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New International, October 1947


Notes of the Month

SWP and the UAW


From <The New International, Vol. XIII No. 8, October 1947, pp. 231–232.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


At long last, the Socialist Workers Party and The Militant have announced their position on the faction struggle in the United Automobile Workers. This statement of position comes after many months of official silence and ambiguous conduct in the affairs of the most important mass union in the United States. In breaking their silence the SWP and The Militant announced their position in support of the Thomas-Addes-Leonard-Stalinist faction. This will not come as a suprise for those who have followed closely their strange attitude toward the struggle in the union.

Our own position in support of the Reutbcr group is well established. It was summarized in the September issue of The New International in Ben Hall’s excellent survey of the issues and factions in the UAW. Our readers know that we are not Reutherites but that we support this group against the Addes-Stalinist bloc. This is no specious difference. The need of the UAW and of the entire labor movement is a program and leadership based firmly on the class interests of the workers. Neither the Reuther group nor the Addes group meets this requirement. But in the absence of a qualified independent group we have advocated support of the Reuther group against its rival because, despite all its deficiencies and negative characteristics, as against the Addes-Stalinist bloc, it best represents the interests of the workers and the labor movement, even if it does this inadequately, haltingly and without a correct over-all program.

In the context of the greater struggle which faces the working class in the United States, in the conflict with Stalinism over control of the labor movement, there can be no question whom the revolutionary socialists should support, even if they do so independently and critically. Any group which is aligned with the Stalinists and dominated by their aims can never be interested primarily in defending the independent labor movement. Their aims and their course are dictated by subservience and subordination to the totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship, which is incompatible with the existence of any free or independent labor movement.

The possibilities of making the UAW a stronger and more militant union lie not through any Stalinist-Addes-Thomas-Leonard combination, but through the Reuther-rank-and-file combination. A defeat of the Stalinist-Addes bloc would be a blow to the totalitarian Stalinists and thus halt them in their endeavor to take over a union with tremendous potentialities for good in the labor movement.

Red-Baiting and Stalinism

The editorial of The Militant announcing support of the Stalinist-Addes bloc, which appeared in the October 13, 1947, issue, is a belated announcement of a policy long pursued by the SWP. How explain such a position on the part of people who never cease describing themselves as “orthodox” Trotskyists? The fundamental reason for it is their conception of Stalinism as a political reflection of the “degenerated workers’ state” of Russia, and is therefore, despite its anti-working daw and anti-socialist policies, a left wing in the labor movement! The Militant speaks sharply about Reuther’s “red baiting” as a reason for supporting the Stalinist-Addes bloc. This argument would have some validity if it could be shown that there was something “Red” about Stalinism. As our readers know, our opposition to the Stalinists has nothing in common with so-called “red baiting,” since there is nothing “Red” about Stalinism. The Stalinists are the fiercest enemies of every genuine socialist or communist movement, and the greatest danger to the labor movement.

About the only thing that is true in The Militant editorial is the statement that

“The victory of one or another of the two contending factions is going to be of crucial importance for the development of the UAW and indeed for the future of the whole CIO. For the UAW is not only the biggest union in the country but, because of its dynamic character and strategic position, the most influential in the CIO ... It is becoming clear that far more is involved than merely a clique battle over posts and positions. Great and important things for labor are at stake in this fight.”

But after making this declaration, The Militant continues with an attack on Reuther which contradicts the above and is misleading, vicious and slanderous, reading just exactly as if it were taken out of the filthy arsenal of the Stalinists themselves. All one has to do is read the SWP editorial and compare it with almost any issue of the Daily Worker. The charges against Reuther that he is a dictator, ambitious and an agent of General Motors, did not originate with The Militant. They borrowed it lock, stock and barrel from a paper called FDR (!) published by the Stalinist-Addes-Thomas group which is a smear-sheet filled with the most venomous slanders against its opponents.

One does not have to know too much about its sponsors and writers to realize that it speaks the language of Stalinism. The SWP has merely borrowed the charges and the language of FDR. In a Labor Action editorial of October 27, this similarity is clearly pointed out:

“Speaking of Reuther, FDR says: ‘He has centralized everything in GM into his own hands so that no decision of any consequence can be made in the GM local unions and plants without the authority and sanction of the GM Department, that is, Walter P. Reuther.”

Concocting a Fable

The Militant editorial echoes: ‘The GM Department is unquestionably the worst bureaucratic division in the UAW. Everything there has been centralized into Reuther’s own hands, so that no decision of any consequence can be made by the local shop committees and officers.’

FDR writes: ‘How does Reuther get away with this? Because he has a “gentlemen’s understanding” with the GM management who play ball by dealing only with him and his representatives, and ignoring all other union officials and local and shop leaders.’

The Militant editorial echoes: ‘Reuther has successfully constructed this autocratic edifice with the help of the General Motors Corporation. He has a “gentlemen’s understanding” with GM, and the latter deal only with him and his representatives and studiously ignore all other union officials, as well as the local and shop leaders.’”

It is interesting to note that The Militant constantly speaks of the Thomas-Addes-Leonard caucus, quite consciously omitting mention of the Stalinists as though they did not exist and had nothing whatever to do with this group. Nay, more, they would have you believe that the Stalinists have been thoroughly trounced in the UAW and no longer exist as a viable force in the union. Listen to The Militant’s description of the Stalinist-Addes caucus:

“... a confluence of circumstances has forced upon the Thomas-Addes-Leonard faction a more progressive role than Reuther’s. These circumstances are the reactionary nature of Reuther’s factional struggle ... Through sheer necessity and for its own protection, the Thomas-Addes-Leonard group is forced to assume the role of a progressive grouping, fighting for more militant methods (like the no-strike pledge! incentive pay! the Ford contract! – AC) and attitudes, and for the democratic rights of the union membership (!) ... victory for the Addes-Thomas-Leonard group would ensure a continuation of the present democratic setup of the UAW, maintain a variegated and collective leadership for the union and provide a freer atmosphere tor the advocacy of a progressive program and militant methods of work.”

There is not a word of this that is true. It is purely the invention of the editors of The Militant, for nothing in the real life of the UAW warrants such an evaluation of this group. If shows the pitfalls that face people when their conceptions of Stalinism are so utterly false. As the Labor Action editorial pointed out:

“We can understand a policy of supporting Reuther’s opponents, even though we consider the policy wrong, disorienting, demoralizing and harmful in every respect. But in adopting such a policy, why did the SWP find it necessary to borrow the very language of the gang whose every word, as bitter world-wide experience has taught, is suspect the minute it is uttered? The significant relationship between politics and the language of politics is well known. The policy of the SWP is mainly determined by the fantastic theory that the Stalinists are at the ‘left wing’ of the labor movement and that it must follow right behind the tail of the Stalinists. This is tragic but true. This is not the first time the SWP has repeated arguments of the Stalinists. It has seldom done it so crassly. That is a bad sign.”

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