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The National Miners’ Union Passes

(August 1930)

From The Militant, Vol. III No. 28, 15 August 1930, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The National Miners Union has passed like a ghost in the night. After many long months of concentrated bluff in the official Party press about the thousands and tens of thousands of miners who were following the leadership of the N.M.U., about the strikes and demonstrations it was leading, the bubble of bluff has collapsed of internal vacuum. At the “convention” in Pittsburgh of a few dozen miners, representing very little more than themselves, the N.M.U. was quietly interred.

Characteristic of the whole policy of the swindlers now dominating the Party was the manner in which the affair was carried out. To this day, the Daily Worker, which mentioned the convention only casually, has not said a single word about the fact that the N.M.U. no longer exists. Its first and last report on the meeting (a few lines in one issue) says nothing about it. The whole procedure was typically bureaucratic, conducted behind the scenes, without the workers knowing what was going to be done, or, in this case, even being informed about what was done.

How the Retreat is Covered Up

Equally characteristic of the Party bureaucracy is the manner in which this mortifying retreat has been covered up so that! it may be proclaimed as “another step forward for the T.U.U.L.” In place of the quietly cremated N.M.U., a brand new (but no less weak) organization has been formed, in the same dark hour of the night at which the funeral took place: The Mine, Oil and Smelter Workers Industrial Union!

We won’t speak of the “mine workers” in this “new union”. But where are the oil workers in it, or the smelter workers? The answer is that they are not in it, and assuming that the Browders and Bedachts continue to ruin the Party’s trade union work, there are good grounds to add that they will not be in it. The M.O.S.W.I.U. was formed bureaucratically. No agitation for it among the workers was carried on; there was no preliminary preparation for it among them; there was no official announcement that the N.M.U. was dissolved, or the reasons for it given.

None of this however interests the collective Browders in the slightest. They organize and disorganize unions with the magician’s wand of the “third period”. What they bring to a tenuous life one day, they kill off the very next. That they discredit the Communist movement, and the movement for organizing the unorganized into new unions, in the process, is of even less concern to them.

There was no good reason for the debacle of the N.M.U. It started off with excellent prospects of growth and authority among the American coal miners. It was strangled by Stalinist arbitrariness and bluff. Capable Left wing and Communist workers who dared to disagree with the crudely false policies of the Stalinist clique running the Party and the N.M.U., were immediately removed from office and expelled from the union. The narrowest, most sectarian policy of isolation was foisted upon the union without ever asking the membership.

No serious attempt was made to organize the unorganized miners: talk and headlines in the Daily Worker were substituted for genuine activity. No serious attempt was made to approach and win over the workers in the Lewis or in the Fishwick-Howat unions: the former were simply labelled “fascist” and the latter “social-fascist”, which was taken to mean that the N.M.U. was absolved from the need of working to win them over.

Bluff and Adventurism

In place of competent workers, incompetent and factional hacks were appointed from above – never selected by the miners. The official organ of the union, was allowed to die, although the Daily Worker continued to speak without cease about the steady advances being made. Unprecedented bluff was made the order of the day, interspersed with light-hearted adventures like the ill-fated Illinois “mass strike”.

A creeping paralysis seized the organization. A movement like the one that broke out in Pittston, with thousands of miners involved, passed by without the N.M.U. influencing it in the slightest (which did not prevent the Daily Worker from publishing the most monstrous falsehoods about the “N.M.U. leading the miners in a strike against unemployment”!). The policies of the Party entirely demoralized the already weakened trade union center at Pittsburgh, so that the whole last period passed by without a single union official working in the national office. While the bluff campaign about “advances” was going on in the official press, a young stenographer was the sole and single director of the fate of the N.M.U. in Pittsburgh!

The “convention” assembled with the hand of death already heavy on it. There was not a single Left wing miners’ leader present even to make the report to the delegates: a new precedent was set by having W.F. Dunne, of the T.U.U.L., make the official report on the situation and the tasks of the union! The W.I.R. was more prominently in the fore in every phase of the work there than the N.M.U. as such.

Our Policy and Browder’s Tested

When the Communist League (Opposition), in its statement on the problems of the Left wing in the mining industry, proposed a serious, and not a fake, campaign of organizing the unorganized miners, and at the same time building a Left wing inside the Fishwick-Howat union in Illinois and the Lewis union in the anthracite, the Party leadership shouted themselves blue in the face with their dreary vilification of our group and its program. We warned the Communist and Left wing workers against the Stalinist policy in the miners’ movement. The Stalinists confidently boasted of the correctness of their “line”. The latter has had its test. The test has cost the Left wing miners’ movement! many harsh blows. It has already killed the N.M.U. – nothing less. The wreck cannot be made whole again by the cheap, mechanical artifices of forming chemically pure “new” unions on paper for the edification of Moscow archivists. The evil must be cut down at the root. And at the root lies the malicious religion of “social fascism” and the “third period”. The future will be replete with debacles similar to the one that just culminated in Pittsburgh until the Communist workers throw overboard these concepts and those who conceived them.

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