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Ben Hall

Labor Is Target in Michigan Crusade
on "Red Menace”

(3 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 12, 24 March 1947, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, March 3 – The crusade against “communism” launched by Kim Sigler, Governor of Michigan, found its first victim when the Marxist Study Club in Detroit was banned at Wayne University by the college officials. To destroy the “red menace,” Sigler will call or had called upon the FBI, Dun and Bradstreet, the state police and other snoops that infest the community. They will investigate the schools. They will investigate the colleges. They will investigate the unions. And they will investigate ...

Sigler has even been obliging enough to offer his services, absolutely free, to the union movement to help it free itself of “its communists.”

What is behind this campaign? Sigler’s main attack on the Communist Party is that it is “subversive.” This seems like a very frightening word. But if it means that the Communist Party desires to get rid of the capitalist system which we now live under and replace it by a workers’ government, then Sigler’s anti-“red” campaign must be denounced for two very good reasons:

In the first place, it should be the right of anybody to advocate that the present capitalist system be replaced by another. (It certainly has been doing badly enough these last years.) In the second place, the Communist Party, which we call “Stalinist,” does not stand for the socialist system of society and has long ago ceased to be “red.”

Why The Drive Now?

Why the anti-“red” drive now? During the war, when the Communist Party, for reasons of its own, was doing the dirty work for the capitalist class by ramming the no-strike pledge down the throats of the workers and by calling for speed-up and incentive pay plans, we heard very little from the capitalist politicians like Sigler about any anti-Communist Party crusade. Then it was “Our brave Allies, the great defenders of Stalingrad.” Now, however, that the capitalists of this country and the bureaucrats in Russia have had a falling out, these same politicians quite suddenly discover the dangers of “communism.”

The employers, through their two parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, are at present engaged in a campaign to shackle the labor movement and deprive it of its rights. They want to institute government control over the unions; to abolish the closed shops; to restrict the right to strike. Sigler’s campaign against the “communists” is. really a device for getting a grip on the unions. He aims his attacks against the Stalinists to pick off later the real union militants and thereby to undermine the whole union. That is why he is so eager to “investigate” the unions. And an inseparable part of this objective is to intimidate all liberal and progressive forces (in the schools as well as in the unions) into silence.

Thus far, the organized labor movement in Michigan has kept silent on this affair. This is unfortunate. But the people who are really responsible for this silence are the Stalinists. They have so discredited themselves in the unions among progressive unionists that these unionists fear to denounce Sigler lest it be interpreted as an endorsement of Stalinism. This is probably just what Sigler is counting upon in his flanking attack on the unions camouflaged as an attack on the “Communist Party.”

But if we are for defending the democratic rights of the Stalinists, this does not mean for a moment that we are for Stalinism or for the Communist Party. We know, for example, that Stalinism itself is a totalitarian force inside the labor movement which stifles this free expression of workers wherever it can. Every union controlled by the Stalinists is run dictatorially. Only last week the Daily Worker denounced the Reutherites in Local 155 because they got hundreds of workers to go out and vote in the local elections.

We will defend the right of the Stalinists to propagate their views, however reactionary and harmful they may be, because we want to be sure to protect the rights of the labor movement and above all to protect the rights of militant, class-conscious workers to denounce the Stalinists for what they are and by discussion and debate in the democratic arena of the working class, movement to defeat the anti-labor ideas of Stalinism. But this job must be done BY THE WORKERS. If we turn that job over to the bosses, we endanger ourselves and our unions.

Ironically enough, Sigler is helping the Communist Party to retain its influence among the workers. The Stalinists have been in retreat in Michigan, particularly in the UAW. Class-conscious worker militants who have learned to detect the true nature of Stalinism beneath its radical-sounding demagogy, have delivered many effective blows against the CP, not because of but DESPITE Sigler. The latest success in the struggle against the CP has been the defeat of Nat Ganley, member of the National Committee of the CP, in Local 155, UAW. The CP is trying to utilize the Sigler campaign in order to parry these blows. It is trying to identify ALL attacks upon itself with the reactionary attacks of the Governor. It hopes to mislead the workers into the false belief that if they vote against the CP in their local unions they are somehow giving assistance to Sigler. But that is not true.

Why We Oppose the CP

We will not be misled by Sigler but we will not be misled by the CP either. We have nothing in common with Sigler in our opposition to the Stalinists. He attacks the CP because he seeks a cover for interference in the labor movement. We denounce the CP because it undermines, confuses and disorients the labor movement and thereby weakens the fight against the very capitalist class which Sigler represents.

Sigler attacks the CP because it has what he calls “foreign” allegiances ... that is, because it has ties the REAL crime of the CP is not mentioned by Sigler because he is guilty of the same offense. The crime of the CP is not simply that it has “foreign” connections but that it serves the interests of a reactionary, bureaucratic, anti-labor CLASS in Russia which is “foreign” and “alien” to the working class of all countries, including the United States and Russia.

From the point of view of the working class of this country, Sigler also has “foreign” allegiances because he too serves a class which is “foreign” and “alien” to the working class. For he serves the interests of the capitalist class. He is a capitalist politician.

To serve the interests of anti-labor exploiting classes in the United States or in Russia is to have allegiances which are “foreign” to the labor movement. In this respect, Sigler and the Communist Party are identical!

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