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Arne Swabeck

W.P. and Trade Unions

(December 1934)

From The New Militant, Vol. I No. 2, 22 December 1934, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

IN THE program of action adopted at the convention giving birth to the Workers Party the central point is its trade union activities. That is a job which the party intends to tackle in earnest in order to become a factor of influence in the trade union movement.

Thoroughly realistic, this program of action sets out objectives that are within reach of a live active force. Following further in the same fashion the initial steps are now under way to organize the party itself, its members who belong to trade unions, and to cement a firm contact with the progressive elements who are eagerly awaiting a lead to chart a new course in accord with the needs of the trade union movement today.

A trade union department has been set up. The party trade union fractions are being organized and the first steps taken to contact the live wire progressives in the various localities. Information will be exchanged mutually between the branches and the center, taking up such questions as: How to start the trade union activities; the function of the party fractions; the organization of local progressive groups; the problem of organizing in unorganized shops; the burning issues in the trade union movement; the essence and meaning of the party's trade union policy, etc. These are, of course, only preliminary steps to get, the machinery into motion iu order to take up the bigger points on the order of the day.

Basic Tasks

The program of action for the trade union work centered around two basic propositions. The first and foremost is the creation of a national progressive movement in the trade unions. The second presented the idea of selection of a couple of concentration points, the section of the textile industry in New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania and the automobile industry in and around Detroit, Toledo and Cleveland.

Insofar as the first proposition is concerned, the crying need for a national progressive movement does not have to be emphasized to militant workers. In fact it represents to them a long felt need; but the forces to actually tackle the problem were not at hand. There is today not such a national movement in existence. Excellent examples have been set of what progressive and left, wing policies mean and what can be accomplished when a group of determined militants begin to act in an organized fashion. We need mention only Minneapolis and Toledo. But these examples had so far mainly a local character.

Many other examples could be adduced of how not to conduct left wing or progressive policies or organizations. For the present, however, we do not intend to enter into a discussion of these questions. They will be taken up in subsequent articles in the New Militant dealing more directly with the purposes of the projected national progressive movement in the trade unions. At this moment our first task is to get the wheels into motion and to begin the first steps in our activities. To this end we are discussing this question directly with a number of outstanding progressive trade unionists.

Concentration Points

The idea of selecting a couple of concentration points for our trade union work has to do with our initial party stage when with limited forces it would not be advisable to attempt to spread over the whole field at once.

But this is not the only reason. In the two particular concentration points mentioned issues of the most important character are accumulating and great struggles are in prospect. The issues are of course not the same character in both instances and to that extent the approach to the problems differ. In the Detroit automobile area for example the real problem is still the one of establishing a union organization. But that also is a job for the militant forces. And so, with the initial preparations on the way our party will proceed to the bigger issues confronting it.

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