William Z. Foster

The Industrial Union Bloc in the American Federation of Labor

Source: The Communist International, Vol. XIII, No. 5, May 1936
Publisher: Workers Library Publishers, New York, N.Y.
Transcription\HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

DURING the past several months, there has taken shape in the American Federation of Labor a new and powerful progressive opposition movement. It is being built around the issue of the organization of the unorganized into industrial unions in the trustified, mass production industries. The new movement consists of a bloc of eight American Federation of Labor unions, formally organized into a national body called the Committee for Industrial Organization (C.I.O.). The component unions are the Coal Miners, Textile Workers, Printers, Oil Workers, Metal Miners and three Needle Trades Unions. Altogether, they number 1,100,000 members, or approximately one-third of the whole American Federation of Labor. The leader of the C.I.O. is John L. Lewis, President of the United Mine Workers of America. The movement carries with it the possibility of profound progressive changes in the structure, leadership and policies of the American Federation of Labor.

The C.I.O. was formed shortly after the adjournment of the 55th Convention of the American Federation of Labor, which was held in Atlantic City in October, 1935, although the movement had been already developing for two years. This Convention was the scene of a very bitter struggle between the industrial union forces, led by Lewis, and the craft union supporters, led by William Green and the majority of the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor.

The struggle turned around the question of unionizing the almost totally unorganized workers in the steel, automobile, chemical, rubber and other mass production industries, and was concretized in the demand that in these industries the American Federation of Labor give up its antiquated system of trying to organize the workers into many autonomous craft unions (a dozen or more to each industry) and give the jurisdiction in each case to one industrial union. In support of their demand, the Lewis forces pointed out the complete failure of the traditional system of craft organization in these industries where old trade lines have long since been obliterated by mechanization and specialization of labor, and where the growth of the trusts has made absolutely necessary the unity of all the workers in a given industry.

In reply, president Green of the A. F. of L. and the other craft union leaders (ultra-reactionaries of the stripe of Woll, Hutcheson, Wharton, Frey, Tobin, etc.) repeated all the tune-worn shibboleths of the skilled workers’ craft unions, but they depended primarily upon their organizational control of the Convention (the delegation of which was made up chiefly of top union leaders) to beat down the industrial union opposition. What the craftists lacked in arguments, they made up in slander and intimidation. So acute became the convention struggle that John L. Lewis, head of the Miners’ Union, and William Hutcheson, President of the Carpenters’ Union, came to blows. The Convention finally rejected the resolution of the industrial unionists by a vote of 18,000 to 11,000.

Shortly after this Convention, the industrial unionists organized themselves nationally into the Committee for Industrial Organization. This Committee has established a national headquarters and is publishing a journal and various pamphlets advocating its program. The A. F. of L. Executive Council met the formation of the C.I.O. with a denunciation that it is a dual union movement and a rival national trade union center, and made a demand for its immediate dissolution.

The Mass Base of the C.I.O.

The formation of the Committee for Industrial Organization is one of the many expressions of the deep-going radicalization that has been taking place among the American working class under the fierce blows of the deep and prolonged economic crisis. Long-continued mass unemployment, hunger and government brutality are rapidly destroying the American workers’ traditional capitalist illusions, and they are turning to militant mass action for relief from their intolerable situation.

Besides the C.I.O., there have been many other significant manifestations of the masses’ growing discontent and their mood for struggle. Prominent among these, during the past four years, were the whole series of big struggles and demonstrations of the unemployed; the great and continued strike wave, including such historic battles as the San Francisco general strike, the national strike of 500,000 textile workers, etc., and various other militant mass movements among the war veterans, farmers, youth, Negroes, as well as a huge growth of anti-fascist and anti-war sentiment. Another, and one of the most significant signs of the workers’ political awakening, is the present rapid growth of mass demand for a national Farmer-Labor Party, accompanied by the actual formation of many city and state Farmer-Labor Parties. In all these struggles and Left developments, the Communist Party has played a large and growing role. It is in the forefront of every battle of the toiling masses, and its widspread activities have been an important factor in creating the broad base upon which the C.I.O. movement is built.

