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E.R. McKinney

Why Are U.S. Labor Leaders
Behind Red-Baiting Drive?

(4 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 44, 4 November 1946, pp. 3 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

An organized but not clearly defined campaign against the Communist Party (Stalinists) is under way in the United States. As is usual in these intermittent drives against the “Communists,” or “the reds,” all sorts of people and organizations are participating. There are, of course, the professional red-baiters: the hypocritical leaders of the Republican Party, the NAM, the fascist groups, Catholic Church dignitaries, and the top leadership of the AFL. But the spearhead of this specific campaign seems to be inside the CIO. This does not mean that the initiative was not taken by the federal government. Such initiative on the part of the government could be expected considering the new relations between the government and Stalinist Russia. With the close tie-in of the CIO, the Democratic Party and the government, it may be true that the word was passed along to Murray from the government, that the time had come for a house-cleaning in the CIO to get rid of the “reds,” to begin again to protect the country against an attack “from without.” In plain language this means that the time has come to begin thinking once more about national unity and “defense.” As a result of the “Peace Conference” in Paris, and the sharp disagreements between the U. S. and Russia anything can happen. Thus we are getting a new version of “remember Pearl Harbor.”

Anti-Communist Party agitation and propaganda is breaking in all CIO unions. Union presidents resign because they have suddenly discovered that their organizations are dominated by “communists.” Carey, the CIO secretary, is busy going from convention to convention and caucus to caucus speaking out against the CP and Moscow. Little trade union bureaucrats, such as Jack Altman, who were never averse to playing with the Stalinists when they needed a vote or two or a measure of prestige, are today industriously pointing out that Stalinism is totalitarian and anti-labor. Philip Murray has had a revelation also. He has discovered that the Stalinists are not interested in the labor movement in the U. S. but only in the welfare of Russia and that they take their orders from “a foreign power.”

Little Johnnie Green of the shipyard workers union, is also on the alert for any “communist” who may be lurking in his union. Any day now we can expect a pronouncement from George Addes that he knows nothing whatsoever about any communist influence in the UAW and if any is pointed out he will certainly be ready to step on it. R.J. Thomas is probably having many sleepless nights trying to forget how he joined the Stalinist caucus at “’the last UAW convention and the vicious clown he made of himself in his fight against Reuther. Perhaps Murray would like to forget his quiet and pious alliance with the Stalinists during the war, or how he rose in the Boston CIO convention to present a plaque to Joe Curran and the NMU with these words: “this is what the CIO thinks of your union and what it thinks of you personally.”

Why didn’t Murray and the other CIO leaders, including Reuther, take the same attitude toward the Stalinists during the war as they do today? The answer is easy to give. Stalinist Russia, for its own reasons, was “our gallant ally” in the Second World Imperialist War. The Russian people were being crushed by Hitler’s tanks. The Russian soldiers were “holding the line” while this country got its tanks ready. The “gallantry” of the Russians at Stalingrad kept Hitler’s legions away from the West until “we” were prepared to meet them. Murray and the others were part and parcel of the American imperialist war machine. Any ally is good enough to use against one’s enemy. You don’t stop to discuss the color of the ally, the color of his politics, his “ideology” or “ism.” That is a luxury one saves for quieter and less dangerous times. Any one who dares bring it up while the barbarous “German people” are warring against “peace-loving” Russia, is a traitor to “national unity” and the “solidarity of the labor movement.” This was the refrain.

Things are different today. The war is over and Germany is crushed. The “German people” are being made to pay for the “crimes they committed against humanity.” The peace-loving conquerors, Russia, England and the United States, have just hanged what remained of the scoundrelly Nazi leadership. Stalinist imperialism is voracious and not easily satisfied. Not even with Poland, Hungary, Czecho-Slovakia, Austria. There are China, Turkey, India. Iraq, Iran and oil. There are also atom bombs, vetoes and Communist parties in every country, bound together by a “dissolved” Third International. There is a GPU with its agents in every country, in every factory and on every ship. They may even be in “our State Department.” To be sure this GPU was in these same places during the war but then it was there, you must remember, in the interest of “democracy, peace, good will and the struggle against totalitarianism.”

These, then, are the roots of the “anti-communist” campaign today. We do not concern ourselves primarily with the motives of the capitalist ruling class and its government at Washington. We understand them and we are against them.

Day before yesterday the German “aggressors,” yesterday the German and Japanese “aggressors,” tomorrow the Russian “aggressors,” the day after tomorrow another “aggressor.” This is the capitalist world during the armed interlude between two wars. It’s called “peace.”

In the days to come we should be prepared for some queer and surprising propaganda from Washington. The capitalist politicians will lament that their former ally, Russia, is not really a “democratic country,” that’ the Russian workers are not really. “free” but oppressed and stifled. They will talk about “totalitarianism,” “bureaucratic methods,” the “new Ghengis Khan,” etc. If necessary for their purposes they will even go so far as to become the defenders of the Old Bolsheviks murdered in the purges by Stalin. They may even become the defenders of Trotsky who was murdered by a GPU agent acting under the orders of Stalin. Publishers will not only be free to issue books against Stalin, but may even be exhorted to do so. They will certainly not be told to hold up anti-Stalinist writings as they were instructed during the war.

The Workers Party will have none of this and urgently warns the workers against this hypocritical campaign of United States imperialism.

The ruling class in the U.S. is not a defender of democracy, not a defender of the working class and its interests in this country or in any other part of the world. American capitalism is against Stalin today for the same basic reason that it was against Hitler: namely, that their imperialist interests conflict with those of Stalin and the Russian bureaucracy. Now they want to drag the labor movement behind this scheme just as they dragged the working class behind their war.

