Max Shachtman

What Happened at the UAW Convention —

New Shift in the CP Line

(October 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 42, 16 October 1944, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

“What Happened at the UAW Convention?”

Under this title, the Daily Worker of October 8 prints an article by Nat Ganley, leader of the Communist Party termites in the UAW-CIO and their spokesman at the union’s Grand Rapids convention.

Ganley is very much disturbed, and he has a right to be. For the first time in the history of the UAW, the progressive militants joined their forces in a Rank and File Caucus. This caucus, with a program of its own, for which it fought cleanly and aggressively, was independent of the two old power cliques in the union – Addes-Frankensteen, which the Communists support, and Reuther. Ganley understands perfectly that if the Rank and File Group continues to grow, if its program is adopted by the majority of the UAW membership, it will mean the end of the paralysing policies which he and his party and its allies have foisted on the union.

Ganley is especially worried about the vote rolled up by the progressives at the Grand Rapids convention against the hamstringing no-strike pledge. The vote w|s especially impressive in view of .the fact that the entire leadership was arrayed against the progressives on this point.

The sentiment of the rank and file of the convention may be judged by the fact that in the first balloting the Communist resolution in favor of the pledge, supported by every prominent UAW official except the Reuther brothers was defeated; and the fact that the pledge could be reaffirmed on the convention floor only by the use of skulduggery and fraud and by the Reuther faction lining up behind it along with the Communists, Thomas, Addes, Frankensteen and Leonard.

What the Ranks Wanted

The membership’s sentiment may be judged from the fact that the delegates voted overwhelmingly in favor of a referendum on the pledge, in spite of the opposition of Ganley and the entire UAW officialdom, again except for Reuther, who felt it wiser to “go along” with the rank and file on this point. Ganley & Co. were afraid to consult the membership on the pledge, afraid of the decision it would make in a referendum.

The sentiment of the delegates may be judged, finally, from the fact that in adopting the decision for a referendum it also adopted provisions aimed at preventing the officialdom from using its bureaucratic powers to influence the voting. The adopted resolution specifically prohibits all international officers from using their office, from using the union press, or from using union funds for the purpose of influencing the outcome of the referendum. Furthermore, the resolution took the conduct of the referendum out of the hands of the International Executive Board and placed it in the hands of a special nine-man committee composed of three representatives from each of the three viewpoints.

Whatever else may be thought of these provisions, one thing they show clearly: the delegates had no confidence in their official leaders, no trust in their impartiality. It was a vote of no-confidence, and not the only such vote at the Grand Rapids convention.

No wonder Mr Ganley is alarmed!

His article, in which every line is a slander and every other line a lie, aims at mobilizing the Communist stalwarts for the referendum for the purpose of reaffirming the infamous pledge.

He wants the convention resolutions circumvented. He says. “When the discussion is launched, it is the right and duty of the CIO leadership, the UAW regions, and local unions to carry out a widespread educational campaign in favor of the correct policies of the CIO. The united UAW administration must find the means of expressing their opinions consistent with the mandates of the convention.”

Ganley doesn’t give a hoot in hell about those “mandates of the convention” that stand in the way of his objective. What he clearly wants is the THWARTING of the convention mandate which FORBIDS the leadership from carrying on any “educational” campaign “in favor of the correct (?) policies of the CIO.” The convention mandate forbids the leadership from using its office, or the union press or funds, to put over the no-strike pledge again in the referendum.

Ganley wants to GET AROUND this clear and unambiguous convention mandate. That is what he means by saying that the union administration “must find ways and means of expressing their opinions.” The Communist Party (or Association!) termites in the unions are always happy to abide by a majority decision When it is THEIR majority – and only then!

Just what measures Ganley and his allies in the UAW leadership plan to take to flout the convention decisions on the referendum, remain to be seen. The membership, you may be sure, will keep a close watch on these slippery gentlemen. It is doubtful if the membership will allow itself to be bulldozed or muddled by Ganley’s lies about the “new Trotskyite-Lewis caucus” and the “Reuther-Trotskyite coalition.”

The best elements in the rank and file know what happened at Grand Rapids. They know that the no-strike pledge has been a noose around their neck, around the union’s neck; and they want to rid themselves of the noose. They have the opportunity of doing so in the referendum – provided they are wide-awake at all times, provided they insist on an honest conduct of the referendum.

The Communist Resolution

There is, however, another aspect of the referendum and the pledge to which no attention has been paid, but which deserves the greatest and most careful attention. This aspect escaped the delegates at Grand Rapids. The must not escape the attention of the UAW membership, especially with the referendum that lies before them. It is the aspect of the question that the Communist Party and its agents like Ganley are most anxious to keep in the dark. It must be brought to light, particularly because the Communists are the best organized force in the drive to keep labor chained to the no-strike pledge.

