Saturday, July 16, 2011

#197 / Harry Truman Socialism

I don't think that dropping the atomic bomb on Japan was good. But I do like Harry Truman. He was the 33rd President of the United States, and he had guts. One manifestation of his willingness to use the power of the people was evident in the 1952 steel strike.

When he was faced with that 1952 crisis in our economy (and its threat to the nation's ability to continue its war in Korea - another problematic military adventure in our nation's long history of such military interventions), Truman didn't just wring his hands. The 1952 steel strike was precipitated by a "labor" walkout, but Harry Truman believed that the real culprits were the capitalist owners of U.S. Steel, and other steelmakers. They just weren't willing to treat their workers fairly, because they didn't like various national policies that affected their business. It was, in a way, a kind of "capitalist strike" of a different flavor. By refusing to meet the reasonable demands of their workers, the steel companies were willing to put the entire economy (and the nation's war effort) in jeopardy. That was just what the owners "had to do," to get what they wanted. And getting what they wanted was more important than anything else! If you have the money, you should be in charge, right?

So what did Harry do? He nationalized the steel industry. You could call it Harry Truman socialism.

The Supreme Court is ever vigilant to protect the rights of the corporations (then as now). The Court said that Truman couldn't do it. But he had already done it, and when it all got "undone," the companies did what they should have done in the first place, and settled the strike their workers waged.

My thought is that we may need a little bit of that Harry Truman approach today, Mr. President!

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