Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Ben Rose

The Communist Party and the CIO


First Published: Theoretical Review No. 22, May-June 1981
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

The problem of those who write the history of communist parties is therefore unusually difficult. They must recapture the unique and, among secular movements, unprecedented temper of bolshevism, equally remote from the liberalism of most historians and the permissive and self-indulgent activism of most contemporary ultras. There is no understanding it without a grasp of that sense of total devotion which made the party in Auschwitz make its members pay their dues in cigarettes (inconceivably precious and almost impossible to obtain in an extermination camp), which made the cadres accept the order not merely to kill Germans in occupied Paris, but first to acquire, individually, the arms to do so, and which made it virtually unthinkable for them to refuse to return to Moscow even to certain imprisonment or death. There is no understanding either the achievements or the perversions of bolshevism without this, and both have been monumental; and certainly no understanding of the extraordinary success of communism as a system of education for political work. – E. J. Hobsbawm[1]


The expulsion of the eleven left-led unions from the CIO in 1949-50 marked the end of major communist influence in the American labor movement. Perhaps of even greater significance, the expulsions emphasized the willingness of virtually all segments of American labor to join the bipartisan cold war consensus. The CIO had begun in the 1936-37 upheaval of the unorganized workers in the mass production industries. Until the later 1940s, the CIO had commonly been associated with a style of politically independent social unionism, a movement willing to fight for general working class interests and solidarity. Whatever the reality of this widely held view, the destruction of the left in the CIO signalled the final predominance of a bureaucratized business unionism fully compatible with the AFL and the railroad brotherhoods. The CIO became permanently tied to the Democratic Party, with a narrowly job-conscious unionism based on responsible cooperation with employers, the eschewal of fundamental social change, and the abandonment of all tactics involving mass action or rank and file initiative.

Most historians have dealt with the failure of the communists in CIO as the inevitable rejection of a foreign, totalitarian ideology for which American workers had no use in periods of prosperity. Although rejecting the argument that the loss of radical influence is correlated with prosperity, David Saposs basically sums up the standard historical knowledge:

As fundamental issues clashed with the dynamics of Soviet Russia’s totalitarian and imperialistic ambitions, it was inevitable that the CIO, basically an American institution, should take drastic action to rid itself of the Communists within its fold. And it was natural that the CIO should remain loyal to American and democratic traditions when vital domestic and international issues became irreconcilable with those of Soviet Russia. This change in attitude toward the Communists coincided with the change in our national policy and in that of the Western European nations. The immediate issues that precipitated action were: (1) our decision to embark on foreign economic and military aid programs that became known as the “Truman Doctrine” and the “Marshall Plan,” and (2) Communist sponsorship of the Wallace presidential candidacy on the Progressive Party slate with a pro-Soviet platform. In the charges which led to the expulsion trials and decisions, . . . other reasons are given. But they are only incidental to the basic differences referred to heretofore.[2]

Conversely, traditional left historians and participants tend to picture the left as the passive victim of an anti-communist hysteria which wrecked CIO unity and violated the democratic rights of unions to express their own opinions on political affairs. While both these views contain major elements of truth, they both ignore the whole range of intermediate questions as to why certain historical possibilities and opportunities were acted upon and why others were rejected. What is needed is a careful examination of CIO history and the eventual disintegration of the left-center coalition which had governed the CIO since its earliest days. Of particular importance are the policies of the Communist Party, the most united and eventually the hegemonic group on the American radical left in the 1930s and 40s.

The Trade Union Unity League

Abandoning their program of boring from within the AFL in the late 1920s, the CP created the dual union structure of the Trade Union Unity League (TUUL). In reality this change came in response to the Third Period leftist turn of the international communist movement, although it was explained as a response to the AFL leadership’s refusal to organize the unskilled workers of the mass production industries, as well as the disintegration of many AFL unions under the impact of the Depressions.

Third Period leftism was characterized by the belief in the imminence of revolution, a sectarian attitude toward other left groups (the “social-fascists”), and a policy which abandoned traditional united front tactics. In the trade unions the Third Period line was characterized by dual unionism: the establishment of separate “revolutionary” unions, and a refusal to cooperate with left forces outside of Party control.

TUUL industrial affiliates were largely unsuccessful in building lasting organizational structures. However, their often spectacular strikes and organizing drives did succeed in building small groups of dedicated and competent organizers in the mass production industries. Together with their relatively more successful comrades in the unemployed councils, the communists developed considerable expertise which could later be put to good use by the CIO, as is noted by Bernard Karsh and Phillips Garmen:

Following the dissolution of the TUUL and initial efforts to enter the AFL, its directing personnel was offered to Lewis and the new CIO. He felt he could use, if not their philosophy, at least their experience. In trying to secure a mass following for their TUUL unions, they had learned to make speeches, write leaflets and reports, run mimeograph machines, set up and man picket lines, organize violence to resist violence, and hold the chair in turbulent meetings. They were familiar with all the other mechanics indispensible when workers almost completely unfamiliar with union procedures were crowding into halls, and demanding guidance. Further, they displayed a willingness to subject themselves to all of the physical hazards of a picket line attacked by police or National Guardsmen, and a dedication to their ideology had given them a reputation for self-sacrifice and almost boundless energy. Also, they were a relatively mobile force, submitting to the party’s requirement that they often pick up roots and plant them in some new and faraway community for the purpose of “colonizing” a factory or a mill.[3]

Some examples of TUUL contributions: James J. Matles led a group of machinery locals which were originally part of the Red Steel and Metal Workers Industrial Union into the early United Electrical Workers (UE).[4] Matles became the UE organization director and UE subsequently became the most important of the left-led unions in the CIO. Al Richmond has described the activities of the Marine Workers Industrial Union on the New York waterfront.[5] Here communists were to eventually play a considerable role in building the leftist National Maritime Union (NMU). The successful Furriers section of the Needle Trades Industrial Union evolved into the CIO Fur and Leather Workers Union.[6] Communists were also very active in the San Francisco General Strike of 1934, which laid the foundations for the left-led International Longshoreman and Warehouseman’s Union (ILWU). (Similarly, leftists were instrumental in the other 1934 mass strikes which were forerunners of the CIO drives. Trotskyists in Minneapolis helped to build the AFL Teamsters Union, while A. J. Muste’s Workers Party greatly aided the Toledo Auto-Lite strike which foreshadowed the unionization of the auto industry.)

The United Front “From Below”

The period of roughly 1933-36 was an important transitional period for the American communist movement. It began with Roosevelt’s election and Hitler’s rise to power and ended with the formation of the CIO and the Seventh Congress of the Communist International. These years were characterized by explosive working class strikes and the spontaneous formation of Federal Labor Union locals, ostensibly to be integrated into AFL unions, in numerous industries. It was also a period of deepening disillusionment with the first acts of the New Deal; the NRA’s supposed protection of unionization became largely channelled into company unionism and employer-dominated industry boards. Roosevelt’s vacillation produced much sentiment for a third party until the “second” New Deal of 1935-36, which passed the Wagner Act, Social Security, etc.

Under these conditions the communists were compelled to begin to break down the militant sectarianism of the previous years. In the end they had to broaden their concept of the United Front to include leftward moving Socialists and AFL militants in the unionizing industries. By 1934 TUUL unions were already being phased out as the Party experimented with working with insurgent AFL locals.[7] They officially called for a labor party “from below,” which was presumably to be to the left of such movements as the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party and Upton Sinclair’s End Poverty in California movement.

Staughton Lynd and many “New Left” militants have seen in this 1933-36 period the greatest promise for a mass-based radical movement capable of challenging capitalist institutions.[8] Subsequent events were to prove this hope illusory. Yet in this period the communists blended their previous revolutionary fervor with a fairly nonsectarian appreciation of the grass roots revolt amongst American workers. And contrary to communist rhetoric, the radicalization of this revolt was a reaction to the failure of Roosevelt liberalism rather than any response to incipient American fascism.

Some interesting examples of how CP organizers successfully combined agitation on immediate questions with a socialist perspective (expressed via the slogans “For a Soviet America and the Revolutionary Way Out”) can be found in the internal journal, The Party Organizer[9] A quick summary of some of the difficulties encountered in implementing this perspective can be found in one cadre’s criticisms of the 1935 strike in Cincinnati of the Crosley radio-refrigerator plant:

How the CP differs from any class-struggle trade-union organization no Crosley worker would have been able to discover from these leaflets except by the implications of its name. ... In the past, before we began to turn seriously toward trade-union work, leaflets were written with so much of the CP and its revolutionary aims in them that the workers could find nothing about the issues immediately facing them. Today it’s the other way around, and the workers sometimes have to go to the capitalist press to find out that we are a revolutionary party. We still have to learn–by forethought, not afterthought–how to combine effectively our agitation on immediate issues with agitation on ultimate aims.[10]

Similarly, communist shop papers were pressed to be explicitly socialist and to guard against becoming simple trade union organs.[11] The Party urged preparedness for various situations of illegality and terror and urged its units to directly respond to Red scare tactics.[12] A series of pamphlets were issued to implement the slogan of For a Soviet America, to describe what socialism would look like in each major US industry and how it would affect Blacks, Professionals, youths and other major groups.[13] In addition to this series the party printed massive numbers of agitational pamphlets on socialism, such as 250,000 copies of M. J. Olgin’s pamphlet “Why Communism?” and hundreds of thousands of copies of Earl Browder’s book What is Communism. The latter has more in common with Bellamy’s Looking Backward than with Browder’s next book, The People’s Front, published in 1938. This literature generally provides a striking contrast with the propaganda of just a few years later, which almost totally substitutes the term democracy for communism (except in some materials dealing with the USSR).

The People’s Front

The 7th Comintern Congress in October, 1935, marked a shift in communist policy towards a united front “from above” of all working class parties, to be subsumed under a People’s Front of cross-class alliances against fascism.[14] Except for the final dissolution of TUUL and the broadening of the third party demand to a Farmer-Labor Party, the Congress did not precipitate any dramatic changes in the US Party line. Yet it marked a gradual shift towards a search for alliances and influence with the leadership of organizations believed to be instrumental in fighting domestic and international fascism, as well as those capable of pressuring the Roosevelt administration. Thus Browder chose to interpret the split in the AFL as not only around the question of individual unionism; more significantly he pictured the CIO leaders as responding to a fear of fascism and the destruction of the entire trade union movement.[15] While initially insisting on the independent role of the Party, this analysis gradually led to an uncritical alliance with the CIO leadership as a bulwark against fascism.

It should be emphasized that the Party’s position changed subtly and gradually. There was opposition to Roosevelt until the summer of 1937 and vocal expressions of the need for party independence (as well as for a farmer-labor party) even later. Before analyzing the Party line further, it is necessary to provide some background analysis of party membership trends. It is also necessary to establish the CP’s role in building the new unions after Mineworkers President John L. Lewis solicited their aid for the CIO organizing drives.

Party Growth in the 1930s

The 1930s witnessed a large expansion of communist membership and influence. The Party had 7,500 members in 1930, when the serious internal factionalism which had plagued them throughout the 1920s was ended. The party grew steadily, to 24,500 members in 1934, 31,000 in 1935, 42,000 in 1936 and over 55,000 by the end of 1937.[16] Howe and Coser believe that the party had 80-90,000 members by 1939.[17] Yet throughout the 1930s and 40s there was tremendous membership fluctuation and turnover. During 1930-34, for instance, 60,000 new members joined while total membership grew by only 16,000.[18] In many years after 1937 there was an annual turnover of between 20-30,000.

The party had been largely composed of foreign born workers in the 1920s and was still 61% foreign born in 1935. By 1936, however, a majority of the membership was native born and even New York, with its large immigrant population, had a majority of native born by 1938.[19]

By the end of the decade the Party had an impressive array of international connections, influence in a host of civil rights, student, youth, and cultural organizations, including luminaries of its own in each of these areas. There were numerous Marxist educational institutions and an active publishing house. As for internal education, in 1937, 7,000 members passed through section schools, 1,000 members through district schools and 450 through national training schools.[20] There was a network of language groups and fraternal societies such as the International Workers Order (IWO) which involved thousands of immigrant workers. The Party could influence the Democratic Party and occasionally received an impressive number of votes for local candidates, particularly in New York. The Party press and publishers were very active. The Sunday Worker reached 100,000 circulation in 1938 and stayed above that throughout the war.[21]

The party had always emphasized trying to reach industrial workers, but in the early 30s it had limited success. This was partly due to its reliance on reaching workers from “outside.” This was done through concentrating its unemployed members on particular plants, or “colonizing” plants with party cadres from other areas where there was a relative surplus of members. After 1933 however, the general upsurge of labor militancy provided great opportunities, and communists soon found themselves in leadership positions:

In the wave of strikes that began in 1933, the few communists who had been working in factories and mines and shops found themselves, if they were at all competent, carried like corks riding a flood to top positions in a host of new unions.[22]

Patterns of Party Influence in the CIO

Although the communists maintained significant activity in AFL unions, notably in the amusement trades (including their much publicized “penetration” of Hollywood) and hotel, restaurant and service trades, their main influence was in the CIO.[23] Here their small numbers played a corresponding much larger role in creating the new unions as Howe and Coser note:

But the main and new source of CP strength in the CIO was the participation of thousands of its members in the organizing drives of the late thirties. The Communists won power and trust by the traditional methods of winning power and trust in American unions: they became the organizers. If there was dirty work to do, they were ready. If leaflets had to be handed out on cold winter mornings before an Akron rubber plant or a New York subway station, the party could always find a few volunteers. If someone had to stick his neck out within the plants, a Communist was available. And the Communists were indefatigable meeting-goers, caucusing before each meeting, ready to sit out their opponents into the early hours of the morning, working together with a religious fervor.[24]

The communists were most successful where no previous unions were in existence. The United Mine Workers and Amalgamated Clothing Workers, for instance, had suppressed most communist opposition before the CIO was formed. This lack of tolerance extended to their respective organizing committees in steel and textile. This was true despite the fact that 60 out of the Steelworkers Organizing Committee’s (SWOC) initial 200 organizers were communists. The CP also provided crucial aid by mobilizing its foreign language groups in the International Workers Order.[25] Yet Phillip Murray’s complete control of SWOC prevented the CP from developing significant influence in the industry. Sidney Hillman’s Textile Workers Organizing Committee generally refused to hire communists despite their history in the textile industry. This may be a partial explanation for the Textile Workers Organizing Committee’s lack of success in the South despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into its campaign.

A further dimension to the communists’ inability to build a base in the steel industry has been brought out by Staughton Lynd.[26] He argues that the mass upsurge in steel took place in 1934, and that, two years later, in 1936 SWOC was largely unsuccessful in winning over the disillusioned steelworkers. When US Steel signed a contract in the spring of 1937, only 7% of its employees had been signed up by SWOC. SWOC legal counsel Lee Pressman admitted the union could never have won an NLRB election. Despite the cynicism of many steelworkers, US Steel wanted to head off any disruptive sit-downs during the then current economic upswing, and generally felt it could co-opt the union.[27]

In the Third Period the Communists centered all their attention on the formation of dual, “revolutionary” unions and disregarded independent developments in the AFL. In the next period, however, they abandoned dual unionism and concentrated all their energy on rejoining and remaining within the AFL. If, in the first period, their sectarianism isolated them from the bulk of organized workers, in the second period their concern to remain part of the union mainstream prevented them from taking full advantage of independent developments in the rank and file struggles.

In 1934 the communists had actually been called in to provide organizational expertise for the rank and file upsurge in Steel, but because they insisted on taking the organizational leadership with their dual union (the SMWIU), the agreement fell through. The communists thus lost a chance to work with the AFL dissidents who represented thousands of steelworkers at that time.

