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C. Thomas

Lessons of the 13th Convention
of UE-CIO Union

Continued Stalinist Control of Group Shows Need
for Reorganizing Opposition

(13 September 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 37, 13 September 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

With Stalinist influence in the American trade union movement definitely on the wane, observers focused their attention on the 13th national convention of the CIO United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, currently meeting here in New York City. Claiming some 600,000 members, the UE is the largest and most strategic union yet remaining under Stalinist domination.

After the first few sessions it became evident that the Stalinist leadership controlled about 75% of the voting strength at the convention. This is approximately the same ratio as the last convention indicating that the opposition led by James B. Carey, national secretary-treasurer of the CIO, had made little headway in the ensuing year.

The past year has witnessed a sharp decline of Stalinist influence in the unions. Completely routed in some unions they face an increasing opposition in others. It would seem, superficially at least, that the UE was an exception. But the appearance of Stalinist strength reflected at the convention is only a surface appearance. Underneath the cauldron is simmering!

Secession Movement

In The last year the secession movement in the UE has reached alarming proportions. Led by extreme right wing elements, closely allied with the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, important sections left the UE and affiliated to other unions. The ease with which they did so testified that the Stalinist leadership enjoyed little support in the ranks.

In addition, isolated opposition groups developed in many localities, taking control of numerous local unions away from the Stalinists. Splits in the lower union apparatus gave rise to opposition movements in locals previously under complete Stalinist domination. All of these manifestations, reflecting the growing discontent of the ranks with the present leadership, are indications that a wide-spread opposition movement is boiling up in the UE.

That the Stalinist leadership has kept the lid on thus far is due primarily to the inept leadership and bankrupt policy of the national Carey-Block opposition group. After the last convention, the Carey-Block group, organized as the UE Members for Democratic Action, disintegrated. Its extreme right wing, particularly the ACTU elements, led the secession movement. Relying primarily on red-baiting as its main stock-in-trade, the UE-MDA became discredited among the progressive opponents of Stalinism.

Opposition Group

The advanced stage of disintegration was revealed at an opposition caucus meeting held the day before the present convention opened. At this meeting the opposition leaders admitted they had no idea what strength the opposition could muster at the convention, They were completely out of touch with the local opposition groups throughout the country.

The most significant thing about the caucus meeting was the relative absence of red-baiting. It would appear the opposition leaders learned something from the UE-MDA fiasco. But if they learned that red-baiting is no, sure-fire “program” for rallying significant support they learned little else. They proposed to mobilize the opposition for struggle against Stalinism under the inspiring banner of strict adherence to “National CIO policy.”

Translated into concrete terms by J.B. Carey, “CIO policy” meant political support to strikebreaker Truman, whooping it up. for the reactionary Marshall Plan and supporting the get-tough- with-Russia foreign policy of the State Department. Needless to say, this scintillating platform succeeded only in repelling the anti-Stalinist militants.

It was also decided at the first caucus meeting, to drop the name UE-MDA and select another designation for the opposition. But changing labels is not enough!

The opposition can be welded into a powerful national group capable of successfully challenging the reactionary Stalinist leadership, only by breaking decisively with the snivelling, bootlicking, bellycrawling, policy of abject surrender to the political agents of Big Business.

To build a sturdy platform able to encompass such an opposition requires stouter timber than the rotten planks offered by the present opposition leaders. It requires above all, as the keystone of that platform, a policy of independent and militant labor action on both the economic and political field.

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