JANUARY 13, 1948
NEW YORK, Monday—It seems to me that little attention has been given to General Charles de Gaulle's extraordinary proposal that trade unions be disposed of in France, and that some kind of "association" be created in which employers and employees have equal interests and equal rights. Unfortunately, however, while the interests are equal they are divergent. Therefore, unless there is a strong employees' organization, it is far easier for the employer to exert his rights than it is for the employee.
In the Hitler regime the trade unions were the first organizations to be dissolved. If a man desires to be a dictator he certainly is not going to build strong trade-union groups. Even in Russia where the trade unions are strong, they are strong only as they conform to the will of the government.
Leon Jouhaux, who recently resigned from the French General Confederation of Labor to help found the rival non-Communist Force Ouvriere, probably has exerted the most potent influence over the labor movement in France in the last few months. But he is a free agent and not a government puppet, and he would be one of the first, I feel sure, to object to General de Gaulle's idea of wiping out the free trade-union system. One of the strongest supports that the new French government has is the present free trade unions. If they thought they were going to be wiped out and incorporation into some curious organization, which was concerned as much with the interests of the employers as with their interests, I do not think that any government could count on their support.
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One of the most interesting assignments of recent months was the trip to Europe undertaken by James B. Carey, Secretary of the CIO. He was entrusted with the difficult mission of convincing the members of the World Federation of Trade Unions at their meeting that the Marshall Plan was really of value to their respective countries and of importance to labor, and, therefore, deserved their support. This was no easy task because the eastern European group is so powerful in the World Federation. Merely to present the case for the Marshall Plan before this group took a great deal of courage.
On his return to this country, I saw a statement from Mr. Carey that our Government, presumably through State Department, was bringing influence to bear to get the CIO to withdraw from the World Federation.
This seems to me a very shortsighted policy, since it would leave the field open to the labor groups in the various countries that disagree with the point of view of the United States. Such a move would leave us without a spokesman in a group in which it is important that we have influence.
If the WFTU is to have a balanced representation, our own CIO must remain within the ranks to battle side by side with labor members from other democratic countries. This is a group in which the people talk the same language and in which their interests are more or less identical on many subjects that affect labor. Here, if in few other fields, the U.S.S.R. and the United States can find points of agreement on which to work together. Why withdraw our representatives?