The C.I.O. has its roots in this prevailing great wave of working class discontent and struggle. The workers in the open shop basic industries are clamoring for trade union organization and improved wage and working conditions, and the C.I.O.’s program is in answer to their insistent demands. Moreover, the rank and file of the organized workers in the A. F. of L. are also profoundly discontented at the bad economic conditions and the reactionary policies of their official leaders, and this is another strong factor in laying a mass base for the C.I.O. movement.

The Program of the C.I.O.

The C.I.O. has as yet formulated no formal, general program. Its policies are contained principally in the speeches and resolutions of its leaders at the 55th A. F. of L. Convention. In these documents, sharp complaints are directed against the miserable conditions of the workers, and the organization of the mass production industries is stressed as the main essential task in order to improve the workers’ situation. The C.I.O. leaders vigorously assert that the organization of these workers can be brought about only on the basis of industrial unionism. They point out with force that the A. F. of L., with its craft system, has, after 55 years of life, organized only some 3,000,000 out of at least 25,000,000 organizable workers.

The leading union in the Committee for Industrial Organization is the United Mine Workers of America. This union, which greatly increased its strength under the Roosevelt regime, now has some 500,000 members and is solidly entrenched in every important coalfield in the United States and Canada. But the U.M.W.A. leaders and members fear they will not be able long to maintain their organization and union conditions unless the workers can be organized in the neighboring open shop, trustified, mass-production industries, such as steel, automobile, rubber, etc., and the wage standards in these industries drastically improved. That this fear is well-grounded is exemplified by the fact that, during the great coal strike of 1927-28, the U.M.W.A. was smashed in most of the important soft coal districts. This big drive against the miners’ union was conducted mainly by the railroads, steel companies, automobile corporations, and other powerful trusts which have their own coal mines. Hence comes the militant support by the miners of the movement for trade union organization in the open shop, trustified industries. The other unions in the C.I.O., notably the three needle trade organizations, which have about 400,000 members and a militant membership, share the miners’ views about the supreme importance of organizing the unorganized.

That the C.I.O. should declare for the principle of industrial unionism is not surprising. First, the A. F. of L., with its policy of dividing the mass production workers among a dozen or twenty autonomous unions in each industry, and with its non-struggle methods generally, has made a complete failure of organizing these workers. This is so clear that even the blind should see the necessity of abandoning the antiquated craft system and adopting the principle of one industry, one union.

Second, the United Mine workers has always been an industrial union, and the same is true of the United Textile Workers, and substantially also of the oil workers and metal miners. As for the three needle trades unions, they are semi-industrial in form, and the Typographical Union, one of the oldest and strongest unions in America, was originally built on the industrial basis, and still supports that principle, although it has suffered from several craft splits in its long history. Third, most of the C.I.O. unions have in the past, on various occasions, played a Left role in the A. F. of L. and are thus naturally supporters of this progressive movement.

The programmatic scope of the C.I.O., however, extends beyond its official plan of organizing the unorganized into industrial unions. In and around the C.I.O., there are also growing various other progressive tendencies. Indeed, the real significance of the C.I.O. lies precisely in the fact that it is developing into a broad, forward-striving, general Left movement possessing great potentialities for the future of the whole American working class.

First, on the question of fascism and war: the C.I.O. leaders are displaying a conscious alarm over the spread of fascist sentiment and the growing danger of war. In this they reflect the strong anti-war, anti-fascist sentiment among the masses. They made the A. F. of L. Convention ring with their warnings in this respect. To fight these twin dangers, the C.I.O. puts in first line the organization of the workers in the basic industries. In demanding such organization, John L. Lewis declared at the A. F. of L. Convention:

“We are all disturbed by reason of the changes and the hazards in our economic situation and as regards our political security. There are forces at work in this country that would wipe out, if they could, the labor movement of America, just as it was wiped out in Germany, or just as it was wiped out in Italy.”