If you read carefully the resolution sponsored at Grand Rapids by Ganley, Shelton Tappes and, in general, by the Communist Party people, you will notice a very peculiar formulation. The first “resolve” reaffirms the. no-strike pledge “for the duration.” The second “resolve” says the war will be over only after the unconditional surrender not only of Germany but also of Japan, and that the pledge must be maintained until that time. So far, at least, it is clear, and represents the policy advocated for some time by the Communists.

But watch closely now. The second “resolve” suddenly, out of a clear blue sky, as it were, says the following:

“New conditions may affect our no-strike pledge after the defeat of Germany. Hence immediately upon the termination of the war against Germany, the International Executive Board shall, together with the National Board of the CIO, and after consultation with the other boards of organized labor in the United States who gave the pledge, review and decide a further policy on the no-strike pledge for the balance of the war to drive Japan to unconditional surrender.”

What is the meaning of these two obscure sentences? What is behind them?

At no time, up to now, have the Communists put forth their position in such language. At no time, up to now, have they made any distinction between the application of the pledge up to the defeat of Germany and its application between the time Germany is defeated and the defeat of Japan.

In their UAW resolution, however, they say that while the pledge must be unreservedly maintained up to the time Germany is defeated, the International Executive Board, in consultation with other labor bodies, shall “REVIEW and decide a FURTHER policy on the no-strike pledge for the balance of the war to drive Japan to unconditional surrender”

Plumping for Stalin

At first blush this proposal seems to have been made for the purpose of snagging some votes in favor of the pledge. How? By suggesting, without saying so in so many words, that after Germany is defeated and gone reconversion to civilian production takes place, the Communists are ready to leave a door open for a repeal, or a modification, of the pledge. This was the position of the Reuther resolution, and undoubtedly the Communist resolution we have quoted was calculated to win some Reuther supporters.

But that is only at first blush. In reality, we believe, there is a profounder and more sinister significance in the section quoted. The Communist gang wants to leave itself an open door of an entirely different kind and for an entirely different purpose. And thereby they once more reveal their true role in the labor movement of this country.

What their resolution really means is this:

Up to now the Communist Party has gone along in support of Roosevelt and American capitalism – and therefore of the no-strike pledge – for one reason and one only: because it suited and was needed by the Russian Stalinist bureaucracy. The Communists in this country are willing (and instructed) to continue going-along with, Roosevelt and American capitalism if the latter makes acceptable agreements with Stalin.

These agreements concern above all the imperialist aims of the Kremlin. If Washington and Wall Street go along with Moscow’s plan to enslave the Baltic countries, the Balkan countries, Poland and part of Germany (in return, of course, for Moscow support to American imperialism in its “sphere of interest”), everything will be all right. The Communists will continue their present policy. BUT, if, after the defeat of Germany, the imperialist thieves fall out among themselves, and American imperialism does not okay Russia’s annexations, the Communists, again in Stalin’s interests, are prepared to change their present policy overnight!

Let us assume for a moment that once Germany is defeated the imperialist victors quarrel openly over who is to devour the Polish nation, the Polish people. Let us assume for a moment that Roosevelt (or his successor) does not go along with Stalin on this point. The American Stalinists would then refer back to their Grand Rapids resolution and show how they proposed to “review and decide a further policy on the no-strike pledge for the balance of the war.” Of this we may be absolutely sure. We may be equally sure that they would then pose as the most “radical” unionists in the country, even “calling strikes one after another, whether they are in order or not. It happened before; it can happen again.

Stop the Union-Wreckers

In other words, the Communist machine is nothing else but a tool, a blackmail and blackjack weapon, of the Russian bureaucracy and its foreign policy. What the American labor movement must see to, however, is that it is not subverted and converted by the Communist machine into the same kind of tool used for the same purpose. Labor needs to restore to itself the great weapon of the right to strike. But it needs it to strengthen and. defend itself – not as an instrument in the claws of the Stalinist autocracy.

The auto workers especially, who are about to vote on the question in their referendum, ought to read and re-read the resolution presented at Grand Rapids by Ganley and Tappes. If they study it intelligently they will understand the real aims of the Communist termites in the labor movement. They will understand also why they attack so violently and consistently us Trotskyists, Who know their role and their game through and through, and who have the habit of telling the labor movement the truth about them!

On the results of the referendum will depend to a large degree the answer to the question: What is going to happen to the UAW, the pioneer and pillar of the CIO? What the Communist machine wants to make out of the UAW, and out of the labor movement as a whole, should be clearer now than ever before. To crush the dastardly plans of the Communist stooges and their conscious or unconscious allies, requires vigilance, militancy, courage, outspokenness and clarity in the UAW membership. In the next few weeks it requires a decisive majority vote in the referendum in favor of – repealing the no-strike pledge!

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Last updated on 17 February 2016