After the AFL called off the planned 1934 Steel strike, the communists again missed the opportunity to link up with the rank and file movement; this time by rejoining the AFL Amalgamated Association in response to the dissolution of TUUL. Lynd argues that the communists thus missed the second wave of national strike sentiment:

But whereas in the spring of 1934 the Communist Party wanted a steel strike only if the SMWIU could publicly help to lead it, in the spring of 1934 the Communist Party wanted a strike only if the expulsion from the Amalgamated could be avoided. Remaining part of the organization they had previously scorned became the primary goal of Party members in steel.[28]

Apparently a similar pattern occurred in rubber. According to Karsh and Garmen:

In the new Rubber Workers Union the Communists made little headway. . . . During the period of the formation of AFL federal locals in rubber in 1934 the Communists were actively boycotting and fighting them. By the time the party line had changed to permit the Communists to enter the mainstream of the labor movement, they were substantially discredited amongst the tire builders.[29]

This is partially confirmed by John Williamson’s report of the limited Party activity during the 1936 Goodyear strike in Akron. He notes that the shop unit in the plant had only 10 members; the Party recruited only 20 more workers after the rubber sit-downs.[30]

The communists and sympathetic leftists did take leadership in Western longshore, the East Coast NMU, the Fur and Leather Workers, and most importantly UE–the prime example of a union built from below. They also controlled the Farm Equipment Union (FE) set up in 1938 to avoid UAW factionalism in the farm machinery organizing drive. In addition, they controlled the small American Communications Association based primarily in the New York Western Union offices, the Marine Cooks and Stewards based on the West Coast, the United Agricultural, Packing and Allied Workers (later the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers about whom more will be said below), the Inland Boatman’s Union of the Pacific, the International Union of Fishermen and Allied Workers, the Transport Workers Union, and the State County and Municipal Workers (which later merged with the United Federal Workers to become the United Public Workers). The left also controlled the Newspaper Guild until 1945 (and afterwards the New York and Los Angeles Chapters), the Furniture Workers Union until 1949, and the Woodworkers until 1941. During the war it came to control the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers and the United Office and Professional Workers (which had absorbed the Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists and Technicians and was strategically important in that it provided the office staffs for the other CIO unions). The left had important influence in the Teachers Union and lesser influence in the Packinghouse Workers and Oil Workers, while it controlled important locals of right-wing unions such as District 65 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The left in the UAW will be discussed below at length.

Finally, the left had influence in the CIO national office, including publicity director Len DeCaux, legal counsel Lee Pressman (who was also legal counsel for the Steelworkers) and some staff members of the CIO’s Washington lobbying force. (The left also apparently had influence within the NLRB). Many CIO local and state Industrial Union Councils were left-leaning.

This seems like a grab-bag without internal consistency, and the functional and chronological aspects of left leadership vary (e.g. the Fur and Leather Workers had openly communist leadership, while certain districts of UE were anti-communist). Yet there are certain patterns which had clearly emerged by the late 30s. Communists were relatively more successful in industries such as maritime, lumber, and metal mining where there was a significant radical and IWW tradition. Communists also had a large impact on white collar and social workers, particularly second generation Jewish office and professional workers whose parents were often socialist-inclined garment workers.[31] Finally, communist influence was largely based in the bigger cities, most importantly New York, which had 48% of the party’s membership in 1938.[32]

Composition of Party Membership

An examination of party membership in various industries shows that membership increased in areas with left-led unions and decreased in others, but the overall increase in working class membership was small compared with the party’s absolute growth.

Thus from 2000-plus members in steel in 1939, the party only had 852 by 1942, while they dropped from 1,300 members in mining in 1939 to only 289 in 1942. Conversely “Metal” which would include certain Mine, Mill and UE members grew from 1,250 in 1935 to 1,648 in 1942. Warehouse and longshore grew from 50 members in 1934[33] to 805 by 1942, while lumber and Marine also grew significantly in those years. Building trades, needle trades, and food registered losses from 1935 to 1942.[34] Textile membership likewise fell by one half from 1935 to 1946.[35] Auto grew from 550 members in 1935 to 1,000 in 1939, the period of the greatest CP influence in the union, but fell to 629 in 1942. These statistics thus confirm a shift of membership into industries with left unions and away from other industries, an important indicator of future communist political weaknesses in the CIO.

The relative stagnation of membership in the basic industries (as well as the very weak membership in railroads, chemicals and oil, packinghouse, teamsters, and agricultural workers)[36] underlies the transformation of what had been an almost exclusively working class party in the early 30s to one which was half white collar and professional by the 40s. From 5% middle class membership in 1932, there was 41% middle class membership by 1938.[37] Furthermore, the concentration of membership in the left-led unions involved a large increase in the number of trade union officials brought into the party.[38] Thus the evidence shows a shift of members away from the right and center unions, an increase in membership amongst the officials of left led unions, and the major growth coming from the ranks of the middle class. The implications of these trends are profound for the decline of independent revolutionary activity, the rightward shift of Browderism, and the post-war vulnerability of the left.

Two other aspects of the party’s composition deserve review. The first is the growth in the percentage of black members. From less than 1,000 in 1931, the party’s black membership increased to 5,000 in 1938.[39] Although the percentage subsequently fell, by the last war years it was back to 10% where it stayed through the late 40s.[40] The party had strength amongst black workers in Birmingham steel plants, in the UAW where the heavily black Ford River Rouge local was a communist stronghold until 1952, and amongst numerous black writers and intellectuals. The left-led unions in CIO were consistently distinguished by their anti-racist practices.

This commitment applies to a lesser extent to the party’s emphasis on women’s equality. Although there was never anything approaching the consciousness of white-chauvinism or the efforts on behalf of civil rights, the party did emphasize the recruitment of women. From only 9.7% women in 1935, the Party had 26.1% in 1936 and doubled its women’s membership between and 1936 and 1938. Yet women never achieved anything approaching equality in membership or leadership positions, and the Party lacked a systematic analysis of male supremacy. Equal pay for equal work was an important principle in left unions, however. UE prolonged its 1946 strikes to win equal pay rates for women (who comprised a sizable percentage of electric and radio workers). “Electric Charlie” Wilson of GE accepted UE’s demands for male workers but not for women whom he called “bobbysoxers.” Westinghouse also prolonged their strike by refusing a 1/2-cent increase to cover male-female wage inequities. Both demands were won.[41]

The CP in the UAW

Given the balance of power once the CIO took shape, the most important union in the political equilibrium was the UAW. By the mid-1940s, after the UMW had withdrawn, the Steelworkers, UAW and UE had well over half the CIO membership. Thus the UAW played a pivotal role in the left-center alliance.

The Communists were an important force in auto. Wyndham Mortimer, formerly a worker and local union leader at White Motors in Cleveland, was instrumental in organizing the Flint GM plants. Bob Travis, another Communist, provided much of the tactical leadership for the Flint sit downs, “the most important labor conflict of the 1930s” where in Walter Galenson’s words “the main strategists were communists.”[42]

In the faction-torn early years of UAW, the Communists and Socialists united in the Unity Caucus which opposed President Homer Martin’s Progressive Caucus administration. The unstable and dictatorial Martin led the union into a serious slump during the “Roosevelt recession” (which many thought was induced by big business to stop the CIO) of 1938-9. The faction fighting which had been based on the personal and ideological followings of various leaders degenerated into virtual civil war, complete with intrigue, goon squads and sensational exposures. In 1939 things came to a head when two rival conventions were called after Martin suspended the opposition executive officers. The national CIO endorsed the Unity Caucus while Martin formed the UAW-AFL. At the 1939 convention the communists had a majority of delegates which as Galenson notes, was clearly proven in the voting:

In the elections for members of the executive board, however, the Frankensteen-communist group won a clear majority, with the Ruether faction able to place only four members.[43]

Howe and Widick agree:

At Cleveland the CP controlled the strongest bloc of delegates. Opposing it was only a small socialist group led by Ruether and some run-of-the-mill unionists whose views were expressed by R. J. Thomas.[44]

Here the CP showed clearly the extent to which it was willing to sacrifice the long term interests and objectives of the left-wing of the labor movement to the quest for a long-lasting left-center alliance. In the end the results were nearly always the same: an unstable left-centered coalition under the domination of the center which liquidated the independent activity of left-wing militants. In this case the communists yielded to Murray and Hillman’s recommendation that Thomas be the compromise president, with George Addes getting the post of Secretary Treasure. Thomas was a New Deal Democrat who had only recently broken with Martin, with limited competence and rank and file support. His leadership was to prove disastrous to the left by 1947. Addes has often been called a fellow traveler, but in reality he was less of a politician and more of an administrator, as subsequent events were to prove. Yet coming from a background of the violent Toledo Auto-Lite strikes, he was the most popular man in the union in 1939 and could have made strong claims to the presidency.

It took a large delegation of national communist leaders to descend on the convention, including Earl Browder, to persuade the communists in the UAW to accept “incompetent opportunist” Thomas.[45] To further enhance CIO unity, the communists accepted the dropping of Mortimer from the executive board on Hillman and Murray’s advice. Mortimer was the most popular leader in the Unity Caucus.[46] Thus the communists not only accepted this unprecedented interference in an affiliated union’s affairs by the national CIO (although Murray and Hillman had been asked in to help defeat Martin) but the loss of a communist spokesperson on the executive board as well. This loss became crucial in the 1940s as Reuther was able to successfully label Thomas and Addes communists. John Williamson recognized the 1939 UAW convention as a serious error,[47] while some communists broke with the party over it.[48]

The Communists and the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU)

Before summarizing this evidence on CP growth and participation in CIO, one example will be presented to underline the conclusions I will offer. This example provides in a microcosm the ultimate weakness of maximizing communist influence at the expense of the principles which originally determined its very existence as a party.

The particularly negative outcome of communist influence in the CIO was the relationship between the left-led United Cannery, Agricultural Processing and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA) and the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. The STFU was an inter-racial organization of southern tenant farmers based in Arkansas and led by Socialists. Opposing the Agricultural Adjustment Administration’s (AAA) support to planters and commercial farmers, the STFU began a massive campaign to organize tenant farmers and publicize their terrible conditions nationally. The union was extremely successful in reviving the old populist tradition of the South and became a social movement in itself, with thousands of tenant farmers embracing its socialist ideology with religious fervor.[49] In 1935, the union grew from 10,000 members in 80 local units to 25,000 members after a series of strikes succeeded in raising sharecroppers wages.[50] While the union was able to increase AAA subsidies to tenant farmers, its mass socialist ideology was limited by an overall inability to transform the archaic and rapidly decomposing southern cotton plantation system. Only fundamental changes in land ownership and distribution, as well as control over local and state institutions, could really have changed the sharecroppers plight. Thus STFU affiliated with UCAPAWA to be able to become part of a national movement.

UCAPAWA leader Donald Henderson held a dogmatic contempt for the agrarian and religious symbolism of Southern socialism. He was an ex-Columbia instructor and was not familiar with the South; he distrusted STFU methods and openly wished the union broken up.[51] He insisted on strict dues collection, accounting procedures, and paperwork. This produced a revolt in the STFU; UCAPAWA cut STFU representation by half and blocked moves for a separate STFU CIO affiliation. The rationalization of STFU along industrial union lines had proved disastrous for its style of organization, burdening its illiterate organizers with quadruplicate forms and its members with high dues payments in good times and bad. Then the CP tried to take over the union from within.[52] This touched off vicious faction fighting which led to dual conventions in 1939, and a serious loss in the already fading prestige of the union. Finally H. L. Mitchell, STFU’s founder, split from the CIO with the ruins of STFU. Thus the narrowly bureaucratic mentality of the CP unionists had helped wreck a movement which might otherwise have lived on to challenge ghettoization and the racial crisis of postwar America.

The Decline of Independent Revolutionary Politics

The lack of communist influence in SWOC, their role in the UCAPAWA, and the 1939 UAW convention were only parts of a larger phenomenon: the liquidation of an independent radical role for the communist party in the CIO. The United Front tactic originally was seen as a transitional tactic to unite the working class and its progressive allies against fascism. It was presumed that in day to day reform struggles workers would gradually see the necessity of socialism, as capitalism entered its “final stages” of crisis and collapse. Yet in reality any attempt to build mass socialist consciousness was eventually abandoned– except perhaps to put forward the USSR as a socialist paradise. The party declined to even speculate on the possibilities for socialism in the United States after it dropped the slogan of “Toward a Soviet America” in 1937. Communism became exclusively the private beliefs of party members, who sought to simply excel at work in reform struggles. Thousands of party members became loyal Democrats while thousands of left trade union officials hid their true political identity. This was not mainly due to the citizenship problems of aliens, or the illegality of the Party; these were rarely relevant considerations.[53] Secrecy was likewise not primarily based on fears of repression or redbaiting (that occurred anyway and hiding one’s identity often reinforced charges of a sinister conspiracy), but out of a desire by officials to make their jobs easier and less complicated. It was easier to just be a good trade unionist who delivered the bread and butter; why make waves with potential allies by pushing socialist politics? Thus the United Front against Fascism became the United Front for Liberalism, and a decade later, in the hands of the CP’s opponents, the United Front against Communism. It is not surprising that in later years communists became solely identified with one thing only: consistent support of the Soviet Union.

The Historical Context: Corporate Liberalism

It would be wrong to describe this process without making reference to its historical context. Communists, like every preceding generation of radicals, had seen industrial unionism as a necessary first step in preparing the working class for political power. Powerful unions of the unskilled workers in the mass production industries were seen as inherently radical, as tools to unite the class and win levers of economic and social power. It was also generally assumed that any assault on the profit margins of the great monopoly corporations would necessarily bring out the forces of state power to defend the employers. This was indeed the history of Pullman and the 1919 steel strikes, as well as the then current example of the 1932 Bonus March on Washington.

But government strikebreaking during the Roosevelt years was entirely state and local in character. The labor movement did not antagonistically confront the national administration despite the violence of the great organizing drives. There was thus no radical national political movement produced out of the CIO.

Roosevelt and the men who drafted the New Deal labor and social welfare legislation were corporate liberals.[54] They believed that genuine collective bargaining was the surest, if not the only method to achieve lasting labor peace. The rights to strike and form unions were key to the right not to agree, which is necessary to achieve true collective bargaining.[55] Thus the Wagner Act protected these rights (together with other measures, e.g. the LaFollette Commission, granting unemployed relief to strikers, etc.). Roosevelt took his chances on great turbulence in the short run in the hopes of future cooptation, or in his own words, until unions “get people who have both feet on the ground all the time” and who ”see the whole picture instead of just the passionate picture of a new movement.“ In this faith Roosevelt was joined by important corporate leaders such as Gerard Swope of GE, Myron Taylor of US steel, and the management of Philco. These corporations independently implemented a peaceful approach to unionization.

All United Front–No Struggle

The communist response to corporate liberalism was fundamentally undermined by their emphasis on the United Front as a strategy in itself. Instead of seeing the question of allies as the framework for a strategic analysis, Party leaders made the question of alliances the main content of strategic decisions. Until 1945 this led to an ever rightward drift (with the exception of the years 1939-41) as the possibilities for alliances grew greater and greater.

The failure to develop concrete strategic goals to the left of pro-capitalist forces in society consistently undermined independent Party activity. There was no analysis of which demands could move the class struggle onto a higher plane. This is made clear in a fascinating article by William Z. Foster on “Political Leadership and Party Building” in The Communist, July 1937. Warning of the danger of liquidationist trends, he grasped the problems of articulating an independent political course within the United Front. He thus undertook to outline the main contours of such an independent role, realizing that the Party had lost a monopoly on most of its (then very radical) slogans from the early 1930s (e.g. industrial unionism, social insurance, etc.).

Foster showed great political clarity in his call for criticism of allies, the need for “militant agitation” around the need for socialism, and his advocacy of a “full program” instead of spontaneous economism. Yet in his actual analysis of what struggles could begin to develop these points, he remained vague and imprecise. He argued for four principles in moving the struggle to a higher level: “energetic application” of slogans, “realizing their full implications,” “preventing distortion,” and “supplementing them with other mass slogans of a more advanced type.”[56] The first three points boil down to being militant in various struggles. As for the fourth, Foster gave not a single current example.

