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Gordon Haskell

CIO Militants

Where Were They at the Convention?

(6 December 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 49, 6 December 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

PORTLAND, Oregon, Nov. 25. – This tenth national convention of the CIO reflects in many ways the division of the world into the followers of U.S. capitalism on the one side and the adherents of Russian Stalinism on the other. No voice has been raised to proclaim the role of labor in America and the world as the third force which can oppose both these predatory powers and lead the way to a world organized in the interests of the common people.

At this convention only two forces are apparent to the naked eye. One is the small minority of delegates who represent the policies of the Communist Party, and the other Is the vast majority who support the policies of Philip Murray.

The readers of Labor Action may well wonder: where is the UAW? Where are those delegates who represent groups or unions which have in the past gone on record for a third party and for a really militant, democratic labor movement?

The answer is that they are sitting on their hands.

Militants Are Cowed

This convention will result in giving Phil Murray and the conservative-liberal ideas he represents greater power in the CIO than he ever has had before. With the complete rout of the Stalinists, no other force has appeared to take its position at the left wing of the CIO.

The militant wing is here, all right. But it is cowed and silent. Its fear of being identified with the Stalinists is so great that it dares not raise its voice in opposition either on general questions of policy, or on the completely undemocratic and bureaucratic practices used by Murray in controlling the convention.

The UAW delegation voted unanimously for the resolution which condemns any attempt to form a third party in America. The UAW delegation was prepared to fight any such statement in the resolutions committee. The resolution on political action actually passed by the resolutions committee did not contain, we are informed, the condemnation of third party efforts, but confined itself to a positive advocacy of CIO-PAC policies as carried out in the past election. However, when the printed report of the resolutions committee was distributed, the UAW delegates found that Murray had had this paragraph inserted behind the backs of the committee. Yet they apparently decided that it was “wiser” not to fight this bureaucratic trick openly and expose it from the floor.

The same goes for the undemocratic procedure announced by Murray which prevents the appearance of any minority resolutions on the floor. The resolutions committee had decided that minority reports and resolutions would be given the same privileges as those of the majority. When Murray opened the convention he simply announced that only majority resolutions would be presented, and that minority resolutions would be voted on only if the majority resolution had been defeated. The UAW delegation did not fight this undemocratic procedure from the floor.

Not Enough

It is important that every member of the UAW carefully consider the actions of their delegation at this convention. They should be compelled to give an explanation for their failure to fight for what they claim are their principles.

They have an explanation, but it isn't good enough. It isn't good enough for men of principle to say that they will fight behind the scenes, and that they will make a very clever interpretation of the fact that the resolution on political action says that no third party is to be advocated “at this time” to mean “today” but not necessarily “tomorrow.” It is not good enough for them to say that the CIO is now pretty much a Steel Workers organization as Murray has placed his men in all key regional and other national offices, and that this will have to be changed before an effective fight can be made against his conservative policies and bureaucratic practices.

It is not enough. The UAW delegation represents the largest union in the CIO with over a million members. It is not some two-by-four outfit which must fear to stand up on its feet and fight for its principles. They do not have to fear that they will be identified with the Stalinists if they have a superior program to offer the membership of the CIO.

The clever tactics of the UAW delegation and other real left-wing delegates will cost them and the membership of the CIO much in the future.

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Last updated: 6 October 2018