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M. Quarter

In the Canadian Movement

The Turn in the Industrial Union

(April 1932)


From The Militant, Vol. V No. 16 (Whole No. 112), 16 April 1932, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


TORONTO, ONT. Before beginning the discussion on the new turn in the Industrial union policy it is worth while going back to spend a few minutes on its preceding history. While I am limiting my remarks to the Dressmaker local of the Toronto Needle Trades, it was this Union that was first organized and upon which the greatest hopes and possibilities were placed.

The organization of the Industrial Union closely approximated the defeat of the Left wing in the Amalgamated where for over a year the Lefts were in control. The formation of the Dressmaker local, met with good response. Several hundred workers immediately joined. Due mainly to lack of decision and leadership, the union soon began disintegrating.

A year or so later the union was again reorganized on a very much smaller basis. About this time or soon after third period trade union policies were introduced. Unions under reformist leadership became “company unions”, strikes called by the reformists were branded as “fake stoppages in the interests of the bosses” – unity of the workers was limited in the slogan of join our union – boring from within the reformist unions was discarded for fear of activizing them.

Disintegration and isolation continued and a year later the third period trade union policies were intensified with the addition of the slogan of unity with the workers in their shops, boycott of their organizations.

The strike called by the union had all the earmarks of adventure and failed. True to their colors, the reformists did their part, by sending their members to replace the strikers. The strike called by the International Union which the Industrial Union sabotaged also landed on the rocks.

The net profit of both strikes, was that the workers are disgusted and disillusioned, and ignored both unions despite the very had conditions prevailing in the trade. Mass meetings called by the Industrial Union have dwindled down to hardly more than local meetings, while the attendance at local meetings is very small. The standing of the International is no better.

The delegates to the last congress of the R.I.L.U. returned with the crepe for the third period policies. Unions under reformist leadership are no longer company unions. Strikes called by the reformists are recognized as strikes that can be developed into real struggles over the heads of the leadership. Boring from within is again accepted. Even the united front from below now includes unity proposals made directly to the reformist unions.

Thus far the new turn would seem to indicate a partial return in the direction of real Communist policies. A real Communist turn on the part of the leadership demands open admission before the whole working class and the union of their previous false policies and premises on which they were built. The broadest discussion and lessons are to be drawn. Finally, the placing of the responsibility on the responsible parties, it is needless to remark that the centrists won’t do this. For them it suffices to throw the blame vaguely on “certain local leaders.”

What lies underneath this new turn?

I have no information to show that it is pressure from below. Certainly not from the Canadian Communists and Left wing forces. One might almost draw the conclusion that the leadership themselves have recognized the depth of the failure of their policies and isolation from the masses, have become frightened of the tomorrow when they will be called to account and are attempting to return to the only policy left open to them in the hope of forestalling their complete expose.

To sum up. The beginning of a return by the centrists in the direction of a Leninist trade union policy will strengthen the position of the Left wing Communists in particular and the Left wing forces in general. Two indications point out also to the liquidation of third period tactics in the political field as well. The question is, will not the new turn have the tendency to disclose more fully the opportunism underlying the theory of “socialism in one country” and the false policies that flow from it in all fields of work? I think it will. Will not the Centrists bureaucracy become weaker and the Left Oppositionists stronger? I again reply in the affirmative.


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