Foster’s article was nevertheless the most advanced expression of Communist Party theory then available. Most of his points were to be subsequently ignored and the tendencies he warned against were to be triumphant. This was due to an underlying de-emphasis on the problems of building political class consciousness, above and beyond the basic class feeling of a “Jimmy Higgins” (celebrated by the Party as the fount of virtue). The Party’s thinking about the masses and their organization was dominated by the notion of mass organizations as “transmission belts” to carry the Party line to the masses. Although, in theory, the belts were supposed to carry information “up” from the masses as well as “down” to them, in practice the former relationship was usually disregarded. Activity and initiatives outside of Party control were seen more as a problem than as an essential component of any broad revolutionary process. Consequently, there was little interest in evaluating how workers could achieve experiences of self-organization, dual power, or workers control. The sit-downs were approached with a cautious realism designed to minimize repression.[57] The tremendously radical conclusions to be drawn from this movement were consciously discouraged.[58] Party demands remained within the sphere of macro-economics; there was seldom an appreciation of the need to develop the values and aspirations which could have been subversive in the realm of consciousness.[59]

Party members at the time were completely unaware of the need for a sophisticated transitional strategy or how to evaluate (and thus accentuate) revolutionary aspects of reform movements. They relied on an economist analysis which believed that capitalism as a whole would break down because of an insoluble economic crisis, leading inevitably to increasing immiserization and war. The Party saw the depression as the final stage of this process. Since capitalism was going to collapse of its own contradictions all that was necessary was to establish Communists as trusted militants in mass movements. The masses would turn to communist leadership to organize the seizure of power when the impending crisis made life under the old system unbearable. Thus Earl Browder could make this assessment of the relationship between reform and revolution (in 1936):

The improvement of living conditions under capitalism may delay the revolutionary change to socialism but it will provide a more peaceful, less difficult and less painful transition to socialism when the time comes.[60]

In analyzing Browder’s famous remark “history marches towards socialism” James Weinstein responded:

But, as subsequent experience has taught the left, and as some contemporary critics insisted, only a movement for socialism can march toward socialism.[61]

Loosening Up Organizationally

The first organizational indications of the rightward shift in the CP came in mid-1936 as the Party geared up for the coming election campaign. The change occurred when the party leadership introduced assembly (neighborhood) and industrial branches alongside the old street and shop units.[62] This change was no doubt in part due to the growth in party membership, but its main rationale was to reinforce the party’s union and electoral work. The assembly branches were to correspond to electoral regions and be much larger than street units. The industrial branches would gather together members in a given industry formerly assigned to street units. They weren’t supposed to compete with shop units; on the contrary, they were supposed to be transitional formations constantly creating new shop units when enough workers in a given plant were recruited. The reason for the industrial branches was to allow workers to participate in party campaigns which directly related to their industry; there had been much dissatisfaction expressed by recruits from trade union struggles when assigned to street units. This was admitted by Israel Amter, while he also pointed to dangers in forming the industrial units:

During the past year, the District (New York) has lost some thousands of trade unionists who were assigned to street units. The whole life of the unit is foreign to them. The discussions have little to do with the struggles they are involved in ... . There is, however, a danger that confronts us in the organization of the industrial units.

That is the depleting of street units and (assembly) branches of proletarian forces.[63]

After noting that the assembly branches have a tendency to become discussion clubs, he concluded ominously:

It will require close direction and check up of the activities of the units, so that in the strengthening of the industrial units, the branches will not suffer; and vice versa, the industrial units will not degenerate into fractions discussing only union problems and failing to educate our Party members and through them the workers on the political problems facing the working class.[64]

There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that Amter’s fears were realized in the following years. Right away the Party press recorded numerous complaints that the large size of the assembly branches cut attendance at meetings and led to an inward political direction.[65] Newly organized branches in Boston which dissolved older street unit affiliations had to use the telephone book to find local mass organizations to penetrate.[66] Chicago reported that members didn’t feel pressured to do their share of party work since the branch was so large.[67] These tendencies were expressed in a report from Ohio on the creation of territorial branches:

The result was a falling off of attendance at unit (branch) meetings, a reduction in regular dues payments, less activity on the part of formerly active comrades. The individual party members felt their importance to the movement had been lessened because there now seemed to be more people among whom the tasks could be divided.[68]

Since the mid 1920s the Communist Party had emphasized the shop unit as the most basic cell of party organization. It was deemed the most effective form to root the party amongst workers and make a contribution to the class struggle waged daily on the job. Thus it is politically significant that the industrial units, loose groupings which did tend to become pre-occupied with purely union affairs (and thus split the party along class lines between its “union” and “political” members), appear to have blocked the formation of more shop units. There is direct evidence of this.[69] But most telling is the fact that in 1936-38 the number of shop units remained static despite a large growth in industrial branches’ membership. (Of further interest is the fact that the total number of neighborhood or assembly branches grew only slightly, yet they increased their average size by absorbing 12,000 more members in 1937-38).[70] Thus the new organizational forms appear to have exacerbated apolitical union work while creating largely non-working class, electorally-oriented political clubs, at the same time that party discipline and responsibility loosened up.

The Party Line Moves Right

Throughout the period surrounding the 1936 election, the Party maintained its focus on a Farmer-Labor Party, despite their inability to create such a party or even to run a joint ticket with the Socialists. After Roosevelt’s landslide victory the party began to soften its position; from advocating “non-reliance” on Roosevelt they gradually began to talk more in terms of pressuring him from the left.

No doubt Party leaders were impressed by Roosevelt’s tolerance of the Sit-Down wave (which appears to be directly correlated with the confidence that workers gained after “their” victory in the election–similar perhaps to the general strike following the 1936 Popular Front victory in France), as well as his increasing verbal attacks on international fascism and domestic “economic royalists.”

In the summer of 1937 the official Party line definitely moved to the right. Earl Browder justified the changes in an interesting article in The Communist.[71] He presented a lucid analysis of why the CIO supported Roosevelt Democrats; the progressive Governor of Pennsylvania endorsed SWOC and personally appeared on picket lines while the reactionary Governor of Illinois and the Mayor of Chicago endorsed the Memorial Day Republic Steel massacre. Thus workers in Illinois were less interested in non-existing alternatives than in electing a pro-labor Democrat.

Furthermore, growing legal obstacles to getting third parties on the ballot combined with the possibilities presented by the expanding system of direct primaries militated against third party politics. Thus Browder concluded that the old axiom that radicals must break with the two pro-capitalist parties was no longer valid:

That axiom is no longer valid, because the foundation of the old two-party system was shattered by the crisis. The Gold-Dust Twins are dead. In their place there emerge the clear outlines of two new parties, carrying over much debris of the old, but representing something new–a political alignment dominated, not by regional differences among the bourgeoisie, but by class stratification among the masses of the population. . . . The Farmer-Labor Party, conceived as the American equivalent to the People’s Front in France, is taking shape and growing within the womb of the disintegration of the two old parties. . . . What particular name the caprice of history may baptize it with is immaterial to us.[72]

Thus the Party began to openly support progressive Democrats. Later in the same article Browder warned against any criticism (or as he put is “sniping,” “faultfinding,” “bickering”) against CIO leaders. Promising the Party’s “wholehearted collaboration” he criticized as a “horrible example” a Socialist Party resolution calling for non-reliance on pro-capitalist trade union bureaucrats who “appear temporarily as nominal representatives of the progressive forces by advocating what is at present progressive policies.”[73]

In the following year the Party began a curious re-interpretation of American history, resurrecting revolutionary and progressive historical figures (Washington, Jefferson, Sam Adams, etc.) in order to establish themselves within American traditions. By mid-1938, flushed with the success of the CIO and seeking to expand their alliances and influence (in the absence of any new concrete goals or strategy), the Party again moved right. Clarence Hathaway announced in The Communist that the current period was that of the Democratic Front, which was seen as a preliminary stage to a genuine People’s Front.[74]

Unlike the People’s Front, the Democratic Front did not involve forming a new party, nor even formal alliances between various progressive parties and groups. It had a less clearly defined program. It included the progressive (liberal) bourgeoisie. All in all, it was an appeal to Communists to “broaden your contacts,” “meet people,” “learn their political plans and try to influence them,” etc.[75] This strategy marked the virtual curtailment of trying to create socialist consciousness amongst the American people, in favor of forging a vague and shifting coalition of political blocs with leaders of many stripes.

“Face-Hiding” in the CIO

As communists helped to build the CIO, the Party press became filled with the problems of trade union cadre who did not attempt to bring politics into their union organizing:

The unit considered its union work not as its main work, but as its only work. Party issues are looked upon as obstacles to work in the union instead of aids to the development of the political level of the workers in the mill. The members of Unit B did not collect one signature in the drive to put our party on the ballot. Members of street units did secure signatures of workers in the same mill, showing that, if properly approached, the steel workers would sign.[76]

In the recent period, as we turned our attention to the trade unions, we recruited many excellent American trade unionists, including many leading elements. Their Party activity took on an essentially trade union character. They did not get a rounded-out picture of our Party as the revolutionary political leader of the entire working class, and did not see our general political responsibilities as a revolutionary Party. The good assistance we gave them in their trade union problems and struggles satisfied them as to the role of the Party. Outside of that, they saw carried on by another group of Party members demonstrative actions and big mass meetings or affairs, which they were willing to leave to someone else.[77]

The Party organization spent much energy in support of the strike. Special comrades were assigned who worked day and night to help win the demands of the strikers. The Party, through its proposals, often saved the day. The Party comrades were among the most active, the most self-sacrificing workers in the strike. But the masses hardly knew the party was a factor. Very often the masses knew of the Party in support of the strike only through the employers and their agents who used the Red bogey. Naturally this did not put the Party in the most favorable light, because it did not put the Party in a true light.[78]

Examples of these complaints could be multiplied at will. What is important is that the contradiction they reveal between being “good unionists” and party militants was gradually resolved in favor of the former. During 1937 there was much talk of the need for party independence due to a brief and mysterious drop in membership and party press circulation. Then and after this problem was seen as almost totally a problem of recruiting.[79] Even assertions about Communist or proletarian leadership in the United Front are few and far between. Focusing solely on the questions of alliances and influence in the growing CIO movement, the Party tended to increasingly phase out a program for politicizing rank and file workers, especially as communists gained leadership positions. After 1938 The Party Organizer even ceased publication.

William Z. Foster expressed all this in 1939 in his answer to a journalist’s question on whether the Party was trying to “capture” unions:

Communists expect to influence the policies of a labor organization and play a role in its leadership only to the extent that they win the respect and support of the workers. We strive to merit this support by our devoted activities and educational work in unions, not by acting as an organized group within them.[80]

This seemingly reasonable remark in fact expressed a profound contradiction. How does a party carry out “devoted activities and educational work” and yet not act as an organized group? The answer on the face of the evidence, is that it cannot. The communists in the CIO did indeed stop functioning as an “organized group” by 1939, and they thus also stopped their attempt to politically win the “respect and support of the workers.” Foster himself makes this clear:

The organizational forms of Communist trade union work have changed radically to correspond to the present period (of center-left unity). Party members do not now participate in groupings or other organized activities within the unions. The party also discountenances the formation of progressive groups, blocs, and caucuses in unions; it has liquidated its Communist fractions, discontinued its shop papers, and is now modifying its system of industrial branches. Communists are policy making and administrating on an unknown scale.[81]

Nathan Glazer notes one implication of the abandonment of fractions which was to loom large in the decline of the Party in the late 1940s:

In addition, the structure of party control in trade unions was rather different in 1948 from what it had been in 1938. In the late thirties and early forties, the party changed the nature of its control over the unions from control through fractions of party members to control through regularly elected union officials who were Communists or close friends of the Communists. As former Communist agitators became important elected union officials, they also in many cases became annoyed at having to consult on policy with the fraction of Communist members in the union. It was more in keeping with their actual position and power to consult directly with the district leader, the trade-union secretary of the party, or the head of the party itself. The party seemed willing to accept the elimination of the fraction in those unions that were controlled by devoted party members or persons close to the party. But the party union leader was also a union leader, and if he wished to, he might be able to shift his base of power from the party and its members to the union and its staff.[82]

Joseph Starobin provides an insightful analysis of the rise of a semi-clandestine apparatus of “influentials” and “submarines” in public leadership positions. He deserves lengthy quotation:

What undermined the movement’s legitimacy was the inability of thousands of leaders of public, civil, political, and trade union organizations who privately adhered to Communism to make this adherence publicly known and to participate openly within the Party, leaving no doubt as to who they were and what they were.... To avow their private faith openly would jeopardize their leadership in exactly those organizations and areas of public life on which the Communist Party had concentrated for a decade. . .

No deliberate conspiracy was involved. The Communists had taken the line of least resistance. A gap had arisen between their ability to gain leadership positions in huge organizations and their ability to build within those organizations a solid corps of left-wingers. It had proved easier to become a leader of “masses” than to build a “mass base.”

Moreover, the Party’s own decision in the late thirties to abolish its “fractions,” or caucuses, within the labor movement had the paradoxical effect of widening the gap between union members in the Party and secretly affiliated leaders. Until the caucuses were abolished, all Communists in any given group or in any campaign would map out strategy and tactics together, and a common discipline would be binding on everyone no matter what their echelon or particular task. The American Communists were seeking to break away from this Leninist form, suitable to quasi-military purposes; their object was to obviate the suspicion of conspiracy, and to give their influentials leeway to behave as organizational leaders with no strings attached to a hidden center. Yet this very dissolution of fractions operated to remove the influentials from the discipline of Communist rank and file in their organizations. At the same time, it relieved them of the obligation to “build the party” within these organizations.[83]

Starobin goes on to point out that few full-time Party functionaries were “mass figures.” He believes that this caused a destructive relationship between open Party functionaries and hidden mass leaders:

Yet on the whole the Party’s functionaries became a political caste. Some acquired the special skills of Talmudic exegesis, becoming the guardians of the precious and obscure language of Marxism-Leninism. Others became excellent brokers, messengers between the Party’s inner sanctum and its operatives in every phase of Communist interest. The corrupting character of this system spiraled as it continued. Although it was true that in publicly revealing themselves, many Communist influentials risked political decapitation, it is also true that in failing to do so they undermined those bonds of confidence which it was in their interest to establish with the democratic-progressive world in which they wanted respect. This happened between the Youth Congress leaders and Mrs. Roosevelt. It was to happen within the CIO between the left and Phillip Murray.[84]

Thus within the very dynamics of the party’s growth and influence in the CIO lay the seeds of its coming destruction. Yet to say this is in no way a justification for ignoring the concrete achievements of left participation in building the CIO, or the specific historical process in which the left was defeated. These must be analyzed further.

The Pact Period and a Foretaste of the Cold War

The period, 1939-41, was a rehearsal for the cold war. The Communist Party responded to the Hitler-Stalin Pact and the outbreak of war in Europe in the same manner as the rest of the Communist International. The struggle against fascism was downplayed or liquidated while the fighting was now characterized as an inter-imperialist war in which both sides were equally guilty. In the United States, opposition to the war took the form of a turn toward isolation, bitter criticism of Roosevelt’s preparations for war, and renewed labor militancy. It was in this period that many labor leaders saw the left’s potential for “disruption” in the trade union movement.

John L. Lewis still acted as a shield for the left, especially given his hostility for Roosevelt. The communists interpreted his endorsement of Wilkie as an attempt to free the CIO of dependence on the Democratic Party and supported him against Hillman at the 1940 convention. With Lewis stepping down, their position in the CIO became delicate, and the 1940 convention witnessed the first time that the left was forced to support (in order to preserve left-center “unity”), a anti-totalitarianism resolution which equated Communism with Nazism. Len DeCaux interpreted it as opportunism:

Through solid union achievement, the reds had won influence in CIO that seemed imposing. Now they were slapped and didn’t fight. “We just want to get along with you guys,” they said–and the guys drew the worst conclusions. A union politician didn’t mind swallowing a little verbal crow for a purpose, but the reds had principles. Old-line leaders cynically expected them to get into line with all other porkchoppers when the chow bell rang. Aside from some lurking regard for the principled exception or the gutsy fighter, they respected only the strength the left could command. In submitting like this, the lefts seemed to lack strength, principle, or guts. Uncharitably, the right assumed they lacked all three.[85]

Ultimately, the spread of World War II to the Soviet Union and then the US forstalled any attempt to purge the left. CIO President Phillip Murray maintained the left-center alliance. In light of postwar events however, the communists would pay a price for not making a principled fight on this supposedly meaningless issue.

