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Hugo Oehler

Fighting the ‘Recovery’ Act

Cleveland Conference Against the N.I.R.A.

(July 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 36, 22 July 1933, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcried & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Weeks have passed since the Industrial Recovery Act became a law. In this time big business and its government have been drafting codes that are ushering in a new form of industrial slavery.

The road layers of the working class have not yet been organized to resist and to fight back. This is due to the confusion that exists within the ranks of the organized forces of the class.

The A.F.L. leaders, the Right wing in the Progressive Miners of America and the conservative independent unions are supporting the I.R.A. The socialist leaders are singing praises to the “great forward step”. The majority of the other forces are in confusion.

The Stalinists, as usual, were not equal to the task. The Stalinists did not recognize the danger until after it had fallen upon their heads

Now, at last the Stalinists have called for action to fight the Industrial Recovery Act. They are calling a national conference in Cleveland, August 26–28, for all trade unions, unemployed organizations, and others; to protect the trade unions, and to rally the class against the capitalist attack.

We welcome the fact that the Stalinists and Musteites, who are jointly calling this conference, have at last realized the necessity of the struggle, but they have not presented a program suitable for resistance to the bosses’ attack. HOW to fight the capitalist offensive is the most important question.

Anyone can criticize after the event! We are criticizing the program and method of calling the conference prior to the August 26–8 conference. Further, we were the first to raise the cry of alarm, to give a Marxian analysis, and to fight for the mobilization of the class against the capitalists’ new attacks. At the Gillespie Trade Union conference a delegate of the Left Opposition presented a resolution, prior to the act becoming a law. A bloc of Stalinists and Right wing delegates voted down the Left wing of the conference fighting around the resolution (See the <>Militant</> of June).

The national conference called by the Muste-Stalinists bloc is a caricature of the proposal presented at Gillespie last June. A few weeks later, at the first national unemployed conference since the act became a law, at the Columbus Muste-Stalinist conference, the Left Opposition again raised the question of the Industrial Recovery Act, especially dealing with its effects upon the unemployed. We were the only ones to raise our voice on this subject. The Muste-Stalinist bloc ignored this vital question. At last they have realized its importance. But how are they going to fight it?

In regards to the Needle Trades Code, the Right wing proposed a 30-hour week and a definite minimum wage. The Left wing, Stalinist group proposed a 40 hour week and said nothing about a minimum wage. Later the Freiheit said that was a mistake but without stating what should be done.

Preparations for the Cleveland Conference are under way. A trade union conference was called in New York, July 15th. The Stalinists passed out a draft resolution. This is a step forward and has some good proposals but the draft leaves out an answer to the trade union question. So does the resolution dealing with the Needle Trades that was passed out. So does the call for the Cleveland conference.

In all of the preparations for the Cleveland Conference, the Stalinists refuse to answer the following qustions (Let us hope they answer them in the near future): Do the facts refute the Stalinist theory to wit, that the A.F.L. is on a decline and is being liquidated and that therefore we must split locals away and build parallel unions all along the line? Will the Industrial Recovery Act help to rearm the A.F.L. leaders in their hold upon the trade union movement? Should we hasten to bbuild a Left wing within the A.F.L.? Should the weak, Left wing, paper unions return to the A.F.L. en bloc and function as a Left wing there. To ignore these questions, in the needle trades resolution in the New York Conference resolution and in the Cleveland conference call, is to ignore the most vital question of trade union policy and tactics in the struggle to protect the class, its trade unions and to repel the capitalist offensive. The Left Opposition answers these questions in the positive now as we have in the immediate past.

The working class have no voice in drafting the codes for the different industries. Only the pressure of the class through class struggle will force concessions from the enemy class. How to organize this class pressure effectively against the capitalists depends upon how we answer the questions of trade union policy and tactics. The capitalists and their government hope to maintain the status quo among the working class. Where this is not possible they will attempt to guide the pressure of the class into company unions. Where the pressure reaches beyond these channels they will try to guide the force into safe and conservative channels such as the A.F.L.

The organization of the unorganized into industrial unions under Left wing leadership is our main task. The immediate practical task, which cannot be separated from the main task is the organization of a Left wing within the conservative unions. The revolutionists must work in the organizations where the masses are.

The Stalinist-Muste bloc has not yet answered these questions. We have already lost years ecause of the Stalinist blunders in this field. The time is short. An answer must be given and should be presented before the Cleveland conference.

The call for the Cleveland Conference is signed by 82 individual representing about 50 organizations The representatives of the most important organizations have signed as individuals, which means the organizations are not yet backing the conference. Many paper organizations are officially represented. Out of the 82 signers 42 are Stalinists and their sympathizers, 15 are Musteites. They have obtained a few others whom they are using as a window dressing. In other words, the Cleveland call is a united front from above between Stalinists and Musteites with a sprinkling of others to give it a good appearance. This is a continuation of their united front from above started at the Columbus, Ohio, unemployed conference. A united front from above cannot be covered up by a list of 82 signatures. What counts is the political tendencies and numbers actually represented.

The conference is making a bad start and the call has failed to answer the most burning problems of trade union tactics. In spite of these lbunders and shortcomings, the conference should be given full support. The class conscious workers and Marxists must fight for a correct trade union policy, in order to put life into our desire to fight the capitalist offensive which has taken on the form of the Industrial Recovery Act.

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