Chapter XV PATTERN OF SUPPRESSION
We have seen the war powers, which are essential to the preservation of the nation in time of war, exercised broadly after the military exigency had passed and in conditions for which they were never intended, and we may well wonder in view of the precedents now established whether constitutional government as heretofore maintained in this republic could survive another great war even if victoriously waged.
From an address delivered by Charles Evans Hughes at the Harvard Law School, June 21, 1920.
The real traitors to America at present , . . are precisely those false patriots who cry down truth, obstruct the path of social discovery, deny a free forum to Intellectual Honesty, pretend— while storm clouds gather ominously overhead,— that America is a cooing dove of peace and prosperity, a bird of paradise, a harbinger of glad tidings to a world in despair.
From Samuel D. Schmalhausen’s preface to Behold America!, published 1931.
I. Grim Schedule
For several moments, in pensive silence, Truman contemplated the giant thundering waterfall. Then, thoughtfully, the President said: “I’d sure hate to go over ’em in a barrel.”
There were, at the time, other problems confronting the American people.
Since the end of the war, the cost of living had continued to soar, with wages lagging far behind. By June 1947, according to Department of Labor statistics, prices had registered an 1 8 percent increase over June 1946. “If the present trends of living costs continue,” warned the New York City Hospital Commissioner, Dr. Edward Bernecker, “there is a grave danger that the health of large segments of our population will deteriorate.” Should food prices climb still higher, said Dr. Bernecker, there would be “a definite increase in the rate of illness in a population weakened by malnutrition.”
Regarding the greatly increased cost of food, Senator Robert A. Taft dryly commented that he agreed with Herbert Hoover that “the best answer is for the people to cut down on their extravagance. They should eat less.”
The housing shortage had reached emergency proportions. Approximately three million American families were sharing their living quarters; hundreds of thousands were desperately searching for places in which to live; more than 20,000,000 people were living in slum areas, shacks and iiretrap tenements; and one-third of all the families in the nation were living in homes lacking minimum standards of decency.
And, as the living standards of the American people declined, the grim schedule of the offensive against their political and economic rights moved inexorably ahead . . .
More than two hundred anti-labor bills were pending in Congress, and one state after another was enacting legislation aimed at undermining the strength of the trade union movement.
In Nebraska, South Dakota, and Arizona, the closed shop was made illegal. Anti-union shop or “right to work” bills were passed in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida and Alabama. Regarding eight anti-labor bills passed by the Texas legislature, the Manufacturers’ Association in that state noted with satisfaction: “The legislature’s action has . . . answered the aims of this organization.”
On June 23, 1947, the United States Congress enacted a law which, in the words of the American Civil Liberties Union, “in one sweeping act aimed at labor’s economic and political power put many of its hard-won rights of more than a decade in a legal straight-jacket.”
Officially designated as the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, and more familiarly known as the Taft-Hartley Law, the new statute virtually nullified the historic National Labor Relations Act. It outlawed the closed shop, industry-wide bargaining, jurisdictional strikes and strikes by Government employees; revived the injunction as a strike-breaking weapon for employers; banned contributions or expenditures by unions for political purposes; and withdrew union rights from any labor union whose officers failed to sign nonCommunist affidavits.
“This bill is not a milk toast bill,” Senator Robert A. Taft, the chief architect of the measure, had remarked during the debate in the Senate on his proposed labor law. “It covers about three quarters of the matters pressed on us very strenuously by employers.”
According to Earl Bunting, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, the new law was “full of benefits” and would bring “a better tomorrow for everybody.”
The New Republic declared:
Fully exploited by anti-labor corporations and fully backed by an anti-labor government, the Taft-Hartley law can destroy trade unionism in America.*
* When the bill was sent to the White House after its initial passage by Congress, Truman had returned it with a 5,500-word veto message characterizing the measure as a “clear threat to the successful working of our democratic society.” But, in the opinion of many, the Chief Executive was only making a politically expedient gesture, with an eye to the 1948 Presidential election. On June 20, the day that Truman’s veto message was made public, the New York Times correspondent, William S. White, reported in a dispatch from Washington that the President “up until this morning had given no visible evidence of the application of White House pressure” to rally his Party forces against the bill. With the overriding of his veto by Congress practically a foregone conclusion, Truman staged a last-minute, highly publicized but completely ineffectual campaign against the measure.
“The Eightieth Congress has reversed the ruinous New Deal trend,” proclaimed a twenty-three page document entitled Republican Congress Delivers, issued in August 1947 by the RepubUcan National Committee as a summary of the accomplishment of the first session of this Congress. “This is a Congress . . . well advanced in its comprehensive program for clearing away the debris left by fourteen long years of New Deal-Democrat misrule . . .”
“The Republican Party has delivered— to big business,” wryly countered Gael Sullivan, executive director of the Democratic National Committee. “It has responded to the will of Wall Street.”
Sullivan, naturally enough, made no mention of the close working alliance that Democratic and Republican congressmen had maintained in supporting the cold war policy of the Truman Doctrine, the President’s inquisitorial loyalty program, increased appropriations for the Un-American Activities Committee, the TaftHartley law, and numerous other measures taken by the Eightieth Congress to wipe out every last vestige of the New Deal.