In the late 40s, many leftists wondered what “had happened” to Phil Murray, why he had turned anti-communist. Yet a look back at the 1939-41 period would have shown them that Murray and a host of other “center” leaders were ready and willing to move right should the Reds prove problematical. And in that period they did, as they would in the postwar years. Stanley Aronowitz notes one example of Murray lashing out against some leftist delegates to the 1940 Wage Policy Convention held by SWOC. They had distributed leaflets calling for the establishment of a formal union structure and constitution, which Murray deemed as an attempt by “outsiders” to interfere with “his” union.[86]

In the atmosphere of increasing anti-communism of those years, much public attention was fixed on several left-led strikes. Although 1940-41 witnessed the last great CIO organizing drives at Ford and Bethlehem Steel, and strikes in electrical, auto, clothing, textile, aluminum and retail store; the left-led strikes got the headlines. They represented the left’s ability to disrupt war preparations, especially the strikes in the defense industry.

In November, 1940, Wyndam Mortimer, the director of the UAW aircraft organizing drive, led a strike at Vultee aircraft in Downey, California. The strike was called after the company refused to negotiate with the UAW, which had won the. NLRB election. It was 100% successful, but negotiations were stalled for a few days when the federal mediator was too drunk to participate in negotiations and had to be recalled.[87] The press, however, jumped on the communism issue.

At North American aviation in Inglewood, California the UAW became bogged down in negotiations with the National Defense Mediation Board. Under the direction of Richard Frankensteen (Mortimer was in Seattle) the workers voted 5,824 to 210 to strike by secret ballot.[88] The company refused to make any concessions whatsoever above the sub-standard 50% hourly rate. Meanwhile tension built in the plant for a wildcat and the local leadership was unable to halt a strike on June 5, 1941. Frankensteen was in Washington, while Mortimer returned to Inglewood to aid the strike, which was unified and peaceful. Frankensteen meanwhile spoke on national radio denouncing the strike as communist inspired so as to avoid responsibility for it. He ordered all the local leaders to immediately demand that the workers return to work without terms. When they refused he fired five international representatives including Mortimer, revoked the local’s charter and appointed new officers. Frankensteen was booed and repudiated at a strike mass meeting, and the strike continued was a mass picket line of 10,000 workers. When 1,000 police couldn’t break it, Roosevelt called out 2,500 federal troops who did the job. This was the first time that Roosevelt used troops to break a strike. Frankensteen volunteered scabs to the company, the strike captains were all arrested and several dozen union activists fired and permanently blacklisted from the industry; the entire negotiating committee was fired and made eligible for the draft. Meanwhile, the company finally settled for the union’s original demands.[89]

One other UAW strike in the defense industry made headlines, at Allis Chalmers in Milwaukee where tanks were produced. After management repudiated an agreement worked out by Sidney Hillman of the Office of Production Management, the union called a strike. R. J. Thomas ordered the workers back without an agreement and they complied. However, company president Max Babb locked the plant out when Hillman refused to repudiate the previous agreement, claiming that the strike vote was fraudulent. Sec. of the Navy Knox ordered the plant reopened and the National Guard was called out. Despite violence, only 1200 of the 7800 employees returned to work. Finally, the strike was settled by the Defense Mediation Board on the basis of the original Hillman agreement.[90]

These strikes were key issues at the 1941 UAW convention (held after Hitler invaded Russia). Reuther and Thomas joined in opposing seating the Allis Chalmers delegates, but after the election committee conducted a new election in Milwaukee the same delegates were elected and seated. The Thomas administration report on the North American strike attacked the communists, and recommended action to “clean up the situation in California.” Reuther attacked the report for not assessing strong enough penalties. Only Mortimer, whose union career essentially ended at this convention, opposed the consensus. The administration resolution passed.[91] Next Reuther introduced a resolution to bar communists from national or local office. At this point UAW historians Howe and Widick display (typical) factual distortion by calling Addes and other moderates communists, and exemplify the bias of social democratic labor history by labeling Addes’ motion to bar communists and socialists a “silly maneuver,” “even less democratic than Reuther’s proposal.”[92]

In fact, Addes was joined by a variety of reactionaries and arch anti-communists in proposing this motion, although he himself may have favored it so as to make it unworkable. In any case, the actual communist spokesman, John Anderson, attacked Reuther’s resolution on principle.[93] Thomas supported Reuther and a slightly modified version passed. This was another milestone in communist defeat in UAW.

1941 also saw communist defeat in the Northwest Woodworkers. Here factionalism had been severe even though the communists had led the union since its formation in 1937. In 1939 both factions appealed to the national CIO, as the union was spending more time on faction fighting than on defeating the rival AFL Carpenters. Irving Bernstein notes that “Both factions, therefore, agreed in principle in 1940 that the CIO must step in, but they could not get together on the terms. Nevertheless, Lewis supplied funds and sent Adolf Germer from Detroit to the Northwest as the IWA director of organization.”[94] Thus Bernstein makes it look like the left subsequently rebelled against its own decision to call in the CIO. What in reality happened was that Lewis first cut Harry Bridges’ region from the entire West Coast to California alone, and then sent in anti-communist Germer.[95]

When leftist President Harold Pritchett was deported, part of a national campaign of repression against the antiwar left, O. M. Orton succeeded him. After the 1940 convention, the union split with Orton going independent from the CIO to get rid of Germer. In May, 1941, he called a strike of 22,000 lumbermen in defiance of a Defense Mediation Board decision (Phillip Murray was on the Board), but settled right after the Soviet Union was invaded. Later that year he was ousted at a joint convention and communists were barred from office by a 2-1 vote.[96]

These examples from the UAW and the IWA show the high cost of the renewed leftist militancy in terms of union leadership positions. That the left would be attacked, regardless of its justifications for particular actions, was evident as soon as it ran against the grain of labor-liberal national priorities.

As a whole, the party didn’t lose too many members in 1939-41 because it was able to join up with strong isolationist and pacifist currents in American society–from John L. Lewis to Norman Thomas to Roosevelt’s “I won’t send your boys to fight in a European war.” Yet it alienated a large number of Jews and intellectuals by its fierce attacks on England and France:

As Stalin recently said: “It was not Germany who attacked England and France, but France and England which attacked Germany, assuming responsibility for the present”.[97]

Thus spoke William Z. Foster. The Party admitted a 15% loss of membership between 1939 and 1940, while Browder’s presidential ticket received only 46,251 votes in 1940, as opposed to 80,181 in 1936.[98] It’s major loss however, was its mantle of American radicalism. The Pact itself may have been entirely defensible. Yet the accompanying propaganda implied a sudden rejection of the anti-fascist struggle which clearly exposed the Party for slavishly following Soviet policy without regard to American conditions. The consequent loss of prestige was permanent. Yet it is possible to distinguish aspects of a principled internationalism which E. J. Hobsbawn discusses with respect to the British and French parties:

There is something heroic about the British and French CP’s in September, 1939. Nationalism, political calculation, even common sense, pulled one way, yet they unhesitatingly chose to put the interests of the international movement first. As it happens, they were tragically and absurdly wrong. But their error, or rather that of the Soviet line of the moment, and the politically absurd assumption in Moscow that a given international situation implied the same reactions by very differently situated parties, should not lead us to ridicule the spirit of their action. This is how the socialists of Europe should have acted in 1914 and did not: carrying out the decisions of their International. This is how the communists did act when another world war broke out.[99]

During this period the party also tasted arbitrary repression. Browder was jailed for a passport violation committed years before and given four years and a $2,000 fine. Leaders of the Fur Workers were indicted on anti-trust charges; an NMU leader and Clarence Hathaway were taken to court on obscure libel charges. Sam Darcy was extradited to Pennsylvania on false registration charges while California Party chairman William Schneiderman had charges brought concerning his 1927 citizenship papers. Some Oklahoma communists received 10 year sentences for criminal syndicalism.[100] Yet after Russia was invaded, and the Smith Act, which was designed to be used against communists, was employed against the Minneapolis Trotskyists, the CP openly supported their conviction. They even provided the prosecution with evidence,[101] to their later disgrace when they themselves suffered from the Smith Act’s violation of civil liberties.

World War II

With the entrance of Russia and America into World War II, the party line took a 180 shift to the right. Throughout the war the communists were the most vociferous defenders of labor’s no-strike pledge. The class struggle was not just subordinated to the war effort, it was shelved, and by 1944, Browder envisioned it being permanently shelved. In exchange for its rightward drift the party received unprecedented respectability, enhanced by the wartime alliance with the Soviet Union. Browder was freed by Roosevelt, and even began an indirect correspondence with the president.[102]

The party denounced all strikers as scabs against the war effort. John L. Lewis, their former ally, became a traitor and fascist agent after he led the miners in a series of strikes in 1943. M. A. Verick records the CP line in the NMU, for which they were later to pay dearly:

In maritime, the CP fraction endorsed Coast Guard hearing units to whom they pledged their aid in “weeding out undesirable elements,” thus setting the stage for the screening of all militants by the Coast Guard. The CP acted as fingermen for the Draft Boards in turning over seamen who “overstay their time on the beach.” They welcomed shipowners into the NMU hiring hall and taught classes in “Readin’, Writin’, and Strikin’.” No effort was made to enhance the union contract. Sellout agreements were hailed as victories.[103]

The left even sanctioned strikebreaking in the most legitimate of wartime disputes, as when the ILWU scabbed on the Montgomery Ward strike against arch-reactionary Sewell Avery. The party favored incentive pay and thus endorsed speedup and piecework, losing much popularity to more militant leaders like Walter Reuther. Finally, Browder even came out in favor of the permanent military draft and labor conscription, which was opposed by the CIO.[104] The party opposed A. Phillip Randolph’s March on Washington, which succeeded in extracting important guarantees against racial discrimination from the Roosevelt administration, as disruptive of the war effort. The Party similarly did not protest, but, in fact, supported the internment of Japanese-Americans in California.

The major political thrust of the left was directed towards pushing Roosevelt to open a second front to take pressure off the Soviet Union. Yet the unconditional collaboration and docility of the labor movement was such that this pressure was minimal. The second front was only opened after Hitler had been essentially defeated in Russia and the Red Army began to occupy large areas of Eastern Europe. (Gabriel Kolko’s book The Politics of War documents the fact that crack paratroop divisions were kept in England throughout the war to be dropped into Berlin should Germany suddenly surrender to the Soviet Union. Thus in the summer of 1943, when the Anglo-American invasion was postponed, the Russians were left facing 185 Axis divisions in combat while the Allies faced 6.[105]) The campaign for the second front was largely a failure: the docile left had no leverage against the administration.

World War II stabilized class relations in America. This was in part due to the changing composition of the full-employment work force, with an influx of women, blacks and white southerners taking the places of the 11 million men in the armed forces. More importantly, however, wartime labor relations sharply disciplined the labor force.

David Montgomery discusses how the labor militancy of the 30s often reached its peak after union recognition had been won. Workers had become accustomed to resolving grievances with “quickie” job actions, harassment of foremen, setting work rules and momentum, usually led by informal shop floor leadership groups outside the union per se:

On the other hand, there is clear evidence . . . that for most workers union recognition was a means, not an end in itself, and that recognition of their unions tended to unleash shop-floor struggles in the first instance, rather than to contain them. Early actions, even the famous sitdowns, had been the work of very small and very courageous minorities. On the day of the Battle of Running Bulls in Flint, the cops decided to cut off the striker’s food supply because there were hardly 100 men in Fisher Body Number 2, and of the similar number outside only 12 were Flint workers. It was only after the contract victory that everybody in the Flint plants started sitting down, almost daily. Similarly, it was after union recognition that Akron rubber workers commenced not only routine stoppages, but even kidnappings and beatings of supervisors. . . the workers who raised such demands as to bring themselves into conflict with union leaders as well as bosses were those who felt themselves part of strong unions which could realistically be aggressive.[106]

While this tradition continued during the war in spite of repression, it no longer had any union or left support. Even after the postwar strike wave of 1945-46, when the pent-up frustration of workers was finally released, the tradition of inter-contract militancy never regained the momentum that it had achieved as part of the CIO uprising of the 30s.

Yet even during the war, the number of work stoppages increased from around 3,000 in 1942 to 3,752 in 1943 (highlighted by the miner’s strikes), to 4,956 in 1944 (more than occurred in 1937, the year of the sit-downs) with close to 3,000 in the first 8 months of 1945 alone. All in all, 6,774,000 workers struck during the war.[107]

In 1944 alone there were 369,000 steel and iron workers, 389,000 auto workers, 363,000 other transportation equipment workers, and 278,000 miners involved in strikes. In many cases, the “quickie” tactics were extremely effective in improving working conditions and easing the burden of company discipline.[108]

Regardless of the ethics of various wartime stoppages,[109] they spelled out a new relationship between the rank and file, the unions, and the left. Sociologists George Horman and Jerome Scott, who studied wildcats in Detroit in 1944-45, reported that labor leaders “were dealing more with War Labor Board decisions and policies relating to the union as a whole than with the feelings of the men in the lines. ... no company president could have been more bewildered and irritated than a representative of the central office of the union, called in to stop a wildcat strike.”[110] Meanwhile, Business Week had this to say about left-led unions:

A more conciliatory attitude toward business is apparent in unions which once pursued intransigent policies. On the whole, the organizations involved are those which have been identified as Communist-dominated.

. . . Since Russia’s involvement in the war, the leadership in these unions has moved from the extreme left-wing to the extreme right-wing position in the American labor movement.

Today they have perhaps the best no-strike record of any section of organized labor; they are the most vigorous proponents of labor-management cooperation; they are the only serious labor advocates of incentive wages. ... In general, employers with whom they deal now have the most peaceful labor relations in industry.

Complaints to the union’s national officers usually will bring all the organization’s disciplinary apparatus to focus on the heads of the unruly local leaders.[111]

The wartime integration of labor, the left, management and the unions was coordinated by the War Labor Board. In 1943 Roosevelt ordered direct sanctions against non-complying employees, unions, and employers.[112] These sanctions resulted in the seizures of forty plants, about half because of labor non-compliance and half because of employer non-compliance.[113] But generally the regulations were utilized to suppress militant employees and recalcitrant local unions.[114] Management was granted the right to discharge any employee who violated a contract; offending locals were stripped of their contracts. Earl Browder eagerly committed the communists to this machinery:

As regards the fomenting of the strike movement that threatens America at this present time, I consider it the greatest honor to be a breaker of this movement.[115]

Two important by-products resulted from the wartime labor discipline. One was a tremendous growth in union membership, speeded up by “union security” regulations. The “maintenance of membership” rules were actually an important step in the further bureaucratization of unions, and increased their dependence on the government:

How could (unions) cooperate with management to boost production as required by war needs, if their time and energy had to go, month after month, into the routine but exhausting tasks of signing up new members and keeping old ones satisfied, so that union strength would be preserved and the treasury maintained? How could they build the responsible type of unionism demanded by the nation at war without the power afforded by a security clause to discipline those who violated the contract or broke union rules? How could they afford to be discriminating on grievances, refusing to waste valuable time on those of little or no merit, if the workers thus offended were free to quit the union and persuade their friends to do likewise? If union leaders were to meet their responsibilities under wartime conditions, they argued, they had to be assured that their membership would remain high and their treasuries full.[116]

Similarly, the War Labor Board cited the advantages of security and maintenance of membership regulations:

Too often members of unions do not maintain their membership because they resent the discipline of responsible leadership. A rival but less responsible leadership feels the pull of temptation to obtain and maintain leadership by relaxing discipline, by refusing to cooperate with the company, and sometimes with unfair and demagogic attacks on the company. It is in the interests of management, these companies have found, to cooperate with the unions for the maintenance of a more stable, responsible leadership.[117]

Together with the dues checkoff system, the rollback of the election shop steward system (which was often replaced by appointed committeemen to handle grievances for several hundred workers at a time) and the high salaries of union officials, these wartime measures helped transform many CIO unions into bureaucratized instruments for controlling workers.

