Max Shachtman

The Stalinists Start
a New Union-Busting Drive

(June 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 22, 1 June 1942, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Stalinists have started a new campaign in the unions. It is a sinister drive ostensibly directed at purging the unions of “Trotskyists,” who, it seems, are only a fifth column for John L. Lewis. It is given an official send-off in a series of two articles appearing in the Daily Worker (May 10 and 11) written by one Elmer Luchterhand. From the text of his articles, it appears that Luchterhand is an agent of the Stalinist spy bureau in the trade union movement.

There is nothing very distinctive about the style of the two articles. It is filled with the usual Stalinist combination of outright falsehoods taken from thin air, half-truths which are as bad or worse than bald lies, and dirty insinuations of the type characteristic of the police-brain. Thus, trade unionists are designated by this Luchterhand as “Trotskyists” merely because in one way or another, for one reason or another, they do not go along with the Stalinist line, and despite the fact that they have nothing more to do with the Trotskyist movement than the Stalinists have to do with socialism.

A case in point is his reference to Henry Johnson, who was recently involved in a factional struggle in the New York Transport Workers Union, a person who is totally unknown to the Trotskyist movement which, unfortunately, has virtually no connections with the TWU.

We Have Their Number

Luchterhand, like all informed Stalinists, is well aware that “Trotskyism,” or more simply, revolutionary socialist internationalism, is the deadliest enemy of the Moscow despots and their henchmen throughout the world. He knows that no matter how the Stalinists twist and turn, no matter, how they camouflage themselves, we have their number, and that we cannot be coerced or cajoled into giving up our struggle against this unwholesome menace to the labor movement.

That’s why the Stalinists have made alliances and pacts and agreements with everybody in the world – with capitalist reformers, with big business, with liberals, with labor bureaucrats, with social democrats, with Coughlinites and isolationists, with Hitler and Mussolini – but never with the Trotskyists.

The Stalinist drive launched now is not confined, however, to the Trotskyists. The Stalinist bigots want to drive out of the labor movement, or drive into submission or silence, anybody who refuses to toe the mark they draw. They want to see the same strangled, blinded, gagged and fettered labor movement here that their Moscow overlords have established in the Soviet Union, where no worker dares to risk a word of criticism of the ruling class without at the same time risking death, the concentration camp or, at the very least, imprisonment.

And if the whole labor movement in the United States does not soon understand this fact clearly, it may wake up some day to discover that ... it woke up too late.

The Stalinist Mark

Now, what mark is it the Stalinists want everybody in the labor movement to toe today? It is a twofold one. One, everybody must work like an uncomplaining mule to “produce for the war effort” regardless of what the monopolists and the government do to labor’s standard of living and to labor’s political rights. Two, everybody must shriek at the top of his voice and create all possible pressure for the opening of a “second front” in western Europe. Anyone who won’t go along with these two lines of action may expect to be denounced by the Stalinists as “Trotskyists’’ or “Lewisites” and even “fascists” and “fifth columnists” and “Coughlinites.” And wherever the Stalinists are desperate, frame-ups, at which they are experts, may also be expected.

Every worker who has recently come in contact with the Stalinists in factory or union knows that their policy makes them the worst and most outspoken speed-up artists known in this country in years. They are the most violent in shouting down strike action by workers even when the grievances are the most legitimate imaginable and when every other means of satisfying the demands of the workers has been exhausted – company stooges would not dare do so blatant a job for the bosses as the Stalin gang.

Every criticism or complaint of the workers against the company, immediately runs head-on into an apology for the company by the Stalinists, accompanied by a little-veiled threat that “national unity must be preserved” and “this is no time to attack our patriotic corporations.” Every anti-labor move – the surrender of overtime pay, the no-strike pledge and the like – finds the Stalinists as its most enthusiastic supporters.

The Stalinists’ Motives

Why is this? Is it because the Stalinists want to protect the basic interests of the workers and the labor movement? Is it even because they are tools of big business in this country? Is it even because they want the United States and the other “great democracies” to win the war?

