From Fourth International, Vol.10 No.10, November 1949, pp.298-303.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
(This article was written after the UE convention but prior to the CIO convention where the split occurred. – Ed.)
The 14th convention of the UE (United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, CIO), which took place in Cleveland in September, marks the beginning of an acute crisis for the Stalinist leadership of this union. For the first time in its fourteen-year history the union leadership faced a powerful opposition, fairly well-organized and with a definite perspective. The threat of split or secession from the CIO now dominates the atmosphere in the union and no perspective of internal peace and unity will be established until this issue is resolved. For the leaders of the locals, for the rank and file, and for the leaders of the two caucuses, this is the crucial question. Where will the union be tomorrow? Where are we going?
The real interest and, desires of the rank and file of the electrical union found no clear voice at the convention, the independents being completely overwhelmed and silenced in the stifling embrace of the two bureaucracies. We will have to examine the proceedings with minute care to determine how the pressure of the ranks managed to break through in any respect. That section of the American working class represented by the UE is no exception to the fact that at the present stage of development of the labor movement the objective needs of the ranks are effectively sealed off, or bent to serve the political needs of American imperialism or the interests of Soviet foreign policy by the two warring gangs of bureaucrats.
The bureaucracy in the labor movement, whether it be “pro-American” or “pro-Russian,” continues to hold sway in the different unions to the extent that their political orientation permits them to appease the demands of the workers while acting as obedient flunkies for the two world antagonists. When the labor lieutenants either of capitalism or of Stalinism can no longer “produce the goods,” the real grassroots mass opposition to their policies will come into full expression. Until that time the workers will permit the present leaders to fight it out without intruding dramatically and powerfully into this thieves’ brawl. This is particularly true of the UE which has been subject to Stalinist domination since its founding days back in 1935-1936.
The basic and determining method of organization of this union was the use of the NLRB election machinery. After the organizational strikes against the radio shops such as RCA and Philco and against some of the small machine shops, the union settled down to the job of winning elections in the larger corporations of the electrical industry. During this period a firm alliance between Carey and his supporters and the Stalinist contingent under Emspak and Matles was effected. Not an iota of difference disturbed the internal atmosphere.
There were no organizational strikes in the large units – which set the tone for the organization after 1940 – such as General Electric, Westinghouse, Sylvania and the electrical division of General Motors. In many cases company unions in these plants were won over to the UE and the company union leaders made an adjustment to the new environment. They brought with them the tradition of “friendly relations” with the companies. In not a single case did any of these big units wage strikes on a national scale until 1946. In fact, national agreements were not achieved in GE until 1938, more than a year after the GM victory, and in 1941 in Westinghouse in the wake of the Ford and “Little Steel” strikes. The flood-tide of rank and file revolt against capitalist tyranny in the plants such as took place in Detroit, Akron, Toledo, Youngstown and Flint seemed to pass the electrical workers by. This was a decisive factor for the development of the union.
The UE came to represent the Communist (Stalinist) Party version of the bureaucratic organization of the steel workers by the Murray-Lewis machine resulting from the private agreement between Lewis and Myron Taylor of US Steel. It was the answer to a bureaucrat’s prayer of being able to “talk left” and sound “militant” but to practice peaceful “business unionism.” Since this bold talk found no expression in the actual life of the union, the membership paid little if any attention to it.
The UE, like most unions, was run by the bureaucracy not with the approval but, rather by the sufferance of the membership. The noisy propaganda of the UE that “the members run this union” actually meant then, and now, rule of the union by a tiny coterie which is loyal to Stalinism and which manages to neutralize political opponents and successfully slander and discredit any opposition.
To a far greater extent than the other big unions of the CIO, the UE has a large proportion of the membership scattered in small shops and amalgamated locals, all of which are controlled by the machine and represent a difficult problem for any opposition. This factor, plus the fact that the union has no national center – such as Detroit, Akron, or Pittsburgh – which helps to form a pattern of solitary and give courage to the ranks by the presence of sheer numerical strength, were other determining influences in establishing the union’s tradition in its years of development.