There is also a strong sentiment among the C.I.O.’s affiliated unions for the establishment of the Farmer-Labor Party, although the C.I.O. will support Roosevelt in the coming elections. The needle trades unions, the textile workers and the metal miners have long been on record for such a party. The miners’ union is also saturated with Labor Party sentiment, and Lewis himself is reported as favoring the formation of a Labor Party “at the opportune time”.

At the A. F. of L. Convention, the C.I.O. forces showed a number of other progressive tendencies. For one thing, they forced the notorious labor reactionary, Matthew Woll, to resign from the presidency of the National Civic Federation, a propaganda body of finance capital; they also broke up Green’s attempt to launch a general campaign of expulsion of Communists throughout the A. F. of L., and, besides, due largely to their influence, the Convention, for the first time in many years, was free from the usual deluge of slander and denunciation against the Soviet Union.

In short, the general effect of the C.I.O. movement has been greatly to encourage progressive thought and action in the A. F. of L. It has weakened the deadly stranglehold of the Green bureaucracy on the trade unions and has given the forces of life and progress in these organizations new grounds for development. It is at present a great rallying point of the progressive forces, not only of union workers, but also of the unorganized, and even of the liberal and radical petty-bourgeois intelligentsia.

The Leadership of the C.I.O.

The outstanding figure in the Committee for Industrial Organization is John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers. Lewis is a clever, strong, aggressive and opportunistic leader. Hitherto, in his twenty years of top leadership, he has been completely identified with the extreme Right wing of the A. F. of L. bureaucracy. He is an open defender of the capitalist system. For many years he was a member of the National Committee of the Republican Party and was allied with various other capitalist organizations. He pursued a typical A. F. of L. policy of class-collaboration, controlling his union with an iron hand, and brooking no opposition. He expelled hundreds of Communists and progressives from the U.M.W.A., and, thus, from their jobs in the coal industry. Lewis is a man of boundless ambition and, if he succeeds in his present fight against the A. F. of L. Executive Council, he can readily become president of the A. F. of L. And if Roosevelt, whom Lewis is ardently supporting, wins in the coming elections, Lewis will doubtless have a high government post offered him.

Next to Lewis in importance in the C.I.O. movement is Sidney Hillman, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers. Hillman is also a shrewd and ambitious leader. He is a past master of the use of Left phrases and opportunistic maneuvering. He has visited the U.S.S.R. a couple of times and his union formerly gave active support to the reconstruction of the Russian clothing industry. At present, Hillman, like the other C.I.O. leaders, is working closely with the Roosevelt administration. Associated with Hillman are the leaders of the two affiliated Socialist needle trades unions—Dubinsky, head of the International Ladies Garment Workers, and Zaritsky, head of the Cap and Millinery Workers.

Another outstanding figure in the C.I.O. is Francis Gorman, vice-president of the United Textile Workers. Gorman led the recent national strike of 500,000 textile workers. He has lately developed a strong progressive turn and is now going about the country advocating the formation of the Farmer-Labor Party, a militant struggle against the growing fascist and war danger, etc. Howard, president of the Typographical Union, whose progressivism is very limited, was originally elected to his post a dozen years ago in opposition to the A. F. of L. machine candidate, Lynch.

Lewis’ active representative in the C.I.O. is John Brophy, formerly a U.M.W.A. district official, and one-time opponent’ of Lewis. Brophy in 1926, with the active support of the Communist Party, ran as an opposition candidate against Lewis in the union elections on a joint Left-wing progressive ticket. The election was fiercely contested. Lewis’ officials counted the ballots and declared Lewis elected; but the Left wing asserted that they had manipulated some 100,000 votes in order to defeat Brophy. Brophy, long an advocate of the Labor Party, headed a delegation to the Soviet Union a few years ago.

The Policy of the Communist Party

The Communist Party supports the constructive work of the Committee for Industrial Organization. The Communist Party has for many years been the champion of industrial unionism and the organization of the unorganized, the two chief planks of the new movement. The Party sees in the C.I.O. a movement containing great possibilities for strengthening the economic and political organization of the American working class and it seeks to develop these potentialities to the fullest. The Communist Party has no formal united front with the C.I.O. leaders, but it sets up working relations with supporters of the C.I.O. throughout the trade union movement and among the unorganized workers.

