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New International, December 1947


Herman Benson

WHAT Is Walter Reuther?

A Report on the Auto Workers’ Convention


From The New International, Vol. XIII No. 9, December 1947, pp. 259–264.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The delegates to the eleventh convention of the United Auto Workers (CIO) in Atlantic City finished the job they had begun eighteen months before at the previous convention. At that convention R.J. Thomas had been defeated for the presidency and Walter P. Reuther installed in his place. This time the delegates also deposed Secretary-Treasurer George Addes, dropped both Thomas and Richard T. Leonard from the roster of vice-presidents, and replaced all of them with Reuther supporters. The old leadership, which had held a majority on the Executive Board, was overturned and allowed only four seats out of a total of eighteen.

The old regime went down in complete collapse, to smashing – even demoralizing – defeat.

The life expectancy of UAW leaders who cannot keep pace with the rank and file is not very long. In its twelve years’ history as an international union, the UAW has already had three different presidents and many, many board members and officers. Few officials die in office in this union.

We are dealing here with workers who built the decisive sections of their union not around conference tables and in law courts but in sit-down strikes and in mass clashes with police and armed thugs. With their flying squadrons, they were victorious, not over five-and-dime manufacturers, but over some of the biggest and richest monopolists in the world, those in the auto industry.

They are self-confident and aggressive. What was new was not the fact that they kicked out the old leadership but the enthusiastic majority with which they installed the new one. At least three-quarters of the time of the convention was taken up with completing the change in leadership. To understand what took place we must know (1) what the old leadership was; (2) why it was overthrown; and (3) what has replaced it.

For that we have to trace the preceding developments which were climaxed by the eleventh convention.


For several years the leadership has been held by a bloc of Addes, Thomas and the Communist Party. These leaders were, on the whole, men who came up from the ranks and who had participated in and even helped to lead the early struggles of the union.

Of the Communist Party forces we need not speak at length here. The Stalinists are among the most reactionary elements in the labor movement. In the UAW they made all the prescribed twists and turns in order to translate the Kremlin’s interests out of the Russian into the language of the auto workers.

George Addes, although not a CP member himself, followed the CP line quite closely. From the entry of the United States into the war, the policies of this old leadership bloc were highlighted by their fervid adherence to the no-strike pledge which tied labor’s hands; by their “equality of sacrifice” program, which meant that labor was to make all the ‘ sacrifices; by their scuttling of premium pay; by their denunciation of strikes and strikers as “unpatriotic”; by their worship at the shrine of FDR, capitalism’s master-hand; by their advocacy of piecework (under the guise of “incentive pay”) for workers who had been through bitter struggles to wipe it out of the industry.

Rank-and-File Uprising

Year by year, resistance by the militants to this leadership and its policies gathered strength. In 1942 there was only a murmur against the surrender of premium pay. In 1943, the incentive pay scheme was defeated (with the support of Walter Reuther). By 1944 there was a popular uprising in the ranks. Without the support of a single UAW leader, a rank-and-file caucus was formed and mustered 40 per cent of the votes at the convention! The Workers Party supported and played an important role in this movement.

The most significant fact about the UAW is the rise of a militant, fighting stratum of workers which is anti-Stalinist and at the same time conies into conflict with the policies of the conservative leadership of the labor movement. This cannot be emphasized strongly enough. They are not simply the men of ’37. They now know Stalinism and its works. They know something about politics; some want an independent Labor Party. They know that they have to fight not merely their own auto bosses but the capitalists as a class.

These strata are the hope of the union; they are the hope of the whole labor movement. And these fresh, militant, undefeated workers, now emerging into political life for the tint time, are also the hope of the revolutionary socialist movement.

These are the men who threw out the old leadership and put Reuther in.

Some people, including the Socialist Workers Party (“Cannonites”), do not understand this. That fact is not only a calamity for them but also leads them to follow a reactionary policy in the union.