Relations with the companies up to this point have been no different from those of Reuther or Murray. In fact, for many years the national negotiators of the UE bargained on more friendly terms with management than did Reuther and many other CIO leaders in other industries. They never fought to wipe out the incentive system which oppressed the workers for so many years. This was not just a wartime sell-out on the part of the UE leadership but a continuation of pre-war policy. Instead of organizing a real struggle against this system in the large companies, they chose the easy way out: a little more “take-home pay” for a lot more work through the practice of “protecting time values,” which also protected company profits.
The two large minorities in the union, women and Negro workers, never got the full protection which a militant union should have afforded them. Approximately 35% of the members are women. In many shops a wage inequity between women and men workers doing the same work still exists. Except for the Stalinist official, Ruth Young, there is not a single woman who is prominent in the national or district leadership of the union. Particularly in the big shops, the Jim Crow practice which prevents Negro workers from taking skilled jobs or of being upgraded according to seniority has never been opposed too vigorously. During the war the issue was completely forgotten. On this question the record of accomplishment of the UE is easily one of the worst in the CIO, far behind the UAW and even lagging behind Murray’s steel union. There is not a single Negro on the General Executive Board, very few in the district leaderships and a not much better proportion in the large locals.
This inglorious record of “achievement” is beginning to catch up with the Stalinist leadership. In 1946 the strike votes in the UE plants, despite the national strike fever which swept the nation, showed smaller majorities for strike action thin did the votes in steel, auto and elsewhere. It was a concrete expression of the absence of a militant tradition and training right in the unions. Some locals almost collapsed before the strike ended and were propped up by help from other locals in the area.
Such is the background of this NLRB, milk-fed war baby and piece-rate ridden union. It is the balance-sheet of years of complete Stalinist control of a mass union of American workers. Today they are plagued with raiding, the loss of strikes, a serious drop in membership and the threat of complete loss of the union. It is true that even a genuinely militant leadership would find itself hard-pressed in the face of the alliance of the employers, the labor bureaucracy and the government. But the lack of membership backing is the product of the rank opportunism and bureaucratic control with which Stalinism “built a union of the CIO.”
Some of the anti-Stalinist groupings, from the social democratic New Leader to the Shachtmanite Labor Action, would have us believe that the Stalinists “control” the UE solely by means of “dictatorial terrorism,” by a small-scale replica of Stalin’s police-state in the Soviet Union. A product of feverish Stalinophobe imaginations, this theory is actually an attempt to whitewash the bureaucratic regimes in the unions controlled by the labor lieutenants of American imperialism.
The scribblers for Reuther and Dubinsky don’t bother to explain what is unique about the bureaucratic methods employed by a Stalinist union leadership. In what way do they differ fundamentally from the repressive measures – expulsions, the use of job control, etc. – by means of which Reuther, Dubinsky, Beck, Murray and their kind persecute rebellious militants and opposition groups? The pretexts and the verbiage may be different, but the club is the same.
The theory that the Stalinists without state power can defy the laws of the class struggle and project Russian police state methods into American unions is not a new one. It was the justification of Shachtman and Burnham for supporting Homer Martin against the CIO in the split which occurred in the UAW in 1939. Shachtman never explained how the UAW-CIO, in which the Stalinists were then a formidable power, could subsequently eliminate CP influence almost completely from the union. The “police state” theory is too convenient to relinquish: it now provides theoretical justification for supporting the creatures of the State Department heading the UAW bureaucracy and the leaders of the UE opposition.
Nor can these Stalinophobes explain how the “police state” regimes of the Stalinists in the NMU and the TWU crumbled almost overnight in face of mass rank and file opposition. The Stalinist “police state” in these unions proved a far weaker barrier against the workers’ discontent than the “normal” machine-rule of the AFL and CIO bureaucrats whose crimes and betrayals are no less numerous than those “of the Stalinists. The “terror” theory explains nothing about the roots of Stalinist “control” of the UE but it speaks volumes about the real sympathies of the pseudo-socialists. It is their alibi for Carey’s failure to win the UE and is the basic motivation for their capitulation to the labor lackeys of American imperialism.
