Max Shachtman

Here Is Our Answer to Your Attack, Mr. John Green!

Why Did President Green Join
with the Stalinists at Shipyard Convention?

(October 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 40, 5 October 1942, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Mr. John Green, President,
Industrial Union of Marine & Shipbuilding Workers, CIO,
Camden, N.J.

Dear Mr. Green:

The Stalinists are overjoyed at the outcome of the convention your union just held in New York.

At the very last session of the convention, with the delegates worn out and paying no attention to what was happening, the Stalinist clique in the union put over a resolution condemning our paper, Labor Action, putting it in the same category with the Hitlerites, and calling on the government to investigate and suppress it.

You, Mr. Green, aided and abetted this despicable, lying Stalinist assault directed not only at us and not even primarily at us – but at the interests of the entire labor movement. This letter is addressed to you in order to show the meaning of what happened.

Text of the Resolution

Do you know what the resolution says, what you concurred in? Read it again:.

“These anonymous vermin have seen fit through a scurrilous sheet which they pass off as a labor paper called Labor Action, to viciously attack our president, Brother Green, and secretary-treasurer, Van Gelder, for their unstinting labor in behalf of our war effort, and

“Whereas: This can only serve to strengthen the hands of Nazi agents in this country by aiding them to slow up production of our vital war machinery; now therefore be it

“Resolved: That the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers, in convention assembled, vigorously condemn the traitorous fifth column activity and propaganda of this irresponsible gang and urges all, of its local unions to track down and stamp out any of this activity within their reach, and be it further

“Resolved: That we urgently request the U.S. government to investigate the movement and activities of these traitors so as to quickly and efficiently Smoke them out of their soles and eliminate them, just as other Nazi agents, from American life.”

That’s the text of the resolution as printed in the Communist Party’s Daily Worker of September 27. The representative of your union in New York, whom we called on the telephone, didn’t even know about the existence of such a resolution. Secretary-Treasurer Van Gelder, whom we called on the telephone at union headquarters in Camden, N.J., had only a vague and general recollection of the resolution, and couldn’t even verify the text.

Deliberate Campaign by Stalinists

But you know what was in the resolution, Mr. Green. And you know who was behind it, who cooked it up in the dark of the moon, and what purpose they had in mind.

You know it was the Stalinists, don’t you! You know that this resolution, with almost the same wording, is being presented against Labor Action by the Stalinist gangs in one union after another. They just tried the same thing at the convention of the United Rubber Workers Union of the CIO. They are trying to do the same thing in sections of the United Electrical & Radio Workers Union – and wherever else they can get away with it. This resolution is not the product of the “spontaneous reaction” of “indignant workers,” but part of a campaign deliberately and carefully planned by the American servants of the Moscow oligarchy.

You know why they are doing it, because you have had enough experience with the Stalinists yourself. They are out to crush every critic of the Communist Party bureaucracy, and no means is too foul for them to employ, no lie too great, no trick too dirty. They are out to crush Labor Action and the whole Trotskyist movement in particular, because it is not empty boasting when we say that we KNOW the Stalinists, we know all their crimes, we know their methods, we know their disguises, we know what contempt they really have for the working class and the labor movement, we know that their ONLY aim in the labor movement is to make it a docile tool of Stalin & Co., we know that they are ready to enslave every worker and shed oceans of blood in order to keep the Stalin gang in power in the Kremlin.

The Stalinists know that we know them through and through! They know who we are. They know of our years and years of single-minded devotion to the cause of the working class, to the cause and struggle of labor unionism, to the cause and ideals of revolutionary socialism. They know of our unremitting and uncompromising struggle against fascism in every country, from the day it was first heard of in Italy twenty-two years ago down to the present day pf the monstrous tyranny of Hitler and Mussolini. They know that we cannot be bribed or intimidated or swayed from our attachment to the working class and to socialism. They know that no interest is higher to us than the interest of labor.

That’s why they are resolved to get rid of us in the only way they know how: by lying about us, by trying to frame us up, by whistling for the cops, by calling on the capitalist government to gag and imprison us.

You Know This To Be True!

You are not so blind or stupid as not to understand these simple truths, are you, Mr. Green? You know, don’t you, that these are the incontestable facts?

Who are these unscrupulous rogues who dare to link Labor Action, our incorruptible spokesman, with the “fifth column,’’ with Hitlerism?

Aren’t they the people who capitulated to Hitler in 1933? Wasn’t it the Communist Party, with millions of workers ready to act at its command, that fled the field without firing a shot when Hitler took over Germany? Aren’t they the people who criminally refused to make a united front against fascism with the Social-Democratic Party and the trade unions of Germany, which we, together with our great leader, Leon Trotsky, urged them to do? Yes, the same people!