Bearing this in mind, it is necessary to understand that the attitude of the labor leaders is, unfortunately, cut from the same cloth as that of the American imperialists. In fact the field of politics and diplomacy, Murray and his lieutenants, and Green and his lieutenants, think like the ruling class. Their chief fault in this, as in all the major questions of the day, is that they have no INDEPENDENT PROGRAM for labor, for the working class, for the trades unions. This is especially true on the main social and political questions such as imperialist war, political action and imperialist aggrandizement. They are a transmission belt of the capitalist-imperialist exploiters. Hence, in the tangled web of imperialist diplomacy, in the midst of the scheming and plotting for international trade, supplies of raw materials and financial domination, the trade union bureaucrats continue to act as the willing tools of the capitalist ruling class.

And this is their role in the present drive against the American Stalinists. They did not in the past and do not now take a principled position in connection with the Stalinists. They have never had a progressive and militant working class program or attitude toward Stalinism in the labor movement. When it suited their own bureaucratic purposes, or the purposes of the big leaders in industry and the government, they made the most unprincipled deals with the Stalinist goons, bureaucrats and murderers.

The labor officialdom never presented a political program by which labor could combat the Kremlin political line of the Stalinists. In fact, they have themselves often, albeit very stupidly, followed the political line of the Stalinists, except where this line was clearly in conflict with the line of the government. They have aided and abetted the Stalinists, playing into their hands by opposing and stamping out as best they could every trend of labor toward independent political action. They have opposed every proposal, particularly those coming from the genuine anti-Stalinists, the Marxist revolutionaries, for S’ program for the workers which would enlighten them on Stalinism and prepare labor to destroy the disease of Stalinism.

Not only have the positive actions of Murray and Co. disoriented and confused the working class in relation to the Stalinists and Stalinism, but what they have failed to do has been a blessing to the Stalinists as they went about their usual business of stabbing the labor movement in the back.

While they failed to give labor an independent program, independent of the capitalist class and its government at Washington, and independent of Stalinism and its government at Moscow, today they continue this policy, only now it is against the Stalinists. They still have no program for labor which is in the interest of labor, and thus labor will again be led onto a reactionary course. Out of this anti-Communist Party drive, the working class will get no decent working class education, no independent political program and no understanding of what took place.

The program of Murray and Co. as of all the other labor bureaucrats is therefore reactionary and should receive the condemnation of every militant and progressive worker. Many of these workers are already anti-Stalinist. They have learned many bitter lessons from years of painful and heartrending experience with the Communist Party. They have seen this gang of union-wreckers fight for their “second front” in France in order to protect the Russian bureaucrats. They have seen them fight for “incentive pay” (piecework wages), the no-strike pledge, labor-management plans. They have seen the Stalinists lie, steal elections, beat up opponents and, smother every trace of democracy in unions under their control. They have seen the Stalinists organize frame-ups against opponents and act as stool- pigeons for the FBI.

These progressive and militant workers in the unions have a job to do. They must reject the reactionary red-baiting campaign of Murray, Green, Lewis and Co. They must not fall prey to the bait held out by the capitalist ruling class and the government. But if they do not support the red-baiters, they must, nevertheless, carry on a ruthless and enlightened struggle against Stalinism inside and outside the union movement. This must not be done as mere anti-Stalinism, but should be accompanied with a program for labor, a militant economic independent political program. Such a program will differentiate labor from all the reactionary forces in the country: from the Stalinists on the one hand, and the capitalists and their government at Washington on the other. Such a program would serve notice on the trade union leaders that we will tolerate no more of their foolishness, no more of their licking of the capitalist boot, bowing before the anti-labor capitalist government, walking arm in arm with the Stalinists today and calling on labor to trounce them tomorrow.

It is to these workers that the Workers Party makes its appeal. Their opposition to the Stalinists and to Stalinism is correct and progressive. They are not “red-baiters” and they should not permit themselves to be intimidated by the Stalinists or their dreamy-eyed fellow-traveling liberals, or by the union bureaucrats. The attitude of the militant and progressive trade unionists toward the Stalinists is generally a correct one. They want to preserve the unions as independent, fighting organizations of the working class. But this cannot be done either by submitting to the program leadership, and blandishments of the Stalinists, the opportunism and class collaboration of the union leadership, or the imperialist program and solicitations of the capitalists and their government.

The anti-Stalinist progressives and militants have another job to do in relation to those in the rank and file of labor who take a reactionary position in connection with Stalinism. We are talking about the misguided workers who, for example, follow the lead of the Hearst press or the Catholic workers who follow the lead of the Catholic hierarchy, and all those tragically misguided workers who are against “politics,” against Jews, Negroes, foreigners, the loudest “patriots” who are against strikes, those who hesitate to join the union, and those who are inclined to be friendly with “management.”

Many of these workers will join in the packhunt against the Stalinists for the most reactionary reasons. There position will not be progressive. They will be the willing or unwilling tools of the most reactionary forces in the country. These are the workers who are against “the reds” on principle. They are against socialists, and revolutionists and Marxism. They do not understand these things but they are against them because this is what they are taught.

It is the task of the progressive militants to win these workers away from their reactionary attitudes, to explain to them what Stalinism really is and how to differentiate between Stalinism and independent working class economic and political action. These workers must be made to understand that the Stalinists are not socialists or communists as they claim but just Stalinists, representatives of the reactionary bureaucratic ruling class of Russia, who function in the labor movement, not in the interests of the working class but in the interest of the Kremlin.

Above all now, as always, the militant progressives in the labor movement must struggle ceaselessly for an independent economic and political program for labor. The Workers Party has such a program. It is carried in Labor Action each week. It is an anti-Stalinist program. It is an anti-capitalist program. It is an anti-imperialist program too. It is a program for labor, for the working class and the trades unions.

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