Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communists Analyze Brotherhood

Lessons Drawn from Building U.A.W. Caucus

First Published: The Call, Vol. 2, No. 12, September 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Brotherhood Caucus at its height was a mass workers’ organization within UAW Local 1364, GM plant in Fremont, California. It attracted most of the advanced and progressive workers in the plant who were fed up with the sell-out union leaders in the International and their puppets on the local level. Hundreds of workers of all nationalities and strata were active members of the caucus at its height, and active support for the caucus could be found among the vast majority of workers. The plant was swept by a sort of “Brotherhood fever” as the workers went in the hundreds to union meetings to confront and oppose the local leaders and International Representative, as mass rallies were held to support Brothers and Sisters who were ripped-off for their Brotherhood activities, and as rudimentary organizations were built in the various departments in the plant.

What did the Brotherhood represent? It was an organized form of the rank-and-file forces within the UAW. Just as Woodcock and his gang of bribed labor leaders were the forces of the imperialists in our union, so the Brotherhood (and similar caucuses which have been built around the country) represented the force of the rank-and-file in our union. Its overall program’s main points were struggle against the company, struggle against discrimination and struggle for union democracy. As such it was on a collision course with the class collaborationist, chauvinist and corrupt International leadership. The caucus was a concrete form of action of the rank-and-file against GM, with petitions, line organizations, work stoppages and other forms of resistance. In both its multi-national membership and in its taking up the special demands of minorities, the caucus represented the proletarian line on the struggle against discrimination, directly opposing the chauvinist line of Woodcock and his agents. And the Brotherhood was a united front of various strata in the plant including skilled workers, former local union officials, many rank-and-file workers, and communists who were all united (each for their own reasons) in a front against GM and the International.


This struggle against the International was one of the Brotherhood’s main concrete functions. The main form this took was a militant opposition to the old local leadership of corrupt local agents of the International. This often exposed the direct connections of the International with these local leaders in their financial corruption and in the direct control the International Representative had over the affairs of the local union. This concrete campaign allowed many workers to learn from their own experience what side of the fence the International is on. This opposition was also clearly expressed in the leaflets and newspaper of the caucus.

One of the most important aspects of the Brotherhood was its struggle against discrimination. This was one of the main points of principle in the caucus. Its multi-national membership and the fact that the leadership of the caucus was mainly Black posed a threat to the International, which has maintained its control over the union chiefly through the suppression of minority workers. There were many campaigns against discrimination (e.g. petitions on seniority rights; a struggle to get Black women with high seniority on as janitresses; a struggle to get a woman rehired after having being fired in a blatant sex discrimination case) that were successfully waged by the caucus in the plant. When an OL member was fired for political activity, hundreds of workers turned out to protest rallies and got her rehired.


As capitalism develops into its highest stage of imperialism, a small section of the proletariat becomes “bourgeoisified,” and becomes the bribed agents of the imperialists within the working class movement. These paid agents attempt to steer the trade unions into the channel of class cooperation and national chauvinism. In the U.S., especially the working class has a long history of this labor aristocracy, which has attempted to suppress the struggle of Afro-American workers for equality; which has tried to pit American workers against workers of other nations, and which has consistently tried to five up the basic rights of the workers to have a strong union with the right to strike. And these “imperialist-minded, imperialist-bribed and imperialist-corrupted” labor aristocrats have built a firm hold on the unions in the U.S.

But does the fact that this struggle will be difficult mean that we shouldn’t take it up. No! As Lenin said in “Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder.” “This struggle must be waged ruthlessly, and it must unfailingly be brought – as we brought it – to a point when all the incorrigible leaders of opportunism and social-chauvinism are completely discredited and driven out of the trade unions! And our goal in waging this struggle is to win the masses of workers (and their basic organization, the unions) to our side, to follow the leadership of our party.”

One of the best forms that the working class has come up with in its fight against these “mis-leaders” has been the caucuses within the unions. These caucuses provide a concrete organization of struggle for the union members that stands in direct contrast with the class cooperation of the International leaders. Caucuses should be able to unite the vast majority of union membership (of all strata) around a program of struggle against the companies, union democracy, anti-discrimination, and unqualified opposition to the International, with the ultimate goal of isolating them and kicking them out of the union. Caucuses provide a mass organization for communists to win the masses to see the need for revolution, to struggle with other strata for political leadership of the class, to exert revolutionary influence on the whole union, and to work toward revolutionizing the unions.