Walter P. Reuther was a part of the UAW leadership all through the war. But he was a labor leader shrewd enough to see where his future lay; he did not neglect to make overtures to the growing militant opposition. We have mentioned his support of the progressive fight against incentive pay. On the no-strike issue, he came up with a compromise – to rescind the no-strike pledge only in those sections which reconverted to peacetime production, while maintaining it in full force elsewhere. On this the militants spurned him because he did not go far enough.

Reuther’s High Point

The alliance between Reuther and the militants was finally effected by the great General Motors strike of 1945–46.

Here Reuther led a strike which was miles ahead of all the others in the first post-war wave of strike struggles. Its slogans – Wage Increases Without Price Increases! Wage Increases to Be Taken Out of Profits! Open the Books for Trade Union Inspection! – declared in effect that the organized labor movement was the leader and protector of the whole people against the monopolies. Above all, it appealed to the desire of the UAW militants for a new, more radical, progressive social program for the labor movement.

This is what put Reuther in last year. As an official history puts it:

“At the tenth convention of the UAW in the spring of 1946, the leader of the General Motors strike, Walter Reuther, was elected president.”

This phrasing is neither accidental nor misleading: the GM strike and the GM program elected Walter Reuther.

To this day his opponents do not understand what happened.


Like the rest of the top of the CIO and AFL, Walter Reuther is a pro-capitalist labor leader. But he is not an ordinary one. He is a different type. It is as important to understand the difference as it is vital to remember the underlying similarity.

The triumph and stability of the ordinary pro-capitalist (or bourgeois) labor officialdom rests upon the relative stability of the capitalist system. So long as capitalism remains within democratic forms, this labor leadership is satisfied to take smaller or bigger concessions from the capitalist class and deliver them to the workers. Even when they have started out as militants (like Reuther today), they become attached to the status quo and develop conservative ways of thinking.

But today capitalism is not stable, less and less so even relatively speaking. There are wars, depressions, assaults by the employers on labor. Labor leaders hate these periods of shock – it upsets their comfortable equilibrium. They try to muddle along in the old groove as long as possible; they are reluctant to make a change to new methods, even new methods of preserving the same old status quo.

The Reuther Type

In such periods, when new policies are clearly needed, new leaders can replace those who cannot adapt quickly enough. This was seen in the period of the rise of the CIO, which brought with it a new layer of labor leaders. At the end of the war the CIO leadership as a whole short-circuited potential opposition by itself organizing a wave of strikes, carefully kept within bounds. But from his vantage post in the UAW, Reuther moved out far ahead; he knew the UAW workers best; Thomas and the others could not keep step and they were ousted.

The post-war shock brought Reuther to the fore. Reuther is the type of labor leader who moves up front in periods of growing instability and solidifies himself in the. ensuing period of calm (until, with subsequent shock periods, he too is left behind). He knows how to play upon and appeal to the more progressive and even radical yearnings of the workers. All this marks Reuther off from the ordinary, rut-stuck, conservative leaders like Green and Murray: he is the leftist labor leader who profits from the radicalization of the UAW ranks.

While it is the nature of our times which throws such leaders to the fore (if only temporarily, till they too can be passed over), the selection of Walter Reuther for this fate was prepared by the man’s background. He spent five years or so in that school of the “radical” labor opportunist, Norman Thomas’ Socialist Party (apparently at least till 1936 or 1937). During his evening-student days at Wayne University he was the organizer of the Social Problems Club in the turbulent period of the 1932 student movement. His earlier background is indeed a proletarian one. It is such a past which, while no longer determining his social aims, still does color his methods and his slogans.

Reuther knows his union. To all the editors and reporters who stupidly wrote that his victory was a victory for-the “right wing” of the UAW, he said: You are deceiving yourself; we are building militant, progressive, fighting unionism. One of his favorite refrains is this: We are not a nickel-in-the-pay-envelope union. We fight for all the people. We are “the vanguard of America” and “the architects of the future.” “We fight today for a better tomorrow.” Inspiring words! But Reuther never gets around to explaining how these excellent ideas are to be effected. The fact is that to do so, labor must take over the government and all of society. For Reuther the words remain merely as a recognition that “pure and simple” trade unionism is not enough.

