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Ben Hall

CP Unions Get Ready to Split
from CIO as Convention Nears

(24 October 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 43, 24 October 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

As the CIO convention prepares to meet at the end of this months, a split between the Stalinist and anti-Stalinist unions looms ahead. In fact, it is already taking place, slowly but inevitably, requiring only another few weeks for the last rites of “legalization” to give it final shape. The long months of jockeying for position, of maneuvering to impress labor’s public opinion, wind to an end.

The CIO Executive Board in May, by a large majority, put an ultimatum to the Stalinists: carry out official CIO policy or resign all your posts of leadership. The convention can be expected to take practical measures of discipline to enforce this command.

Stalinism is fighting its last-ditch battle. It is clearly readying to split away from the CIO, presumably to form a new, third union federation. The convention of the United Electrical Workers authorized its Stalinist executive board to stop per-capita dues payments to the CIO. As the third largest union in the CIO, the only decisive mass organization still under the domination of the CP, the UE is to serve as the spinal column of the new outfit.

The Stalinist leadership of the tiny Farm Equipment Workers Union, defying CIO orders to merge with the United Auto Workers, takes shelter under the protective wing of the UE, voting to merge with the latter. There is a distinct possibility that the unions controlled by the CP will even refuse to attend the CIO convention. Mass meetings all over the country prepare local Stalinist memberships for split.

The Stalinists have compromised and capitulated before, even voting for resolutions denouncing the “interference of the Communist Party in the labor movement” – but not this time. Their course is one of desperation. At best, they will emerge with seriously weakened forces as local after local of their own unions quit them to stay within the CIO. At worst, they will be cut to pieces and decimated, perhaps obliterated, in a few years of bitter conflict.

But through their desperation runs the logical thread of Stalinist reason: Better a weakened union, a piece of a union, a shred of a union, so long as the Stalinist political line can receive the stamp of a union label. Such is the command of Russian foreign policy in the cold war.

Over the split road hangs a dust cloud of demagogy and confusion laid down by the Communist Party to obscure its real goals. A dozen other issues are raked to the fore; but every honest and loyal union ... militant, recognizing that its real motive, its sole exclusive overriding consideration, is to tear away a chunk of the CIO for Kremlin’ politics, will fight tooth and nail to rémain in the CIO and block the union-wrecking course of the Stalinists.

Murray Didn’t Start It

The fight against Stalinism in the labor movement did not begin with a signal from Philip Murray. For years rank-and-file oppositions have fought bitterly to get rid of rotten CP union administrations or leaders who collaborated with the CP. The CP in the UAW died at the hands of an aroused membership. In the National Maritime Union and in the Transport Workers Union the membership rallied around former CP fellow travelers who had broken with the Stalinists (Curran, Quill) and who broke the hold of the party machine, thereby saving their own skins. In the UE, the opposition grew from year to year and today threatens to throw out the CP apparatus.

These rank-and-file insurrections convinced the Stalinists to use any and every method to hold on to their remaining unions. They faced little splits every year, every month, as their bureaucratic methods forced local after local out of their unions, even out of the CIO, Locals in the Public Workers Union, in the Office Workers Union, in the UE, in the FE. left voluntarily or were speeded out with kicks.

But so long as they enjoyed the “autonomous” right to bureaucratism and to carrying out Russian foreign policy a general split policy was unthinkable. Today, however, the Stalinists face not only insurgence from within but the open hostility of the top leadership of the CIO, headed by Murray himself. A split therefore becomes inevitable.

During the war, Stalinism in the CIO enjoyed the protection of Philip Murray. As long as it followed the orthodox no-strike policy, pounded the drums for the Democratic Party and for the war, and respected the War Labor Board, Murray overlooked its crimes against the labor movement; he ignored its authoritarian regime, its expulsion of critics, its incentive-pay policies; its hounding of all militants.

He allowed it the autonomous right of totalitarianism in its own bailiwicks. Murray and the Stalinists formed a bureaucratic alliance, which strengthened the hold of the Communist Party and made the task of anti-Stalinists more onerous.

In the UE, Murray called off James Carey, his right-hand man, who was elevated into the secretary-treasurership of the CIO. Carey, former president of the UE, had been leader of the anti-Stalinist opposition. He withdrew from UE affairs and the opposition carried on without him.

Murray was satisfied that he had domesticated Stalinism to serve the top ClO officialdom. But as wartime fraternity between the United States and Russia chilled into cold war, as Russian diplomats hurled invectives at American delegates on the floor of the United Nations, the Stalinists bellowed insults at the CIO leadership. At the order of the Kremlin ringmaster, the trained seals somersaulted.

With his great prestige, it would have been a simple matter for Murray to call on the rank and file of the CP-dominated unions to organise caucuses to throw out the Stalinist leadership. But no! At the UE convention less than two months ago, he withheld open material and moral support to UE oppositionists even though he himself was already moving against against the Reutherites in the UAW while the Steel Workers Union in Michigan ran joint slates with the CP against anti-Stalinists.

In faction fights within their own unions, anti-Stalinists would gain confidence, ability and independence in battle against the bureaucratic CP machine. The membership would be aroused. In a general atmosphere of rank-and-file activity, a new critical, democratic breeze would air put the CIO. But Murray has no taste for such a fight; the habit of ousting leaders might continue; not only Stalinist bureaucratism, but bureaucratism in general might be weakened.

The Danger from Murray

Yesterday: an alliance with the CP without regard for the rank and file. Today: a fight against the CP without mobilizing the membership. The method: á new undemocratic principle of super-centralized union organization. The Stalinists are to be driven out by a wave of the pen. It is decreed that all international unions must carry out CIO political policy or get out. The CP is not waiting for the execution of the new device; it is already preparing the split.

But the new organizational concept remains. It sets a precedent for quelling all critics and undermines the leading role of such genuine left-wing unions as the UAW which has often blazed the trail for the American labor movement without regard for “official” policy. Tomorrow the UAW will find it necessary to break ground for a new political policy, for the formation of a new independent labor party; and it will hit against the hard rock of an undemocratic political centralism.

What is an obstacle to the labor movement proves to be an advantage to the Communist Party. At the head of its parade, this American representative of brutal, murderous, Russian totalitarianism raises the banner of “autonomy” and “democracy.” Stalinism is indeed the most dictatorial and bureaucratic tendency in the labor movement. It seeks the “autonomous”; and “democratic” right to impose the Kremlin line upon its union membership. The first task of any militant in. a CP-dominated union is to win autonomy – autonomy from Russian imperialism.

Far better than Murray’s method, with far more lasting benefits to the labor movement, would be the democratic struggle of the rank and file against Stalinism, a method which served the UAW so well.

The coming split In the CIO wilt witness splits in CP-controlled internationals, jurisdictional fights, NLRB elections, faction fights. While condemning Murray’s new formula of undemocratic centralization, every union activist must unhesitatingly take the side of the CIO and rally every union member against Stalinism.

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