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Walter Jason

Wayne Council Illustrates CIO Problem

(5 April 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 14, 5 April 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT – Like every other important CIO Industrial Union Council, the Wayne County body is facing the political and organizational crisis, caused by the split between the Murray and Stalinist forces within the CIO.

The national CIO sent an order to this – and every other CIO Council in America – informing it bluntly that it either go along with an anti-Wallace and pro-Marshall Plan policy or be subject to organizational measures.

This raises two important questions for progressive unionists. What are the probable courses of developments and what is a sound policy to meet this crisis? Although there are variations in the different CIO centers, the fact is that the basic problems are the same.

Origin of Crisis

The origin of this crisis is known to every CIO unionist. Under the pressure of the American ruling class,the Murray leadership in the CIO has taken an increasingly servile position behind the imperialist plans of American capitalism. Under the dictates of needs of Moscow’s rulers, the American Stalinist party has taken a position of complete opposition to those policies advocated by Murray. Thus the contending groups within the CIO desire to control the labor movement in behalf of their masters, be they in Washington or Moscow.

Each faction in the CIO covers up its real rule by high sounding phrases, and demagogic arguments. The Stalinists claim they are for a pro-peace policy, that they support Henry Wallace because he is a peace candidate, and an anti-imperialist candidate, and that they oppose the Marshall plan because it is imperialist.

The Murray forces denounce Stalinist imperialism, expose Wallace as a stooge of the Stalinists, and support the Marshall plan, claiming that it isn’t imperialist, but will help European recovery. Unable, at least for the present, to support Harry Truman openly, the top CIO leadership does it indirectly. Its hypocrisy in this matter fools few workers.

The triumph of either Wall Street’s policies or Moscow’s policies in the CIO dooms the labor movement. It serves only to put the workers in the camp of one of the major contending imperialist powers as a prerequisite for World War III. That is why the workers must defeat both policies, or else suffer the consequences of another war, this time of an atomic character.

How utterly defenseless either the Murray or Stalinist policies are for the labor movement is shown in the debate that takes place in CIO circles over these fundamental differences of opinion.

When a Stalinist gets up, as he did at the Wayne County CIO Council, and exposes the Murray policies, the Murray forces cannot answer effectively. They avoid a discussion of Truman, of Wall Street imperialism. We have yet to hear one of them say a good word for Truman.

In return, when a shrewd Murray man denounces the Stalinist rule in the Eastern European countries, the totalitarianism of Russia and its grabs for power, the Stalinists can only shriek hysterically, and yell, “red-baiter,” “stooge of the NAM,” etc.

Bedlam in Council

This is the sort of background that prevails in the present crisis within the CIO. The Wayne County council had before it for consideration the letter from John Brophy, saying you must go along or else ...

What to do? The Wayne County council, controlled lock, stock and barrel by the Stalinists, tried again to stall. Tracy Doll, council president, and chairman of the meeting, recommended the communication be received as information and filed. Of course, this itself is subject to the interpretation as being a violation of the national CIO mandate.

No sooner was this recommendation made, than bedlam broke loose. One pro-Murray delegate tried to make an amendment to concur with the communication. Doll ruled it out of order. By yelling points of order, and points of information, the Stalinists hoped to avoid any commitment on the CIO communication, and avoid the inevitable clash with Murray.

However, they reckoned without one of Reuther’s better known and shrewder supporters, Al Barbour, of Local 7, UAW-CIO, who recently left the anti-Reuther caucus. Barbour had a resolution for the Marshall plan which he wanted to introduce and debate, as an amendment to the recommendation made by Tracy Doll. The Stalinists screamed and howled against this as being out of order. For over an hour and a half, parliamentary debate held up the meeting.

Of course, Barbour had fun exposing the Stalinists cries of democracy when they wouldn’t even let him read the resolution. Also, his cracks at the “people who yell purge, but fail to concern themselves with the purges in Europe,” dug deeply into the Stalinists. Finally, on an appeal from the chair, Barbour and Doll debated the parliamentary procedure, and although Barbour was obviously in the right, the Stalinist majority,with the vote of SWP supporters, turned down his appeal to read the resolution as an amendment implementing the CIO policy.

Right after this vote, Doll took the floor to denounce the steel workers locals here for blasting the CIO council in the daily newspapers as being too concerned with “Communist causes.”

Again, a verbal free-for-all ensued. The Stalinists pointed out that every action taken by the council officers was approved by the body. Steelworkers representatives asked questions about CIO council finances, and charges and counter charges filled the air for another hour.

Stalinists Get Help

One delegate tried to raise the level of discussion by a plea to come to grips with the problem really facing the council. He was Erwin Bauer, of local 306, UAW-CIO. He gave an accurate recital of Murray’s bureaucratic history in top CIO leadership and he urged the delegates to come to grips with the problem of democracy. He mentioned in passing he was against Wallace. Now this speech, concentrating mainly on Murray’s bureaucracy, was applauded by the Stalinists. For they had a new spokesman on their side.