In the Capitalist Groove

And so, although Reuther is a more radical type of labor leader, he remains in the capitalist grooves of thinking. Isn’t it necessary to build an independent Labor Party? He answers: “Don’t get too far ahead of the parade.” Are you a socialist, Mr. Reuther? He answers: “No, I am for free enterprise – minus its defects, of course.” (Who on earth is for the defects of free enterprise?) What do you think of the conservative official policies of Phil Murray and the CIO? He answers: “How many opponents can I take on at one time?” And so even this different type of pro-capitalist labor leader is eventually doomed to seeing the parade pass him by, to being sucked down with the shipwreck of capitalist “free enterprise” and to never getting around to taking on the biggest opponents of labor’s interests.

Reuther does not create the militant sentiments of the ranks. He articulates them in the form of slogans, and profits from them. At the recent convention Reuther was borne on the shoulders of the men in an enthusiastic demonstration. This was a parable in action. He has been riding on the shoulders of the militants for two years and we have not yet seen how far they will carry him in the end.


The Eleventh Convention was preceded by a protracted period of intense factional discussion. Few of these debated questions, tiny or big, came to the floor of the convention. The basic reason for this lies not in “bureaucratism” but in the fact that the overwhelming majority of the union was satisfied – even sated – with that discussion, and had come to Atlantic City to decide the issues, not to debate them over again. The main weakness of the convention lies not in its failure to chew these questions over again but in its failure to grapple with the key social questions facing the labor movement and the nation as a whole. However, a review of the factional issues will help us to judge the nature of the two contending groups, and will permit a test of the SWP’s claim that somehow – since only last year – the UAW militants have deserted the Reuther tendency and gone over to Addes-Thomas. The facts explode this latter invention.

Reuther’s election to the presidency in 1946 was a body blow to the Stalinists and a terrible shock to Addes and Thomas, who could not or would not resign themselves to playing second fiddle to Reuther. The policies of their group had been supplied by the Communist Party. (The SWP – having lurched into a love affair with Addes – has suddenly discovered that the CP has little influence in the Addes-Thomas-Stalinist bloc. One does not have to count noses to detect here the line of the Stalinists, for which the SWP has become a deliberate agent in the UAW.) But the CP, which has been more and more exposed as a reactionary anti-labor group in the UAW, could not meet the new situation. It did not know whether to attack Reuther from the right or from the left. The anti-Reuther bloc lost all bearings; they had no axis for their policies and fell into a fit of frenzied hysteria. (It is this which the SWP interpreted as “militancy.” Like the Addes bloc as a whole, the SWP has now also finally lost all contact with reality; the Militant foams over weekly in Daily Worker fashion in its writings on the UAW.)

Maneuvers Boomerang

The Addes majority on the Executive Board first tried to concoct a bureaucratic and unconstitutional merger of the UAW with the small CP-controlled Farm Equipment Workers Union (the FE). They hoped to effect this maneuver before the 1947 convention and thus override Reuther’s 124-vote majority at the 1946 convention, by bringing in several hundred new anti-Reuther votes. But this bureaucratic machination miscarried. In a referendum vote of local unions the Addes plan was decisively defeated; more than that, one Addes stronghold after another fell over into the pro-Reuther column. The vote was a rebuke to behind-the-scenes manipulation.

Following this defeat, which foretold their final annihilation at the convention, the Addes camp went wild with desperation. Their propaganda lost all ties with logic and consistency.