Concretely, our Party joins in the C.I.O. organization campaigns, giving them leadership and support on the job where the actual organizing work is being done and it also carries on a campaign in favor of industrial unionism throughout the trade unions. But, of course, the Communist Party goes beyond these elementary issues, important though they are. It cannot become merely a tail to the C.I.O. The Party strives to give a class struggle policy to the C.I.O. movement; it stresses the need for trade union democracy, for the organization of a national Farmer-Labor Party, for unemployment insurance, for the equal rights of Negroes in the unions and elsewhere, against the A. F. of L. Executive Council’s expulsion policy, against fascism and war, etc. In short, the Party strives to politicalize the C.I.O. movement, to strengthen it into a broad Left movement that will rid the A. F. of L. of its reactionary, class collaboration economic and political policies and make of it a real fighting weapon of the working class, to develop it in the general direction of struggle against capital and a united people’s front against fascism and war.

But in supporting the work of the C.I.O. our Party also necessarily carries on a constructive criticism of the shortcomings of the C.I.O. officialdom and policies. Not alone have the C.I.O. leaders highly opportunistic pasts, but there are also many serious weaknesses in their present activities.

Among these weaknesses are their tendency to make a fetish of the form of industrial unionism instead of also stressing the need for a class struggle policy for the unions, their suppression of trade union democracy in C.I.O. unions, their slowness at undertaking energetically the actual organization of the unorganized; their inadequate fight in the lower organs of the trade unions against the Executive Council, their restriction of the question of industrial unionism simply to the mass production industries instead of raising it as a question for the whole A. F. of L.; their refusal to give active support to the formation of the Farmer-Labor Party, their still hesitant and unclear fight against the menacing dangers of fascism and war, their clinging to traditional A. F. of L. class collaboration practices, etc.

Lewis and other C.I.O. leaders have gained great prestige among the masses through the new movement; they have in their unions huge financial resources at their disposal; and they themselves have a strong opportunistic bent; hence only if the Communist Party carries on a constructive criticism of the C.I.O. leaders, only if the Party applies itself diligently to actual organization work in the trade unions and among the unorganized and builds up a strong, educated rank and file, can the C.I.O. movement be steered away from the dangerous sands of opportunism and enabled to realize its full progressive and revolutionary possibilities.

Some mistakes have been made by the Party in the application of its line. Thus, in a number of instances articles in the Daily Worker have incorrectly evaluated Lewis, ranging from uncritical praise of him to sectarian denunciation. There has also been a failure to take full advantage of the present opportunity to organize the Left forces in the lower trade union organs and among the unorganized. But such mistakes and deficiencies are being eliminated and a correct Party policy is developing towards the very important C.I.O. movement.

The Danger of a Split in the A. F. of L.

The dominant A. F. of L. bureaucrats view the rise of the C.I.O. with bitter hatred and undisguised alarm. They sense in it a threat to their whole reactionary regime; they fear that it will bring with it the end of their class collaboration policy, the reorganization of their obsolete craft system of unionism, and the development of a new leadership in the A. F. of L. So that when they denounced the C.I.O. at its formation as a dual organization and demanded its immediate dissolution, there was in this action a distinct threat of drastic action if the C.I.O. did not comply.

The Green leadership, which control the A. F. of L. Executive Council, are deeply reactionary and they are allied with many capitalist organizations, including those of a distinctly fascist trend. They would undoubtedly split the labor movement in their efforts to preserve their control. This is shown once more by the fact that while at the present time the Communists and other fighting elements are rapidly strengthening their trade union forces, the Green bureaucrats in various organizations are trying to stop them by a reckless policy of mass expulsion. Recent examples of this policy in A. F. of L. unions were the expulsion of some 18,000 members of the A. F. of L. Steel Workers’ Union (who were led by Communists and progressives), the expulsion of the Pacific Coast organization of 13,000 seamen (who were leaders in the great San Francisco general strike), and the lifting of the charter of the Painters’ District Council of New York, with 12,000 members, because it elected Left and progressive officials by a vote of more than three to one.

