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Ben Hall

Labor ’Scope

CMD, Small UAW Grouplet, Forced
to Recognize Its Thesis Is Wrong

(8 August 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 32, 8 August 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

There were several important disputes at the recent convention of the United Auto Workers (CIO) but there were no faction fights of any serious importance. Because there are no longer any factions with real influence.

Only one powerful group remains, the Reuther group, but its prestige is so great, its following so widespread, that it encompasses almost the entire union. Consequently it can no longer be termed a faction or group in the old sense. Almost everyone is for Reuther now.

It would be difficult to invent a more pitiful ending for the old Addes-Thomas bloc. Men who had the loyal support of tens of thousands of unionists simply disappeared from the scene. The first to go was Dick Frankensteen, who resigned as vice-president even before the final fight with Reuther. He started to try his hand at show business and ended up as a personnel director for some manufacturer.

Defeated – Departed

George Addes, once a big name, is now a saloon keeper whose closest connection with the union movement is across the bar from his old cronies. R.J. Thomas, once the president of the UAW, and Richard Leonard, former vice-president, have been pensioned off with CIO jobs by Philip Murray. Not one – not one – of the top-ranking leaders of the Addes group remains in the union (except those who belatedly climbed on the Reuther bandwagon, like Matthews).

They were defeated; they departed. That alone tells us what they are: men of myopic vision with no confidence in themselves and no hope in the UAW; men who sought only comfortable jobs, a little prestige, a fair salary. Now they seek it elsewhere. The ignominious collapse of the anti-Reuther bloc when its top leaders could no longer dispose of patronage hammers the last nail in the theory that it carried on the militant, progressive traditions of the UAW.

The last nail? Not quite. Further proof was provided in the actions of the Committee for a Militant and Democratic UAW at the twelfth convention.

A different group, remnants of the old Addes group, the Stalinists and their former close fellow travelers managed to unite into the Progressive Unity caucus on the very eve of the convention, after rocky negotiations. This group ran Grant against Reuther. It is difficult to see how it can hold together. The Stalinists are so discredited that everyone is edging away from them.

Small Grouplet

The Committee for a Militant and Democratic UAW, however, enrolls genuinely progressive anti-Stalinists who previously were part of the Addes-Thomas-Stalinist bloc. Like the Socialist Workers Party, these elements deluded themselves with the belief that the group which they supported, the Addes group, was genuinely progressive and militant. The Reuther group in their eyes presented the danger of a reactionary, bureaucratic, “red-baiting” tendency.

The SWP, which supports the CMD, persists in the same analysis to this very day. In the July 18 issue of The Militant we read: “The 1949 convention shows that the union is in the grip of a conservative machine and that it has been corroded with the deadly acids of red-baiting and opportunism.”

The CMD was an infinitesimal grouplet at the convention. The vast majority of militants in the UAW are now behind Reuther. It scarcely could mobilize the one or two delegates necessary to distribute its two mimeographed statements to the delegates. It nominated Claud Bland for president only to make possible a statement of declination.

And this statement provides further proof of the real situation in the UAW and the significance of the victory of Reuther over the Addes bloc. In fact, it exploded the whole thesis of the SWP.

Epitaph on a Policy

Bland said:

“... the majority of this convention retains confidence in the present leadership and believes they should be permitted a further opportunity to put into practice the promises made at this and earlier conventions ... Recognizing the fact that as yet only a portion of our membership has a clear appreciation of the differences in policy which separate our group from the leadership of our union, we believe that the important job now to be done is to utilize to the fullest extent the present convention and the period ahead to bring these issues before the delegates and our membership so that any election contest we enter into will clearly reflect the differences which exist. In our opinion election contests which do not clearly reflect differences in program and policies contribute nothing to the development of our union. Fly-by-night or adventuristic conduct in elections, we believe, tend to confuse rather than clarify the issues.

“For these reasons and in view of the present situation in our union, I am declining this nomination and releasing the supporters of the Committee for a Militant and Democratic UAW so that they may vote as they feel best guided by the needs of their local situations and a desire to help build a bigger, more militant and democratic UAW.”

Conclusion: Those who contended that Reuther’s victory meant the victory of a reactionary, peace-at-any-price policy are compelled now to admit that the militant rank and file look upon it quite differently and consequently it is impossible at this time to distinguish clearly between a militant program and Reuther’s program. Not only that: it would be “adventurism” to ask the workers to defeat Reuther in order to achieve a militant program. The delegates have rallied to Reuther precisely to achieve a militant and democratic program.

The militants who have elevated Reuther into the presidency and who now support him loyally will find that in the fight to carry out a militant program they will come into conflict with conservative, bureaucratic elements within the Reuther tendency. The future development of the UAW will see a process of differentiation within the Reuther camp. The end of the Addes-Stalinist bloc clears the air.

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