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Labor Action, 16 June 1947


Saul Berg

Exposes Strategy of the Stalinists
at AVC Convention


From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 24, 16 June 1947, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The present drive against “Communists” by the administration in Washington, as part of its execution of American imperialist policy here and abroad, has led many heretofore willing liberal tools and fellow travellers of the Stalinists to jump the fence and to engage in pure and simple red-baiting. At the same time, many activists in unions and other organizations, who do not favor the foreign policy of the Truman administration, are at the same time sincere anti-Stalinists. While they oppose witch hunts against the Stalinists, they nevertheless have no interest whatsoever in helping the Stalinists to retain or secure domination of any organization.

This combination of circumstances, in which the Stalinists are unpopular for such a variety of reasons, has necessitated their use of all sorts of complicated stratagems in order to hold on to posts of leadership. The preliminary sparring for the AVC National Convention has provided good examples of this.

Stalinist Slates

Those who have kept their eyes and ears open know who the Stalinists are on the National Planning Committee of AVC. However, it is true that the people most widely known as CP leaders in the AVC Borden and Knoble are not on the NPC. To assure a first line of defense to fall back on at the Milwaukee convention, spokesmen who pretend to independence have been busy proposing all sorts of slates, claimed to be strictly independent, which turn out on examination to be just the opposite. Three slick customers, Frank Williams, New York Area Council Chairman, Lee Kreindler of New Hampshire, and M. Smollens of Philadelphia, have been especially busy proclaiming their non-partisanship to the skies, while organizing to defend the toehold of the Stalinists.

Smollens has been circulating material nationally. He ended by proposing to organize a ticket to oppose the “extreme right wing of Gil Harrison and Gus Tyler and the extreme left wing of Knoble-Borden-Kaufman.” Upon looking at his list of nominees, one finds that it consists of two groups of people: (1) Celebrities General Bradley (gotta keep on the good side of the government, ya know), Melvyn Douglas, Bob Nathan, etc., and (2) Every single Stalinist on the present NPC! Lieberman, Pottish, Efthim, Rinaldo and company they’re all there! Take away the window dressing, and you find that the “left wing” that Smollens opposes consists only of those spokesmen who would probably be defeated anyway. His purpose is to help assure the re-election of the present Stalinist minority on the NPC by giving them a reputation different from Knoble and Borden.

Shelve Bonus

The chief characteristic of the Stalinists in their approach to program has been cowardice. The California state convention under their leadership shelved the whole question of the bonus. This demand, so elementary, in which the veterans find themselves supported by the entire labor movement, is actually favored by the Stalinists in individual chapters. But for the sake of not antagonizing the more respectable liberals, they discard it in their platform for the convention. The printed platform recently issued by their caucus in the New York AVC proposes the tabling of the bonus question.

In their attitude toward General Bradley, they have equalled the AVC leadership in grovelling. Only a few weeks after Bradley came out for “economy” by opposing the maintenance of the program of furnishing cars for legless veterans, the New York CP caucus statement appeared with a plank endorsing Bradley’s work as head of the Veterans Administration. To them as to the AVC leadership, the fact that Bradley broke up the disgraceful Legion monopoly in the VA, allowing everyone to get a foot in, is enough. As long as the administration is impartial, it doesn’t matter if it then proceeds to try to cut down on veterans’ benefits.

On the National Planning Committee there has been not one iota of difference in program between the two factions. The CP group refrains entirely from presenting any proposals, and when it gets slapped directly in the face with denunciations of communism ... it abstains! Under these circumstances the Stalinist caucus cannot pretend to any principled basis for opposition to the leadership, and the whole level of the convention is brought down to a dog eat dog personal fight for posts.

The genuine militants in the AVC, who want a fighting vets’ organization allied to the labor movement, will join even with the milk and water respectables to kick all the Stalinists out of leadership, for only such an outcome can assure the growth of an AVC free from bureaucratic domination. But at the same time the genuine militants will not yield in their fight for program against the present administration. Only an honest, forthright presentation of their ideas can enable them to demarcate themselves from the red-baiters, and point the way toward what the AVC must become after the elimination of the Stalinist virus.

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