Where were these same Stalinists on February 21, 1939? On that day the Nazi training ground and espionage nest, the German-American Bund, called its anti-labor, anti-Semitic demonstration in Madison Square Garden, in New York. We – the people of Labor Action and our comrades – called a working class counter-demonstration to teach these fascist provocateurs a lesson they wouldn’t quickly forget. A mass of workers estimated at between 50,000 and 100,000 responded to our call, and although the police protected the Nazis, our demonstration was a magnificent success. If you permit me to remind you, I and my comrades were leading this anti-fascist demonstration. Where were the Stalinists, where were your newly-made cronies? They were telling the workers, through the columns of their paper, the Daily Worker, to stay away from our demonstration – that is, to give the fascist hooligans a free field.

What do you say to SUCH people calling US “Nazi agents,” Mr. Green?

Applauded Hitler-Stalin Pact

And don’t you remember what happened only six months later? That’s when Mr. Stalin and Mr. Hitler kissed and made up. That’s when the infamous Russo-German alliance was signed. That’s when Stalin gave Hitler the green light, which Hitler followed up by pouncing on Poland’s left flank while his ally Stalin pounced on its right flank. That assassin’s alliance lasted not less than twenty-two months, during which the fascists devoured almost all of Europe, with Stalin’s help.

WE denounced that alliance! WE denounced Hitlerism then with all the power and argument at our command, as we denounced it before then and since then. WE hate fascism with every fibre of our being, because we know the bloody slavery into which it yokes the workers wherever if conquers. WE never signed a pact, an alliance, with Hitler or any other fascist, and we never will. You know that, don’t you, Mr. Green?

But your friends, the Stalinists? They applauded that pact! They hailed it, through Mr. Browder, through the Daily Worker, through every other spokesman. They saluted it as a victory for peace – do you remember? They said England and France alone are responsible for the war, that is, they whitewashed Nazi Germany – do you remember? They said that fascism is only “a matter of taste” – do you remember? They said that the Stalin-Hitler alliance was “sealed in blood” – do you remember?

Do You Remember Your Views?

And now you, Mr. Green, you who went along with this notorious, malodorous crew – don’t you know better?

That foul resolution speaks of us as “anonymous vermin” and “just as other Nazi agents.” But you KNOW who we are, don’t you?

Not so long ago we were members of the same organization, the Socialist Party. We of Labor Action fought for the principles of revolutionary socialism in that party, just as we fight for them today. You, President Green and Secretary-Treasurer Van Gelder, as co-members of the Socialist Party, fought for the principles of revolutionary socialism as you understood them. You were members of the group that called itself the “Revolutionary Policy Committee.” You issued a statement of policy- – only a few years ago! – which you wanted the Socialist Party to adopt as its national platform. Do you remember what you said in that statement of policy? I know – you would like to forget it! But let me remind you of some of it by quoting. This is what you said about the war, you, Mr Green, and you, Mr. Van Gelder:

“As long as capitalism exists war is inevitable. Socialists are opposed to all capitalist wars and will exert ceaseless efforts to eliminate them. The League of Nations, Disarmament Conferences, etc., cannot be relied upon to insure peace because permanent peace for the workers can only come after capitalism has been destroyed. It makes no vital difference to the working class, which imperialist power resorts to the first act of aggression in the coming war. We stand irrevocably against all capitalist wars regardless of how or by whom they are started.

“We fight against imperialist wars through general propaganda, demonstrations, organizations and strikes in key war industries, including forcible stoppage of munition shipments by workers, and united fronts with all anti-war groups regardless of political beliefs. Anti-war activity must be carried on intensively among the workers with the ultimate aim of (1) so organizing labor that a threat of a general strike can be held over the heads of government leaders contemplating war, and (2) preparing the working class to turn imperialist war into class war.”

Do you remember these words, gentlemen? That’s what you wrote a few years ago, before the war. That’s the promise you made the workers. You know us, just as we know you. You know, also, the difference between us. It is this:

We have remained true to our working class principles. We said we were opposed to imperialist war before it broke out; we are still opposed to it. We said the interests of the workers come before anything else with us – before, during or after the war. We still say so.

You have repudiated your principles! You have betrayed your own words, and the spirit of those words! You are what ordinary, decent people call a turncoat, a renegade. You spit in the face of your own past. And you have so completely lost all sense of shame that you unite with the Stalinist thugs to denounce as Nazis those people who have remained loyal to the principles of working class socialism which you ONCE espoused and which you have NOW betrayed.

Sought Our Aid Against Them

But it wasn’t so long ago, was it, Mr. Green, that you used to come, with worry in your heart to the labor editor of our Labor Action, whom you knew then as a man of character and principle – and he hasn’t changed. You used to come to consult him on how to fight the Stalinists. Have you forgotten that already?

Have you forgotten that as recently as last winter’s Camden convention of the union, when the Stalinist gang was after your scalp and was crowding you [and] you, Mr. Green, approached one of the many known friends of Labor Action in your union for help in fighting the Stalinists, for help in preventing them from getting control of the union – control which you know means the destruction of genuine unionism? It was the same Labor Action then as the one you just joined in calling “fifth columnist.” We haven’t changed. You have. And you’ve changed for the worse – much worse.

