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Lydia Bydell

Stalinist Henchmen Follow Lewis
in Giving Support to Willkie

(9 November 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 45, 9 November 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by
Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Dirtiest and most cynical of all the political opportunists trailing in John L. Lewis’s wake are the Stalinists and their CIO henchmen. Ever since October 25 when Lewis made his historical radio betrayal of American labor, the Kremlin boys have been outdoing themselves in the art of double-dealing.

The Daily Worker blossoms out before its startled public one day with a full-page advertisement for Willkie and a Voice of the People speaks up in the columns of its brother sheet, Freiheit, wondering how come. Whereupon the editors of Freiheit “explain.” The Communist party, they say, cannot be held responsible for sources of income through the sale of ads by the Daily Worker, since the paper was “sold” and is now owned by two old ladies of virginal political innocence (the third of the trio having recently died and turned up in her obituary as a member of the Communist party.)

Stalinite stooge Len De Caux, editor of the CIO News, in its issue of November 4 throws the party line around like a rope artist. The paper beams with praise of Lewis and his “great role,” “courageous leadership” and “constant wise guidance.” One after another of the second and third-rank leadership of the CIO (known through sad experience to the rank and file as close “fellow travelers” if not actual members of the C. P.) comes forward in its pages with wreaths and garlands to place on the brow and lay at the feet of their “great leader,” John L. Lewis. Sometimes one almost feels they have him confused with another opportunist betrayer of labor named Joseph Stalin.

Harry Bridges for Willkie

Loudest and most obscene of them is Harry Bridges who on November 1st stood up and did his well-known trained seal act before 700 members of the CIO Industrial Union Council in San Francisco. He repeated for Willkie’s benefit the little trick of sell-out he perfected in 1936 when he conducted his labor agitation under the slogan of “Defeat Landon at all costs” and used his influence to postpone strike action of the Maritime Federation in order not to embarrass Roosevelt, then running for a second term.

Although “not endorsing any candidate,” Bridges made it very plain that the most important job before labor was to see that Lewis remained as president of the CIO. Since John L. himself has already declared he will resign from the CIO presidency if Willkie loses, the conclusion is obvious that Stalinist Harry is asking for votes for the Republican candidate.

“The New Deal doesn’t like me,” wails Bridges, “and wants to get rid of me – and soon will if I haven’t got the support of organized labor and its leaders.” Having thus belatedly admitted – and only because his own miserable hide is in danger apparently – that not the bourgeois government but the strong fist of organized labor is the only guarantee of protection to the trade union movement, Bridges pulls the knife out of one side of the back of labor and plunges it into the other by asking support for Willkie.

Support Lewis “100 Percent”

Claiming that Roosevelt is heading toward a form of dictatorship which will smash labor’s right to organize, he says “with the reelection of the president now in the White House you’re well on your way to that kind of a set-up.” So far so good! But then comes an unequivocal statement: “I am 100% in support of John L. Lewis on everything he said.” Since Lewis was heard to say that he favored the election of Willkie, Bridges must take the next logical step, which he does in true Stalinite fashion. “It takes a man like Roosevelt,” he theorizes, “to be a dictator because a Willkie never could.”

What is there to stop him? Who is Willkie anyway? Does he have less Wall Street backing than Roosevelt? Is he less conscious of his class role in support of capital against labor than Roosevelt? Bridges, Stalinist betrayer of the working class, does a clumsy job of white-washing John E. Lewis’s – and Wail Street’s – alternative candidate for the presidency. Incidentally, he also puts the C.P. in an embarrassing spot in respect to its Election Platform of 1940, published before Lewis made his deal and speech. Will they suppress the sentence on page 7 which reads, “Republican advocacy of the interests of Wall Street may be more open and outspoken, but it is not more effective than that of the Roosevelt Democrats”? Must they now edit out the sentence on page 13 which correctly declares the Republican party to be “the party of the Associated Farmers and the open shoppers”? Do they still want to mouth the statement – still impeccably true – that “both parties are war, parties, M-Day parties, parties of imperialism, reaction and hunger”?

In Line with the CP

The CIO NEWS of November 4 reports some 5,000 wires received at Lewis’s office. 90% of them acclaiming his stand. The list of signers of these love-notes reads like a roll-call of Stalinist stooges in the CIO, including such well-known figures as Joseph Curran, president of the National Maritime Union. Michael Quill, president of the Transport Workers Union, Edward T. Cheyfitz, national executive secretary of the National Association of Die Casting Workers Union. Lewis Merrill, president of the United Office and Professional Workers Union, Henry Johnson, assistant director of the Packing-house Workers Organizing Committee, and J.F. Jurich, president of the International Fishermen and Allied Workers of America.

The well-practiced technique of telegram sending has been played for all it’s worth in this campaign of support Io Lewis’s new political betrayal. Not only every kind of CIO organizational setup from organizing committees through unions to state and regional bodies, but every Townsend unit, Negro organization, farm association and youth group where the C.P. could wangle endorsement of a message got its pat across to John L.’s shoulder. Even a number of AFL “rank and filers” were persuaded to give voice to their synthetic enthusiasm.

Panegyrics to the “Leader”

If there were any doubt as to the source of inspiration for many of the telegrams reproduced, one look at their wording is a dead give-away.

“Congratulations on the most glorious and courageous position taken by a real leader of labor. I wholeheartedly support your objectives.” (Jurich, International Fishermen)

“We ... pledge our unstinted and wholehearted support to follow his (Lewis’s) great leadership and to go along with the policies as outlined in this presidential election.” (Packinghouse Workers’ officers)

“We declare our sincere belief that the millions of workers and their families will ... bring about an overwhelming defeat of F.D. Roosevelt.” (NMU)

“Your leadership needed more than ever. Count me in as one of those who stand solidly behind you.” (Edward T. Cheyfitz)

“I am in complete agreement with your objectives.” (Lewis Merrill)

“Endorse your stand 100% and urge all our members to vote for Willkie.” (Utility Workers Organizing Committee)

“Congratulations on your stand in refusing endorsement to Roosevelt because of his failure to fulfill obligations and promises to labor.” (Michael Quill)

“The officers of this local will exhaust every avenue to convince our membership that your position is correct.” (United Rubber Workers)

“We shall do everything possible to make your speech come true and also make it impossible for you to resign as president of the CIO.” (Robb, Indiana Industrial Union Council)

“I associate myself with you and all that you have said and approve without reservations.” (Berry, Printing Pressmen)

These opportunists and lickspittles! How they trample each other in the mud to get on the handwagon. They long ago lost all regard for principle and all concern for the basic political interests of the working class. Now they haye left only that cheap consideration which is the one item in the baggage of every opportunist: “Who can pay me the most; to him I shall sell out!”

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