What the T.U.E.L. Conference Should Do

(June 1929)

From The Militant, Vol. II No. 10, 1 June 1929, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The national conference of the Trade Union Educational League scheduled for Cleveland on June 1st has been postponed for three months to August 31st. The reason for the postponement is a cable of instructions received from Losovsky, general secretary of the Red International of Labor Unions (Profintern) which says in substance:

The preparations and response to the conference thus far are unsatisfactory. The Profintern is tired of fake journalistic successes and achievements which have no genuine content Either the conference is to represent broad masses of workers that can form a real basis for a new center of the left wing – which is not the case thus far – or else no new center should be built at all.

This is a timely warning to which others of equal and greater importance must be added The delay gives the Communists and the left wing militants additional time to reflect upon the tasks confronting the movement and act with sober consideration. Whatever action is taken at Cleveland must be taken without self-delusion or deception of the workers who follow the left wing. Mistakes made at so critical period as the present will surely have such serious consequences as may retard the development of the left wing for a long time to come.

The conference must state definitely that it is a center of the left wing whose aim is to unite the whole labor movement on the basis of a militant class policy, a center of the new unions formed up to now with the left wing minorities in the old unions. The center must not be set up as a national trade union federation that parallels the A.F. of L. and the conservative independent unions. The implications contained in all the articles of the Stalinite leaders in this country are that Cleveland will see the formation of another De Leonist Socialist Trades and Labor Alliance under Communist control. It is true that none of these writers state this precisely and avoid the question as to precisely what is to happen at Cleveland like a cat avoids a bowl of hot porridge. But the militants must reject this pernicious custom of confronting its supporters with accomplished facts without discussion or enlightenment.

The conference must resist the growing tendency to give up the reactionary unions as a bad job, to withdraw the militants from them on the slightest pretext and set up brand new “class unions” which are perfection itself and have only the slight defect that they are sects without mass following. This is no abstract warning. Meetings and conventions of the reactionary unions in the last year or two have seen an almost absolute minimum of left wing representation.

The conference must put the banner of “Unity of the Trade Union Movement” in the front ranks of the left wing. The movement has been shifted off the rails of correct class policy to such an extent in recent times that it. very virtuously refuses to have anything to do with anyone or anything that does not accept every tenet of the Communist or left wing program. The left wing must be the first to propose and fight for unification of the ranks of the trade union movement on a minimum program of action. The fact that the corrupt union bureaucrats do not want such a unification does not invalidate this plan in the least; it merely helps to increase the number of workers who turn away from the influence of the fakers and follow the leadership of the left wing.

The conference must reject the spurious “leftism” and sectarianism characterized by the prevalent attitude towards the progressives.

“The development of such broad progressive oppositional movements is vital in the struggle against the labor reactionaries and the employers. Every forward surging current, every difference in the ranks of the bureaucracy, should be utilized to organize, temporarily or permanently, such opposition movements ... the left wing, organized in and around the T.U.E.L., make joint movements with the progressive groups upon the basis of elementary and burning issues ... A basic condition for building and strengthening the trade union movement is the defeat and overthrow of the present ultra-reactionary controlling bureaucracy and the establishment of a militant fighting leadership. The main strategy to accomplish this is by united front movements between a well organized left wing and the progressive group, carrying with them the masses of the organized workers, and putting through such fundamental propositions as the organization of the unorganized, the formation of a labor party, etc. In such combinations the progressives will often waver and fail, and it will always fall to the left wing to be the determined driving force, but these movements constitute the correct strategy at this stage of the American labor movement.” William Z. Foster, Misleaders of Labor, pages 311–312 (Our emphasis)

This was correct 18 months ago when it was written and remains correct today. Here also, its validity remains unchanged despite the fact that the Progressive group just organized has a number of S.P. fakers in it, despite the fact that Foster is singing in a different tone today because of the change in his factional relationships with the Comintern and Profintern, despite the invention of the Bucharinist “third (or is it now the fourth?) period.”

The conference must sharply condemn the actions of the Stalinites in control of the T.U.E.L. who have expelled members of the Communist Opposition from the organization without as much as charges being preferred, a trial being held or notification given the victim – solely because of political differences in the Party. The T.U.E.L. call appeals for democracy in the trade unions, and correctly so. But it will not have a scrap of value and arouse no faith in the masses if it begins this fight by abolishing democracy in the T.U.E.L. The removals of comrades Swabeck, Hedlund and Skoglund from the T.U.E.L., and the attempt to wangle George Voyzey out of his position in the National Miners Union of Illinois must be condemned out of hand. This kind of work only delivers weapons to the reactionary trade union fakers who seek to justify their expulsion of militants from the unions by pointing to the Stalinites who expel Communist Oppositionists from left wing organizations. These are not the methods of the class conscious left wing movement. They are the methods of “petty-bourgeois politiciandom” existing in the Party. The left wing has had enough of Lewisism and Sigmanism.

The intolerance of the Stalinites to all criticism except that which they are forced to swallow by force pump in Moscow only makes it all the more necessary for the serious workers in the movement to turn their attention to these problems. In coming issues of the Militant we will yet return to the question of the T.U.E.L,, conference and deal with other phases that have not been thoroughly treated.

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