Yet this question remains of extreme importance to the rank and file of the UE who must organize the forces necessary to oust the incumbent leadership. Without clearly understanding the roots of Stalinist “control” – which are fundamentally similar to those of the official bureaucracy – it will be impossible to determine the correct methods of struggle.
Statistics may prove that the electrical workers received less gains than workers in other unions. But workers generally don’t study statistics. As far as the rank and file is concerned, the UE Stalinist bureaucracy has “produced the goods” just about as well as most of the “right-wing” leaderships, and better than many, even if this was accomplished in the honeymoon period of the war when gains were relatively easy to win. This is the primary “root” of their control.
The same lack of political consciousness, the same forces which still permit the workers the luxury of attempting to adjust themselves to capitalist society instead of seeking a way to overthrow it today, permits both bureaucracies to continue in office. These factors which permit Murray to control the steel workers also permit the Stalinists to control 490,000 electrical, radio and machine workers.
The great agitation for “CIO policy” by the Carey forces fell flat in the past and would continue to do so if the question of the split had not arisen. “CIO policy” means very little to the ranks, and for those elements, who have responded to the red-baiting drive of the Carey group it is simply a convenient rack to hang their pet hates on.
The policy of “getting the reds” attracts some of the worst among the breed of union office-seekers. The many workers who resisted the red-baiting attack in the UE were driven to the defense of their Stalinist leadership because they identify such an attack with capital and reaction – typical, in their minds, of the usual big business attack on all unio’ns as being “radical.” Many of them say: “All unions are radical, and if the papers hate our union so much because we are more radical, I guess we have a, better union.”
Carey and his counterparts in the other CIO unions have thus far been unable to produce any dramatic and telling empirical evidence to demonstrate that they were better union leaders or that their leadership would produce higher wages, better working conditions, improved social insurance or stronger unions. Nevertheless other CIO leaders attempted to make some kind of positive appeal to the ranks in the struggle against Stalinist machines in their unions. Reuther, at least, had his 1946 GM program and strike leadership which attracted the workers. Curran went to the rank and file and organized some sort of progressive anti-Stalinist opposition, temporary as it was. Carey’s main weapons were “CIO policy” and red-baiting.
The UE secondary leadership in the locals, whose level of political understanding is far below that of the auto workers, is in most cases still “loyal” to the leadership which they identify with the “union.” The “enemy” (other factions) is painted in the vilest terms by the poison-pen slanderers of the Stalinist machine. To many if not most UE members the Carey faction is “an ACTU gang of outside disrupters.” “We” – the national administration – is the union to these members. Once this identity is established – and it has been to a great extent – it is extremely difficult to oust the group in power by simply shouting “red” and “Commie.” It is almost as difficult as it would be for the capitalists to destroy a powerful, well-established union, by means of a frontal assault.
The tenacious loyalty of the worker to his union is one of the dominant features of American life today. This force also protects Matles, Emspak and Fitzgerald. When the mantle of “the union” is ripped off and their naked Stalinism is exposed for all to see, they will be doomed. As Stalinists, they could not hold the union together more than two minutes, but that is not what they have been up to now to the rank and file and secondary leaders.
There is a difference, however, between the CP and the other bureaucracies which may prove to be the Achilles heel of the Matles group. By and large the membership, on controversial questions, does not support the political program of the UE leadership. The social-patriotic trend, is too great for them to support Wallace, to be against the Marshall plan, defend the policies of the Soviet bureaucracy. The fact that neither “CIO policy” nor “anti-CIO policy” excites them very much demonstrates that for the broad masses both are abstractions which do not directly affect their lives. However, once the question is posed point-blank in terms of split, the membership will be forced to take sides in order to protect its bread and butter.
The leadership of the UE, particularly in the person of James Matles, has been very fond of blowing its horn, especially since 1946. They practice the technique of the “big lie” which is endlessly repeated: “The UE set the pattern in 1946. We set the pattern in 1947 and 1948. We led the way in vacations, holidays and night turn bonus.” For a union which once boasted that it is a “non-striking union,” we have grounds to examine the record with some scepticism.