Straw-Boss For Capitalism

You have sold out your principles, Mr. Green. Once labor was everything in your eyes, and the interests of labor could never be subordinated to the interests of capital. Now you are just a foreman, a straw-boss, for the American capitalist class. You spit on socialism now, and you try to besmirch those who are proud of their socialist faith. You want the workers to keep their mouths shut and work like horses for the war which they did not want, about which they were not consulted, about which they have nothing to say even now. You want them to keep their mouths shut and their noses to the grindstone while the shipbuilding corporations and the other big capitalist monopolists coin millions upon millions of dollars in profit, hand over fist, out of the toil of the workers.

Any outrage can now be perpetrated qgaist the workers by any reactionary scoundrel who yells “Patriotism!” Any injustice can be imposed upon the workers in the name of “Win the War!” Their rights can be taken from them, one by one, and they mustn’t say a word in protest. Their economic standards can be lowered, inch by inch, and they mustn’t do a thing in protest. Their official leaders, men like yourself, can do anything and everything except protect labor’s interests, but the union member must hold his tongue.

That’s your ideal!

And when we of Labor Action tell the workers what their rights are, when we tell them – as we shall always continue to tell them – that they must fight for these rights, no matter who says otherwise, you denounce both us and the workers who listen to our working class message as “trouble makers” and now – as German agents. Mr. Green! At the New York convention, you exchanged radio greetings with the British Labor MP, David Kirkwood, and you reminded him that you, as a young shipbuilder, knew him and fought by his side on the Clyde during the last war. Did not a flush of shame come over your face when you thought of those days? Don’t you remember that David Kirkwodd and John MacLean and Willie Gallacher fought openly and courageously in the last war, as leaders of the Clydeside shipbuilders in Scotland, for the same things we of Labor Action are fighting for now? You are betraying that fight! Don’t you remember that during the last war Kirkwood and MacLean and Gallacher were denounced as “German agents” by Lloyd George and the “patriotic” rats in the labor movement, just as you so unscrupulously and cynically denounce us today?

Those leaders of the Clydeside shipbuilders were men of character and principle. They led the workers in struggle. They were not afraid of police clubs or prison, and they got both. And they were never insulted by the praise of the capitalists.

You have lost all character and all principle, Mr. Green. That’s the difference between you and Labor Action; that’s the difference between you land the Clydeside leaders of 1917. That’s why the capitalists now praise you. Yes, they praise you! Who? The paper of Westbrook Pegler, the poison-pen of the labor-baiters. Here is what his newspaper, the New York World-Telegram, said about you on September 25, just one day before the filthy resolution adopted against Labor Action:

“Good for John Green! Other leaders of organized labor have said that strikes in war industries, in violation of their solemn promise that there would be none, are due to small minorities – and stopped there ...

“But John Green goes all the way. He says that strikes, even though caused by small minorities, endanger the nation, aid its enemies and injure unionism – and he proposes to drive the trouble makers out of his union. Labor needs much more of that type of leadership.”

If I am not mistaken, you are the first American labor leader whom Westbrook Pegler’s paper has praised so joyfully since the beginning of the war in 1939! And I say: You deserve it, and richly! Does the praise of labor’s sworn enemies make you feel proud of yourself?

What’s the Real Issue?

At the convention you spoke against “unionism as usual.” We know what that means; so does every worker. Joseph Curran, president of the National Maritime Union, said at your convention that “trade unionism must go out the window for the war’s duration.”

That’s the issue! That’s what is involved! You and your Stalinist pals have the brass to attack Labor Action as enemies of labor. But it is you – you and your friend Curran and your friends the Stalinists – who are the enemies of the interests of unionism and the workers. You want to suspend unionism “for the duration.” Curran wants to throw unionism “out of the window.” A hell of a pair of “labor leaders” you are!

We DON’T want to suspend unionism during the war or at any other time. We DON’T want tp throw it out of the window. We want it maintained. We want it united. We want it strengthened. We want it made more conscious and more militant. We want it to demand its rights now, and its great historical right, too. We want them to rule. We want them to be the whole government. We want them to determine their own destiny.

That’s why we say openly that we have nothing in common with either one of you – you or your new chums – and that we will fight you and your reactionary influence in the labor movement to the very end.

We won’t fight with the aid of the cops, however. We have even less in common with the capitalist government or its police. You are the scabby gentlemen who call the cops to settle the problems of the labor movement. We do not. Our weapons are the legitimate arms of the working class and the labor movement.

Do not fool yourself into thinking that police, or anybody else outside the labor movement, can settle the problems of that labor movement. Don’t be such a fool as to think that the voice of militant labor can be gagged by you or by anyone else.

These problems must be solved by the workers themselves, and they will be. It is their judgment that will be the final judgment. And regardless of how you may cajole or coerce them for a moment, trick or intimidate them for another moment, we, for our part, await that final judgment with the undisturbed calm which is part of our certainty of the triumph of socialism.


Max Shachtman

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Last updated on 3 October 2014