political coin from the Democratic to the Republican side the people have not bettered themselves. The record of the Congress which adjourned so that the Republican politicians could hasten to Philadelphia demonstrates the futility for the working people of the two-capitalist-party system.

On the domestic scene what has caused the people most anxiety is the cost of living, with meat (for example) now at an all-time high. Congress re-established the policy of laissez faire, and profits and prices have climbed accordingly. The only control still partially in effect is over rent, and here too changes have been made that favor the landlords.

The next pressing domestic problem is undoubtedly housing. The Taft-Ellender-Wagner housing bill which, if enacted into law, might make a beginning, though inadequate, toward supplying homes for the millions who need them – that bill has been kicked from pillar to post and back again. It had been watered down and cleansed of its “socialistic” features and stripped of essential provisions by substitutes, but not even a substitute bill was passed by Congress.

Billions for War

On the other hand, without too much argument, Congress agreed to the building up of the air force from the present fifty-five groups to seventy – even more than the brass hats had actually demanded. The billions required for war preparation were voted as a matter of course, as was the contracting authority to start building planes – while on the stock market the shares of airplane companies started upward in anticipation of better profits.

Such big affairs of American imperialism the Congress took in stride; but when it come to such a little thing as lifting the tax on oleo so that people who can’t afford to buy precious butter may at least afford the substitute, the Congress could not bring itself to do anything. There was, of course, the dairy lobby to consider.

There are at least 750,000 wage earners and their families who will not need too much convincing about the character of the Congress. They are the salesmen, taxi drivers, piece-workers and others who Congressmen think are not entitled to social-security coverage. The Supreme Court ruled last year that such workers are covered by social security; Congress passed a bill to exclude them.

An entirely different opinion of Congress is undoubtedly held by the railroads, for the legislative body obligingly passed a law allowing the roads to fix rates without fear of anti-trust prosecution, provided only that their rate-fixing agreements have the sanction of the Interstate Commerce Commission, an agency traditionally sensitive to the wishes of the railroads.

Health Is “Socialistic”

Congress took no action toward a federally supported health program, though the inability of the majority of the people to pay for adequate doctor’s services and for hospitalization results in many unnecessary deaths and in much chronic ill health. A health program is, forsooth, “socialistic.”

However, it is not “socialistic” for the long arm of the military to reach into homes and schools to yank from their normal pursuits young men nineteen to twenty-five for a twenty-one-month period of military service. Whatever the Congress left undone,it saw to it that the peacetime draft was passed and the militarization of the country furthered so alarmingly. Inductions are to begin within ninety days. To stimulate “volunteers” the law allows 161,000 eighteen-year-olds to enlist for one year of service with the regular forces. Thus, incidentally, the meaning of the word “volunteer” is changed. A youth of eighteen faces the dubious choice of taking his medicine for twelve months, or waiting till he is nineteen and then being forced to take it for twenty-one months.

Some may credit the Eightieth Congress with the passage of a DP law admitting 205,000 to this country within the next two years. The humanitarian aspect of this law is subject to question. Joseph M. Proskauer, president of the American Jewish Committee, commented: “Through ignorance or design, this legislation in effect aims at deliberate exclusion of Jews and to a lesser extent at Catholics now languishing in displaced-persons camps in Europe.” The New York Times editorially commented that the bill is“a shameful victory for the school of bigotry.” And the extremely cynical predict that Congress will never grant the necessary appropriations to make the extensive investigations of DPs that the law calls for.

The foregoing is not an altogether complete record of the omissions and commissions of the Eightieth Congress, but it suffices. The rest is in the same groove. Perhaps one more point should be added to the above enumeration.

Congress voted to separate the United States Employment Service, such as it is, from the Department of Labor, such as it is – placing the employment office under the Federal Security Agency. This so slashes the functions of the Department of Labor that the next logical step may well be to abolish the Department of Labor altogether. Of course the Department of Labor of the capitalist government is no agency of working men, but the desire of the Congress to emasculate it is symbolic of the Congress’s whole attitude to labor.

The bad record of Congress has given President Truman an opportunity to make political hay, especially since some of the worst bills were passed over his veto. However,short memories play havoc with the interests of working people. They must not forget that two years ago they were fed up with the inadequacies of the Democratic Congress and the Democratic administration, and for very, very good reasons. Whether they turn up the Democratic side of the coin or the Republican side, it’s the same coin. As far as the working people are concerned, the coin itself is counterfeit.

As never before, conditions call for the formation of an independent labor party projected by organized labor to further the true interests of the working people as a whole. An independent labor party, independent of the capitalist class and the capitalist parties, independent of the Kremlin and its political offshoots, is the answer to the anti-people record of the Eightieth Congress.

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