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Hugo Oehler

The Gillespie Meet

A Resolution Which Was Rejected and the Reason Why

(June 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 32, 24 June 1933, pp. 2 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The June 11th Gillespie Conference, called by the Progressive Trade Union Educational Committee, consisting of Left wing trade unionists in this section ended by preventing the establishment of a New Federation of Labor and by reaffirming the decisions of the previous conferences. The backbone of the conference, as usual, was the delegation from the Progressive Miners of America and the numerically largest force from other organizations was under the control of the Stalinists.

The policy committee took a correct position by rubber stamping the program and policy laid down at the previous conferences and by bringing in some proposals for concrete action and for committees of action to be established in the different sections of the country to work toward the coordination of all Left wing groups in the trade union movement.

However, the Stalinists, who had the largest number of delegates in the conference, and the policy committee which they controlled, failed miserably to measure up to the task confronting the American working class and the needs of the conference. To call a conference to rubber stamp the decisions of the previous conference is a waste of energy. Conferences are not called for such a purpose. A conference of Left wing trade unionists must consider the most pressing problems of the class, point out the dangers developing and confronting us and map out a program of action for the class to fight against the capitalist offensive.

Thrust of Industrial Control Bill

The most menacing capitalist measure confronting our class and the least understood by our class at this stage is the Industrial Control Law of the capitalists and their state. In the future, when the labor history as well as the economic history of America is written, this measure will stand out in all its capitalist ugliness as an attempt to hold up a tottering structure and beat down the workers.

The Gillespie Conference was the only Left wing conference of trade unionists held in this period and the logical starting point to rally the American workers against the Industrial Control Law and to fight the labor misleaders’ plan to tie the American workers to this scheme.

The Left Opposition delegates and some of the other delegates realized this danger and the needs of our class. We were fighting independently against this industrial Control Bill in the past and could easily have found common ground at the conference. Delegate Hugo Oehler drew up a resolution (appearing in this issue of the Militant) giving a political analysis of the Industrial Control Bill and endeavoring to use the Gillespie Conference as a starting point for a national fight to prepare our class to fight the capitalist offensive.

The Stalinists could not equal the task because they could not understand the situation. They have not yet learned to point out the dangers ahead, to foresee the blows. They can only feel blows when they fall upon their heads. Their policy committee, in reporting, rejected our political analysis and instead brought in a report with a one-sentence motion which said merely that we go on record against the Industrial Control Bill. Delegate Oehler entered his resolution which was rejected by the Stalinists as an amendment and then the fight started.

Stalinists Set Up Straw Men

The Stalinists set up straw men and proceeded to tear them to bits in their fight against our resolution. They said: Oehler wants to waste our time calling conferences to fight the Industrial Control Bill; what we want is mass action of the workers. They said our resolution was too long, they said everything imaginable but they did not show where the resolution was wrong, where the analysis was false. The Stalinists opposed the international approach in the resolution with shameful and narrow-minded localism. The Stalinists must some day learn that action must be built upon correct analysis.

The task of the Gillespie conference gathered together from all parts of the state was not to rubber-stamp our previous policy, but to present a correct analysis of the most dangerous move at present of the capitalists against the workers, and to map out a program of action upon a correct analysis in order to fight against it.

Delegate Payer told the Stalinists that in Germany they did not realize the danger of Fascism until after Fascism had smashed the party, that they do not understand anything until it falls upon their heads and are repeating this blunder here; that this Left wing conference, called on the eve of the Bill becoming a law, should be used as a starting point to organize the American workers against the capitalist offensive and present to the workers a correct analysis of the Industrial Control Bill.

The leaders of the P.M A., the Right wing counters by circulating petitions, and at that, not against the Industrial Control Bill and the dictatorship it will establish over the coal industry, but merely against having Lewis appointed Czar of the coal industry, asking that the Progressive Miners Union be also considered by the Government when they select the Czar! Instead of the brutal dictatorship of Lewis they want to give the workers a sugar-coated dictatorship, as though it makes any difference how you’re killed, by hanging or by the electric chair.

Finally, when the vote was taken, the Right wing P.M.A. delegates, the delegates who were for a new federation, and the Stalinists voted together against our amendment. The vote was 72 to 17. Our vote was a conscious vote of Left wing miners and other delegates, who like ourselves, realized the importance of using this conference to start a fight on this issue and to present a correct analysis.

Resolution on the Industrial Control Bill

The American working class has lived through four years of the world crisis which has violently shaken the American structure and completely changed the position of the working class. In this period the offensive of the American capitalists against the working class has continued on all fronts. The working class has been driven back in disorderly retreat. Wages have been reduced and the standard of living has been reduced below the necessity level. The unemployed number over 18 million. Private charity has long ago broken down public and governmental relief has proven inadequate to cope with the present situation.