They accused Reuther of favoring piece-work and speed-up. But this charge was merely ludicrous in the mouths of those who had themselves led the fight to restore piece work in the industry. (Said one delegate: “Look who’s talking – the incentive-pay boys!”) They accused Reuther of being a new Homer Martin who would lead the UAW back into the AFL. Yet at the same time they sought the support of John L. Lewis, who had not long before led the miners back to the AFL. They produced a “Moscow Trial” frame-up document purporting to show that Reuther was sympathetic with Gerald L.K. Smith and his anti-semitic doctrines. At the same time they carried on their own sly anti-semitic campaign, accusing Reuther of lining up with Dubinsky, of employing a Weinberg and an Abe Zwerdling. They criticized certain genuinely objectionable features in the GM contract. But as everyone knew, the contracts negotiated by their own followers were no better. Besides, at the same time they were denouncing Reuther for continuing the GM strike for additional months in order to obtain minor concessions. How the contract could have been improved while the strike was called off sooner – this they naturally never explained.

Stalinist Red-baiting

They denounced Reuther for allying himself with the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists (ACTU). They fumed against “red-baiting.” They attacked Emil Mazey (now the new Secretary-Treasurer) as a leading “reactionary.” At the same time they appealed crudely to anti-socialist, anti-“red” prejudices. One need only read the following little piece from the Daily Worker (George Morris’ column) which appeared during the convention:

Conspicuously omitted from the biographical sketch of Mazey mimeographed for newsmen here are the following facts:

1. That he was for years an active member of the Proletarian Party, an outfit that regarded itself as so “left” that it called the Communists “reformists.”

2. That today he is a leading member of the Socialist Party.

3. That he led the fight during the war against the no-strike pledge and that his “militancy” was at its highest point during the war, when he pulled almost daily wildcat strikes at the Briggs plant.

4. That his stalwarts, the delegation of Briggs Local 212, came to the 1944 convention of the UAW carrying tiny American flags which they derisively waved every time someone rose to speak for support of the war effort.

6. That he was prominently involved in the “We-want-to-get-home” movement among Pacific veterans, a movement that was charged to Communists only.

Reactionaries will have a tough time describing the change as an advance for “Americanism” in the UAW.

Unlike his opposition, Reuther followed a clearly discernible and consistent policy as the axis for his moves between conventions and at the last convention itself. He knew that he had been elected by the militants as a result of the GM strike program; he knew that a radical wave had washed him up into the presidency; he felt confident of retaining the support of the militants. Between the conventions he therefore sought a period of stability during which he could achieve the following:

  1. Insure the continued support of those conservatives who were in his own caucus and win over similar elements from the Addes camp by sealing an alliance for mutual support with Phil Murray.
  2. Thereby isolate the Stalinists and decimate the Addes-Thomas-CP bloc.

Alliance with Murray

To insure the success of this strategy, Reuther had to shift his main emphasis away from the truly radical implications of his GM program, which remained more than ever on paper, and to rely more and more on an appeal to “orthodox” CIO policy. This switch was effected without too much difficulty for two reasons: (1) The period in question coincided with a temporary lull in the UAW. Though the membership had lost many illusions during the first post-war strike wave, it was puzzled and uncertain of the next steps. (2) Reuther had merely to accept the fields of battle marked out by his hopelessly disoriented opponents and reply to the wildest of their accusations.

The alliance with Murray was gained. Reuther succeeded in obtaining the public support of Murray at the convention. That this was one of his key objectives was already indicated at the end of the <article on the UAW fight which was written for the September issue of The New International; but since this article was chopped off before the end by a technical error, we quote the relevant passage now:

The chief spokesman for old-line CIO policy is, of course, Philip Murray. R.J. Thomas, who was deposed by Reuther, was one of Murray’s first lieutenants in the UAW. The militant trend which led to his overthrow was therefore a blow at Murray. The adoption of new militant policies means a fight against Murray’s policies. Not every UAW militant fully understands this point, but that does not alter the fact.

