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Albert Gates

Hillman and Stalinists Bring
ALP to Verge of Crack-Up

(14 February 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 7, 14 February 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The American Labor Party of New York is now wracked by a sharp internal struggle which threatens its very existence. For some years, the Communist Party in this country has sought to take over the ALP and to use it for its own purposes. Thus we have observed a long struggle between: the present conservative leadership of Dubinsky-Counts-Rose and the even more reactionary group led by the American representatives of Joseph Stalin.

This struggle over control of the ALP has been joined by Sidney Hillman, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and head of the CIO Political Action Committee. Hillman formed a bloc with the Communist Party for the purpose of taking over the ALP and reducing it to a pro-Roosevelt bargaining agency, bargaining with the Democratic Party machine in the State of New York.

Hillman Enters the Melee

It is obvious that Hillman could not accomplish this task without concealing his main purpose behind supposedly “progressive” measures. The “progressive” measures he employs in this struggle is the demand that the American Labor Party should be reorganized on the basis of the trade union movement and that the direction of the party should be turned over to the AFL and the CIO unions in New York! This, he argues, would take the ALP out of the hands of its present liberal-labor leadership and transform the party from an individual membership organization to one based upon the powerful unions in the state.

On the face of it the Hillman proposal (previously made by the Stalinist-controlled unions in New York) appears to be a thoroughly progressive measure and a reflection of the progressive demand for an Independent Labor Party. For it is obvious that the great political need of American labor is the organization of its own party, an independent party of labor based upon the trade unions. This does not mean the exclusion of other elements, but the strength of such a party would derive primarily from that powerful base of the mass unions in the country, which would, in turn, give it a driving power great enough to threaten the political monopoly of big business, expressed through its Democratic and Republican Parties.

Hillman’s “plan” has gathered a little strength because of the utterly stupid and reactionary opposition waged against it by the Dubinsky-Counts-Rose leadership. They oppose the Hillman proposal on completely incorrect premises and thus play into his hands. They are against a real party of labor based on the trade unions on the absolutely laughable grounds that a party based upon the mass unions would “narrow” its base! Secondary reasons for opposing a Labor Party based on the trade unions are that it would not conform to the election laws of the state and would exclude many “progressive and liberal” elements who are not of the trade unions.

All This Is Nonsense

All of these reasons are nonsense. A Labor Party based on the trade union movement would be the broadest kind of party with a mass following and would make possible the creation of a more democratic political party. Such a powerful Labor Party would have the effect of drawing into its ranks thousands upon thousands of “liberals and progressives.” The existence of such a party could not possibly violate election laws any more than the present ALP set-up violates them.

Many people do not understand this fight because both wings in the ALP are ardent supporters of Roosevelt and a fourth term. Yet there is a difference between the two factions. The Dubinsky-Counts-Rose group would retain the ALP as an independent third party – not a genuine Labor Party – whereas the Stalinist-Hillman combination would destroy the ALP and turn it into an appendage of the Roosevelt machine of the Democratic Party. A victory of the Dubinsky group would still make it possible to fight for the transformation of the ALP into a genuine Labor Party, whereas a victory of the Communist Party-Hillman group would mean the virtual death of the party.

How is it possible, some may ask, to declare that Hillman would. destroy the American Labor Party when he makes a proposal which admittedly would strengthen the organization? This is the heart of the problem.

The Heart of the Problem

The most important fact about the present dispute is that the proposal for transforming the ALP into a party based on the trade unions comes from the person, and the faction allied with him, who is the most avowed opponent of a Labor Party!

Hillman is against a Labor Party! The Communist Party is against a Labor Party. Hillman and the Stalinists have done everything in their power to prevent the formation of local and state Labor Parties, or even conferences and meetings organized for the purpose of considering steps toward the formation of such parties!

Hillman and his Communist Party allies have utilized the CIO Political Action Committee, organized to hogtie American labor to Roosevelt’s machine and for a fourth term, to prevent genuine independent politics by labor, and the formation of a genuine Labor Party.

Hillman does not belong to the ALP, and the union which he heads long ago withdrew from the party. In the last gubernatorial election in New York, he and the Stalinists supported the regular Democratic ticket against the ALP-Democratic coalition ticket.

These facts clearly establish that Hillman and the Communist Party are championing the plan for trade union control of the ALP for the sole and foul purpose of liquidating it. This has concrete meaning when it is remembered that in the counties of New York City the CIO unions are dominated mainly by Communist Party leaders or followers. To turn the party over to these elements would mean the abolition of the ALP.

Struggle over Candidates

Thus the fight over the Hillman proposal led naturally to a struggle over candidates for the ALP primaries. Hillman proposed a slate of candidates made up of his followers plus out-and-out Stalinists and their fellow-travelers. For a time it looked as if the “right wing” would give up the ghost without a fight. But pressure from the outside helped to galvanize the Dubjnsky-Counts-Rose faction and they are now out to win the primaries from the Hillman-Communist alliance. They rejected the Hillman slate of candidates and committeemen and publicly announced their determination to defeat that combination.

The decision of the Dubinsky faction to carry the fight to Hillman and his group does not set aside the significance of the fight over the Hillman proposal. One of the reasons this leadership of the ALP has fallen into this difficult situation is precisely because the ALP was not organized on the basis of the trade unions of the state and is not a genuine independent Labor Party, representing the interests of the working class against the Republican and Democratic Parties. Several months ago, when Labor Action first commented editorially on its opposition to the Hillman proposal it said:

“... the present ALP is a distinct labor political organization. That it does not pursue the course of political independence in campaigns is unquestionably true. Our criticism of the ALP is precisely on the ground that it has failed to use its great power to extend the independent character of the party for genuine independent labor political action against the rotten political machines of the Republican and Democratic Parties. In other words, it has been playing cheap capitalist machine politics.”

It is necessary to add to this that the ALP can never become a genuine Labor Party until and unless it is based on the trade unions. But how can the ALP do this and still avoid the pitfalls of the Hillman-Communist plan? By one simple measure:

All unions that stand unequivocally for independent labor political action, i.e., for an independent Labor Party, become part of the American Labor Party. Such a measure should close the door to the Stalinist-controlled unions, to Hillman and to the union he controls. It would bar any union which is opposed to independent political action and a Labor Party.

On the other hand, the influx of unions into the ALP on the basis of support to an Independent Labor Party would enormously strengthen the organization and transform it into a genuine Labor Party, which it is not at the present time.

The fight for this kind of party means not only a struggle against the Hillman-Stalinist combine, but also against the Dubinsky-Counts-Rose group, which likewise stands in the way of a genuine Labor Party. It is necessary to emphasize again, however, that the difference between the two is clear: a victory for the Hillman-Stalinist faction means the virtual death of the ALP. A victory for the present leadership leaves the possibility of transforming the ALP into a real Independent Labor Party. This is of enormous importance for the future-political development of. the American working class.

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