The T.U.E.L. Conference
at Cleveland

A Forecast of the Work of the ‘New Trade Union Center’

(September 1929)

From The Militant, Vol. II No. 14, 15 September 1929, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

We go to press before the sessions of the Cleveland conference of the T.U.E.L. have opened; it is therefore necessary to deal with the actions and decisions of the conference in detail in the next issue of the Militant. However, there are already a sufficient number of, signs that indicate what the character of the conference will be. We mention a few of them here, and each of them, from a different direction, cast the shadow of what will take place in Cleveland.

1. The delegation from the southern textile fields will probably be the only really representative and important group at the conference. Most of the other delegations represent wishes and hopes instead of substance. We were not taken in by the empty fanfare and “delegations” at the fake Federated Farmer-Labor Party convention in 1923; we are not gullible enough to swallow the delegates “representing the masses of the unorganized” in the shape of formless mass meetings, or, as in most cases, of Party fraction meetings in a shop. The conference was extremely ill-prepared, its slogans were wrong, it was organized in a purely administrative manner without worrying about the masses of the workers. This is not the way to organize the unorganized workers, but to confuse them and to lay the basis for their disillusionment.

2. Johnstone’s article in the Daily Worker of August 30, 1929 on the tasks of the conference, which is valuable only for its bluntness and not for its proposals. What Foster is cautious enough to equivocate about, or encircle with qualification, Johnstone blurts out. Like the proposed constitution and program of the T.U.E.L., he tips his hat brusquely to the necessity for working in the old unions, but on this basis: that the Left wing is to work in the old unions only for the purpose of splitting off what they can to affiliate these splinters to the new trade union center. This is plain enough, at any rate. Not only does it violate all we learned in the Communist movement about work in the basic mass organizations of the workers, but it precludes any possibility for carrying on such work. This grows plainer every day. The “new line” results in the surrender of the 3 or more millions of workers still in the A.F. of L. to the mercies of Green.

3. The proof of the virtual liquidation of Party and Left wing activity in the A.F. of L. unions is now mountain-high. A dozen trade union conventions in the last few weeks alone could be cited where not a single Left wing delegate was in evidence, and in many, cases for the first time. At the Minnesota State Federation of Labor Convention (at Mankato) only O.R. Votaw, member of the Communist League, was a delegate, with no other Left winger present. The New York State Federation of Labor convention had representatives of the Muste group acting as the only opposition, insipid and timid as it was, to the machine. Numerous other instances show the same dark picture or darker. If this situation can possibly grow worse, the “new line” of the T.U.E.L. is sure to contribute its big mite.

4. The Eastern conference of the Marine Workers League. The ultra-mechanical control by the Party of this movement has throttled it until it is almost a wreck. The results of the policy of alienating and driving away all elements not members of the Party – and of a certain Party faction, at that – has narrowed the League down to its present shadow and resulted in a turn-out of 31 delegates, 2 of whom represented no one at all in New Orleans, 2 more represented the same grand total in Galveston, another 2 spoke for nobody in Boston, with the same from Norwalk. New York represented about 100 members, Philadelphia and Baltimore 50 each. The splendid possibilities for the organization of the movement were whistled away by those put in charge of the work. On the newly elected Executive Committee, there arc approximately three actual seamen. The real inner “powers” of the Marine Workers League remain Mink, Sparks and Somers, who are the kind of “seamen” that would look for the foc’sle in the galley and for the bo’sun on the bridge. Left wing and revolutionary militants like Jim Gildea, John Russell, Hector Macray, Brophy, S.M. Rose, Fred Crowley, Sizemore and King, were either wangled out, driven away, or “disciplined” out of activity. Their misfortune is that they have experience, ability, authority and prestige among the seamen. Four delegates go from this conference to Cleveland to represent American seamen!

5. The Cleveland conference meets under the warning sign of three severe defeats for the Left wing in the New York unions. The loss of the Left wing furriers’ strike and the triumph of the Right wing among the cloakmakers, have delivered a dizzying blow; to the organized left wing in New York. In addition, last week’s election of officers at the Iron and Bronze Workers Union, under the leadership of the Left wing for years, returned a complete Right wing slate, ousting Rosenfeld, Hofbauer, Powers and Karin who ran for re-election, and giving over the executive board of the union completely to the Rights. Philistine philosophers will always find “objective conditions” to explain these alarming facts. We find the cause where it actually lies – in the false, the radically false policy of the Left wing, that is, of the Communist Party leadership.

The Cleveland conference will run quite smoothly, we know. That has been taken care of in the usual way, It will be of service in emphasizing the great necessity of organizing the unorganized millions, demanded by us over a year ago. But few, if any, clear voices will be raised to demand the revival of the correct line that can fructify the excellent objective possibilities into blossoming realities. For our part, we will continue to demand the application of the teachings of Lenin on work in the trade unions, the united front policy, the organization of the unorganized in reality and not in manifestoes and fake conferences, the collaboration with workers following the progressives, the fight for the class struggle in the unions.

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Last updated on 14.8.2012