Six million new workers joined unions from 1940-45 with total membership jumping from nine to fifteen million.[118] Most of these workers did not have to participate in the intense struggles and sacrifices of earlier union drives. Thus a large number of relatively less class-conscious and militant workers were added to the ranks of the labor movement.

Another outgrowth of wartime labor disputes was hostility towards and an awareness of their disruptive potential. This was fanned by publicity about stoppages:

The growing number of strikes and the publicity given to them, both in the regular press and in papers published especially for servicemen, had an effect on many men in uniform, who got a distorted impression of the role of unions in the war effort, along with an exaggerated notion of the wages received by civilian workers.[119]

Exploiting the coal miner’s strikes, Congress passed the Smith-Connally act in 1944 over Roosevelt’s veto. This measure was the forerunner of Taft-Hartley. Numerous other anti-labor bills were introduced, and a variety of anti-labor laws were passed in several states.[120] Public opinion was gradually being prepared to support drastic revisions of the Norris-LaGuardia and Wagner Acts as well as to see government regulation of union affairs as a necessity.


Far from opposing the integration of unions into the state capitalist political economy, the communists were veering ever rightward. Browder interpreted the Teheran negotiations as a turning point in world history, ushering in an era of peaceful coexistence. In the United States, the task of communists was to unite all progressive forces, including any sections of the bourgeoisie that would go along, into a national peace front to defeat the ultra-right. The central aspect of this strategy was to strengthen the “progressive” bourgeoisie against its reactionary section.[121]

Browder ruled out the possibility of a postwar “armed peace” or Cold War (or an anti-Soviet war itself) on the interesting grounds that such a policy “would cancel all prospects for a rapid expansion of the world market so vital for America’s postwar economy.”[122] The availability of such markets was thought to be dependent on Soviet-American friendship given Soviet influence in Europe and the post-colonial underdeveloped world. This view vastly underestimated the power of American imperialism to rehabilitate European and Japanese capitalism and to impose neo-colonial regimes on “third-world” countries. Browder’s revisionist positions were certainly not unique in the world communist movement. In fact, they were fairly typical of the lines of Communist Parties in the developed capitalist countries in the immediate post-war period. In many ways their most extreme expression prefigured the general line of the Soviet Communist Party after 1956.[123]

In any case Browder ceded leadership in organizing postwar reconversion to the finance capitalists, whose own class interests would supposedly lead them in a progressive direction. In a famous Bridgeport, Connecticut speech Browder offered to “clasp” the hand of J. P. Morgan (who was already dead) in friendship if Morgan would support peace. Talk of socialism and class struggle would have to be discarded:

We will not permit . . . that any struggle over the question of socialism, for or against, shall be allowed to divide the progressive majority of the American people, who must be kept united on the road of democracy and progress at all costs.[124]


We communists are opposed to permitting an explosion of class conflict in our country when the war is over. If it happens, it will not in any way be our responsibility, but that of men who did not know how to use their power in the national interest and who abandoned the nation for private greed.[125]

Harry Bridges echoed this sentiment with a call for a postwar no strike pledge; Trade Union Director Roy Hudson, who eventually left the party because of his support for Browderism, also favored a no-strike policy:

Strikes in the post-war period will not solve the problem of providing sixty million jobs, of maintaining the take-home earnings established during the war. These things will be brought about by the more effective organization of labor’s political strength to maintain unity and cooperation of all those who support President Roosevelt’s program and the decisions of Teheran and Crimea. But this unity and cooperation cannot be secured if labor places its reliance on the strike weapon. . .[126]

In 1944 Browder led the dissolution of the Communist Party and formed the Communist Political Association (CPA). He was supported by all principal party leaders in this move, although William Z. Foster and Sam Darcy had previously opposed Browder’s Teheran thesis. Their opposition was generally unknown in the party’s ranks, such was the state of internal party democracy; and Darcy was later expelled. The CPA reorganized the party into geographically based, open electoral clubs, while completely liquidating the party organization in the South. In 1944 the party declined to run a presidential ticket for the first time since 1920, throwing all their resources into the Roosevelt campaign. They even failed to back up CIO leaders who were trying to retain Henry Wallace as vice-president, figuring Truman would be a less controversial choice.[127]

Meanwhile communism grew to its largest size ever during the late war years (1944-45), at about 100,000 members counting those in the armed forces (15,000) and the recently dissolved Young Communist League. In 1943 alone 15,000 new members were recruited, while in 1944 85% of these new members re-enrolled, up from 30% re-enrollment in 1942. 1944 also witnessed a rapid membership growth.[128] The composition of new recruits shifted towards workers and trade unionists, no doubt due to the large percentage of the population employed in defense plants. Much of the growth was amongst blacks and in the Midwest, such as in Ohio, where 1,233 new members joined in one twelve week period.[129]

There is significant evidence that much of this growth was superficial. While complete data is not available, it seems that many of these members quit the party after Browder’s ouster. David Shannon points to internal evidence backing Browder’s claim that 20-30,000 people left after the 1945 upheaval.[130] Glazer shows a total drop of 12,500 between January 1945 and January 1946.[131] The CPA also provided for sloppy organization. Organization Secretary John Williamson reported that attendance at club meetings was only 30-35% in a three month period in 1944. He noted that:

Clearly, we are not in direct political contact with the majority of our membership in any state or district . . . members forego or lose systematic contact with the CPA; they tend to merge ideologically with the general progressive camp, gradually accept leadership of others instead of exercising leadership themselves, and eventually, they will see no need of maintaining their organized political relationship with the CPA–namely, their membership.[132]

Dues payments declined from 85% before the war to 71% in the last six months of 1944, to only 58% in the first five months of 1945.[133] The Communist Press frequently admitted that new members and club leaders lacked experience or political sophistication. One sample of over 1200 club officers showed that only 38% were from shops, the rest being housewives, white collar workers and professionals.[134] Party schools had been suspended for three years[135] and sales of Marxist-Leninist classics fell from an annual rate of 34,000 pieces from 1938-43 to only 19,000 in 1944.[136] In conclusion, much of the growth during the openly revisionist war years was to prove illusory.

The Duclos Letter

The Duclos Letter indicting Browderism as revisionism arrived as an unforeseen bombshell. Top party leaders immediately recognized its international implications. As the Cold War began to build up speed, the need for US Communists to take an oppositional stance vis a vis their own government became a priority for the international movement. Indeed, there is some evidence to suggest that Duclos signed his name to an essay written in Moscow.[137]

The decision to change the CPA’s course 180 and restore the Communist Party was made at the top. The ensuing membership upheaval was anti-climactic, a “post-mortem” in Al Richmond’s words. Joseph Starobin’s penetrating analysis of the three crucial national committee meetings which “made the crucial decisions about the course of the American Communist movement for the next twelve years” shows the confusion following Browder’s refusal to recant. The leading communists inexorably turned on Browder, just as they had once supported him, with an array of bitter and helpless criticism and self-criticism bringing out the essentially hollow nature of party life. Thus these leaders, for a brief moment, came to grips with the fact that their movement had atrophied. They had ignored the duty of every member to constantly criticize the party and ground its course in working class life and culture; now they were impotent and without bearings in a crisis which had been imposed from abroad:

Outwardly the exponents of the brotherhood of man, they had all been living in a sort of jungle. Pat Toohey recalled that he had had the courage to defy John L. Lewis in the bitter battles of the United Mine Workers in the mid-twenties; yet in 1944 Toohey had hesitated to give Foster support for fear of reprisals. Bittelman argued that the American Communists were witnessing the collapse of Earl Browder. He reminded his audience with consummate cynicism that as long as Browder was enabling the movement to make such major achievements, the question of methods of leadership were secondary. . .

Steve Nelson, a popular commissar in Republican Spain with meritorious prior service in the Comintern, revealed that although he had known Earl Browder for 20 years, he had “never had a conversation with him.” Nelson continued: “If we had a Comintern now, this organization would be in receivership.” Turning to men and women who had prided themselves on building a movement based on the unique virtues of democratic centralism, Nelson cried out: “We are good wheel-horses; we are good yes-men”.[138]

Only Darcy and Foster could truly resist that label.

The trade unionists present at these meetings played a typically subordinate role, except to express dissatisfaction at being secret cadre, and to complain about growing bureaucracy in the left-led unions. Yet there remained a consensus that if it jeopardized people’s positions to become open communists in a period when communism had been transformed into a political lobby, it would even be more difficult to become open in the next period. This applied to mass work in general, for instance when Anita Whitney revealed that the whole rank and file of a Los Angeles Democratic Party precinct were CPA members, unknown to its officers.[139] Thus the party headed into the postwar period with a new line, the same basic infrastructure (although the Party was restored) and with a disoriented and inexperienced membership.[140]

The Postwar Strike Wave

During the war the cost of living had risen 45%, wages by 15%, and corporate profits had been $117 billion between 1940-45.[141] Already chafing under the no-strike pledge, the CIO responded to VJ day be unleashing the largest strike wave in American history, the closest thing to a general strike we’ve had. A total of 5,000,000 workers struck in the twelve months after VJ day, and unlike after World War I, the strikes generally won substantial gains.

This upsurge of labor militancy opened up great possibilities for the left, but with some exceptions, it was too slow to realize them. By the time the CP took decisive action the historical balance had shifted sharply to the right and the left had stepped into a vise. Most historians see the years 1946-49 as the gradual unfolding of anti-communism. They thus missed the relatively rapid transformation of events in 1947-48 which so affected the participants’ judgment.

The UE made tremendous gains in its 1946 strike by doing a lot of community organizing in GE and Westinghouse towns. The union had city council resolutions passed supporting the strike. It exposed GE’s wartime trading with the Axis powers and demanded the corporation be indicted for treason. It publicized the fact that workers were laid off so the corporations could collect on higher prices and wait out the excess profits tax. GE was forced to begin a new labor relations program. This left-wing unionism provided a sharp contrast to the steelworkers union which abstained from mobilizing its members to fight politically, and remained practically neutral in the government-industry haggling over price increases. The UAW did conduct some strike support activity through the Union for Democratic Action, forerunner of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), but did not mobilize its members politically. Here left-wing weakness in steel and in the GM division of UAW was crucial.

The reason why this weakness was crucial lies in the importance of the 1946 strikes in forming the postwar political economy and political status quo. The ability of the steel corporations (as well as Packinghouse and others) to pass along wage increases to the consumer (actually the working class as a whole via increased prices for all products containing steel) set the whole basis for an inflationary spiral. Wages forthwith (in the monopoly sector of the economy) came out of productivity increases and not profits, creating a stratification of the working class. This split was between those workers in strong unions who could generally keep ahead of inflation, and those workers in the competitive sector, on fixed incomes, or who were unemployed who took a beating. (In between would be the growing state sector and white collar and service workers.) The bulk of competitive sector workers would consequently remain “unorganizable” (with notable exceptions such as the construction industry) and a divided working class would ensue. Thus fighting the ability of corporations to pass along wage increases (and often more) was in reality fighting for a united working class demand.

In the GM strike Reuther initially tried to raise such demands, but tied them to an “ability to pay” formula. He thus won a lot of popularity in the union, which he used to win the presidency against R. J. Thomas in 1946. But when the company vociferously refused any settlement that would involve opening its books, Reuther backed down. Furthermore his ability to pay formula explicitly suggested that wages should be tied to productivity (which spelled speedup to auto workers in the years ahead) and not be taken out of profits. One aspect of the GM settlement was that UE accepted 18’/2 cents for its 30,000 GM workers, which was interpreted as a stab in the back for UAW, which had been holding out for the government recommended 19’/2 cents. This exacerbated left-wing tension in the UAW. Meanwhile the UAW settlements with Ford and Chrysler contained security clauses allowing the companies to fire anyone who “didn’t produce sufficiently” or “who participated in unauthorized strikes” or “anyone inducing another employee to participate in an unauthorized strike.”[142] These clauses were an important surrender to the increasingly narrow business unionism of the CIO.

The Postwar Political Situation

Aside from not pushing a unified position of demanding a larger share for labor in proportion to profits (which in practice has meant no redistribution of income or wealth in the US since WWII, except under Kennedy and Nixon towards the rich), the CIO unions failed to mobilize against the anti-labor backlash. Fearful of labor’s awesome strike power, the Republicans won the Congress in 1946 for the first time since 1928, and set about curbing union rights.

One of the important factors in the Republican victory was the vacillation and anti-labor stance of Truman, who backed down from big business and somewhat hysterically hit out against the unions. Truman was dealing with the politics of inflation rather than recession; he could not offer anything comparable to Roosevelt’s leadership even if he wasn’t such a mediocrity personally:

Operating in a new politics, in the politics of inflation, he confronted problems requiring greater tactical skill than those Roosevelt had confronted. Seeking to maintain economic controls, and compelled to deny the rising expectations of major interest groups, his administration found it difficult to avoid antagonizing the rival groups. In the politics of depression, the Roosevelt administration could frequently maintain political support by bestowing specific advantages on groups, but in the politics of inflation the major interest groups came to seek freedom from restrictive federal controls.[143]

Truman seized the soft coal mines, which resulted in gigantic fines for Lewis and the Mineworkers. He went on the radio to propose drastic anti-labor legislation including his famous threat to draft railway strikers. His response to the quickening postwar inflation was a useless bill to renew a powerless, rubber-stamp Office of Price Administration.[144] Likewise he threatened to use the Navy to bust the 1946 Maritime strike. In short, it is not hard to understand why workers failed to come out for Democratic candidates on election day.

Also at this time not everybody was convinced that the Soviet Union wanted to conquer the world; and US aid to the Greeks and Turkish dictatorships was unpopular. The CIO was with the Russian unions in the World Federation of Trade Unions, while New Deal liberals mixed freely with radicals in the National Citizens Political Action Committee (setup for the 1944 elections by the CIO Political Action Committee) and the Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences, and Professions (NC-PAC and ICCASP). Thus there seemed to be a movement to the left of the Democratic Party with much talk of a third labor party; even old A. F. Whitney of the railroad Brotherhoods offered his huge treasury to such an effort in 1946.

The 1946 CIO convention witnessed intensified right wing attacks on the left. Murray, however, clearly sought unity. He set up a committee of 3 rights and 3 lefts to draft an anti-communist resolution to counter the anti-labor propaganda about communist domination of the CIO. This was especially important in view of the planned Southern Organizing Drive. The left went along with the “resent and reject” resolution against “communist influence in the unions” so as not to disrupt unity, specifically meaning Murray and the “center.”[145] In return for their unanimous vote Murray emphasized that the resolution was not to be interpreted as calling for repression. Yet communist carelessness with principle did lead to vilification of Reds in numerous union papers and CIO Councils. The Massachusetts Industrial Union Council banned communists from membership and big fights took place in the New Jersey and California Councils. The CP tried to justify the resolution as telling the world the CIO wasn’t communist. Yet they had to criticize leftist Lewis Merrill, President of the Office and Professional Workers, when he directed members not to become identified with communists.[146]

Of more immediate significance was the decision to centralize control of state and local CIO councils under a national office, to be headed by anti-communist John Brophy. Many of these councils were left-dominated, and they were used to back left causes and organizations. Now their activity was to be restricted to state and local issues; they had to follow CIO policy as defined by Brophy, and Brophy would provide a list of authorized organizations which the councils could support. Yet despite these setbacks the left could still muster one third of the delegates and had one-fourth to one-fifth of the CIO’s membership. This strength was to be eroded seriously in the next two years.