In view of these events, the ultimatum of the Executive Committee demanding the liquidation of the Committee for Industrial Organization, therefore, clearly carried with it an implied menace to split the trade union movement in the event of C.I.O. resistance. Such a major rupture as this could only be a major disaster to the workers. It would prevent the organization of the unorganized by setting up rival unions, it would confuse and disrupt the forces of industrial unionism and destroy the growing progressive Left wing in the A. F. of L. And, worse, it would greatly encourage the employers to intensify their drive against the living standards, organizations and civic rights of the workers. Such a split would disarm the working class in the face of the developing fascist reaction.

The C.I.O. is based on the program of raising the industrial solidarity of the workers to a higher stage. In this situation, therefore, it was manifestly its task to use all its power and influence to arouse the masses against the threatening split. The C.I.O. should have come forth at once as the militant champion of trade union unity. But, unfortunately, Lewis just then made a couple of unskillful maneuvers that played directly into the hands of the Green reactionaries. Firstly, when the Executive Council of the A. F. of L. denounced the C.I.O. as a dual organization Lewis unwisely replied by resigning his seat in that Council, an act which the capitalist press promptly hailed as a step towards the Miners’ Union quitting the A. F. of L. And, secondly, upon receipt of the Executive Council’s ultimatum for the liquidation of the C.I.O., the Miners’ Convention, then in session and firmly controlled by Lewis, adopted a resolution authorizing him to stop paying per capita tax to the A. F. of L., that is to disaffiliate the miners from that body, when and if Lewis found it necessary.

The Executive Council reactionaries, the actual elements from whom the danger of a split arose, at once shouted that Lewis was about to divide and wreck the trade union movement. The capitalist press made a sensation of the matter, generally supporting the view of the Executive Council and placing upon Lewis the main responsibility for the threatened split. The situation became very acute and it caused some confusion and wavering in the ranks of the C.I.O. leaders. Dubinsky, head of the International Garment Workers, made a public statement, addressed to Lewis, that he was opposed to a split. The Right wing of the Socialist Party openly attacked Lewis and supported Green. In this controversy the Communist Party declared against the Green splitters and for a powerful, united A. F. of L. based on industrial unionism, trade union democracy, and a policy of class struggle.

The Deadlock Between the Executive Council and the C.I.O.

The immediate danger of a split, however, has passed away, Green evidently considering the situation not propitious for attempting the dissolution of the C.I.O. by violent measures. But the tension is still great between the rival forces and it may at any time flare up again into an open struggle. Since its formation the C.I.O. has been carrying on many activities. Among other things, it has definitely supported the A. F. of L. Automobile Workers’ and Rubber Workers’ Unions in their struggle for an industrial union charter, and it has also given similar help to non-A. F. of L. unions of radio workers, shipbuilding workers, etc. It supported the recent victorious strike of 14,000 Akron rubber workers. The Executive Council deeply resents the C.I.O.’s interference in all these situations. But at present the main struggle between the two bodies centers around the question of organizing the steel industry, the Executive Council and the C.I.O. finding themselves deadlocked over this important matter.

There are sonic 500,000 workers in the steel industry, almost entirely unorganized. Their unionization is vital for the whole labor movement. But the A. F. of L., with its antiquated method of splitting the workers into many craft unions, its policy of class collaboration, and its general inertia and incompetency, has been totally unable to organize them. Its latest failure took place in 1934, during the great strike movements of that period, when the steel workers were rapidly organizing themselves and were about to bring their industry to a standstill in a broad strike. At this point, however, the A. F. of L. leaders stepped in and had the whole controversy referred to a mediation committee appointed by President Roosevelt. This committee maneuvered around with the final result that the strike movement of the steel workers was wrecked and their union reduced to a mere skeleton.