In 1946, the UE “set the pattern” by crawling behind the backs of the GM auto workers and accepting the terms which the UAW had rejected. The auto workers were left out on the street, while the GM electrical workers were ‘marched back to work after one month pn the picket lines. The only pattern set has been a pattern of treachery, betrayal and deceit, the ruthless use of the struggles of other workers to further the aims of the Stalinist leadership and to preserve their rule in UE.
Again in 1948 the UE made much ado about nothing. They yelled loud and long in the pages of the UE News, denounced the bosses, held meetings to agitate the members but never called for a strike vote or even hinted at taking one. It was still the old “do-nothing-but-talk-loud” policy which guided them. After the UAW settled with GM and Chrysler, Matles jumped on his charger and “set the pattern” by accepting the same contract with the GM Electrical Division, and then a miserable percentage raise with Westinghouse and GE which favored the higher paid workers as against the unskilled.
In 1949 the UE had a golden opportunity to “lead the way” since they had the earliest date for a wage re-opener. The union heads met with the large chains, who gave them a flat “no,” and then proceeded to call off any negotiations for a long period of time. They could have started in April, but did not do so. When the steel workers rolled onto the field of action, the UE withdrew to see what would happen. In the meantime, the UAW took strike votes at Ford and Chrysler and rolled up fine majorities for strike action. The UE tops still waited. After the steel workers hit the bricks, subsequent to their acceptance of the fact-finding report, and after Reuther settled with Ford, Matles and Co. reopened negotiations with GE, Westinghouse and RCA, all of whom could have “led the way” for at least five months.
This pattern of militancy in words and timidity of action was so obvious by 1949, that even Murray made a point of citing their “cowardly, militant inaction.” Goaded on by the provocative taunts of the Murray group, and by the necessity of “producing” something better than the other, Matles has finally called for strike votes against the large chains, but even this is still equivocal. At this writing such votes had not yet been taken.
The 1949 alibi of the UE Stalinist machine is that the “workers didn’t give us any backing in April; our union is confused by the Carey-ACTU disruption in our ranks; then we had to wait for the steel fact-finding report to see the lay of the land,” and so on. Now they are again “talking militant” in denouncing the fact-finding report which they “had to wait for.” Apparently other unions don’t have factions and caucuses which lead to what the monoliths call “disruption.” Any opposition is disruption to them.
At the convention the Stalinists placed themselves in the position of being the militant spokesmen for a wage increase and against the fact-finding procedure. The Carey faction went down the line in support of the Board’s findings and the 1949 wage freeze, while denouncing the Stalinists for their do-nothing policy in GE and Westing-house. It was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. The Carey forces have not been known to be particularly militant in the big shops, and the Stalinists had a long record of doing nothing and of running to government boards during the war for settlements.
The debate on the two resolutions on collective bargaining did accomplish one thing. It demonstrated that an independent, militant opposition could have annihilated the spokesmen for both caucuses and exposed the false policies of both Murray and the Stalinists. The minority resolution gave concrete criticism of past and present policy and called for a “general wage increase to equalize earnings with those prevailing in steel and auto.” This was the first time the Carey group even took a bread-and-butter .issue to the convention.
The speech of Paul Jennings of the Sperry Gyroscope Local 450 in Long Island was probably the best attack on the Stalinists that a UE convention ever heard. He did an annihilating job of exposing the New York District leaders and their recorded failure to achieve any gains in recent negotiations. He demonstrated that a superior contract was won with his company, and that his local did that job. When Matles took the floor to praise the contract and take some credit for it the demonstration against his remarks was so intense that he had to leave the microphone. It was a new experience for him. Jennings’ excellent attack on the Stalinists was blunted by his support of the Carey resolution which backed the steel fact-finding report. Both sides dealt telling blows against their opponents.
