OPINION: Know Your Enemy

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Up before a Rotary International Club luncheon in Manhattan last week stood the nation's top labor leader, President George Meany of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. His message for U.S. businessmen: don't go soft on Communism. If it seemed upside down for a labor leader to be telling business to beware of Reds, George Meany soon explained his point.

"Somehow or other, many in our American business community are not sufficiently alert to the danger of world Communism," he said. Their most serious error, in his view, is that they believe that Communists at home are the main Communist threat. "Since these businessmen don't see Moscow as the mainspring of the Communist menace to American progress and prosperity, and to world peace and human liberty everywhere, they turn to appeasing the Soviet rulers."

Know Your Weapon. Meany quoted a statement by General Motors President Harlow Curtice (in the current Look): "I no longer see any reason why sales of cars and other peacetime products to the Soviet bloc cannot be increased as long as such sales fit in with U.S. State Department policies." Said Meany: "Doesn't Mr. Curtice realize that to the Iron Curtain rulers, to the Communist warlords, foreign trade is not so much an economic undertaking, as we know it in the free world, but rather a political weapon to be used against us?"

Then he turned to read off a statement by that oft-bloodied but unbowed anti-unionist, Steelman Ernest Weir (in the St. Louis Post Dispatch): "Western nations should proceed on the premise that Russia now wants peace and more stable international relations," Meany snorted. "In my opinion," he said, "Mr. Weir would be serving America better if he renounced his attitude of suspicion and distrust of collective bargaining in our own country before he showered his trust on Khrushchev and his comrades behind the Iron Curtain." Somewhat to Meany's surprise—and probably to theirs too—applause broke from the 500 Rotarians.

Know Your Way. Businessmen, Meany continued, might well study the A.F.L.-C.I.O. system of sending representatives abroad to explain free-trade unionism "and the ever-better conditions of life and labor in the American economic system . . . Believe me, [Europe's] cartel-ridden economies have no idea of what free enterprise really is—let alone how it works in the U.S. .... Why could it not be made clear to some of the [foreign] businessmen how it is impossible to get sales volume without the working people and the middle classes having adequate purchasing power?"*

But as for Communist countries, "I urge you not to let the prospect of monetary profits blur your vision. Know your enemy. Don't help him. Do more than that. Help the cause of free enterprise by supporting sound economic policies and good labor-management relations at home, and democratic foreign policies overseas."

* Many a U.S. company operating overseas, e.g., General Motors, Ford, the Arabian American Oil Co., Sears, Roebuck, has taken the lead in raising wages and improving local working conditions.