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B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(24 November 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 90, 24 November 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A strong opposition group is conducting a real fight against the Stalinist machine directed by Harold Pritchett which controls the International Woodworkers of America (CIO).

Pritchett is being opposed for re-election as president by Al Hartung, president of the Columbia River District Council, in a national referendum which will be completed on Dec. 2.

Loggers’ Indictment

The Opposition CIO Bloc, as it calls itself, presents an indictment against the Stalinist rule in a four-page leaflet entitled, What’s Wrong with the Present Administration of the IWA? It says:

  1. Violation of the IWA constitution; malicious slander against members and officers for the purpose of purging all who hold honest differences of opinion; ignoring the trial procedure in the constitution; international officers disregarding charges placed against them, and insisting that when and if a trial is held they will sit on the jury trying their own cases.
  2. Using the Communist Party machine to maintain themselves in office and put over their program. (Affidavits and abundant evidence is available for proof.)
  3. They have used the Timber Worker to attack the IWA members without preferring charges or presenting evidence to justify such attacks. (See the Timber Worker for June 3, 10, 17, 24; April 29; August 27; etc.) Censorship against those who oppose the Communist machine.
  4. They have failed to organize the unorganized: the Williamette Valley, Klamath Falls, The Redwoods and British Columbia, with their thousands of potential members. They reported membership in the IWA in 1937 of 100,000. They reported 100,000 members in 1939. The actual membership does not exceed 35,000.
  5. Squandering the union funds for two years by putting on the Big Front without any means or membership to warrant it. The International Secretary has failed to make complete reports!
  6. Dictatorial (Abe Muir) tactics. Witness Orton at Carnation: Pritchett at Tacoma and Portland. The rule of ruin career boys acting as floor leaders in district conventions.
  7. From time to time mysterious appointments of new editors of the Timber Worker. New organizers without recommendation or approval of districts. Some of them were known Communist Party members.
  8. Using the IWA as a front to build the Communist Party – on the members’ dues dollar.

Opposition’s Program

The Opposition CIO Bloc offers this as its counter-program:

  1. Strict adherence to the CIO program. Political Action – Non-partisan. Drive out the political machine control within the union.
  2. Organize the major sections of the lumber industry before moving out into the isolated districts.
  3. Strict selection of organizers upon recommendation of the districts, based upon knowledge of the industry and ability to organize rather than political affiliation.
  4. Furnishing accurate financial and membership standings to the membership.
  5. Operate the International on a business-like basis. Eliminate the extravagant expenses.
  6. Abide by the constitution.
  7. Full Cooperation between the International, district, and local unions in securing the best wages, hours and working conditions for the membership.
  8. Greater expression by the rank sind file. Extend the use of the referendum and initiative within the IWA.

Over one hundred delegates, almost a majority, at the recent thirdannual convention of the IWA signed this program. It represents atypical confused, but nevertheless progressive, movement as againstthe Stalinist machine.

The influence of the Wobblies is quite evident in the emphasis on"rank and filism.” They represent but one of thetendencies united in bitter opposition to the ruinous course pursuedby the Stalinists since this section of the labor movement was forcedout of the AFL and joined the CIO.

After breaking with the AFL Carpenters Union and its Czar, WilliamHutcheson, who sought to give the timber workers second classcitizenship in the union, the lumberjacks thought they would be ableto establish a militant, democratic union.

However, through Pritchett, a smooth operator, the Stalinistsmanaged to capture control of this union. For three years, varioustendencies appeared in opposition to the rule or ruin clique.

But not until this year were the various groups able to unitebehind a program which could rally the workers to fight the CPeffectively.

Harry Bridges, California CIO director (recently demoted) wasrushed by the Stalinists to the recent woodworkers convention to helphead off a revolt against the Pritchett machine. This was howprecarious the grip of the Stalinists had become.

The case of the Opposition CIO bloc against the Stalinists isborne out by all the available evidence. However, the oppositioncontains elements which can only be characterised as “redbaiting.”If the opposition is to become a genuine progressive force in thelabor movement, it must relegate this tendency into the background,and reject all opinions of that kind.

The opposition stands a very good chance of winning the nationalelections for which it has a full slate unless – as theopposition fears – something happens to the ballots or theStalinist- controlled locals are given inflated voting strength.

Other candidates of the opposition, all of whom are men of longexperience in this field, are: Les Cadieu, for vice-president; WorthLowry, for vice- president; H.I. Tucker for secretary-treasurer; andGeorge Brown for trustee.

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