Reuther waters the flower of his own personal fortune first with criticism and then with praise of Murray and his policies. At a caucus during the Michigan CIO convention in 1946, at a time when Murray was supporting the anti-Reuther bloc, Reuther said: The torch we lit during the GM strike was not carried forward by the steel workers. This gingerly criticism of Murray (who is president of the United Steel Workers) was warmly greeted by the militants. A few months later, however, he wrote:

“The CIO cannot spare Phil Murray. There is no one to fill the vital role which he is performing in the labor movement and in the nation. Organized labor and the American people face in the next several months a period of crisis that demands the best and soundest leadership we can produce. We in the CIO need Phil Murray for his wise counsel, his warm humanity, his sober judgment, and his steadying influence.”

In recent times Reuther has not deviated in any important respect from the accepted policies of the CIO. To give genuine leadership to the militants who look to him, Reuther would have to offer a new, alternative program. This would necessitate a criticism of Murray and the official policies. But to advance his own personal position, Reuther refrains. He counts among his followers a group of die-hard Murray supporters who join him mainly because the Stalinists oppose him. To criticize official policy Reuther would have to risk a rupture with Murray and with such Murray supporters. But Reuther places first value on his own career as a labor official. He spurs on or discourages the radical elements which make up his main pillar of support as it suits this primary aim.

Reuther’s victory will facilitate the radical development of the union, but he himself is a typical quasi-radical opportunist labor leader who subordinates the long-range social interests of the working class to his own immediate needs.


Reuther’s dual policy of playing now on the “radical” string and now on the “orthodox” string makes it necessary for him not only to elevate representatives of the militants but also to lure the more conservative small-time union careerists. And so among those with whom he surrounds himself is a group of short-sighted secondary officials.

This is what was behind the proposal, which the recent convention passed by a very tiny majority, to raise the salaries of all top officials by from $1,000 to $1,500 a year. Unlike most of his lieutenants Reuther is motivated by far more extensive personal ambitions than a mere $1,000 plum. And he undoubtedly knew how impressive a gesture it would have been, how inspiring to the ranks, if in his moment of triumph he had spurned any pay increase. It must have been a very tempting thought! But he permitted the increase to be voted, in the first place as a concession to the petty office holders who support him out of more immediate and material considerations.

ACTU Threat

In the election of regional directors, who become members of the International Executive Board, Reuther maintained an official “hands off” policy. He was not willing to antagonize any of his supporters by indicating a preference among them. In the elections conservative elements were allowed to strengthen themselves within the pro-Reuther camp.

The ACTU, while of little strength in the union ranks or in the Reuther group, is enabled to play an exaggerated role in, the secondary apparatus. Its chief aim in entering the Reuther camp is to try to transform the legitimate and progressive anti-Stalinist sentiments of the militants into a reactionary anti-socialist ideology. But they have had, and they will have, little success. Should the genuinely socialist elements in the union desert the militants in the Reuther caucus and (like the SWP) support the pro-Stalinist Addes bloc, they would provide ACTU with its first chance to make real progress. The SWP Cannonites who (from within the Addes camp) howl so angrily against ACTU are in reality facilitating its work of disorienting the militants. In his eagerness for support from all quarters Reuther has made no effort to oppose ACTU.

The Addes bloc was all but annihilated, and the CP in fact isolated, at the convention. The most dramatic illustration of this fact, aside from the criticism by the CP of the “indecision” of the Addes group, was the candidacy of Shelton Tappes for vice-president. For many years the CP has ballyhooed for the election of a Negro to the vice-presidency of the UAW (an aim which we support), but despite its great strength it never did anything about it. At the convention, since all was lost anyway, the CP decided to sweep up what crumbs it could. It sponsored the candidacy of Tappes not only against Reuther’s candidate but also against Richard T. Leonard, the candidate of the Addes group. But Tappes received far less than ten per cent of the votes.

