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Hugo Oehler

2nd Gillespie Meeting

(April 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 22, 8 April 1933, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Gillespie, Ill. – The April 2 conference called by the Gillespie Trades and Labor Assembly adjourned, adopting a policy of coordinating the work of the Left wing inside the A.F.L. with the work of building new industrial unions from the unorganized, workers. The conference adopted the name of “Progressive Trade Union Educational Committee”. It was attended by 164 delegates, representing 20 organizations, with the Progressive Miners of America having 61 delegates, and the Unemployed Councils 30 delegates, The rest of the delegates were from AFL locals and some independent unions and several TUUL groups. The worker’s political organizations represented with fraternal delegates were the Communist League of America (Opposition), the Young Spartacus League and the Young Peoples Socialist League.

The highlights of the conference were the struggle between the delegates who wanted a new federation of labor and those who wanted an educational committee; by the fact that the Progressive Miners of America were the solid backbone of the conference, the heavy work on the floor for a correct policy carried on by a group of delegates around delegates Fraser and. Steed of the Progressive Miners and the policies of the Left Opposition were vindicated 100 percent; and the action of the TUUL delegates and the Stalinists who had the largest caucus present, but had to trail behind the policies of the Left Opposition and the militant miners. One thing can be said for the Stalinists. With their new turn they are doing far better than before, they are learning to work with other forces, they are learning how to retreat as well as advance but are still very clumsy and antagonized a considerable number of delegates and left a bad taste in the mouths of many delegates when the conference adjourned.

The report of the policy committee brought out the different tendencies at the conference and the main struggle of the day’s proceedings. After reaffirming the policy of the previous conference Weber, for the policy committee read three proposals introduced by delegate Fraser as follows:

Policy Committee Proposals

  1. The response to the initiative of the Gillespie Trade and Labor Council, as indicated by this conference representation, shows that a sufficient basis for the creation of a new federation of labor is lacking and therefore this conference definitely rejects this project.
  2. Due to the limited and sectional character of this conference we cannot at the present time form permanent organization. Such in organization of the Left and progressive forces on a national scale is a perspective to be aimed at. The three conferences at Gillespie have taken the initiative and prepared the ground for one that will eventually develop upon a broader national scale through cooperation of all Left wing and progressive forces.
  3. The conference goes on record as recommending the program of January 29 session to the consideration of the workers who are struggling for the regeneration of the labor movement and its liberation from reactionary policies and leadership. This conference decides upon the continuation as a committee to keep in touch with sympathetic trade union bodies and will be ready to act jointly with them in the preparation of a broader conference on a national scale.

Around point one of these proposals the conference almost split. The “new federationists” were insistent, but finally the motion passed with an amendment by delegate Lore. The amendment said we continue as an organization to carry on work in the trade unions and independent unions. These delegates aimed their amendment to the tail of that organization, but behind this motion the “new federationists” rallied against the combined forces of the other delegates.

After these motions passed the policy committee recommended that the conference endorse the TUUL conference in Detroit in September and send fraternal delegates. They read off the entire agitational call. The Stalinists saw no inconsistency in opposing a new federation along with the Left Opposition and other Left wing delegates, but at the same time asking the conference to endorse the TUUL conference. This gave ammunition to the Right wing elements and those who had just advocated a new federation, and they used it effectively. The spirit of the conference went down a few notches. When delegate Fraser obtained the floor he moved that we cooperate and send fraternal delegates, and pointed out why we should not endorse. The Stalinists compromised and agreed to this and it carried by 107 for and 15 opposed, but only after much harm had already been done.

Next the policy committee asked for 15 fraternal delegates and again the opposition forces made hay. But again, when delegate Fraser could obtain the floor, he moved that we send three delegates. Again the TUUL supporters compromised and this motion also carried by an overwhelming majority.

Later they elected the fraternal delegates to the TUUL conference. Five were nominated and all unanimously elected. The delegates are: Hugo Oehler, Sol Larks, Hank Mayer, J. Crorkin and Hines.

The conference unanimously passed resolutions in favor of the Franklin County strikers; Taylorville frame-up victims and for mass pressure; Mooney; and also elected delegates to attend the Chicago conference; for the Springfield Hunger March and for the release of Minerich and others who were arrested; for the Scottsboro boys and against the danger of Fascism in Gertnany.

Another motion was passed to set up a joint committee of action with the TUUL to carry on work in different areas. This is putting the cart before the horse and making a mechanical caricature out of the motion quoted above. United front action of such bodies must spring out of concrete struggles and not mechanical paper organizations to be established here and there. All through the conference a struggle had to be put up against the new “federationists” on the one hand, and the Stalinists who desired to hurry the process of development; and with their wrong tactics shifted the conference toward a new federation under the arm of TUUL. Between these two forces flirting dangerously with a new federation, the young committee received some hard knocks.

The Stalinist Proposal

Another struggle developed over the motion presented by the Right wing socialists who asked for the endorsement and sending of delegates to the “Continental Congress of Workers and Farmers for Economic Reconstruction” to be held in Washington, which is not a united front and has excluded all Left wing and Communist forces. The Congress is a political rallying center, tor reformism against the revolutionists and class conscious workers and is to be used as an anti-Communist rally. Our delegates opposed this and pointed out what is meant, recommending that first a communication be sent asking if all working class organizations are invited, and if not, we do not send delegates. The Left wing socialists and other class conscious workers supported this proposal. The TUUL delegates, the Stalinists and Gerry Allard supported the motion to send two delegates against the above recommendations. The motion to send two delegates was carried and Weber and Allard were elected.

At the beginning of the conference a delegate from Georgia farmers had a proposal to tax the capitalists out of existence. The resolution was read and motion to endorse carried without the Stalinists saying a word.

A New Executive Committee was elected giving the miners the largest delegation. The Left Opposition and Young Spartacus League were given the right to put representation on the Executive. The delegates from the Left Opposition declined, stating that we welcome the attitude of the conference and that there is no political discrimination here and hope this will continue to enable working class political organizations to send fraternal delegates, but if we go on the executive, our members will be elected through the different unions they represent.

The new committee received some hard blows from the “new federationists” and the blunders of Stalinism at the conference and although it crippled the work there are still sufficient signs of strong militant life, that it can grow to be a force if a correct policy is applied.

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