It was in this debate that the objective needs of the ranks managed to push through the fog of “right-left” controversy to find expression – even if in distorted form. It also was the key to the “secret” of how to defeat the Stalinists. It gave conclusive proof of how great a threat a militant opposition, which fought a principled fight to advance the real interests of the workers on all questions – instead of scurrying to cover under the flags of American imperialism and CIO policy – would have been to the Stalinists. If the entire fight of the Carey group had been along the line indicated here, it is quite likely that it would have won the independent delegates and captured the convention. But then he would no longer be the James Carey of the Marshall Plan and the “CIO representative” at various congressional investigations and committees.
Neither could the opposition properly attack the Stalinists for their self-confessed failure to establish decent conditions for the Negroes. Jim Crow conditions in the UE are a matter of general knowledge. In an article in the UE Steward of September 1949, Ernest Thompson, business agent of Local 427, and himself a Negro, wrote:
“Since the war we must say that our record has not been impressive enough in the fight for Negro rights. There have been too many instances where our white members have permitted the bosses to discriminate against Negro workers in the shops.”
This comes from a man who supports the administration and is covering up their failures by speaking about the “members.” But not a single voice was raised at the convention to expose the complete failure of the UE leadership to wipe out Jim Crow in the shops and in the union. Carey, a member of the “CIO Committee to Abolish Discrimination,” should have taken the lead to expose the Stalinists on this issue. Neither he, nor his friends, rose to do so.
The program which Thompson offered in the article should be the program of any UE opposition on this question, namely:
A national exposure of the inadequacies and betrayals of the Stalinists in connection with the problems of the Negro and women workers could win tremendous support in the ranks, but the present opposition prefers the support of reactionary elements to launching such a struggle.
The opposition did effectively point out the drop in UE membership, making this specific in such cases as Amalgamated Local 475, which dropped from 25,000 to 8,000. The Stalinist figure-jugglers, just prior to the convention, again started using the figure of 600,000 UE members.” This is obviously false. Of all the large unions this one has witnessed the most catastrophic decline in membership since the end of the war, from a high point of over 700,000 members in 1944 to below 400,000 today. Lay-offs have been severe, and the raids and secessions have taken tens of thousands out of the UE. In 1948 the administration claimed only 480,000 members and admitted that 85,000 of these were laid off in the “recession.” The Carey figure of 385,000 seems to be accurate and conforms to the membership represented in convention voting – far more so than the vain boasts of the UE officers who are trying to blow themselves up to the size of the UAW and the steel union.
But the “horn-blowing” technique will be of little service to them in the coming struggle or at the final denouement of Stalinism in the UE.
Some circles, such as the Shachtmanites, are now proclaiming the “democratic” character of the new UE opposition” which presented itself at the 1949 contention. It is true that they gathered new forces, such as the delegation from the GE plant in Lynn, Local 201, and from the Westinghouse plant in Pittsburgh. Fred Kelly, candidate of the opposition against Fitzgerald, was a long-time supporter of the Stalinist administration and only broke with it this year. For the first time the opposition presented a serious challenge to the administration, going down to defeat by a three-to-two margin as compared to the five-to-one and six-to-one majorities of the Stalinists at the previous.post-war conventions.
But to call the Carey group “democratic” or “progressive” is to distort the meaning of such words into complete gibberish. The conference which met at Dayton to plan the opposition policy represented only the Carey “pork-choppers.” The rank and file was never consulted in the drafting ,of an opposition program. Its program on the question of fact-finding boards, and on the other disputed questions such as local and international autonomy, democratic right to decide political policy in each union, adherence to CIO policy, can hardly be called “progressive” except by those with strong imaginations.
The Carey opposition is a poor development, a child born of sick parents and nurtured in the poisonous atmosphere of smoke-filled rooms and consultations with priests. The fresh air which the rank and file could have provided was never permitted to enter. Although the Carey group is not completely an ACTU phenomenon, as the Stalinist slanderers would have us believe, the “labor priests” have influenced it a great deal.
At the time of his split with the Stalinists back in 1941, Carey symbolized the militant organization of the radio and machine shops by strike action. His ouster by the Stalinists at that time by the narrow margin of 635 against 539, was the product of a carefully planned Stalinist coup. The split was on the war question since it was the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact and Carey was trumpeting for aid to Britain and the Stalinists for the “Yanks Are Not Coming” Committee. Then, as now, Carey did not contest them on the question of how to fight against the companies. He could only shout “red” and was completely outmaneuvered.