In December 1946 the NC-PAC and the ICCASP merged to form the Progressive Citizens of America (PCA). Phillip Murray attended the founding conference but was uneasy over the leftist tone and criticisms of Truman’s foreign policy. In March 1947 the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) was formed as a rival liberal organization with explicitly anti-communist politics. This event marks an important turning point in the history of American liberalism. During the New Deal era, anti-communism had almost always been of the shotgun variety, aimed at everyone to the left of Roosevelt. Thus it could easily be discredited as indiscriminate redbaiting of anyone in favor of reform. Now however, a much more sophisticated variety of anti-communism had emerged, the “vital center.” The ADA was destined to win over the CIO center, yet in 1947 the CIO executive board went on record as deploring the split in liberal ranks, and rejected endorsement of either organization.

Party Strength After the War

The party picked up steam in 1946-47. In 1946 a vigorous recruiting campaign brought in 20,000 new members, bringing the total to over 70,000.[147] The party in the South was revived from the CPA’s “People’s Educational Associations” and had 2,000 members.[148] Dorothy Healey believes the California party obtained its highest membership even as late as 1948-49 with around 10,000 members.[149] In April 1947 communists made 110 local radio broadcasts and two national network broadcasts; in March and April 1947 they distributed 4,500,000 leaflets.[150] When Secretary of Labor Schwellenback proposed outlawing the party, a $225,000 national defense fund was raised in 25 days, with four times as much raised on the state and local level.[151] The party also continued to participate in living mass organizations such as the American Youth for Democracy, and the National Lawyers Guild. 1947 was the International Workers Order high tide with 184,398 members holding insurance policies worth $122,234,513.[152] Despite limits on their activity, many CIO Industrial Union Councils remained left-led (in 1946 Kampelman cites those in the Central-West US: Detroit, Des Moines, Omaha, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as the states of Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa-Nebraska, Minnesota and North Dakota).[153]

The Cold War and the Party’s Decline

1947 was the breaking point however. Starting with defections and defeats in the CIO, by 1948 the Party had plunged into the Wallace campaign which would end in deep frustration and demoralization. Beginning with loyalty regulations for government employees and defense workers and the Taft-Hartley affidavits, communists faced a wave of repression ending with the CIO expulsions and the Smith Act indictments of scores of party leaders. After the disastrous decision to go underground in the early 1950s, American communism was reduced to largely inconsequential proportions.

The squandering of the left’s political capital was mainly a result of subservience to Russian policy, but its ramifications are deeper and more specific than that. Other causes were the party’s insistent faith in depression and capitalist crisis, believed to always be around the corner. This faith once again prevented them from developing any sort of strategy of which struggles could enhance class consciousness and which reforms could increase the power of the working class. They failed to address themselves to questions of class composition or inter-class unity, always worshipping heavy (by definition male) industrial workers–the “real” workers–when half their party was white collar. They lacked any distinct notion of socialist culture in its broadest sense–not just Pete Seeger, Paul Robeson, and the New Masses but the need to struggle around personal relations. This was partially done with respect to white chauvinism, but blacks never had effective decision making power within the organization. Woman’s leadership was not forcefully encouraged. The community life of the party, at least since the days of “leather jackets and low heels,” was often closed to outsiders, full of cults of the personality and behind the scenes intrigue. Members whose whole lives had been spent in the party could be expelled, abused and ridiculed by their comrades of 30 or 40 years. This was indeed the fate of the band of revolutionaries who broke with the Party from the left after Browder’s expulsion: people like Bruce Minton, Ruth McKenney, Bill Dunne, Sam Darcy, Harrison George, Vern Smith and later Max Bedacht of the IWO. A lifetime of commitment to the revolutionary movement did not prevent these and other dissidents from being branded as traitors.

The communist movement never really developed a successful American idiom or politically creative language. Reading Political Affairs, The Communist or their many pamphlets, one sees repeated over and over a style drawn from the Marxist classics, with the timeless sloganeering about fascism and imperialism. This provides a negative contrast with the IWW or even the old Socialist Party. There was never any really free flow of ideas beyond the pale of dogma, no questioning of Marxist fundamentals, very little integration of “bourgeois” scholarship into their political thought. Art was seen as an instrumentality to be approved or censored on subjective political criteria masquerading as objectivity. There was no sensitivity to anything beyond physical suffering as a cause of radicalization (except with intellectuals who could sympathize with those who really suffered and thus themselves become radicals). “Alienation,” monotonous work, authoritarianism, the problems of sexuality and family life, the environment, the need for expression and creativity, etc., were simply not in the political vocabulary of that generation of socialists. Politics was largely reduced to repeated protests against the most blatant injustices of capitalism combined with economist work in the unions.

One crucial political weakness was a failure to understand the nature of corporate liberalism. This confusion appears in William Z. Foster’s 1944 secret letter to the national Committee opposing Browder. It argues for the need to support government intervention to bolster the economy against the “skinflint” monopoly capitalists whose slogan is unrestricted free enterprise:

The far-reaching economic programs, involving government intervention in industry on an unprecedented scale that will be necessary to guard our country from an economic collapse worse than that of 1929, will originate in a truly progressive camp, consisting of the masses of workers, farmers, middle classes and liberal sections of capitalists. And they will be brought to realization, not in easy agreement with the monopolists, as Comrade Browder would appear to believe, but in active pressure against them.[154]

Thus Foster overlooks the fact that the “liberal capitalists” he lumps in with the “truly progressive camp” are in fact very representative of the monopoly capitalist class. Postwar government economic intervention has been planned and executed under the direct auspices of leading corporate executives of monopolistic firms. This is confirmed by an examination of the business backgrounds of the relevant cabinet ministers as well as the key administrators of agencies such as the Committee for Economic Development and the National Planning Association which have drafted the important legislation. Far from opposing it, liberal monopoly capitalists have strongly favored economic planning as the most efficient way to guarantee the long-term profitability of the system Foster and other communist leaders later spent a great deal of time trying to refute Keynesian theory. Yet they retained a muddled analysis of power which led them to confine their strategy to pressuring the government for increased welfare expenditures. This focus prevented the Party from developing the seeds of socialist consciousness present in everyday working class life. Thus the party had few lasting political roots to fall back upon when its carefully cultivated institutions began to crumble after 1947. In the words of Roberta Ash:

If it had been listening, the Party would have heard the same silence Frances Perkins did, who even at the height of the union drives, heard no statement that a man had property rights in his job. That no worker came to believe in his right to control his labor suggests that the CP had been neither able nor willing to present to Americans the central principle of Marxism.[155]

The Decline of Communist Influence in the National Maritime Union

One of the first party bastions to fall was the NMU. Here the 1945 inner-Party upheaval had been very severe. President Joe Curran later said his first disaffection was over talk of extending the no-strike pledge. In any case, Curran broke with the party after the September 1946 maritime strike led by the Committee for Maritime Unity (CMU), a front of seamen’s and longshore unions supported by the left. He apparently saw CMU as a threat to his hegemony in NMU with particular reference to Harry Bridges, co-chairman with Curran. Curran resigned from CMU charging it with domination of NMU affairs, prolonging the September strike, and with communist domination. In fact, however, CMU had only prolonged the strike for 3 days after NMU was willing to settle, and as the letters to the NMU paper The Pilot indicate, there was strong rank and file support for it.[156]

Curran’s next move was to attack Vice President Joseph Stack, who had replaced popular communists Blackie Myers, who retired, and Ferdinand Smith, who was deported. Curran announced he wouldn’t work with Stack (the main charge against Stack was slandering Curran).[157] The real issue was of course communism in the union; Curran never personally wavered in attacking Truman, imperialism, etc. Even as late as 1949, when communists were barred from membership, the NMU passed resolutions against Greece and Spain, the Marshall Plan, and in support of the Indonesian people.[158] This was because the membership was itself radical; 2,000 sailors had fought in Spain.

At the 1947 convention the vote was 353 to 351 to oust Stack with four ballots voided. James Prickett argues that factional battles in the NMU had a peculiar momentum because of a large number of opportunists who would move to whatever side was ahead. This was because to be in the wrong faction in the NMU was to go to sea away from home and family. Thus Curran was able to build on his slim margin of victory and rout the communists; within a few years he also destroyed many of the rank and file radicals whose help he desperately used in 1947. In 1973 he retired with a comfortable $950,000 in “pension funds.”


The left emerged from the 1947 CIO convention relatively unscathed. Earlier, in March, Len DeCaux had been forced to resign as editor of the CIO News and a crackdown seemed imminent. Murray had attacked Soviet ambassador, Andrei Vishinsky in October, and had urged affiliates to throw out communists for the first time publically.[159] Although George Marshall spoke at the convention, the foreign policy resolution was ambiguous and avoided directly endorsing the Marshall Plan for aiding European recovery. No new anti-communist resolutions were passed. Yet the most ominous aspect of the convention was its inaction on the Taft-Hartley Act. While pledging verbal non-compliance with the Act’s “unconstitutional limitations” Murray made it clear that the resolution left the decision to comply with the affiliates. At the same time he insisted on the CIO’s unified support of US foreign policy, even if international officers disagreed with it.

Taft-Hartley had passed over Truman’s veto in June 1947, when the Democrats split on the vote. The law proscribed a number of unfair labor practices which in total drastically overhauled the Wagner Act. It provided for mandatory cooling off periods, it facilitated injunctions and outlawed secondary boycotts. Section 9h called for the filing of non-communist affidavits from all the local and executive officers of any union wishing to use NLRB facilities. CIO leaders raised a storm of protest over the “slave labor” act and at first urged non-compliance. The Steelworkers didn’t comply until 1948. Yet after the 1947 convention decided not to develop a fighting front of noncompliance, opposition broke down into purely legislative channels. By 1949 even the left wing unions had complied to avoid raiding. A union which didn’t have all its officers sign non-communist affidavits had to have a majority of workers vote “no union” to be able to bargain with management, which needless to say immeasurably complicated organizing. The act was a severe blow to all communists holding union office.

Reuther’s Victory in the UAW

The first big CIO union to comply with Taft-Hartley was the UAW, after it was finally captured by Walter Reuther in December, 1947. This event sealed the fate of the left in the CIO. Until then the left had been united with the Addes-Thomas faction which controlled a majority of the executive board. Given the CIO’s growing numerical inferiority to the AFL, an internal split (which might have meant a split in UAW) would have been disastrous. The AFL would have picked up the rightwing pieces with the left perhaps forming a new federation. In any case, the UAW’s million members now joined Phillip Murray’s steelworkers in the rightwing column.

During the war Reuther had gotten the jump on the left with his opposition to incentive pay, although the left defended its advocacy of incentive plans by arguing for local autonomy. The left hit Reuther with a proposal to create a director of minorities on the executive board. Reuther opposed this (and won) as reverse discrimination. Reuther won a lot of popularity for opposing renewal of the no-strike pledge in non-defense plants in 1944.

The left opposed this. Contrary to Howe and Widick’s (factually incorrect) account of UAW factionalism, George Addes did not oppose (let alone “bitterly fight”) the GM strike; this was not the main factional issue.[160] The real strike which provoked factionalism was that of the left-led Allis-Chalmers local. This local voted 5,200 to 477 to strike in March, 1946. Milwaukee rightwing locals refused to aid the strikers and redbaited them until December. The company picked up on this and refused to deal with local officials or R. J. Thomas. Finally, Reuther put pressure on the rightwing locally and they agreed to help out, but after a riot broke out they refused further picketing support, collections of donations, or a work holiday sympathy strike. Meanwhile the House Unamerican Activities Committee subpoenaed the officials of striking local 248. The sheriff first blamed the strike violence on the right leaders then changed his story to blame the left officials. At this point Reuther and John Brophy tried to negotiate a settlement but failed. The strike ended in defeat in March, 1947, a year after it began.[161] Reuther blamed Thomas and the communists. Addes blamed the redbaiting (which had been used by the “America First” Allis-Chalmers owners).[162] Reuther got the best of them, in John Brophy’s words: “This issue alone gave him enough of a weapon to smash the communist opposition in the UAW.”[163]

Another big issue in the UAW was the proposed merger with the left led Farm Equipment Union. This had been recommended in 1945 by the CIO jurisdiction committee, but discussions came to a halt when an FE referendum voted against unity. In 1946, however, the Thomas-Addes group again suggested amalgamation (with FE autonomy), which would have given the left 450 more delegate votes at the UAW convention. (Reuther had won the presidency in 1946 by 125 votes out of 8,765 cast.) Reuther took the merger to the membership as a CP ploy to take over the UAW. He won a referendum against the merger by a 2 to 1 margin.

After Reuther had the UAW comply with Taft-Hartley (over the objections of the leaders of the rank and file caucus which was formed during the war to fight the no-strike pledge) he immediately began raiding FE locals, in an open campaign headed by John Livingston. FE had not complied and couldn’t appear on an NLRB ballot. In the spring of 1948, 100 UAW organizers raided the Peoria Caterpillar plant but lost to the UAW-AFL (UAW-AFL received 4700 votes to UAW-CIO’s-2500 to “no union” FE-CIO’s 2000 votes). FE lost 14,000 members there and decided to comply with Taft-Hartley thereafter. Their Pratt and Whitney plant in Hartford, Connecticut and others in Ohio and Pennsylvania, were likewise raided. Murray said nothing; by then left-right relations had badly deteriorated.[164]

The Wallace Campaign

The reason for this deterioration was the left’s support for Henry Wallace’s third party presidential campaign. Wallace was fired as Commerce Secretary in 1946 by Truman after a famous anti-Cold War Madison Square Garden speech, which the left then condemned for not being pro-Soviet enough! Wallace then became editor of The New Republic. In 1947 he toured Western Europe and the United States. He attracted huge and enthusiastic audiences and did very well in the polls. In the words of David Shannon:

Wallace’s popularity was a function of Truman’s unpopularity, and Truman was a very unpopular president in early 1947. Millions of people who voted for Truman in November, 1948, disapproved of him early the previous year. Thousands who later approved of the Marshall Plan denounced the Truman Doctrine, and Truman’s first domestic policies compared badly with what people remembered of the ferment of the New Deal era.[165]

Political analysts noted support for Wallace among conservative AFL and CIO unionists and even James Loeb, Jr. of ADA admitted his strength in the liberal ranks. Similarly, 67 Northwestern University professors wrote Wallace urging him to run.[166]

All during 1947 Wallace tried to pressure the Democratic Party’s cold-war stance, never rejecting working from within, but using the threat of a break-away third party. Likewise, the communists encouraged third party sentiment but carefully avoided committing themselves to anything beyond the local third party model of the NY American Labor Party. (Such a party could be used to support a Democratic ticket on the national level.) In California a petition campaign was begun to get a third party on the ballot, but without specifying opposition to the Democratic Party.

Throughout 1947, sentiment for a third party continued to build. In November judicial elections in Chicago, and in local and state elections in California, progressive and communist candidates did extremely well. According to Wallace campaign historian Curtis MacDougall, Wallace decided to run for the presidency as an independent on December 2, 1947.

According to a celebrated memorandum written by the then leftist President of the Transport Workers, Mike Quill, the communists had already decided to support Wallace if he were to run.[167] This decision had come after the first conference of the Cominforn in Poland. Here an aggressive tone had been set for the international communist movement. Joseph Starobin also believes that an important factor in the communist decision was fear of being outlawed. In November, 1947, former Assistant Attorney General O. John Rogge charged that the Justice Department had plans to round up communists en masse. Thus, a Progressive Party could act as a legal cover should the party have to go underground–indeed the actual planning for the 1950s underground period of party history was begun at that time.[168]

The Wallace campaign was begun in high spirits. Wallace, at the height of his popularity, had sent the liberal-labor Democrats into a frenzied search for alternatives to a discredited Truman. The prime hope was Dwight Eisenhower, but he declined to run. The Communist Party was at the height of its postwar membership and could not be ostracized from the new party, which promised to win a minimum of five million votes. This optimism was given a boost when Leo Isaacson won a congressional seat running on the American Labor Party ticket in New York in February 1948. Yet almost immediately the Wallace campaign began to fall down, and as the months went by, it left in its trail the wreckage of a decade of communist organizational attainments.

