From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 10, 17 June 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Victory for the Roosevelt pro-war faction, headed by Sidney Hillman, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, marked the recently concluded sessions of the CIO executive council. Only the absence of Hillman, due to illness, prevented a more complete rout for John L. Lewis, CIO chieftain.
Unwilling and unable to oppose the war hysteria prevailing in Washington, D.C., Lewis angrily ate humble pie at the CIO sessions. He was afraid to renew his blistering attacks on Roosevelt’s blitzkrieg against the organized and unorganized workers in the last year.
Instead, the CIO council endorsed the Roosevelt “defense” program although Lewis knew it meant strangulation of basic union rights. Partly because of rank and file pressure, and Lewis’ minority stand against war expressed in the often quoted words, “Labor wants no part of war,” the CIO council tossed some small sop about “no involvement in European war.”
However, the patriotic speeches of the CIO leaders, including Michael Quill, Stalinist leader of the Transport Workers Union, showed that the bureaucrats were willing to “defend American interests” to the last drop of the rank and file’s blood.
The Lewis disavowal of “Communism, Nazism, Ku Klux Klan,” etc. was the first stage in his move to clean the CIO skirts of the Stalinists, although the resolution passed against “isms” will in the future be used primarily against union militants who will fight to preserve union gains despite the war. Failure of the CIO council to back the shipyard workers’ very much justified strike in Kearny, N.J. before M-Day goes into effect, showed what contemptible cowards the bureaucrats would be after M-Day. They will not defend the inalienable right to strike for just grievances.
Failure of the council to endorse the previous Lewis stand against Roosevelt’s third term because of Roosevelt’s open anti-labor policies, revealed that Lewis has back tracked on this issue, and that Hillman, as a stooge .for Roosevelt, is gaining more influence in the CIO, although Lewis had a voting majority in the council.
An open break between the Hillman and Lewis forces on the question of labor unity was avoided through a compromise resolution which meant all things to all men. The majority of the CIO council members favored the immediate renewal of peace negotiations with the AFL. Lewis said they are hopeless at the present time. Afraid to buck Lewis openly, leaders like R.J. Thomas of the auto workers, and SH. Dalryniple of the rubber workers, sought to conciliate the division. The question had been discussed in a tense atmosphere. Right afterwards, Lewis made a public interpretation of the resolution passed, giving his view that unity negotiations were not feasible at present. This caused anger and uneasiness among the other CIO leaders.
Insofar as Lewis is fighting against a unity which means chaining the entire labor movement to the Roosevelt war machine, his struggle has merit. Its weakness is that he doesn’t call openly for a unified labor movement to fight war. Silent on Hillman One of the most ticklish subjects among CIO top leaders was left untouched by the council: the question of Hillman serving on the War Resources Board. It didn’t occur to the council members to blast this Board whose purpose is to assure. Wall Street control of the American war machine. That would be too “radical.” No one thought of denouncing Hillman for taking the job of lining up labor and the youth to die again for Wall Street profits.
Thus Hillman pulled a fast one on John L. Lewis, with the aid of Roosevelt. Hillman got the job as “labor representative” on the Board, a post which Lewis, of course, was certain only he was capable of holding.
Despite its capitulation before the Roosevelt war plans, the CIO council nevertheless did take a position on some questions which creditably contrasts with the infamous betrayal of the AFL executive council.
Opposition to the “alien bill” which can so readily be turned into a drive against unionists, the demand that the Walsh-Healy wage law continue to apply in steel and other industries furnishing material to the federal government, and a protest against revision of the Wagner labor law were voiced by the CIO council. In contrast, William Green, spokesman for the AFL council, asked for no guarantees to preserve labor standards in war-time.
It sums up as follows: the CIO council, while backing Roosevelt, still resists somewhat the government scheme of turning the union movement into a glorified company union during war time. The AFL fakers, however, have indicated their willingness to be slaves who accept company union status provided they still retain the privilege of collecting dues.
Unfortunately, the voice of the rank and file that wants peace, and jobs at a living wage; and security, was heard neither at the CIO council meeting nor in the top AFL circles.
Labor is once again being sold down a river of blood by its self-styled leaders.
Last updated: 26.8.2012