B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(20 October 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 80, 20 October 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

John L. Lewis waited until the last days of the CIO convention and the meeting of the executive council afterwards to make a cautious move against the Stalinist machine within the organization.

First dispute between the CIO leaders and their Stalinist allies threatened to arise over the election of a vice president. Emil Rieve, backed by Sidney Hillman, was put up to oppose Joe Curran, Stalinist candidate. Rieve is from the textile workers union. Curran is the boss of the National Maritime Union.

Clipping the C.P.

At the last minute the Stalinists retreated and Curran withdrew his name. So the Stalinists found themselves without a man among the six vice presidents elected by the convention.

However, the real defeat for them came when the CIO executive council announced that Harry Bridges was only California director of the CIO, instead of West Coast director. A couple of Lewis men were given the northwest territory.

John Brophy, pious fellow-traveler of the C.P. who was national director of the CIO, was also clipped. He was replaced by Allan Haywood, New York CIO director.

While Haywood has played ball with the Stalinists in New York, he is a one hundred percent Lewis man. Since we worked together for a year in the United Rubber Workers Union, I could not accept the arguments of some progressives who insisted Haywood was a Stalinist.

Incidentally, Haywood is a capable organizer and negotiator, whose abilities will mean considerable improvement in the activities of the CIO from Washington.

Adolph Germer is being transferred from the Michigan CIO directorship to a post in Washington.

Tightening Hold

In essence, the meaning of these moves is that Lewis is tightening his hold organizationally on the CIO by putting “reliable” Mine Workers Union officials in all key CIO posts.

Besides, Lewis gave an interview to the West Coast press in which he made his first public pronouncement on the question of “communists in the CIO.”

“If there are any budding young communists who think they can make a life work of taking over the CIO for the Communist Party they had better forget it,” Lewis is quoted as saying.

“The Communist Party sent in witnesses to the Dies Committee to brag about their domination of the CIO and build up the Party,” he added.

“There will be no witch hunts or red hunts and any union has the right to elect or select anyone it chooses to lead it, however I will insist that CIO leaders give their entire allegiance to the organization,” Lewis declared.

This is the first direct attack on the Stalinists in the CIO that Lewis has made. It takes considerable significance, therefore.

Purge in Offing

Naturally the question arises: Will there be a purge of the Stalinists in the CIO, and on what basis?

A preliminary examination of the moves indicates that a purge in one form or another is in the offing. However, Lewis reveals his caution by the statement that there will be no witch hunt. The Stalinists, after all, are strongly entrenched in some CIO unions, and besides, Lewis hates to admit that he was wrong all this time in having an alliance with them.

The attitude of the Stalinists on the Lewis moves has not yet been made public since the Daily Worker simply refuses to print any news of the situation to date. Naturally, they are bitter and strongly opposed but the question is: can they afford to make a public attack on the new Lewis position?

The next week or so will give a clearer answer to the questions posed by the Lewis statement and his organizational maneuvers.

B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 17 February 2018