Under the communists’ daring gamble there was major weaknesses. The Progressive Party was built around one man’s personal prestige. It violated the traditional left criteria for a labor party–a base in the established trade unions. Furthermore, Wallace was far from being a radical or socialist; he was later to support American intervention in Korea. His main appeal was his “we have to talk to Stalin” approach to the Cold War. He was thus greatly undercut when Truman sent Fred Vinson to Moscow, taking the edge off this crucial campaign plank. Although the Wallace platform was “progressive,” it was not leftist. Thus after the defeat Wallace’s leftist supporters could not even pride themselves on having exposed the voters to a truly radical and educational campaign.

Truman’s leap back into popularity and the escalation of the Cold War massively undercut the Progressive vote. Right away, hope of labor support vanished, despite Wallace’s strongly pro-labor platform. The CIO executive board meeting in January 1948 voted 33-13 to condemn Wallace.[169] Panic striken by the thought of a Dewey election victory, the CIO leaders lost their bargaining power by such an early endorsement of Truman.

At the same executive board meeting, the CIO voted to support the Marshall Plan. Many unionists saw the Plan as providing jobs and income to America.[170] This measure was seen by the socialist camp as an attempt to bolster European capitalism. Thus the CIO split off from the World Federation of Trade Unions. In December, 1949 and January, 1950, the CIO was to join the AFL in organizing the anti-communist International Confederation of Free Trade Unions which was to work extensively with the CIA.[171]

Another casualty of the Wallace campaign was the NY American Labor Party. After it endorsed Wallace, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers and other non-left unions walked out and the party never recovered. Two more casualties were Lee Pressman and Harry Bridges; the former was forced to resign and the latter fired as the Northern California CIO Director.

Perhaps the biggest defection was that of Mike Quill of the Transport Workers. Quill was a classic example of the party union leader who put his union before the Party. This had already come up once, when the party supported the 5-cent fare in New York while Quill’s membership did not. He lost a membership referendum on that one to the anti-communist opposition. Despite his opposition to the Marshall plan, (many Irish TWU members also opposed it because it aided Britain) Quill put “wages before Wallace.” Yet even after he had removed the communists from his union (John Santo, the most prestigious of them had been previously removed by the immigration authorities) he conducted negotiations with them in 1949.[173] They were fruitless, however. Other direct labor casualties of the campaign were the remaining left controlled Industrial Union Councils. The NY Council split and the left was expelled. The Wayne County CIO was systematically taken over by the right. Brophy organized rival Political Action Committees for Los Angeles and San Francisco.[174]

The CIO worked very hard for Truman. 4,800 CIO employees worked on the campaign. Two to four million dollars were spent on his campaign: Reuther and Murray made election-eve national radio broadcasts. Thus Wallace labor support was very small. He lost the black vote to the Democrats after their convention took a strong civil rights stand, as Hubert Humphrey stood up to the Dixiecrats. Wallace couldn’t even get the dwindling farm votes, his old election base.

It was the cold war which sealed his fate, however. In rapid succession the coup in Czechoslovakia, the two American planes shot down over Yugoslavia, and the Berlin blockade seemed to justify fear of the Soviet Union. Wallace took an uncritical position on Czechoslovakia. Even worse, the most publicized event at the Progressive Party Convention was the Vermont Resolution. This resolution called for placing equal responsibility for the cold war on Russia and the United States. The leftist delegates who dominated the convention defeated it, leaving the clear impression that the Progressive Party gave unqualified support to Soviet foreign policy.

Meanwhile the relationships between communists and progressives deteriorated as resentment against CP manipulation of the campaign grew. The heart of the Progressive Party and the left-liberal base of the original movement defected before election day. Wallace himself was led to say “If the communists would have a ticket of their own, the New Party would lose 100,000 votes but gain four million.” Joe Starobin summarizes the campaign:

In substance, the 1948 campaign destroyed both for the friends and opponents of American Communism its carefully nurtured reputation of exceptional political expertise which it had traded on for a decade. The Party’s combination of a supposed mastery of Marxism-Leninism with the capacity of its members to ring door bells, collect money, and devote themselves single-mindedly to a cause no longer gave them the leverage in American political life which they had painfully acquired. Exactly at the moment when all these attributes were put to the severest test, they proved illusory. Standing alone, without the support of significant allies, the CP revealed a weakness which ten years of hard work had served to conceal. This weakness invited attack, and the attack contributed to further weakness.[175]

Expulsion from the CIO

The 1948 CIO convention was a stormy one. For the first time the left voted against CIO resolutions. They voted impotently against the foreign policy and political affairs resolutions. They voted against a per capita dues increase to finance the failing Southern organizing drive, which would have strengthened the national CIO apparatus. They also objected to this increase in that national CIO was doing nothing to stop the stepped up raiding of left unions. They also voted against a constitutional change to allow the national CIO to take over the smaller left-led unions, as well as an order for FE to merge with UAW. Yet the left still voted for Murray, and kept its hopes alive. There had already been a year of raiding and national backing for James Carey’s anti-communist opposition in UE. Finally in 1949 the CIO adopted an anti-communist clause and proceeded to expel UE and FE, and nine other unions during hearings in 1949-50.

In some ways these years represented the communists’ finest hour. The left-led unions firmly defended their rights to dissent and for members to choose whatever union leadership they wanted. The reason that the CIO had to expel 850-900,000 members (by Phillip Murray’s estimates) was the overall lack of effectiveness of internal anti-communist opposition. UE provided extensive democratic liberties as Carey’s UE Members for Democratic Action (with the help of the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists (ACTU), GE personnel director W. V. Merrihue and the HUAC) attempted to take over.[176] This group had Murray’s support and won about 40% of the delegates at the 1949 UE convention. It later became the rival IUE when UE was expelled. Despite government threats to cancel UE defense contracts, over a million dollars in donations to the IUE from the Steelworkers and the national CIO, an FBI and Grand Jury investigation of UE non-communist affidavits, and the vocal opposition of President Truman and Secretary of Labor Tobin; UE remained an important factor in the electrical industry. Of course, this civil war prevented effective organization of the industry; not until 1970 was there a successful strike against GE, while even now total membership of both unions is less than that of UE at its height. Likewise Mine, Mill resisted a large Steelworkers campaign throughout the 1950s.[177]

At the CIO “trials” the left argued that it “saw the world in a certain way and that they allowed that world view to influence their public statements.”[178] The investigators could not and did not try to prove that any of the left unions had been negligent in collective bargaining. Clearly the unions were tried for their ideas. Thus, even on the level of having unsuccessfully resisted the cold war, the left deserves much credit. Certain compromises were still available and probably tempting. It would be a cold existence for the thousands of expelled trade unionists. Many stuck with their beliefs and didn’t knuckle under to the trade union leadership: surviving unions such as the UE and ILWU still offer a qualitatively different, if non-revolutionary, rank and file oriented unionism. (All UE officials still only earn the wages of skilled workers in the industry.) This judgment applies to the Wallace campaign as well, as Len DeCaux eloquently points out:

It was a disappointing campaign. It was not a disaster...
What was disastrous was that the United States was now officially launched on a bipartisan Cold War course with the appearance of a popular mandate. Every vote against it was a protest, a promise of resistance. Without this effort, few American progressives could have held up their heads. Those who put their hearts into this campaign could at least take pride that they had not slunk off without a fight. Like those Germans who resisted the advent of Hitlerism, the Americans who opposed Cold War imperialism were overwhelmed, almost obliterated. Perhaps they were not “smart” to throw their weak bodies, their strong minds, their breakable spirits, against the trampling onrush of reaction. But they did.[179]

By 1949 the CIO had become rigidly centralized. Reuther had abolished the rough and tumble democracy of UAW with election by slates (he himself had won as an independent), biannual instead of annual conventions, and international control over locals. In 1950 UAW signed a 5-year contract with GM which is a landmark in business unionism. Fortune had this to say about it (July, 1950, p. 53):

GM may have paid a billion for peace. It got a bargain. . . . GM has regained control over one of the crucial management functions. . . long range scheduling of production, model changes, and tool and plant investment. . .[180]

The steelworkers, where all officers are paid out of the central office and all dues are first sent to the central office before a portion is remitted to the local; where the international executive board can remove any district organizer, and where all contracts are centrally negotiated without membership ratification; had a strike in 1949. Here is what an editorial from Iron Age, October 27, 1949 had to say:

Efforts are now being made to settle the strike without ruining the prestige of Phillip Murray . . . Steel men see trouble ahead if Murray is beaten. Aside from the present dispute the Steel Industry’s relations with labor have been remarkably good for many years; employers have generally been able to override the reds and radicals in local unions by direct appeal to Phil Murray. Once this fight is settled they’d like to keep things that way.[181]

The 1949 strike of course bears a lineal relationship with the Steelworkers’ current attempt to produce labor-industry harmony. By 1949 many unions had been taken over by their skilled locals. These workers had separate NLRB elections, disproportionate economic power (and often a separate strike or contract ratification vote), and much greater inner-plant mobility. The old ideal of equalitarian industrial unionism had already begun to fade in the reality of separate seniority lists, rigid job classifications, and large pay differentials. The leaders who arose from the rank and file in the 1930s were now well-paid, middle class bureaucrats who had often forgotten what it was like to work in a shop. The left retained some influence–in Packinghouse, the Shoe Workers, various auto and steel locals in the midwest, and scattered in shops, plants and offices around the country. In the 1960s and 1970s some of these people emerged as leaders of rank and file insurgencies, but their influence on the organized labor movement was minor throughout the 50s and early 60s.

An interesting study by Alfred Winslow Jones on rubber workers in Akron in 1941, found that 68% of the CIO rubber workers interviewed expressed little sympathy with the concept of corporate property (only 1% believed in it strongly), while just 33% of rubber workers not in the CIO disapproved of the concept while 15% defended corporate rights strongly.[182] This study underlines the gap in our knowledge of the early CIO, but it confirms my suspicion that CIO unleashed a great deal of radicalism that went far beyond the confines of the unions or the left. Upon this foundation of militancy, class consciousness and radicalism the left was unable to build much of permanence. But that should in no way diminish the great achievements of CIO, which Al Richmond sums up well:

If it had not been done, then, the organization of the millions in the basic trustified industries would still be at the top of any serious radical agenda (without the benefit of hindsight), as it was for preceding generations of radicals. And if the Left today can focus much attention on problems of consciousness, on political and social issues transcending narrow economic interest, this is largely because the primary economic organizations of the workers were fashioned a generation ago and still provide the framework for dealing with immediate economic needs.[183]


[1] E. J. Hobsbawm, Revolutionaries, p. 6.

[2] David Saposs, Communism in American Unions, p. 157.

[3] Bernard Karsh and Phillips Garmen, “The Impact of the Political Left,” in Derber and Young ed. Labor and the New Deal, p. 103.

[4] Irving Bernstein, Turbulent Years, pp. 606-7. Also Bernstein’s account of the 1933-34 California agricultural strikes led by the Cannery and Agricultural Workers Union of TUUL, pp. 149-170.

[5] Al Richmond, A Long View from the Left, pp. 159-219.

[6] For a history of this union see Phillip Foner, The Fur and Leather Workers Union.

[7] For an assessment of this change see Earl Browder, “New Developments and New Tasks in the USA” and “Report to the Central Committee Meeting of the CPUSA,” in The Communist, February and March, 1935, as well as Morris Childs, “Our Tasks in the Light of Changed Conditions,” The Communist, April, 1935.

[8] See Staughton Lynd, “The United Front in America: A Note” in Radical America, July-August, 1974.

[9] See for instance “Report on the Organization of a Party Nucleus in a Section Concentration Plant,” The Party Organizer, April, 1935. Organizers making the rounds of workers’ homes tried to convince them of the need for socialism as well as a union.

[10] Cited in “A Shop Unit Built During A Strike,” The Party Organizer, April, 1935, pp. 28-29.

[11] See for instance “Shop Paper Experiences in District 8” (Chicago) and “recruiting in Shop Papers,” The Party Organizer, April and November, 1935.

[12] See “Building the Party Under Terror” and “A Shop Nucleus in a War Industry Plant,” in The Party Organizer, November, 1935. Similarly The Communist published Lenin’s essay on “The Military Program of the Proletarian Revolution” in its January, 1935 issue.

[13] Of interest is the discussion on how to publicize this series, which helps reveal the Party’s political orientation. See for instance Alex Bittleman, “Report to the National Agit-Prop Conference,” The Communist, March, 1935, and “The Revolutionary Way Out and ’Our Big Plan’” in The Party Organizer, June, 1935. In the second article Roy Bennett advocates making use of Edwin Nourse’s book America’s Capacity to Produce published by the Brookings Institution!

[14] Of interest is V. J. Jerome’s description of the relationship between the proletarian United Front and the larger cross-class alliances. He states clearly that the People’s Front does not include the bourgeoisie, thus distinguishing the People’s Front period of US communism, 1936-38, from the later Democratic Front line which included the “progressive” bourgeoisie. See “The People’s Front Strikes from the Shoulder” and “France Goes Forward with the People’s Front” in The Communist, July and August, 1936.

[15] See Earl Browder, “The United Front–Key to Our New Tactical Orientation,” The Communist, December, 1935. See particularly pp. 1110-1111.

[16] Nathan Glazer, The Social Basis of American Communism, p. 92.

[17] Irving Howe and Lewis Coser, The American Communist Party, p. 386.

[18] J. Peters, “Problems of Party Growth,” The Communist, October, 1934, p. 1005.

[19] Ibid., p. 100.

[20] Cited in “The January 1938 Registration–An Analysis and Conclusion” in The Party Organizer, June, 1938.

[21] Joseph Starobin, American Communism in Crisis 1943-1957, p. 25.

[22] Glazer, pp. 106-7.

[23] For communist activity in the AFL see Saposs, pp. 15-118.

[24] Howe and Coser, p. 375.

[25] William Z. Foster, History of the Communist Party of the United States, pp. 349-50. These little known facts are also mentioned in other sources and nobody contradicts Foster. See also Jack Stachel, “The Fight of the Steel Workers for Their Union” in The Communist, June, 1935.

[26] Staughton Lynd, “The Possibility of radicalism in the Early 1930s: The Case of Steel,” in Radical America, November-December, 1972.

[27] Lynd has recently published documentation of the US Steel decision in the form of a memo from Thomas W. Lamont of the House of Morgan and US Steel to President Roosevelt, explaining the rationale for recognizing the union. See “The United Front: A Note,” pp. 31-32.

[28] Lynd, “Possibility of Radicalism,” p. 52.

[29] Karsh and Garman, p. 106.

[30] See John Williamson, “Akron: A New Chapter in American Labor History,” and James Keller “The Rubber Front in Akron” in The Communist, May, 1936 and March, 1937.

[31] For documentation of this often observed fact see Glazer, Chapter 4, “Jews and Middle Class Groups and the Party.”

[32] Brian Peterson, “Working Class Communism: A Review of the Literature,” in Radical America, January-February, 1971, p. 6.

[33] See Sam Darcy, “The San Francisco Bay Area General Strike,” The Communist, October, 1934.

[34] Glazer, p. 115 for all figures in this paragraph except where otherwise noted.

[35] From Jack Stachel, “Organizational Problems of the Party,” The Communist, July, 1935, p. 626, and John Williamson, “For a Mass Marxist Party,” Political Affairs, March, 1946, p. 234.

[36] Small figures are given for these industries in Stachel’s report, cited above. Yet their absence from any later organizational reports is a good indicator of membership weakness.

[37] Peterson, p. 6.

[38] Documentation for this is cited by Glazer, pp. 115-16. For Party recruitment of trade union officials see Walter Galenson, The CIO Challenge in the A FL, pp. 395-6.

