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AFL Chiefs Uphold 2-Party Misrule

Council Stages Political Farce at Miami Parley

(9 February 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. XII No. 6, 9 February 1948, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

FEB. 3 – While warming their senile hides and thin blood in Miami sunshine, the 15 “elder statesmen’’ of the AFL. Executive Council have been disporting themselves since Jan. 26 in a shameless political farce.

They have decked themselves in the fetching costumes of “independent” politics. But their gestures and postures are those of solicitors for the two-parity dive of Big Business.

On Feb. 2, the entire AFL Council lined up in chorus formation for the first act of their burlesque. This was their unanimous rejection of Henry Wallace and any third-party candidacy for the U.S. Presidency. Their theme song was “Do Not Split the Liberal Vote.”

The next act played the following day, was performed largely in the vein of low slapstick comedy. Here the cast of characters was seen trying to contrive their own political program and set-up.

Falling Apart

They were seated around a machine called Labor’s League for Political Education, blue-printed at the San Francisco convention last October to be the AFL’s political conveyance.

Then, right on the stage, one of the biggest parts of the machine dropped off – the carpenters’ union led by William L. Hutcheson. Daniel Tobin’s teamsters’ union started coming loose. John L. Lewis had wrenched off – in technical parlance, “disaffiliated” – the miners’ union a number of weeks ago. But the denouement, came in the attempts of the Council members to get a “reputable” driver for the machine. For months they had been hunting high and low for some old-line capitalist politician in need of a $20,000 a year job, to take the steering wheel of LLPE.

They had reached a point of frustration and desperation when they were actually considering appointing one of their own number to keep the job from going begging. At the last moment, however, they dug up a likely candidate ex-Senator Burton K. Wheeler, and even announced his acceptance.

Then the farce got out of hand altogether. Wheeler advised them that he could only take the job on a “part-time” basis, if at all. Besides he could not accept without the understanding that he did not go along hook-line-and-sinker with the Marshall Plan and did not subscribe to the AFL’s position of opposition to all Congressional candidates who voted for the Taft-Hartley Slave Labor Bill.

This led to a free-for-all among the Council members that did not appear to be in the original script of their show. A section of the Council, headed by David Dubinsky, “revolted.” They said they would not accept Wheeler.

A Thin Disguise

Seldom has the American labor movement been so disgraced as by the Miami spectacle put on by the AFL big-wigs. In the very breath that they opposed Wallace for his “false liberalism,” they revealed their own complete subservience to reaction. They complained that supporting Wallace “would play into the hands of Soviet Russia’s expansionist policy” – but that’s a thin disguise for their own slavish support of Wall Street’s imperialist program.

They also claimed a third party would “split the liberal vote.” We’ve heard that song before – at every election since 1932 and every time the workers demand their own political party. The last time we heard it was in 1946. The workers didn’t “split the liberal vote” and got the most reactionary Congress in decades anyway.

If the AFL leaders don’t go for Wallace’s third-party movement – and they are correct when they say it does not spring from the labor movement – how do they propose to free the American workers from subjection to the two old political machines of Wall Street?

It was on this issue particularly that the AFL leaders in Miami staged an exhibition that would be comic – if it were not so serious for the life of the American labor movement, and such an insult to the more than 7 million hard-working AFL members who pay the salaries of the “fat and stately asses” of the Executive Council.

Nobody Is Fooled

The game of the Council majority is to swing labor’s votes once more behind strikebreaker Truman and the Democratic Party. They haven’t dared to say this in so many words, but nobody is fooled by their pretenses of “non-partisanship.”

But some of these “labor statesmen” can’t agree on what capitalist party to sell out to in the 1948 elections. Hutcheson of the Carpenters has declined to go along with LLPE, because, as an old-time standby of the Republican National Committee he’s still playing for a deal with some “acceptable” Republican candidate. Tobin of the Teamsters has been gyrating around their political weather-vane – at the last sighting he was pointed toward Republican Governor Warren of California.

But in essence, they all represent the same kind of politics. They are company unionists in the political arena, opposed to all genuine independent political action by labor and supporting established political reaction through the two-party system.

How symbolic have been their frantic efforts to secure anybody but a genuine labor leader to head LLPE. They have been scouring the political swamps for months to drag up some Democratic politician who will graciously take $20,000 a year to cover up the word “Labor” in Labor’s League for Political Education.

They went after Robert LaFollette and Mathew Neely and James Mead and Maury Maverick. They were almost ready to settle for Andrew Biemiller of Wisconsin, until he decided he would rather run again for Congress. Besides some of the Council members thought Biemiller was “too radical” because of his former New Deal sympathies!

Then they finally latched onto that old Democratic wheel-horse and pre-Pearl Harbor darling of the American Firsters and isolationist ultra-reactionaries – Senator Wheeler. Wheeler brought this whole farce to a head when he telephoned the AFL leaders that before he’d take the $20,000 a year for the use of his name they’d have to know “I just couldn’t abandon my law business” – aiding the railroad corporations.

At this writing the LLPE is still without a national figurehead.

What voice have the AFL members had in the life-and-death question of the political course they must travel? None whatsoever. The 15 bureaucrats luxuriating in Miami have never given a thought to consulting those who pay the dues and assessments.

It’s high lime for the AFL members to put a stop to the disgusting conduct of those who presume to speak in the name of seven million workers. The voice of the ranks must be heard. They must decide.

The demand must be raised in all the great bodies of organized labor for a National United Labor Conference, with rank and file representation from the AFL, CIO, Railroad Brotherhoods and independents, to map out a program of independent political action for the labor movement.

Such a conference could end the shoddy maneuvers and deals on the top with capitalist politicians. It could launch the mighty legions of labor as a truly independent force by organizing labor’s own party and running its own candidates next November.

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