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Ben Hall

Michigan CIO Convention Will
Test Strength of UAW Factions

(9 June 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 23, 9 June 1947, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

WHEN the convention of the Michigan CIO Council is called to order on June 14 the preliminary skirmish will begin in the battle between the Addes-Thomas-CP bloc and the Reuther caucus for control of the coming international convention of the United Auto Workers Union. The strength of the two factions will be tested, especially among the delegates from UAW locals who make up a large part of this state convention, and the grounds on which each intends to make its stand will be charted in general outline. If this convention is to signal a step forward for the labor movement its proceedings must be attuned to three facts:

Twice Within a year, the workers of Detroit have poured out into the streets by the tens of thousands in massive demonstrations. In July, 1946, they demonstrated in vain for the retention of price control. In April of this year, they stopped work to march to Cadillac Square in protest against anti-labor legislation. And in Flint, without the moral or material backing of a single well-known CIO official, UAW militants from several locals are campaigning vigorously for the formation of an Independent Labor Party.

These acts prove that the workers are ready to intervene through their own organizations, by their own mass action in the broad social questions facing the country. And they are concerned not only with the amount of wages in their pay envelope but with prices, with profits, with political developments and with the course of the government. Let us emphasize this point because in attempting to whitewash its own miserable role the Wage Earner, published by the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists has to minimize it.

The Stalinists were victorious in the big Rouge local 600, it informs us, because the anti-Stalinists wasted their time in a futile attempt to explain to the workers the significance of important national and international events while the Stalinists and their aides rested on their ability to settle little shop grievances. Therefore, you see, the workers are only concerned with petty matters! Not one word of this is true. The fact is that the anti-Stalinists in local 600 took their guidance from the Wage Earner and had neither a correct analysis of important social issues nor an enviable record on shop matters.

Origin of Present Fight

The election of Walter Reuther to the presidency of the UAW and the defeat of R.J. Thomas was a spectacular revelation of what the UAW members wanted. They supported Reuther because he represented a radical new social policy associated in their minds with the program of the GM strike of 1945–46. Yet, though the need for a program of militant action is as necessary as ever and though the UAW members have displayed their readiness to follow such a program, as the state CIO convention prepares to meet, Reuther maintains a studied- silence on all the major questions of CIO policy and strategy. The attention of the UAW ranks, including the adherents of the Reuther caucus, has been turned to organizational “scandals,” to maneuvers among the leaders of their union – all of which is of third rate importance at best.

A shuffling among the top leaders for position is allowed to replace an open and above-board discussion of questions of policy. This allows dishonest demagogues to dream of launching careers for themselves by a crusade against “factionalism” and disorients even good militants who lose sight of the real issues Which underlie the existing factional struggle. The anti-Reuther bloc is toying with the idea of unveiling Addes as their last minute candidate against Reuther for president of the UAW. He is therefore refraining from dabbling in the inner polities of the union for a while in the hope of jumping on the “unity” bandwagon. All this peanut politics is possible because no one (least of all the Addes camp) wants the real problems to come to the fore.

A year ago, Reuther was proclaiming the need for a United Labor Conference of the CIO, AFL and independent unions to map out a program of struggle. He had even criticized Murray in a gingerly manner for dumping the fight for wage increases without price increases. The need for joint action on a mass scale still exists. Murray has advanced the novel idea of a two-year no-strike pledge. Why is Reuther silent?

The fact is that Reuther is more concerned with building his own fences, with strengthening his own personal position in the UAW than he is with fighting for such a program of action. Last year Phil Murray supported the anti-Reuther bloc in the UAW. Since then, a rift has been developing between Murray and the CP which is one of the most important elements in the anti-Reuther camp. Reuther’s aim is to avoid any “ill-considered” acts on his side, withhold all criticism of Murray, and to sit tight while this rift widens in the hope that Murray will shift his support to Reuther or remain neutral. This clever plan is admirably adapted to serve the narrow, careerist aims of Reuther; but the plan is successful only to the extent that Reuther keeps quiet on every crucial question facing the labor movement.

But militants in the UAW, especially those who have railed to the Reuther caucus in search of a new program, cannot allow Reuther’s personal diplomacy to guide their actions. The coming state contention will offer a fresh opportunity for us. The minimum requirement is to fight for the following policies: (1) For a mass March on Washington against the anti-labor bill; (2) For a one day work stoppage in solidarity with the marchers; (3) For the immediate formation of an Independent Labor Party, and an end to the suicidal policy of supporting Democrats and Republicans.

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