[39] See “The January 1938 Registration–An Analysis and Concision,” The Party Organizer, June, 1938, and Glazer, p. 114.

[40] Starobin, p. 24, and Glazer, p. 175. The Party claimed 14% in 1944-46 and often higher afterwards Foster claims 17% in 1947-48 in his history of the CPUSA–but Glazer provides evidence that these later figures were inflated.

[41] James Matles and James Higgins, Them and Us: Struggles of a Rank and File Union, p. 147.

[42] Galenson, p. 134.

[43] Ibid., p. 172.

[44] Irving Howe and B. J. Widick, The UAW and Walter Reuther, p. 78.

[45] Richmond, p. 238.

[46] Howe and Widick, p. 71.

[47] John Williamson, Dangerous Scot, p. 104.

[48] Len DeCaux, Labor Radical, p. 317. James Prickett has summarized this episode well: “This convention must seem especially bizarre to those brought up on the notion that communists, by brilliant organizational techniques, gain influence far out of proportion to their membership in an organization.” From “Communism and Factionalism in the UAW, 1939-1947,” Science and Society, Summer, 1968.

[49] See Jerold Auerbach, “The Southern Tenant Farmers Union: Socialist Critics of the New Deal,” Labor History, Winter, 1966.

[50] Mark Naison, “The Southern Tenant Farmers Union and the CIO,” in Staughton Lynd, ed. American Labor Radicalism.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid. The CP plans fell into the hands of the STFU leadership. Also causing the split was a bitter contest between UCAPAWA and STFU over the loyalty of 2000 evicted Missouri tenant farmers.

[53] See Starobin on this point, p. 38.

[54] For the class background of New Deal leaders and the legislative history to defend this assertion see David Eakins, “Corporate Liberal Policy Research in the United States, 1885-1956,” unpublished Ph.D dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1966, and G. W. Domhoff “How the Power Elite Shapes Domestic Welfare Legislation” in The Higher Circles. Also see Barton Bernstein, “The Conservative Achievements of the New Deal,” in B. Bernstein, ed. Towards a New Past.

[55] See Staughton Lynd, “The United Front: A Note,” p. 31.

[56] Cited in William Z. Foster, “Political Leadership and Party Building,” The Communist, July, 1937, pp. 638-41 in particular.

[57] For the CP position on the sit-downs see William Weinstone’s excellent article “The Great Automobile Strike” and William Z. Foster, “The Significance of the Sit Down Strike,” The Communist, March and April, 1937.

[58] See Jeremy Brecher’s citation of Len DeCaux to this effect in “Who Advocates Spontaneity,” Radical America. November-December, 1973, p. 111.

[59] For a brilliant exposition on these problems, written following the collapse of German Communism in 1933, see Wilhelm Reich, “What is Class Consciousness?” translated by Anna Bostock, Liberation, September, 1972.

[60] Earl Browder, “On Church, Home, and Violence,” The People’s Front, p. 198.

[61] James Weinstein, “The Left, Old and New,” Socialist Revolution, July-August, 1972, p. 33. Weinstein makes some valid points in this essay. But he seriously underestimates the extent of mass socialist propaganda in the 1930s and particularly the emphasis with which the communists pushed “the revolutionary way out” as the main “issue of day” in the early 30s. He is very mistaken in his belief that communists didn’t want to turn others on to communism, that it was a “private belief,” etc. He argues for a vague and idealist notion of calling for “socialism” in every struggle, which is reminiscent of the Socialist Party sectarianism which left that party impotent. He would do better to analyze the theory of mass organizations as “transmission belts” for the recruitment of militants and activities into the Communist movement.

[62] For Party organization in the preceding period see the fascinating 1935 handbook by J. Peters, The Communist Party: Manual on Organization.

[63] Israel Amter, “Organizational Changes in the New York District of the Party,” The Communist, May, 1936, pp. 471-72.

[64] Ibid., p. 472.

[65] See “Transform the Branches into Live, Fighting, Organizations,” The Party Organizer, May, 1936.

[66] See “Building Party Branches in the City of Boston,” The Party Organizer, May, 1936.

[67] See “Some Experiences in a Chicago Party Ward Branch,” The Party Organizer, May, 1936.

[68] Proposals for the Improvement of Work in Ohio,” The Party Organizer, June, 1936. See also “Problems of Registration” in The Party Organizer, February, 1937.

[69] See “Organization Problems in California” and “Make the Industrial Units Vital Organizations,” in The Party Organizer, June and December, 1936.

[70] See “The January 1938 Registration–Analysis and Conclusion,” The Party Organizer, June, 1938.

[71] See Earl Browder, “The Communists in the People’s Front,” The Communist, July, 1937.

[72] Ibid., p. 599 and p. 602.

[73] Ibid., pp. 610-11.

[74] See Clarence Hathaway, “Building the Democratic Front,” The Communist, May, 1938.

[75] Ibid. See also Gene Dennis, “Some Questions Concerning the Democratic Front,” The Communist, June, 1938.

[76] “How to Work in a Shop Unit,” The Party Organizer, October, 1936.

[77] John Williamson, “Strengthening the Trade Union Backbone of the Farmer-Labor Party Movement in Ohio,” The Communist, August, 1936, p. 792. A similar account of this problem can be found in “Some Good Union Organizers Poor Builders of the Party,” The Party Organizer, January, 1937, p. 29.

[78] “The Work of the Party During Strikes,” The Party Organizer, February, 1937, p. 1.

[79] For some examples see “A GM Shop Branch Before and After the Strike,” (Fischer Body in Cleveland), “Building the Party Through Mass Work” (directed against “Red Jitters” holding back recruitment in Schenectady, NY) “20,000 New Members,” “Make the Election Campaign a Party Building Campaign,” The Party Organizer, June, 1937, June, 1938, June, 1937, July, 1938, respectively. Also see the following articles in The Communist: Evelyn Gordon, “The Textile Drive,” June, 1937, John Williamson, “Party Mobilization in Ohio,” March, 1937. Alex Bittleman, “Review of the Month,” January and August, 1937.

[80] William Z. Foster, “The Communists and the Trade Unions,” in American Trade Unionism, p. 281.

[81] William Z. Foster, “20 Years of Communist Trade Union Policy,” The Communist, September, 1939, p. 814.

[82] Glazer, p. 124.

[83] Starobin, pp. 38-39.

[84] Ibid., pp. 40-41.

[85] DeCaux, p. 245.

[86] Stanley Aronowitz, False Promises: The Shaping of American Working Class Consciousness, P. 245.

[87] Wyndham Mortimer, Organize! p. 172.

[88] DeCaux, p. 398.

[89] Mortimer, pp. 174-87.

[90] Prickett, “Communism in the UAW,” pp. 264-5.

[91] Ibid., pp. 262-63.

[92] Howe and Widick, p. 80.

[93] Prickett, “Communism in the UAW,” pp. 264-5.

[94] I. Bernstein, p. 630.

[95] This is a fairly typical example of the subtle distortions which permeate Bernstein’s Turbulent Years. For a thorough-going critique of Bernstein and other liberal labor historians see James Green, “Working Class Militancy in the Depression,” in Radical America, November-December, 1972.

[96] I. Bernstein, p. 631.

[97] Cited in Howe and Coser, p. 389.

[98] Ibid.

[99] Hobsbawn, p. 56.

[100] Howe and Coser, pp. 404-5.

[101] Phillip Jaffee describes this evidence in “The Rise and Fall of Earl Browder” Survey, Su. 72, p. 39.

[102] This correspondence was through sympathizer Josephine Adams who passed Browder’s letters on to Mrs. Roosevelt, and soon directly to FDR. Phillip Jaffee, ibid., p. 40.

[103] M. A. Verick, “The Unambiguity of Labor History,” New Politics, Winter, 1968, p. 61.

[104] See “Browder on National Service,” in Political Affairs, February, 1945.

[105] David Horowitz, Empire and Revolution, p. 70.

[106] David Montgomery, “Spontaneity and Organization, Some Comments,” Radical America, November-December, 1973, pp. 73-74.

[107] Joel Siedman, American Labor from Defense to Reconstruction, p. 226.

[108] Jeremy Brecher, Strike! p. 226.

[109] Sociologists Jerome Scott and George Homans studied 118 wildcats in Detroit in 1944 and 1945, and reported as follows on the causes: “. . . only four strikes . . . might be attributed to wages and more specifically attributable to union organization. Most of the strikes were protests against discipline, protests against certain company policies, or protests against the discharge of one or more employees.” Cited in Brecher, p. 224. The communists should have realized that, as is well known, production increases when workers have some control over conditions and are satisfied with the workplace. Thus, rather than calling these workers scabs, they should have realized that much of the wildcat activity was probably needed to enhance productivity. Furthermore, many strikes were caused by unsafe working conditions, as Siedman points out in his book on p. 150. He quotes William Green on the fact that from Pearl Harbor to October, 1943, the US had suffered 105,00 casualties with 20,000 dead; whereas in the same period 80,000 American workers had been killed in accidents and 7,000,000 had been injured on and off the job!

[110] Cited in Brecher, p. 225.

[111] Business Week, March 18, 1944. Cited in Brecher p. 221.

[112] See Siedman, pp. 138-39.

[113] Sidney Lens, The Crisis of American Labor, pp. 201-202.

[114] For documentation on numerous examples of how sanctions were used against workers, see Brecher, pp. 224-27. See also Laura Foner, et. al., “Literature on the American Working Class,” Radical America, March-April, 1969, p. 46.

[115] Cited in Siedman, p. 143.

[116] Siedman, pp. 91-2; also cited in Brecher, p. 222.

[117] Cited in Brecher, p. 223.

[118] Lens, pp. 200-201.

[119] Siedman, p. 144.

[120] Siedman, pp. 188-94.

[121] See Earl Browder, “The Study of Lenin’s Teachings,” Political Affairs, January, 1945, particularly pp. 4-5.

[122] See Earl Browder, “After V-E Day–What Next?” Political Affairs, June, 1945, particularly pp. 485-6.

[123] Interestingly, Browder’s views were rejected by the Australian, British, and Japanese parties and by Mao Tse-Tung as early as 1944, although sanctioned by Andre Marty, a leader of the Comintern until its dissolution in 1943. The Russians held up Browder as “the foremost Marxist in the English-speaking world” and commonly referred other parties’ problems to him. He even received a warm reception and met with Molotov when he visited the USSR after the Duclos letter. See Jaffee, particularly p. 42.

[124] Cited in Jaffee, p. 51.

[125] Cited in Starobin, p. 59.

[126] Cited in Joel Siedman, “Labor Policy of the Communist Party During World War II,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review, October, 1950, pp. 65-66.

[127] Starobin, p. 72.

[128] David Shannon, The Decline of American Communism, p. 92.

[129] Starobin, pp. 21 and 71-72.

[130] Shannon, pp. 92-93.

[131] Glazer, pp. 92-93.

[132] John Williamson, “The CPA–Our Most Indispensible Weapon,” Political Affairs, January, 1945, p. 45.

[133] Shannon, p. 92.

[134] John Williamson, “A Program for Developing Communist Cadre,” Political Affairs, April, 1945, p. 366.

[135] Ibid., pp. 359-60.

[136] Starobin, p. 101.

[137] Jaffee makes this argument very convincingly.

[138] Starobin, pp. 95-96.

[139] Ibid., pp. 96-106.

[140] Here it is important to note the role of communists and other radicals such as Emil Mazey of the UAW in instigating the “Back Home” movement of dissident GI’s in 1945-46. This movement, consisting of demonstrations and sitdowns against the slowness of American troop withdrawals, was very important in avoiding a postwar confrontation between Soviet and American occupation forces. Also of importance is the disaffection of many communist Gls on their return, perhaps an experience shared by numerous communists throughout the party’s history: “In retrospect, the war had been for thousands of Communists a great turning point. Many from the cities came for the first time to grasp America’s magnitude, the immense political space between the labor-democratic-progressive milieu in which the left had been sheltered and the real level of consciousness of the millions who were recruited to fight for flag and country. A good part of the Party’s cadre never returned to its life and orbit. The war was a caesura, a break. Many migrated to other parts of the country, many began to build families and change their lives. Communism became a warm memory for some; for others it was a past mistake.” Starobin, pp. 34-35.

[141] Matles, p. 154.

[142] Siedman, Labor from Defense to Reconversion, p. 230.

[143] Barton Bernstein, “America in War and Peace: The Test of Liberalism,” in Bernstein, ed. Towards a New Past, p. 301. Bernstein also argues that Truman laid the foundation for McCarthyism.

[144] For the complicity of government policy with the inflationary policies of the corporations see Art Preis, Labor’s Giant Step, pp. 300-309.

[145] It should also be noted that all CIO resolutions were worked out behind closed doors and approved unanimously (so as to avoid a roll call vote which would betray to employers the exact strength of each union). Or so it was said.

[146] For the aftermath of the “resent and reject” resolution, see Preis, pp. 333-34.

[147] Shannon, p. 92.

[148] Starobin, p. 113.

[149] Steve Murdock, “California’s Communists: Their Years of Power,” Science and Society, Winter, 1970, p. 482.

[150] Shannon, p. 93.

[151] Starobin, p. 112.

[152] Shannon, p. 84.

[153] Max Kampelman, The Communist Party vs. the CIO, p. 55.

[154] William Z. Foster, “Foster’s Letter to the National Committee” (January, 1944), Political Affairs, July, 1945, p. 650.

[155] Roberta Ash, Social Movements in America, p. 211.

[156] James Pricket, “The NMU and the Ambiguities of Anti-Communism,” in New Politics, Winter, 1968, p. 55.

[157] This is literally true, ibid., p. 56.

[158] Ibid., p. 57.

[159] Kampleman, p. 110. The left in 1947 also began to lose ground in many CIO Councils, most notably in Wisconsin, New Jersey and Minnesota, while they also lost the New York chapter of the Newspaper Guild.

[160] Prickett, “Communism in the UAW,” pp. 269-70.

[161] This account if from Frank Emspak, “The Breakup of the CIO, 1945-50,” unpublished Ph. D dissertation, University of Wisconsin, pp. 160-66.

[162] Prickett, “Communism in the UAW,” p. 272.

[163] John Brophy, A Miners Life, p. 293. Also “This particular fight helped convince Murray that the time was at hand for the campaign against the communists, which he carried through successfully during the next two or three years”; p. 294.

[164] Emspak, pp. 178-9.

[165] Shannon, p. 145.

[166] Shannon, p. 146.

[167] See Starobin, pp. 173-5.

[168] lbid., pp. 172-3.

[169] The left-led unions were unable to provide a great deal of aid to Wallace. See Starobin, p. 180.

[170] Phillip Murray charged that the communists opposed the Marshall Plan to foment hunger and chaos in Europe so they could step in and take over. Yet Murray in 1949 made a State Department short-wave radio broadcast on the eve of the Italian elections threatening no Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) aid if opponents of the United States were elected. Emspak. p. 336. For the communist argument opposing the ERP see Joseph Starobin, “Should Americans Back the Marshall Plan,” New Century Publishers Pamphlet, February, 1948.

[171] See Ronald Radosh, American Labor and United States Foreign Policy, p. 323.

[173] Saposs, pp. 197-8.

[174] See Preis, pp. 342, 357-8.

[175] Starobin, p. 190.

[176] Emspak, pp. 342-6.

[177] See F. S. O’Brien, “The Communist Dominated Unions in the United States Since 1950,” Labor History, Fall, 1968.

[178] James Prickett, “Some Aspects of the Communist Controversy in the CIO,” Science & Society, Summer, 1968, p. 318. Prickett’s article is far and away the best thing written on the expulsions of the left unions.

[179] DeCaux, p. 521.

[180] Cited in Emspak, p. 365.

[181] Ibid., p. 363.

[182] Alfred Winslow Jones, Life, Liberty and Property, pp. 378-9.

[183] Richmond, pp. 240-41.