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Gertrude Shaw

World Labor Leaders Begging
for Admission to San Francisco Conference

(21 May 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 9 No. 21, 21 May 1945, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

At the World Trade Union Conference held last February in London, the delegates charged its administrative committee with the responsibility of getting representation for organized labor at the various peace conferences.

Following this directive, the CIO invited to these shores the administrative committee of the WTUC – all set for an honored and conspicuous role at the San Francisco conference.

To the embarrassment of Sidney Hillman and Philip Murray, it soon became plain that the arrangers for the San Francisco conference had given not one thought to the CIO, and their foreign labor guests. First, there was the danger of being left behind for lack of pre-arranged transportation. Second, the union leaders were entirely forgotten in preparing San Francisco hotel accommodations, and the laborites were exiled across the bay to Oakland? Third, not only were the WTUC committee not given official recognition at the big powwow, they had difficulty even in getting standing room at the general sessions.

From the opening of the San Francisco wind-jamming fest till May 2nd, the representatives of organized labor assembled in Oakland, waited patiently – hat in hand – for recognition by Stettinius and the other big shots. Then they began to tug at the coattails of the well-groomed big boys, to call attention to their existence.

The tugging took the form of a demand addressed to Stettinius. This demand for official participation in the San Francisco conference was signed by Sidney Hillman, Walter Citrine, Louis Saillant and M. Tarasov, respectively of the United States, England, France and Russia.

“We believe that the 60 million workers whom we represent must be given a voice in the determination of the historic issues which your conference is called upon to decide.” Thus modestly did the laborites – still hat in hand – state the case for labor.

The demand concluded with a mild threat – but so mild a threat – “that the workers whom we represent would find it difficult, indeed, to understand the refusal of your conference to give their representatives an official consultative status so that their views on these crucial questions might be effectively presented and fully explored.”

If anything has been done up on Nob Hill about the Oaklanders’ demand for recognition at San Francisco or about their two amendments, that fact has not been blazoned in headlines. In fact, careful reading of the New York press reveals no word of news on either topic.

Thus have the representatives of 60,000,000 organized workers in thirty-five to forty countries of the world, taken it on the chin – the blows being handed out by the imperialist statesmen of the Big Three. It is a humiliating spectacle, this begging to be recognized.

And the liberal reporter I.F. Stone writes in The Nation:

“To be quite frank about it, the conference, for all its glamour, is a meeting of pretty much those same old codgers to whose fumbling we owe World War II ... Given the same men, the same parties, the same social systems, can one expect a different result?”

These are the “old codgers” before whom labor representatives stand – hat in hand – at a time when labor’s responsibility is to take leadership – to blaze the trail to a new social system. But these labor representatives begging at the backdoor of the imperialists are themselves old codgers with antiquated ideas of class collaboration. If the world is to be saved from even bloodier wars and a lapse into, utter barbarism, labor will have to project a new courageous leadership.

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