The Stalinist Daily Worker and the Cannonite Militant vie with each other in foaming against the “anti-red hysteria” and the “wave of red-baiting” which “swept the convention.” The vocabulary of Stalinism, developed over twenty years, is exhausted in their fantastic descriptions. Such idiocy is possible only for (a) the Stalinists themselves, who hope to ward off every attack, from no matter what source and for no matter what crime, by the cry of “red-baiting”; and for (b) the Cannonites, the SWP, who fancy that they have exclusive patent rights giving them a monopolistic franchise on all criticism of the CP, and that an attack upon any Stalinist crimes and machinations which they choose to ignore, condone or abet is ... “red-baiting.”

Convention Atmosphere

We wish to refer to one incident at the convention, revealing in its very insignificance, to indicate how different an atmosphere actually prevailed. Toward the very end of the convention, when the delegates were weary and anxious to get home, one delegate asked for the floor to caution against red-baiting. Although clearly out of order at the time, he was granted the floor. He was an obviously honest man sincerely disturbed by the accusations of the Addes group. He spoke on and on, and exceeded his time; yet when he asked for a few additional minutes the request was granted. Through all this the convention, which was pressed for time and becoming restless, listened politely, though bored. This is the convention, we are told by the Stalinists and their Cannonite accomplices, which was “whipped up” into an orgy of “anti-red hysteria.”

Reuther’s fight against the CP was and is on the whole a progressive fight. That does not mean that it has been conducted in an entirely correct manner. His attacks on the CP as a reactionary anti-labor group, as the agents of Russian foreign policy and as a group which is not at all concerned with the aims and needs of the union movement – all that is correct and is what we have been saying for years.

The formula which he uses in this struggle, however, is false and misleading, and therefore dangerous. His statement of policy rejects “outside interference” and opposes the CP “and all other outside groups.” In this policy Reuther is no different from his Addes-Thomas opponents, who employ the identical formula. The line of both caucuses must be rejected on this point.

First: The Reuther caucus rejects Stalinist politics in the union only to permit and accept capitalist politics, which takes the form of collaboration with and “interference” by the pro-capitalist politicians of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Secondly: We must combat the CP not because it is a political group (or an “outside” group) but because it is a certain kind of political group – namely, an anti-labor and reactionary agency of Russian totalitarianism.

Thirdly: If the UAW is truly to be more than a “nickel-in-the-pay-envelope union,” truly the “vanguard of America” and “the architect of the future,” it must and will discuss questions which are not the private affair of UAW members but rather affect the whole labor movement and the whole population. And in this discussion, as in the work of building the union, does not every political and social tendency have the right to participate, to intervene, to “interfere”?


Reuther’s tactics were signally successful in obtaining an easy victory over his convention opponents. That would have been fine if all the labor movement needed were an easy and painless triumph for the Reuther forces. But that is not the case.

The organized labor movement – more powerful, better organized, richer and more experienced – is being pushed backward at the present time. Through its control over industry and government, the capitalist class is seizing one position after another from the giant labor movement. A turn in policy is prescribed for the working class. A new program – new methods of political, social and economic struggle – and wider Bairns are required if the retreat of the working class is to be halted. The New International, Labor Action and the Workers Party have indicated the necessary road ahead. By bowing before the outmoded official CIO policy, Reuther facilitated his own victory only to have the convention ignore long-range vital needs of American labor.

Debate on Taft-Hartley Law

The only important question taken up on the convention floor was the Taft-Hartley law; and this was dealt with in a completely negative fashion by all hands. The issue was raised only in the form of the fruitless and misleading question: At this juncture, are we for or against signing the anti-Communist affidavits required by the law before the National Labor Relations Board hears a union’s grievances?

The Reuther group, after some hesitation, decided to favor signing the affidavits now, in order to utilize the machinery of the NLRB. The Addes-Thomas-CP group banked on winning over some militants by an opposition to signing; but they failed completely.

The real issue was – or should have been – how to mobilize the labor movement in action against the slave-labor law, how to defeat it, how to destroy the NLRB as a possible weapon against militant unions.

But no one in the union leadership from any side pointed to any effective course of action to this end, either at the UAW convention or previous to it ... just as none of them (Addes-Thomas as well as Reuther) had carried on a real struggle against its passage in the first place.