The C.I.O., however, has again made a living question of organizing the steel industry. Its eight unions voted to appropriate $500,000 for this work, provided that the workers were all placed into one union and that the campaign be conducted by competent organizers. The Executive Council, which has been forced by the C.I.O. to make a show of doing something in the steel industry, rejected the C.I.O.’s conditional offer and, instead, called upon all its affiliated unions to raise a fund of $750,000 to organize the industry on the craft union basis, that is, to split the steel workers into the many unions (in the 1919 campaign there were 24), claiming jurisdiction over them.

To break this deadlock between the C.I.O. and the Executive Council and to get the work of organization actually started, the Communist Party came forward with the following proposal: It called upon the C.I.O. to go ahead at once with steel organization work itself, as no hope could be placed in the A. F. of L. Executive Council accomplishing anything. A problem is presented by the fact that the present weak Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers (the A.A.) is officered by one of the worst cliques of the Green bureaucracy. The C.I.O., therefore, cannot work with these reactionaries, but instead must base its campaign upon local committees set up by the strong progressive opposition movement in the A.A. It should put its men and money at the disposal of these local committees and proceed with a great nation-wide organization campaign. This knotty question of industrial unionism should be resolved by an appeal to the steel workers not to join the various craft unions but to affiliate themselves in a body to the A.A., which is an old A. F. of L. union that has long claimed jurisdiction over all steel workers.

It is a feasible plan. The steel workers are in a good mood to organize and a big campaign can start them as a body into motion. They strongly support the principle of industrial unionism and would doubtlessly refuse to join the various craft unions and affiliate to the A.A. if urged by Lewis to do so. And, finally, the influx of tens of thousands of new members into the skeleton A. A., brought in under the leadership of the united Lefts and progressives would overwhelm the Green reactionaries at the head of the A.A. and break their power. The Communist Party plan will surely succeed if Lewis supports it. The Party, however, is not waiting for Lewis, but is mobilizing its own important strength in the steel industry to begin the campaign of organization along the lines it proposed to the C.I.O.

Thus the situation stands as I write this (April, 1936) with the C.I.O. and the Executive Council at loggerheads over the organization of the steel industry. At stake in this deadlock is not only the unionization of the steel workers, but very probably, if the steel campaign succeeds, the unionization of many other at present almost totally unorganized, trustified, open shop industries. And there is further involved the grand prize of the leadership of the American Federation of Labor itself.

Perspective of the C.I.O.

In the present struggle with the Executive Council the C.I.O. leaders have in their hands the elements of victory, if they know how to use them. Their issue of industrial unionism is very popular, not only among the unorganized workers but also among the members of the A. F. of L. craft unions.* With energetic work to win the support of these unions the C.I.O. can readily turn its 40 per cent vote in the A. F. of L. into a strong majority in the very near future. Such a victory, readily achievable, would give the C.I.O. an opportunity for organizational solid work.

In any event, whether it wins the A. F. of L. control or not, the rise of the C.I.O. on its present lines must soon lead to big strike struggles in the basic industries; for finance capital is not going to permit the organization of the workers in these industries without a real fight. At present the capitalists are watching the sudden rise of the C.I.O. with mingled opinions. Some of the most conscious elements, like the Wall Street Journal, have sounded a sharp warning to the employers regarding the new movement. But most of the capitalist press takes as yet a somewhat noncommittal attitude. Evidently the employers are hoping either that the C.I.O. will culminate in a split of the A. F. of L. or that such an old-time reactionary as John L. Lewis may be depended upon to steer the movement into channels advantageous for the capitalists. But as the C.I.O. becomes more active, the bosses’ resistance to it grows and the near future holds the prospect of fierce struggles against it. Especially will this be the case if the ultra-reactionary Republican Party-Liberty League-Hearst forces win in the coming national elections this November. The development of the C.I.O. is making for a sharpening of the class struggle on all fronts and will strengthen the position of the working class for its economic demands.

