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Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany
([1951])

Dangers to the union position,   pp. 18-27 PDF (4.8 MB)


Page 22


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provide control over the working masses whose votes for the party
in political elections have been dwindling steadily.
The fact must be faced that the number of votes favoring KPD
works council candidates is higher than the political vote the same
group of persons would give the KPD. Moreover, the number of KPD
union officers is greater than the number of KPD unionists would
justify. The tendency on the part of unions and employers to
belittle the militancy of the Communists in their ranks or employ,
or to believe that the Communists would always put union or company
welfare over party discipline, or to call them harmless idealists,
early Christians or 71toists, etc. is understandable because
selfcongratulatory, but potentially dangerous.
If it is true that the KPD candidates for works council office
owe their election to their better oratory, the greater insistency
of their demands, their vigor in advocating labor's cause, their
youth, skill, devotion, and training, then it would appear advisable
for non-comnunist elements in the union (and the other political
parties) to match this performance. Where this was done, as in a
big machinery plant in Bavaria, the Communist majority vanished.
In meeting this challenge the unions seemed greatly handicapped by
the strict adherence to the principle of political neutrality.
This concept made it difficult to eliminate elements which quite
openly advocate their hostility to democratic unionism. The union
acted decisively only where KPD works councillors who belonged to
the union violated union law,
The most celebrated case is the one of a Paul Harig who recently
called a wildcat strike at the steel plant Haspe in Hagen, Westphalia.
For this violation of union rules, Herr Harig who, besides being
works council chairman and member of the Haspe board of directors /,
also held office in the local union organization and in the advisory
board of the national union, was promptly relieved from union office
and expelled from the union. This action in itself did not terminate
the works council chairmanship and, for a day or two, he continued
to maintain his influence over the workers from that post until
discharge by the company ended this anomaly. Many observers found
in this incident evidence of the disturbing lack of influence the
union has over the independent works council. Whether the Anglo-
2/ Haspe belongs to the group of 24 decartelized steel plants
operating under an Allied-sponsored Steel Trustee Board. Organized
labor is represented on the board of trustees, on the board of
directors of the individual plants, and in the management. Each
plant is managed by a commercial, a technical, and a labor director.
The latter has been nominated by labor but appointed by the steel
trustees.


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