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Gordon Haskell

Latest CIO Expulsions Plus Similar Case
in AFL Throw Spotlight on Purge System

(6 March 1950)

From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 10, 6 March 1950, p. 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Executive Board of the CIO bias expelled four more international unions. The newly expelled unions are the Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers, the United Office & Tobacco Workers, and the United Professional Workers, the Food & Public Workers.

The sole charge against these unions was that they are dominated by the Communist Party arid that they followed Stalinist policies. The unions were expelled after hearings before boards appointed by the Executive Board.

Of course, everyone who has been following developments in the CIO expected these expulsions. At the last convention of the CIO in Cleveland, the Murray leadership, without opposition from any group except the Stalinist-controlled unions themselves, had resolutions passed which empowered the board to take this action.

Once it was declared the policy of the CIO to expel any union which refused to follow the political policies adopted by CIO conventions, and in particular such unions as had followed Stalinist policies over a period of time, it was clear that the Executive Board could refrain from expelling these unions only by itself reversing the policy laid down by its own convention.

It is interesting to note that from the statements issued by the CIO to the press, no attempt was made to show that the Stalinists had imposed their policies on the expelled unions by force, fraud or denial of democratic rights to the memberships.

In the case of the Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers, it appears that evidence was given by ex-Stalinists that policy for the union had been decided in a top Stalinist caucus in consultation with CP leaders who were not members of the union. According to this testimony, such policies had then been taken to a “progressive caucus” of the union and invariably adopted by it. They were then brought before the official bodies of the union (presumably Executive Board meetings, conventions and so forth) and adopted as union policy.

Stalinism Can Be Fought Democratically

The Stalinist caucus had complete control over the union’s newspaper, paid staff and union offices. No effort was made, it seems, to prove that this control was used in any way different from Philip Murray’s complete control over the same facilities and institutions in his own union. The report simply says that such control “enabled the Communist Party to conceal its dictation of union policy and thus to maintain its power over the union’s affairs.”

In the case of some of the other expelled unions, no effort was made to prove any organizational machinery through which the Communist Party as such controlled the union. It was considered sufficient to demonstrate that the officers of the unions had at all times adhered strictly to the line of the CP on all questions.

Labor Action has always been in favor of destroying the political and organizational power of the Stalinists in the labor movement. But the method used by the CIO leadership, and the reasoning by which this method is justified, is almost as dangerous to the health of the labor movement as the disease of Stalinism itself.

We have attacked Stalinism in the labor movement on two main counts. It is a malignant force, representing the interests of the ruling class of Russia, and it employs every bureaucratic and totalitarian device it can seize on to keep itself in power. We have insisted that the labor movement can and must rid itself of this disease by exposing the political ideology of Stalinism to merciless criticism, and by rallying the ranks of the labor movement to throw off the bureaucratic yoke and return these unions to the democratic control of the ranks.

But the CIO bureaucracy is either unwilling or unable to use such progressive tactics in its struggle against the CP. To meet Stalinist ideology in the field and conquer it, one must have superior ideological weapons.

That is, one must prove that the policies supported and advocated by the anti-Stalinists are better than the CP’s policies – that is, are more in the interests of the workers of America and other countries. But that is no easy job for men who have tied themselves to the chariots of the American war machine and are its servants in all parts of the world.

AFL Faces Same Problem with ILGWU

Further, to rally the ranks of the Stalinist unions in democratic struggle against their false leadership, one must have clean hands in the running of one ‘s own union affairs. But neither Joe Curran, nor Phil Murray, nor any number of other CIO leaders could make a good case for themselves as leaders of unions in which minority and opposition opinion is tolerated.

So they have chosen to kick out the Stalinists by establishing a new rule of political unanimity in the CIO. Either a union goes along with the political policies established, or it is out.

The AFL is a little behind the CIO in these matters, but already one instance has cropped up in which it is trying to ape this new “principle” established by the CIO. In the recent election in New York City the International Ladies Garment Workers Union supported the Republican-Liberal candidate, Newbold Morris, for mayor, while the Central Trades and Labor Council of Greater New York supported his Democratic rival, O’Dwyer. After the election the Executive Board of the Central Labor Council expelled a delegate from the ILGWU on the ground that he hadn’t supported the council’s policies.

David Dubinsky, president of the ILGWU, has protested this action to the AFL Executive Council. His protest stated that the AFL constitution does not give the AFL “the power or the right to compel uniformity of political thought and action by all council members.”

The AFL has appointed a committee to hold hearings and make a report and recommendations on this matter. We doubt very much whether they are going to throw the ILGWU out of the AFL because this union has formed its own political machine and uses it according to its own policies.

This whole question has been discussed in Labor Action before, and it will have to be discussed again. The American labor movement is going into politics in a big way. This is a certainty. And it is also well known that political parties of all varieties have to demand discipline of their members if they are to be effective. But the labor unions are not political parties, and if they try to act like political parties they endanger both their own proper functioning as well as the democratic rights of their members.

They are and must be composed of all workers in the industry or trade of their jurisdiction, regardless of political belief. A political party, on the other hand, is properly made up of all those who freely and voluntarily band together because they agree on a particular political program, regardless of their occupation.

The CIO has started down a false path in its growing political consciousness. Its leaders realize their new political power, and they want to make the most of it. But they are allied with the Democratic Party and its administration, and at least one of the reasons for their action against the Stalinists after lopg years of living cheek by jowl with them is to curry favor with the administration.

So this step has been taken. But that is not going to settle the matter of what to do about political disagreements in the CIO, for they will crop up again. If Harry Truman brings the troop out against the miners, who is to say that ALL CIO leaders will support him again at the next election? Who can promise that some day the UAW or the Textile Union or some other one will not decide that to continue to support a foreign policy which rests on the hydrogen bomb is madness, and will break its allegiance with the Democrats?

And will such a union then also be expelled? That is the road to destruction. Right now it is doubtful whether the CIO will be able to salvage much from the unions which have been ousted. They are having trouble enough in the electrical industry, where there existed a healthy rank-and-file anti-Stalinist movement.

The democratic way is the only way for the labor movement. Political power must be sought through debate and convincing the rank and file, not through expulsions. And in the long run the problem of the political functioning of the labor movement can be resolved in a healthy way only through the creation of political organization which rests on. but is not identical with, the labor unions. This would have to be a voluntary, democratic political party of labor.

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