The labor leaders and reformers have done nothing to check the offensive. Everywhere the misleaders of labor and the agents of the capitalists in our ranks have held in check the workers resistance and have only functioned to console the workers after the capitalists have delivered their deadly blows.

The struggle of the Progressive Miners of America, in revolt against the corrupt Lewis machine, the Operators and the State was a heroic attempt by the miners to stem the tide of the capitalist offensive, to stop the retreat of our class. The struggle of the Illinois miners acted as a temporary rallying center for the whole class. Then the pressure of the enemies’ forces and wrong policies of the leaders swerved it from its course. It is not yet too late to correct these errors and utilize the Progressive Miners of America as a rallying center for the whole American labor movement. For this a daring leadership and policies of class struggle are needed. Admission of Capitalist Bankruptcy

Following these attacks the capitalists and their government, thru the Roosevelt administration, are driving through the Industrial Control Bill, which will strengthen the dictatorial power of the capitalists over the working class. When the Roosevelt administration declare an emergency existing and proceed to “solve” the emergency by the Industrial Control Bill, through government partnership, it is an open admission of the decay and breakdown of capitalist production, an admission that the gigantic productive forces can no longer cope with the situation and be used, under private ownership, to feed the millions of wage slaves.

It is a capitalist attempt to find a way out of the contradiction between socialized production and private capitalist appropriation by establishing a form of State Capitalism. Within the framework of the capitalist mode of production these contradictions cannot be solved.

The seizure of power of Fascism in Germany has intensified the contradiction of world capitalism and has strengthened reaction throughout the world. The defeat of the German working class is a defeat of the whole world working class. The Industrial Control Bill, as a dictatorial measure over the working class, is part of this reaction and the struggle between the imperialist powers to gain a point of advantage for the struggle for the redivision of the earth.

Subsidy to Decayed System

The government partnership, thru the emergency law and the Industrial Control Bill, will result in government subsidy to the decayed industries of American capitalism, such as coal and railroads, etc. It is an attempt to uphold a tottering and decayed structure by shifting the burden upon the working class and by eliminating small exploiters. Trusts were opposed in the past but Cartels will now be organized by the government.

The big capitalists intend to eliminate the weak and small concerns in all industries as well as to establish a monopoly price of a group of favored capitalists. The Industrial Control Bill is an attempt to organize production, but instead it will “organize” capitalist competition on a higher plane. It is an attempt to eliminate competition, but instead will lead to a greater anarchy of capitalist production. It will intensify all of the basic contradictions of American and world capitalism. The Industrial Control Bill is an attempt to hold up the falling rate of profit by the reorganization of industries and by beating down of the workers standards to a new low level.

The agrarian crisis has prevented the farmers from paying the debts owed to the bankers. The Roosevelt measures to help the farmers is to help the farmers pay the bankers what they owe. This agrarian measure and the Banking Law, which gives the government unlimited power of inflation, were necessary steps and parts of the big capitalists’ plan that the Industrial Control Bill fits into.

The Industrial Control Bill and its arbitration scheme for labor and capital is an attempt to set up an elaborate class collaboration plan to head off the developing class struggle. It will establish dictatorial power over the American working class. The bill with a government inflation policy will establish a high MONEY wage but a VERY LOW REAL WAGE for the American workers.

It is an attempt to side-step the dole and social insurance and in its place, give the equivalent of the dole, in the form of a money wage, through public works, which is nothing more nor less than a cloak for forced labor in exchange for relief.

The Europeanization of the American working class is at hand and with it goes the intensification of the class struggle. The Industrial Control Bill is an attempt to hold in check the rising tide of class struggle, and to place the workers in the harness of class collaboration.

Our trade union movement is to be harnessed to the capitalists and their state. Agents of the capitalists, the Lewises and Greens, will be selected to control the labor movement. A strike against the exploiters of labor will be a strike against the government. The struggle of the workers for our class interests will be outlawed.

The June 11, 1933, Gillespie Trade Union Conference, called by the Progressive Trade Union Educational Committee, goes on record as opposed to the Industrial Control Bill and its sugar coated, class collaboration, anti-working class provisions.

The Conference goes on record favoring the calling of a national united front conference of all labor organizations in the United States, to be held in Chicago in the future, to rally the American working class to fight the capitalist offensive, to map out a program of action to protect the workers interests and to rouse our class to action.

The Conference gives the incoming national committee power to act for this united action, for joint action with all working class organizations. (Introduced by delegate, Hugo Oehler)

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