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B.J. Widick

In the Trade Unions

(7 March 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 13, 7 March 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Concluded from last issue)

The C. I. O. convention in Massachusetts performed a remarkable feat in the anti-war resolution it approved. Remarkable not in the content of the resolution, but in the amazing “compromise” worked out by the majority of the delegates against the protests of a small progressive minority.

The resolution, as passed, said in the resolves, “that this convention records itself as being unalterably opposed to imperialistic war, to militarism ...” but the last clause of this same paragraph, “and to the preparations for war,” was deleted!

Strike Out Anti-War Paragraphs

This is no accident of confused workers thinking one way and voting another. For two other paragraphs in the resolution were also rejected. And they are extremely significant because they characterize the war.

They read: “in all the wars the working people make all the sacrifices at home and at the front in a cause not their own, while the employers reap all the profits,” and, “the same arguments are now being used for preparation for the coming war as were being used in 1918, such as making the world safe for democracy, government by consent of the governed.”

These paragraphs were stricken out by the resolutions committee after the resolution was submitted to them. On the floor, a small minority fought to have the original resolution passed but failed.

Compared to the stand of the national C.I.O. convention on another “war for democracy” the Massachusetts C.I.O. is far to the “left” in words but the failure to get specific and serious about fighting imperialist war by fighting war preparations reduces the convention stand to nothing.

Its value is solely that it gives progressive unionists a legal argument for continuing their anti-war propaganda within the unions basing themselves on the “stand” of the state C.I.O.

The Stalinists voted for the ambiguous and chopped up resolution. Salvatore Camelio, of the URWA, gave the cue for the Stalinists when he spoke against fighting war preparations. “We may be forced within a short time to defend ourselves against the fascist nations,” he declared in Daily Worker style.

Knife Unemployed Organization

The customary job of knifing any serious organization of the unemployed was done by the Stalinists. The organization committee of the convention unanimously approved a resolution calling for the organization of the unemployed into federal workers unions chartered by the C.I.O. on the basis of the following program. A federal works job for every worker not employed by private industry; union scale of wages and hours on WPA work.

The report of the committee was not brought to the floor until a half hour before adjournment There, Don Carson and John Poulos, Lynn labor leaders, put up a fight for passage of this vital resolution. The Stalinists attacked it as “stepping on the jurisdiction of the Workers Alliance,” and “changing national C.I.O. policy.”

We’ve often wondered who gave the Workers Alliance its so-called jurisdiction? Earl Browder? As for national C.I.O. policy, David Lasser has moved heaven and earth to get a C.I.O. national charter and John L. Lewis has cold-shouldered him. Both arguments of the Stalinists are completely phoney. Well, the resolution was referred to the incoming executive board which is supposed to kill it, if the Stalinists get their way.

“They’re Trotskyists”

Better cooperation beforehand by all progressives could have brought a different result. It takes more than indignation to smash the influence of the Stalinist wrecking machine.

Of course, Michael Widman, of the United Mine Workers who was re-elected chairman of the state organization, can hardly be called a friend of the Stalinists. Quite the contrary; and this should assist in putting the dampers on their ambitious plans to capture the entire state organizations.

Perhaps one of the surprising – to the delegates involved – lessons of the convention was to discover that they were “Trotskyists!” Each time dozens of delegates voted for a progressive idea of any kind, the Stalinists passed the rumor around, “They’re Trotskyists!”

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