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Burke Cochran

Detroit Notes

(September 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. I No. 39, 21 September 1935, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, Mich., Sept. 15. – On the heels of the betrayal of the automobile workers by the top-officialdom of the American Federation of Labor in setting up the International union in the automobile industry, the Mechanics Educational Society of America has inaugurated an organization campaign to stage a comeback in the Detroit area, today, at its first mass meeting, held at Carpathia Hall. Mathew Smith, national secretary of the society, reported on the plans for the campaign and the enthusiasm which the Detroit locals have shown in the organization drive. The recent action of Green in handpicking the executive committee of the new automobile International has made joint action and cooperation between the A.F. of L. and the M.E.S.A. much more difficult and has convinced anew the members of this society that they must remain as an independent union, at the present time.

* * *

The automobile unions in Detroit are still in a very precarious state and the recent action of the A.F. of L. at its automobile convention has helped sow more confusion in the trade unions and has added indecision and hesitation to the whole movement.

The various federal locals of the A.F. of L. in Detroit continue stagnating; Dillon is threatening that “a campaign to unionize 141 U.S. auto plants will be in full swing by Oct. 1”; but Dillon has been threatening the automobile workers with an organization drive for the last year.

* * *

A new savior of the automobile workers has entered into the Detroit ring; none other than the justice-loving radio priest – Father Coughlin. This unscrupulous demagogue is already beginning an attack against the A.F. of L. International union on the grounds that the officials were appointed and were not democratically elected by the membership. Without question this attack will meet with a sympathetic reception on the part of many automobile workers.

At the Dodge-Chrysler plant, the local union, which arose out of the collective bargaining board of the Automobile Labor Board, has after a long evolution become a bona-fide independent union with considerable influence at the Dodge plant. Recently it has decided to start an organization drive for all Dodge workers and, at the suggestion of some member. Father Coughlin was invited as the first guest speaker. The Father has remained to help the union officials “direct” the campaign; he is attempting to use his position at the Dodge local to organize new “Coughlin” unions, based upon peace and justice and to take the whole thing in tow to his “League for Social Justice.” As a result, the union is now engaged in a death struggle between two factions – “Pro-Coughlin” and “Anti-Coughlin.”

* * *

Those workers who favor allowing Coughlin to remain only have in mind, of course, the building up of their union; but they must realize that Coughlin can only wreck their union and make it an adjunct to his reactionary “League for Social Justice.” Father Coughlin demagogically attacks the A.F. of L. leadership for a lack of democracy, but as was suggested at a recent meeting of the Dodge local, no one has ever heard of any elections ever taking place in the “League for Social Justice.” These attacks have all the ear-marks of a home-grown variety of propaganda used by Hitler or Mussolini in their own respective countries prior to their seizure of power; after they seized power, they smashed the trade union movement by open and undisguised terror. Coughlin is interested in exploiting the dissatisfaction of the workers with their own treacherous trade union officials only for his own reactionary ends; the automobile workers, in order to grow and build fighting unions must steer clear of Coughlin!

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