When we first started working at GM-Fremont, we were faced with a practical decision; What would we do in the Brotherhood? We realized that we had to move beyond the stage of just talking about it, and should start acting on what we saw. Another question we faced was this one: How would any work that we do in the Brotherhood relate to our central task of building a new party?


We made the decision to participate fully in the Brotherhood. This was a correct decision; it represented a break with the ultra-“leftism” that has plagued the young communist movement, keeping it isolated from the mass struggle. This decision put us in a position of helping to lead a mass movement in the union. Participating in the Brotherhood was an expression of the correct political line that the goal of communists working in the trade unions is to win the masses to the side of revolution, by isolating and destroying the principal enemy within the unions, the labor aristocrats. And it also represented the correct line that the chief method of rule of these labor leaders (as well as their chief form of class cooperation) is national chauvinism; therefore the struggle against discrimination and chauvinism in the union will be the key to their defeat.

Going all out to build the caucus was also the correct thing to do because it put us in a better position to raise the workers’ political consciousness. It was a united front of various strata, who, for their own reasons, opposed the International and its local puppets. Working in this united front gave the advanced workers the experience of working with other strata, so they could learn who are the most stable allies and who aren’t. And, working in the caucus gave us the opportunity to conduct mass political propaganda on a much wider scale than if we had stayed aloof from this workers’ organization. We were able to build organized mass support for the UFWA, for the Chinese October 1 celebration, and for the Dump Nixon movement.

But while consolidating this breakthrough against ultra-“leftism”, we at times flipped to economist errors, which expressed themselves in many ways. First, our propaganda work was much too limited. The political propaganda that we carried on in the caucus newspaper and leaflets was not nearly as comprehensive as it could have been, and often remained at the “lowest common denominator” of the caucus, instead of presenting advanced, revolutionary ideas and struggling with the less developed forces in the caucus. The independent propaganda that we carried on (in developing the advanced workers, in selling THE CALL, and in pointing out the final aim of the working class movement) was inconsistent and often at the bottom of our priority list. Secondly, the task of building a strong communist organization in me plant was not always taken up; training of workers with Marxism-Leninism, recruitment of workers to the OL, and independent distribution apparatus for THE CALL inside the plant–all these things were at times neglected as we built the caucus. Third, we did not struggle as much as we should have within this united front. This was a two-line struggle in the Brotherhood as there is in everything. This was the struggle between the advanced forces (who were committed to the people, who saw the importance of struggling against the International, and who were open to revolutionary ideas) and the opportunists (who were working in the caucus for their own personal gain, or for their small circle of friends, and who were opposed to mobilizing and organizing the masses).

But these mistakes were all the result of not carrying out the line of the October League, which has always put party building in its three aspects – theoretical, mass work, and organizational –as our central task. If we had carried out this line, we would have carried on comprehensive communist propaganda, we would have built a strong factory nucleus, and we would have maintained our independence within the united front.

And these mistakes do not mean that the decision to participate fully was at all incorrect. The line of “critical support” that has been put forward by the RU means reducing communists to the role of “objective spectator” of the mass movement, who covers himself no matter what happens – he can say he was right if it succeeds and he can say he was right if it fails! In practice in our plant, this meant the RU did nothing but attack in order to maintain their own “purity” and abandoned the mass struggle of the rank and file. Secondly, their disdain for the struggle of the masses led them to not take up the fight against discrimination in the plant.


Communists must analyze the contradictions within the working class – who is for imperialism and who is against it – we must be a student of the movement. But on the basis of our analysis we must act to build the progressive, anti-imperialist forces within the unions. As we build this united front, it is bound to develop the two-line struggle. And that is a good thing, for out of that struggle the front will develop. We must certainly not be afraid of that struggle, nor should we be so concerned with being able to say we were right no matter what happens. And communists must maintain their independence and initiative within the united front, to consolidate the advanced forces and point out the final aims, and to have the freedom to criticize opportunism and violations of the united front.

So the reasons that we work to build caucuses within the unions are the same ones we have for working in the unions themselves. We want to increase the fighting capacity of the workers, help them fight for their rights. We want to help the working class get organized. And we want the masses of workers, not just a handful of contacts, learn from their own experiences and from our propaganda that they need to overthrow the whole system of imperialism. In building the Brotherhood we made a lot of mistakes that prevented us from carrying out these goals. But the RU is contributing nothing to the ideological level of the communist movement, or to the workers’ movement, by sitting back with its “critical support” and openly attacking the Brotherhood from the beginning. This puts them objectively on the side of the company and the bureaucrats.