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CP, Hillman Form Anti-Lewis Bloc

War-Mongers Unite at UE Convention; Stalinists Lead Drive Against Lewis

(September 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 36, 6 September 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Stalinist and Hillmanite forces at the CIO United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers’ Seventh Annual Convention at Camden, New Jersey, have joined together in a move to place the union, fifth largest in the CIO, behind all-out support of the imperialist war.

The first formal action of this new unholy alliance of Stalinists and Hillmanites on the General Executive Board was a statement on August 31 calling for full support to Roosevelt’s war policies and criticising John L. Lewis as an “appeaser.”

“Inasmuch as this is the first major CIO meeting since John L. Lewis signed the appeasement statement with fourteen leading Republican isolationists, the U.E.R.M.W.’s stand on the Administration’s foreign policy is expected to be watched carefully,” the statement declared.

This direct reference to Lewis, – taken together with other recent actions and statements of the Stalinists – indicates that the Stalinists are seeking a joint onslaught of the Stalinist-Hillmanite forces against John L. Lewis and the progressive sectors of the CIO, who have thus far successfully resisted the efforts of the Hillmanites to place the industrial union movement under the thumb of the government’s war machine.

Undoubtedly the Stalinists have been the prime movers behind this new united reactionary labor front.

Prior to the UERMW convention, the Stalinist and the Hillmanite factions had fought each other in an effort to gain control of the union apparatus. Whatever bureaucratic differences may have divided them in the past, it is the political issues which have finally decided the line-ups – as they always do. Both the Stalinists and the Hillmanites are in basic agreement on unconditional support of the government and the war, and this is rapidly forging them together into a common reactionary front.

The joint action of the Stalinists and Hillmanites in this important convention is only the latest and most dramatic example of the Stalinist efforts to align themselves with the Hillmanites and the most reactionary elements of the AFL on a program of “unity” against the anti-war forces in the unions.

The Daily Worker has been giving increasing and favorable recognition and publicity to the activities and statements of the AFL leaders who have given guarantees to Roosevelt of their willingness to sacrifice every right of organized labor for Roosevelt’s war program.

Labor Unity on the AFL’s Basis

On August 20, the Daily Worker featured on its front page the address of William Green, AFL head, at the New York State Federation of Labor Convention, in which Green proclaimed his full and unconditional support of Roosevelt and his “war aims.” The Daily Worker described as a “high point of this morning’s session ...the speech of President William Green of the AFL ... declaring the AFL’s full support of the eight point Roosevelt-Churchill declaration ...” What the Stalinists are driving toward by this playing up of the AFL leaders was disclosed more openly in a Daily Worker editorial, August 24, on the New York State AFL convention, which stated:

“The progressive position of the convention of the State AFL – the largest State AFL organization in the country – is especially encouraging because it shows the great possibilities for labor unity of AFL and CIO behind a program for defeat of Hitlerism.

“In the past, the established policies of the AFL did not provide a basis for unity. Now with the AFL offtcially taking a progressive stand on the most important issue before the country – the defeat of Hitler – a good basis exists for joint AFL-CIO activity ...

“The position of the CIO members on the international situation is well known. They are speaking out more and more, in spite of the general silence of the CIO nationally.”

This is Hillman’s full-blown line on AFL-CIO “unity,” which he projected at the last CIO national convention.

Like Hillman, the Stalinists are now prepared to thrust the industrial union movement of this country back into the hands of the Greens, Wolls, Freys and Tobins, under any terms and conditions. By their wholehearted support of the war, these labor skates have become “progressives” to the Stalinists. The strikebreaking, no-strike, government-collaboration, anti-industrial union policies of the AFL leaders no longer matter to the Stalinists.

It was this brand of AFL-CIO “unity” which Lewis successfully defeated at the last CIO convention. When the CIO is strong enough to crush every attempt of the AFL craft-union leadership to strangle the industrial unions in their “unity” embrace, only then can the CIO unite once more with the AFL, Lewis pointed out.

Lewis today stands in firm opposition to the Stalinist-Hillmanite plan to corral the industrial union movement into the camp of the reactionary AFL under any terms, provided “unity” of organized labor behind the war program is achieved.

Open Attacks on Lewis Increasing

That is why the Stalinist campaign to undermine Lewis is becoming more open and bold.

Already, unions under Stalinist control are passing resolutions “censuring” Lewis and attacking him for his “appeasement” stand. The Daily Worker, September 1, reports on its front page such an action by the Chicago Fur Workers Union. This is but the first trickle of a flood of similar resolutions which are bound to follow every union local that the Stalinists control.

The tone of the Stalinist attacks on Lewis and the progressive elements of the CIO Will undoubtedly take on heightened virulence in the coming weeks. Lewis will be condemned as a “Fifth Columnist,” etc. ...

This was indicated in Roy Hudson’s article, Some Lessons of the Auto Convention, in the Sunday Worker, August 31, which speaks of the “desertion of John L. Lewis from the cause of anti-fascism, to the camp of ... the Lindberghs, Wheelers, Coughlins, Hearsts ...”

The Stalinists show by their new alignment with Hillman and their attempts to push Hillman’s program of “unity” with the AFL, that their intentions are to sacrifice every condition and right of labor for the sole end of getting labor to support an immediate AEF. They are ready to go to any length in support of the imperialist government of Wall Street and Roosevelt.

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