Not at all. It is none of these. They are for “all-out war production” regardless of the cost to labor or the benefits to capital only because they were and still are the tools of the Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia. That bureaucracy is interested in one thing only – keeping itself in power at all costs. To keep in power it wants the good will and the products of American industry. To get both at the same time, the Kremlin gang hires out its American henchmen to Roosevelt and the capitalist class to serve them in the capacity of watchdogs to see that labor keeps its nose to the grindstone and its mouth shut.

Nobody saw the Stalinists in this country act the way they are acting now when the Kremlin bureaucracy was in a cozy alliance with Hitler. Just the opposite! Stalin’s tools ran up and down the land denouncing the war as an imperialist war and Roosevelt as a warmonger, shouting for the right to strike and exercising that right on all occasions, both suitable and unsuitable. That was when these scoundrels, who have the unvarnished gall to label us as “fascists,” were packing Lindbergh’s meetings with cheering squads and organizing meetings for the most reactionary isolationists, like Joe Curran’s Madison Square Garden meeting for Senator Wheeler.

What were they doing then? Protecting the interests of the labor movement? Not any more than they are doing so today. They were, as always, protecting only the interests of their employers, the Moscow bureaucracy. They don’t give two hoots in hell for anything else.

So it is today with the hue and cry for the “second’ front.” As our readers know, we are no supporters of the imperialist war on any side or any “front.” But even from the standpoint of a worker who is honestly supporting this war because he believes it means a defense of democracy from the menace of fascism, the Stalinist hysteria about a “second front” merits only the most suspicious and skeptical scrutiny.

The “Second Front” Issue

You don’t have to be a military expert to understand what the Stalinist demand for a “second front” would mean right now. Given the state of preparedness, training, equipment and reserves of the United Nations, a serious attempt to invade the European continent now would lead to one of the most horrible slaughters of human beings in history.

Maybe, cry the Stalinists, maybe. But Hitler wouldn’t hesitate to take the chance if he were in the same position. That’s just the point! Hitler wouldn’t for the simple dreadful reason that this human hyena and his crew regard the masses, including the masses in uniform, as mere cannon fodder to be sacrificed by the millions, if need be, sacrificed even in “ten-to-one shots” to satisfy the insatiable lust for power and plunder of the German ruling class. What does Hitler care? He can replace millions of dead by millions of prospective victims merely by ordering Germany’s women to breed like sows.

And let us add that the masters of the Kremlin care not one whit more about what happens to the masses in uniform than do the rulers of the Third Reich. To keep their power they have already sent to their death a whole generation of revolutionary socialists and labor militants. To keep their power they are ready to pile up mountains of corpses in the war. Fighting a reactionary war, they know only the reactionary way of fighting: by piling corpse on corpse on both sides of the battle, without being able to ruin the enemy and end the war by a successful appeal to the troops to fraternize.

Their Main Interest

Just as they don’t give a hang about how many casualties they accumulate, so they don’t care how many more are added by other countries, by their “allies.” That’s what the agitation of the Stalinists for a “second front” is all about, and nothing more. They are interested, it must be repeated time and again, only in preserving their Kremlin masters in power. If that power can be prolonged by a futile, hopeless slaughter of hundreds of thousands of unsupported or unsupportable troops on a “second front” in the West, they’re all for it.

What we are dealing with in the case of the Stalinist movement is as cynical, cold-blooded, unprincipled band of exploiters of the labor movement as has ever been known in its history.

Stalinism and its abominations cannot stand the fight of day. They know how thoroughly we know them and their motives and their practices. They know that, we keep the light of the irrefutable truth focused on them at all times: That’s why they want to “exterminate” us, so they can operate more freely among the workers’ of this country. That’s why they want to put but the light, so that they can operate in the darkness, where it is safe to sulk and drive a knife between labor’s ribs.

That’s why the latest Stalinist drive against “Trotskyism” is nothing less than a drive against the independence, against the integrity, and above all against the future of the American labor movement.

Let us be on guard against this sinister pestilence!

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