During the war years he and his henchmen kept quiet and collaborated in foisting the sell-out policies on the membership. There was no visible opposition offered at that time because the two political lines were welded together. No rank and file insurrection took place such as that which appeared in the UAW against the “No-Strike Pledge” in 1943-1944. When Carey reorganized his faction in 1946 he was still acting as representative of the interests of the US State Department.
Since 1946 the Careyites have hardly covered themselves with glory on the wage front. They never opened their mouths at the conference boards to challenge the demands or strategy of the Stalinists. They did not do particularly well in their own locals in putting up a militant fight against the companies. Carey’s continual emphasis on “politics” and his silence on wages repelled decent unionists who wanted to fight against the Stalinists. His behavior made it an easy job for the machine to make the tag of “outside disrupter” stick.
In 1941, the UE was a small union, and the members today know little and care less about Carey’s early record. They don’t read history and statistics to decide what to do in the union. Only today counts, and today the odor surrounding the Carey caucus repels rather than attracts. The powerful propaganda machine of the administration has been very effective in convincing many in the ranks that this “outside force” must be defeated in order to preserve and protect the union.
Carey’s activity at the conventio plus the clever demagogy of the Stalinists, succeeded in sending many independent delegates back to their locals as firm defenders of the UE leadership. Gone and forgotten were the UE crimes of the war period. To many militants the present triumvirate of Fitzgerald, Matles and Emspak represents militant, aggressive unionism and the Carey people are “disrupters,” “company men,” “yellow-unionists” and “fact-finders.” It is unfortunate, but that is the situation. It is also a contributing factor in explaining why no independent, left wing grouping has yet arisen on, a national scale. The two gangs of thieves have succeeded in corrupting and prostituting most of the independents for their own purposes.
This is the situation in the union as the delegates and the ranks face the question of a split.
Since 1946 the Stalinists in the CIO have been like people walking on eggshells in the attempt to work out a new line. It has been a long time taking shape, the hesitation giving proof that their union base was precarious, that they were unsure of their membership and how far they could go. Certainly this was true in the UE where the Stalinists ducked the question of supporting Wallace at the 1948 convention. In effect, the Stalinists have followed a hand-to-mouth policy, reacting from day to day against the punitive decisions of the top CIO leadership.
But now the showdown is no longer to be put off. Anticipating the fateful decision to be made at the CIO convention, the Stalinists have decided to split rather than submit to Murray’s dictation. The UE, the last major CP stronghold of national importance in the CIO, saw the finishing touches put on this policy.
In a six-point ultimatum addressed to the CIO, which obviously will not be granted, the GEB is empowered by the UE convention to withhold per capita tax from the CIO if their demands are not met. These demands order Murray to lift the charters of secessionist locals, press charges against raiders, to order Carey to “cease and desist in wrecking activities,” and to stop “interfering in the affairs of the UE.”
The legitimacy of the demands for a cessation of raids against the UE cannot be challenged. Yet it is a strange, ironical sight to see the Stalinists become the champions of democratic rights and autonomy. During the war they themselves used the whip of “CIO policy” to hound and silence dissidents in the UE. They infringed on the autonomy of local unions and will do worse now. In fact, the GEB is now empowered by an amendment to the constitution to step into any local where “disruption” exists and to place the “guilty” parties on trial before the GEB if the local fails to act within 10 days. It is noteworthy that the Stalinists in the UAW bitterly and correctly condemned as “bureaucratic” a similar proposal made by Reuther at the UAW convention.
