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Socialist Appeal, Novemeber–December 1935, Volume 2 No. 2,
Transcribed, Edited and Formatted by Marty Goodman and David Walters in 2012 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line and the Left-Opposition Digitization Project, a joint venture of the ETOL, Holt Labor Library and the Riazinov Library.

From FRAGMENTS of pages reprinted in the 1968 Greenwood Reprints edition. Greenwood in 1968 apologized for this incomplete copy, noting they searched ‘every major collection in the United States’ for an intact copy, without success.

Eight pages were reprinted. Each was missing about 10 to 25% of the page at the bottom or corners or edges. The first page seems to be missing. MOST of these articles, thus, are missing portions of the text.

x’s are used to indicate missing portions of text. There is NOT an exact 1 to 1 correspondence between number of x’s and number of missing letters. But there is a rough and vague (tho not really proportionate) one. Brackets [] are used where there was compelling reason to guess at what a partly wiped out word was. The letters IN the brackets are those guessed at. NOTE that only relatively compelling (from context) guesses resulted in letters being filled in, and in all cases when this was done, it is indicated. Eventually PDF files of all this material will be made available, so others can make their own guesses based on the fragmentary and damaged pages presented by Greenwood Reprints of this issue. —M. Riazanov

Progressives and the A.F. of L. Convention

The top leadership of the bureaucratic machine has been in control of the American Federation of Labor so long and so completely that it was taken for granted by everyone that a convention of the A.F. of L. would simply rubber-stamp everything that the Executive Council proposed. A real struggle on some fundamental principle was almost inconceivable and the most that one could expect in the way of opposition was some lone wolf crying in the wilderness.

As a consequence the really bitter struggle that took place at the last convention held at Atlantic City and the shakxxx sssjected to electrified the whole xxxx movement xxxx xxxx xxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

xxxxx is a grave danger lest, in the anxiety of some pro-xxxxx [t]rade unionists to bring about a change of leadership xxxxcs, bureaucrats of the type of John L. Lewis and Sidney [Hill]man would be pushed forward as great “white hopes” of [th]e militant elements of the trade union movement.

It would be absurd to deny that the last convention showed a [si]gnificant trend forward. The mere fact that an open struggle occurred on the floor of the convention between two elements in the leadership of the trade unions is in itself a progressive factor. A struggle amongst conservative leaders always affords the progressives a better opportunity to spread their ideas. To disregard the struggle of Lewis against Hillman and Frey on behalf of industrial unionism and to consider it simply as a struggle between two factions of the machine for power is to disregard the tremendous forces at work within the labor movement at the present time - forces which, in the last analysis, explain the bitterness of the fight.

The prolonged depression, the steady displacement of skilled by unskilled labor by virtue of the development of new machinery, the spasmodic improvement in economy, the National Recovery Act - all these factors have brought into the unions thousands and tens of thousands of new, mainly unskilled, working class elements. It was the policy of the dominant leadership of the A.F. of L. in relying upon the government rather than upon the strength of labor which largely retarded the growth of the unions. It is because of the short-sighted and reactionary craft union leadership that the workers in the mass product industries are at the present moment almost wholly unorganized.

The leaders of those international unions that are based upon great numbers of unskilled workers recognize the danger facing them if the workers in such basic industries as steel, rubber, and automobiles are left unorganized. They correctly see in the policies of the dominant elements of the Federation a danger to their own positions and they are determined to make a serious attempt to destroy the influence of Woll, Hutcheson, Frey and the others.

In so far as Lewis and his supporters are struggling against an antiquated craft unionism which is one of the main factors responsible for the failure to organize the basic sections of the American workers, the progressive trade unionists must not and cannot refuse to throw their influence on the side of Lewis. Militant trade-unionists would place themselves in a ridiculous position if they were to refuse to support a resolution in favor of industrial unionism simply because Lewis was the one who introduced and defended it.

But to look to Lewis or Hillman to lead the American trade union movement into progressive channels is to fool oneself and to fool everyone else. The past record of an individual is not to be held against hi provided he changes his tactics and openly admits his mistakes. The role which Lewis has played in the labor movement in general and in the United Mine Workers in particular should make us hesitate to look upon him as a leader of the progressives even if he would proclaim to the world that he has now different ideas about running a union. And since there is no indication that he has changed his ideas and tactics it would constitute a betrayal of the interests of the American workers to picture Lewis as the one who will lead the American trade union movement into the path of the class struggle.

Concretely what should be the task of a group of progressive unionists in the United Mine Workers? Should they cease to struggle against Lewis for his suppression of the democratic rights of the miner in their union? Should a progressive group keep quiet about his class collaboration policy? Should a group would be looked upon with contempt by every class conscious miner who, out of bitter experience, knows the type of man Lewis really is.

The secret of correct tactics in the struggle for progressive unionism is the organization of true progressives on a definite program and of the independent activity of the progressives with reference to every problem and every leader. To support a trade union leader at one time on a certain policy or to make a block [with] him is perfectly correct even tho that leader will have to xxx xxxxought on different oc[casi]ons. But to make a peranent al[liance xxxxton xxxxx xxxx essentially far from being xxxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx are xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx as Green and Woll. One should not forge[t] xxxx xxxx xxxunions they are capable of using gangsters anxxxx xxxx every form of progressive opposition. If one xxxx xxxxxx xxxties one is not in a position to play the role xxxxx xxxxx socialists should play in the trade union movement xxxxxx.

Objectively, to-day Lewis is plainly a progressive xxxx xx xxx American Federation of Labor, and therefore the interxxxxx progressivism, as well as of the working class as a whole, require that we co-operate with Lewis, as well as with other forces who support a progressive program. But it would be false strategy to fuse with Lewis, to forget the differences which still exist, to fail to criticize when he hesitates or vacillates, to not refuse to put forward correct demands out of fear that he might not accept them. Neither capitulation to Green nor to Lewis, but constant, and fearless progressive activity will bild the kind of labor movement we want.

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