At no point did Bauer or any spokesman for the SWP, whose line is equivalent to Bauer’s, make the slightest criticism of the Stalinists! For example, the bureaucratic structure of the CIO, its control over local councils, was adopted by the CIO with Stalinist support. For this the Stalinists bear joint responsibility with Murray. No mention of this. No mention of the rule or ruin tactics of the Stalinists.

The Stalinists are too discredited around here to make any effective fight for trade union democracy. When one of them hollers “bureaucrat” at Murray it is about as effective and true as Al Capone yelling “murder” at another gangster. Similarly, when the steel worker delegates moan against the Stalinists, it is the height of hypocrisy for these same delegates helped vote the Stalinists into power, despite every possible argument of the Reuther forces against such a course! Remember, in those days Murray preferred the Stalinists to Reuther!

It takes new and fresh voices to defend the Stalinists. And the SWP helped to furnish them here. Instead of fighting for trade union democracy which is alien to both the Murray and Stalinists forces, the SWP acted as attorneys for the Stalinists. This was done by the simple device of not criticizing them in the least, and concentrating exclusively on Murray.

There is nothing unusual in this bloc between the Stalinists and the SWP. Unless the SWP changes its views on the Russian question, a closer alliance is indicated. For both of them stand on the principle that defense of Russia is the key strategic task of the world proletariat. Both are for the “Unconditional Defense of the Soviet Union.”

Refer Motion

Barbour kept demanding the floor,and – since most delegates assumed he was speaking for Reuther, whether it was true or not – Nat Ganley, a delegate, and a member of the National Committee of the Stalinist party got up and said:

“Let it be understood that no one is going to get to leave here saying he was deprived of his democratic rights or that we turned down that resolution. You’ll get to read it, Brother Barbour.”

Whereupon – a truly amazing performance – Doll recognized Barbour who read his resolution for the Marshall plan. This provoked another crisis for the Stalinists. If the resolution was voted down, it was a violation of the CIO communication, and an administrator might be sent in by Murray. Naturally the Stalinists could not vote for it. What to do?

At this point, Ernie Mazey, of Briggs 212, came to the rescue with a motion that this resolution be referred either to the next convention of the Wayne County CIO council, or that the executive board be empowered to call a special convention if it felt it necessary. Without discussion, this was passed by the Stalinist majority.

Of course, this subterfuge is hardly likely to deter Murray from administrative action. The National CIO is determined to control these councils, and it has legal authority under the CIO constitution to do so. No matter what maneuvers the Stalinists make, it is unlikely that they will succeed as the industrial unionists were able to in keeping William Green and the AFL bureaucracy from purging the central labor unions of pro-CIO forces in 1936. The weight of the national organization, and the legal “right” of the parent body is too powerful.

Intervention of Ranks

What should progressive unionists do? Actually, the motion that Mazey presented has the makings of a good policy. Progressive unionists should call for special conventions of the local bodies, so that the rank and file of the CIO can intervene in this struggle. Instead of the issue of CIO policy being decided by Murray’s bureaucratic methods, and. the Stalinist counter-maneuvers, the rank and file should take up the problem.

Naturally, the Murray forces don’t want rank and file intervention. They prefer the “easy and safe” way, bureaucratic measures. Likewise, the Stalinists fear rank and file participation, because support of their policies is doomed in advance, especially in a place like Detroit, where the Reuther forces are the dominant leadership in the union movement.

We think rank and file participation would be a big advance from every point of view. It would mean involving the men in the shops in deciding their own destiny. It would put both the Murray and Stalinist forces on the spot, for both prefer to fight their battles bureaucratically, rather than take a chance on genuine union democracy with rank and file participation.

Besides a series of local conventions,a special national convention, with hundreds of rank and file delegates to debate political action, would signify progress against the bureaucracy, for both the Stalinists and the Murray forces could be called to account.

This, we believe, should be the approach of progressive unionists in this crisis.

Reuther’s Role

In this acute situation; nothing seems less important and serious than the views of Walter Reuther, UAW-CIO president, who is becoming the kind of lost soul he accused Henry Wallace of being. At the recent ADA convention, Reuther was startled when the delegates cheered his blast at both parties, and he made a specific criticism of Truman. At the recent UAW-CIO executive board meeting, a political policy resolution was adopted calling for a new party AFTER the 1948 elections. Such opportunism is so obvious that the resolution might well be preserved as a joke.

The Stalinists ask, “if a Third Party is necessary right after 1948, why not now. Because Reuther doesn’t control it?” The Reuther people are a little hard pressed for answers to the Stalinists.

The fact is – and Reuther knows it – that sentiment against both major parties is powerful in the UAW-CIO, that selling Harry Truman is a mighty difficult if not impossible job, that the only real answer is a labor party. But this means a clash with Murray! And this is what Reuther avoids. As usual he is playing safe.

So we have the phenomenon of the Stalinists trying to capture the anti-capitalist party sentiments, which Reuther himself helped create, and Reuther standing helplessly by, because he lacks a progressive and clear-cut answer.

Murray, and his associates should be able to defeat the Stalinists organizationally. However, the Stalinists will have their revenge. They will defeat Murray’s candidate, Truman, by the Wallace vote. No man knows this better than Reuther. Hence his dilemma.

Against all this, the task of the progressive unionists is clear: for rank and file intervention, for a Labor Party.

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