Will the C.I.O. accomplish the historically necessary task of reorganizing, strengthening and reorientating the A. F. of L. on a class struggle basis? Time alone can answer this question. During the big post-war struggles of 1919-23 a big progressive movement also developed in the A. F. of L. The Right wing of this, the Conference for Progressive Political Action, with a program based on government ownership of the railroads and other public utilities, comprised some 3,000,000 organized workers and farmers and it culminated in the independent presidential candidacy of La Follette in 1924. During the same period, the Left wing, the revolutionary Trade Union Educational League, which was actively supported by the Communist Party, won at least 50 per cent of the organized trade union workers to support its three major slogans of amalgamation (industrial unionism), Labor Party and recognition of the Soviet Union, and played a big role in the many fierce strikes. For a while the combined effort of these strong movements threatened the whole regime of the Gompers A. F. of L. ruling clique. But the growth of the Coolidge prosperity (1923-29), accompanied by a decline in the militancy of the workers, undermined the whole development. The Conference for Progressive Political Action leaders surrendered to the A. F. of L., with its new policies of intensified class collaboration to speed up production, and the Trade Union Educational League was largely smashed by a violent mass expulsion policy throughout the trade union movement.

The C.I.O. of today has a better prospect, however, than those progressive and revolutionary movements of 1919-23. Among the major factors favoring it are:

1. The American working class is now more radical than ever before in its history. It is ripe not only for such a movement as the C.I.O. is, but also for a much more Left development, and the workers are constantly traveling the path to the Left.

2. There is little or no prospect for such a return of “prosperity” that would put even a comparatively great mass of unemployed back to work and liquidate the militant mood of the striking masses as happened in 1923. On the contrary, despite the rise in industrial production, the numbers of the unemployed remain only slightly diminished and the workers generally face wage reductions, cuts in unemployment relief, attacks upon their civil rights, etc. The dominant economic and political factors are making for an increased radicalization of the masses, not for its liquidation.

3. There is a deep split on principle in the ranks of the A. F. of L. bureaucracy. A section of the leadership, alarmed by the growth of fascist reaction in the United States and impressed by the lessons of Germany, realize that some elementary measures of defense must be taken by the American workers. It remains to be seen, however, whether the C.I.O. leaders, in their continued activities, will truly represent this new attitude in the A. F. of L. leadership. Meanwhile, the split in the bureaucracy throws open the door for rapid progressive developments in the A. F. of L. along every line.

4. A very important advantage in the present situation over that of 1919-23 is that the Communist Party is many times stronger than it was then. It has numerically grown very much and it has recently greatly improved its trade union position. By consistent, constructive criticism and by solid organization work in the lower units of the trade unions it can exert a great, if not decisive, influence in helping the C.I.O. to perform the great tasks that stand before it.

The main immediate dangers confronting the C.I.O. movement are twofold: firstly, that its leaders, instead of going ahead vigorously with the work of organization, may arrive at an opportunistic compromise with the A. F. of L. Executive Council that would paralyze the progressive movement and keep it from becoming “too Red”; or, secondly, that the Executive Council may split the A. F. of L. to head off the growth of industrial unionism and the progressive movement generally. It is true that if the C.I.O. refuses to dissolve, the Executive Council cannot legally expel its unions, because the C.I.O. already controls enough convention votes to prevent it under the A. F. of L. constitution; nevertheless, the Executive Council may proceed to illegal action to accomplish its reactionary purposes.

It is necessary, therefore, that the Communist Party be alert to both these menaces: the possibility of a destructive compromise between the C.I.O. and the Executive Council and the threat of a split of the A. F. of L. by its reactionary leaders. The Party must mobilize all its considerable forces to forestall these dangers, while at the same time it pushes forward for the development of the C.I.O. along the lines of a class struggle policy.



*  An interesting expression of the growth of industrial union sentiment in the A. F. of L. is shown by the fact that many of the craft union leaders, bitter enemies of industrial unionism, are nevertheless reaching out for categories of workers quite outside their traditional crafts. Thus, the carpenters have taken in the loggers of the Northwest, the electrical workers are trying to absorb the radio workers, and the machinists have even accepted several thousand New York subway workers into their union.