Justified though their complaints may be against the abuse of their rights by the CIO, the Stalinists are in reality not campaigning for the principle of autonomy hut merely for their own right to rule over the unions they control without interference from bureaucrats in other unions or from their own members. The Stalinists’ ultimatum and its threat to withhold per capita tax is essentially an attempt to put the onus for the impending split on the CIO leadership. This was clearly manifest in Fitzgerald’s reply to reporters who asked what the UE would do if the CIO refused to accede to its demands. He said: “To hell with them.” It was manifest in the preparations to purge the union of opposition before the split with the CIO occurs and is indicated by the following GEB resolution directed against: the Carey group:
“We, condemn these disruptora and traitors, who are acting as puppets for outside forces who wish to destroy democratic industrial unionism in the US. We call upon the membership to repudiate them, to unite against them and the employers and to drove the traitors out of their locals and out of their unions.”
These measures, however, are essentially the reflex actions of Stalinist bureaucrats to the offensive of the CIO leadership. The real initiative and responsibility for the split is on the side of Murray, Reuther, Carey and Co. The Stalinists, are not being punished for their crimes against the electrical workers, nor for their treacherous rupture of the solidarity of the workers front against the corporations in past strikes. There is no “CIO policy” on such questions. The Big Brass of the CIO, no more than the Stalinists, could not pass muster under a policy which held them accountable for their loyalty to the workers’ interests.
The Stalinists have been indicted and will probably be “hung” at the CIO convention for their refusal to endorse the Marshall Plan and the North Atlantic Pact, i.e., for their “disloyalty” to the foreign policy of American imperialism. That is the sole issue. The resistance of the Stalinists to CIO dictation is motivated primarily by the interests of the Kremlin’s “cold war” strategy and not at all by a desire for a more radical policy which would better serve the interests of the workers. Conversely, the aims pursued by Murray and Carey in the split are prompted by the needs of the State Department, by a desire to house-break and bureaucratize the CIO. Confronted with this Hobson’s choice, the militants can follow only one course: to continue to, wage an unremitting wa,r against the criminal bureaucracies, on both sides without permitting themselves to be isolated from the CIO which represents the main stream of the workers in the electrical and mass production industries.
A grim perspective faces the rank and file of the electrical industry in the coming period. They will be caught in the pincers of the civil war between the two bureaucracies and will pay the price with broken unions and torn-up contracts. Neither side will hesitate for a moment to sacrifice union gains so as to obtain “sweetheart agreements” at the expense of the workers. Jurisdictional picket lines and strikebreaking will be on the order of the day. And we can be certain that the corporations will exploit the fratricidal conflict to weaken unionism in the industry.’
The chances under these conditions for a Stalinist-led union to survive’ are slim indeed. It will face the combirfed force of the CIO apparatus, the red-baiting press (which will link the Stalinist union leaders with the 11 CP leaders convicted at Foley Square), the corporations, the state and city governments and the courts. In addition, the AFL will probably intervene to snatch what it can for its craft union affiliates.
It may be that under such conditions the Stalinists will make a turn in the direction of militant action. But the, forces against them are formidable. The corporations are now obdurate in their opposition to granting any new concessions. If the powerful steel and coal unions cannot secure trifling demands without a life-and-death struggle, what are the chances for an isolated Stalinist union fighting an even more powerful array of enemies? Here the past sins of the Stalinists will catch up with them: a membership trained in opportunism, and a union erected on the foundations of “business unionism” is poorly prepared for such a remorseless struggle.
In a situation laden, with dagger for all the workers of UE, the most pressing task for the militants is the fight to save their union and their hard-won gains. Lacking the independent strength to defeat the unprincipled bureaucrats in both camps, it is nevertheless necessary to organize, their forces on a program in opposition to the interests of the lackeys, of the State Department and of the Kremlin. Such a program would consist of demands for rank and file control of wage policy, for a real fight for the thirty-hour week, for the formation of an independent labor party, for genuine democracy and the return to union autonomy within the CIO.
The real mass explosion which will give rise to a powerful grass-roots opposition capable of giving new leadership to the UE and the CIO generally has not yet taken place. But the forces which will generate such an explosion are accumulating in capitalist society and find their personification in the Trotskyists and in the thousands who think like them without knowing it. Such a leadership will build a movement free of the dictates of the State Department or the Kremlin and will lead great struggles in the coming period. To believe otherwise is to condemn the working class to eternal subjection to capitalist tyranny.
Last updated on: 17 March 2009