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Ernest Lund

Straight Talk

(19 June 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 25, 19 June 1944, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“Across these Pennsylvania hills there is a great body of men and women who, due to the selfishness of their own ill-advised and greedy leaders, sit-in in one of the citadels that must be stormed by the forces of their own consciences and patriotic thinking if the war effort is to proceed on schedule and faith be kept with our war dead.”

These words were spoken about the men and women who “stayed in” at the Brewster plant in Hatboro, Pa., on Memorial Day to work in an attempt to save their jobs.

They were spoken at a Memorial Day ceremony of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at Doylestown, near Hatboro. The speaker who spoke them was a certain Lieut.-Comdr. Earl Estes of the Navy. His words were prominently displayed on the front page of the New York Times right next to the news story about Brewster.

Estes also advised the Brewster workers to “hit the sawdust trail which leads to the mourners’ bench, where they can purge their hearts and minds of the very selfishness which, whether true or not, many of our fighting men believe motivates similar actions.”

Many of these “selfish” men and women at Brewster were working for nothing on Memorial Day, a holiday, while Estes was standing out in the sunshine talking to an audience of small business men and lawyers who were taking the day off.

Behind His Uniform

Who is this man Estes? Would his remarks hit the front pages of the big papers if he did not wear the Navy uniform?

Of course not.

Because when Estes comes out from hiding behind the uniform we see at once the reason for his hatred of working people who fight for their rights.

In private life Estes is a big Texas oil man and newspaper publisher.

No wonder, you say. Of course, no wonder.

The New York Times headline says: “Navy Officer Scores ‘Sit-In’ Selfishness.”

What if the New York Times had been honest (which is really impossible for a capitalist paper) ? it would have said: “Texas Oil Man and Publisher Scores ‘Sit-In’ Selfishness.”

But that would impress no one. That’s hardly news. What else would one expect from an oil man and publisher?

It is expected that an oil man and publisher will stand in class solidarity with the rest of the capitalist class against the demands of labor. Just as it is expected that a worker who has a brain will stand in class solidarity with the rest of the working class in struggle against capital.

Therefore, it is necessary for Estes to speak as a Navy man. Therefore, it is necessary for Estes to pretend to speak for “our fighting men.”

Voice of Big Business

Does Estes speak in behalf of the oil workers of Texas who are now serving in the armed forces?

Estes and his former employees now wear the same uniform but that does not make their interests the same. Estes will come back after the war and still be an oil man and publisher. If times are bad, he will shut down his oil wells and go to Palm Beach. His workers will go on relief.

The armed forces, we must remember, have within them the same people who make up the population. We find all classes of people represented. Estes leaves his desk and becomes an officer. John Jones leaves the oil derrick and becomes G.I. Jones.

From Estes’ speech we see that he still thinks and talks like a labor-hating capitalist. The uniform only serves as camouflage.

But what about G.I. Jones? Does he still think and talk like a union man?

Estes would like to have us believe that he speaks for “our fighting men.” Estes would like G.I. Jones to believe that the working people are his enemies. Estes, the capitalist in uniform, would like to pit the workers in uniform against their brothers and fathers at home. Estes would like to hand out his capitalist propaganda as coming front the ten million men in uniform.

Labor Must Reply

And, it is sad to note, many men in uniform have fallen for this disguised anti-labor propaganda. A few of them, of course, are just sawdust heads who always fell for company propaganda, even when at home on the job. But many are union men who knew better at home.

The responsibility for this progress of capitalist lies among service men rests upon the unions themselves. What have they seriously done to offset the news monopoly of anti-labor propaganda? With millions of dollars in the treasuries of the labor movement, why can’t we have a CIO daily newspaper? Why can’t we have a network of union-owned broadcasting stations? Why can’t we have union-owned film studios?

A progressive labor movement would have these means of public education.

And what an answer we could give Lieut.-Comdr. “Oil Man” Estes!

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Last updated: 17 October 2015