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Ben Hall

CIO Leaders Sell Out to Michigan Democrats

(May 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 19, 8 May 1944, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT – Who captured whom at the Michigan State convention of the Democratic Party? Did the ward-heelers capture the CIO or did the CIO capture the ward-heelers?

Richard T. Frankensteen, vice-president of the UAW, turned up as keynote speaker at the Democratic Party state convention held in Detroit over the week-end of April 16 and a slew of CIO members and leaders were added to the list of delegates to the national convention of the Democratic Party, including R.J. Thomas, Frankensteen and Shelton Tappes, secretary of Ford Local 600.

In return for this “recognition,” the leaders of the CIO will turn over the support of their Political Action Committees to the Democratic Party and will wage an irreconcilable campaign against the Michigan Commonwealth Federation, independent party formed recently by representatives of many local unions for the purpose of running candidates independent of the Democratic or Republican Parties.

Democrats on Decline

Realizing that only the officials of the labor movement could keep up the drooping Democratic banner, the politicians have been setting a snare for the CIO Political Action Committees. And now the clever CIO fox boasts that it has “captured” the Democratic trap!

The Democratic Party went into hiding after its stunning defeat in the last state-wide elections. During the mayoralty campaign which followed, it left to the CIO the task of rallying support for the Democrat, Fitzgerald. The stock of the party went down to the near-zero point when a group of its representatives in the State Legislature were indicted for graft. They sold their votes, at $65 each, to a combine of insurance companies.

The top leaders of the CIO are anxious to dig the Democratic Party up out of its grave in order to offset the progress of the Michigan Commonwealth Federation and to stymie the trend toward independent labor political action in Michigan. They fear that the MCF will put the Democratic Party out of business.

In his keynote address, Frankensteen admitted that the Democrats have been steadily losing support among the working people. “It is significant of the thinking of the ranks,” he said, “that the trend of the Democratic Party has been away from liberalism.” At the Political Action conference of the CIO on March 12, R.J. Thomas announced: “The Democratic Party in the State of Michigan has been shot to hell.”

Search for Candidate

Even the assistance of the CIO officials seems inadequate for reviving the party. The convention adjourned without finding a candidate willing to risk his reputation as DP candidate for Governor. Frankensteen took over the job of finding a candidate, but did so in vain. He preferred the distasteful candidacy to Frank Isbey about whom R.J. Thomas spoke last month in these words: “Isbey? What has he done? He is just a good war bond salesman.”

Isbey turned the offer down. Frankensteen tried a local banker, Theodore I. Fry, hut since the convention had already adjourned, Fry was unwilling to accept.

Thus far the CIO-Democratic combination has been unable to find a candidate. The Detroit News characterised the Democratic Party as “floundering through a state convention fantastic in its leaderless ineptitude ...”

“Liberal Principles”

“We are ready to shake the bushel for votes,” said Frankensteen, “but feel that the Democratic Party must give us principles worth fighting for.”

Thomas and Frankensteen are already “shaking the bushel.” But what “liberal principles” did they get?

Not a single resolution was passed at the convention denouncing the Little Steel formula, the wage freeze, the labor draft. No endorsement was given to the chief points in the CIO’s own platform. That, of course, is only natural, for it was a DEMOCRATIC PARTY convention!

One might suppose that at the very least the CIO officials would demand the endorsement of some planks in the CIO platform ... at least the most important ones. But no! Our labor leaders participated in the Democratic Party convention, as stooges of the Democratic Party politicians.

Working men can well ask: “You sold out to the Democratic Party. but what did WE get?”

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