All of the UAW tops have shown that their method of meeting or evading the Taft-Hartley law was by making deals with and appeasing individual capitalists (see the article in Labor Action for November 10 of this year on More Than One Way to Appease the Bosses). The NLRB could have been eliminated by a general boycott of the whole labor movement which would have stamped it as an anti-union body. But neither the CIO nor the AFL convention fulfilled its responsibilities, and not one UAW leader arose at the CIO convention to propose such a boycott. That includes R.J. Thomas himself. Murray reported to the UAW that the steel workers would not sign; but at the same time he advised all CIO unions which felt it advisable to do so, to go ahead and sign. This makes the steel workers’ gesture a meaningless one and not part of a concerted attack which could bear fruit.

In the face of this lack of any program of class struggle previous to or at the convention, and with the knowledge that none would be forthcoming from their leaders, the delegates had to decide whether the no-signature gesture was worth the possible loss of smaller locals which were not in a position to strike. As a result the vote for signing the affidavits was an overwhelming one. estimated at six to one.

Convention’s Main Lack

And that was the only serious question to come before the delegates. The Cannonites ascribe this lack to the “sinister” workings of the Reutherites, who insisted on holding the election of officers on the third day instead of on the fifth day as proposed by Addes. The real reasons are far less mysterious and much more susceptible to educational discussion. Reuther, for reasons already described, had no special policy to propose. The Addes group, likewise, was not at all concerned with questions of program but also viewed everything from the standpoint of picking up a few votes in the election: once the election was over, they lost all interest in the “issues.” Lastly, the bulk of the delegates, full of illusions about what the mere election of a Reuther administration will be able to do, came to settle the main issue, to install a new pro-Reuther majority.

No resolution on political action came before the convention. None was adopted by the Resolutions Committee, although several locals had gone on record for a labor party (Locals 7, 212, 400, 722 and 659) and many others had come out for a third party. There will not be another UAW convention till May 1949, long after the 1948 elections. The UAW convention, therefore, plays no role of any kind in political preparation of labor for 1948. Several months ago, a national meeting of leading Reutherites in Detroit had voted for a compromise formulation calling for “independent labor political action” (with the support of Emil Mazey, who favors the formation of a labor party); but in his quest for “orthodoxy” Reuther dropped even this formless phrase from his program and replaced it by the totally meaningless “build toward a new political alignment.”

The problems of wages, prices and profits, foreign policy and other important questions also never came before the delegates.


The immediate future may well usher in a temporary lull of good-will-and-unity around Reuther’s slogan: “Teamwork in the leadership – solidarity in the ranks.” The faction fight has been settled for the time being. “Enough of fighting among ourselves,” say the workers, “let’s go out and fight the employers.” To get a united leadership they gave Reuther practically everything he wanted, with a generous salary increase to boot. All this to the accompaniment of loud cheers, songs, and noisy demonstrations. Their decision was unmistakable and incontestable. This was an accomplishment, but it was the only important accomplishment of the convention.

Reuther received an overwhelming vote of confidence, but this vote is also a command. He asked for the power to carry out his program. He has received an order to do so.

There are no lack of problems ahead. Even if the whole labor leadership wanted to continue their gingerly policy of leave-things-be, the capitalist class would not allow it. American capitalism’s needs in the struggle for world domination will not let them rest. There is a constant succession of periods-of-shock in the offing. Above all, the question of labor political action cannot be dodged or waved aside.

The sharper the issues and the harder the fight, the more will Reuther’s program of reform be tested. The convention decision makes this test possible. There will be, as always, no shortage of willing critics. The ranks of the UAW have never been timid or humble before their leadership. And we are convinced that from these ranks, instructed by experience and toughened in class struggle, will come battalions of militants who will fight along the lines of the Workers Party program as the architects of the socialist future and the vanguard of a Workers’ America.

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