From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 49, 8 December 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The Ku Klux Klan, which considers the CIO as a menace to America, has embarked on an ambitious program of destroying the CIO from within, by first capturing as many unions as possible.
In Detroit, heart of the Auto Workers Union, the Ku Klux Klan openly announced its intention this week of recruiting 5,000 more members among the UAWA locals.
They are openly recruiting, they are openly organizing classes in parliamentary procedure so their fractions can operate more efficiently, they are studying union organization to become experts in breaking up unions and, above all, they are organizing goon squads and vigilante groups to terrorize opponent elements.
Six Ku Klux Klan members in Georgia are under felony sentences for flogging CIO mill workers in Atlanta three years ago. It is the KKK which leads every gang of vigilantes who slug, tar and feather CIO organizers trying to bring unionism to the South. Every CIO unionist knows that down South the toughest opponent, the real strong-arm of the open shop bosses, is the KKK.
When the CIO began to sweep the country in 1936, the KICK tried its terroristic tactics to stop industrial unionism. They burned crosses on the hills near Akron’s rubber plants, for example, in an effort to intimidate the rubber workers, who very promptly went on a sit-down strike and chased after the hooded vigilantes, who fled.
In the General Motors strike, the KKK elements along with the Black Legion, acted as a strike-breaking agency, trying to whip up sentiment against the CIO.
In Anderson, Ind., the KKK headed a mob of three hundred which tried to lynch two union organizers, after having already run some union men out of town.
These open acts, and many others like them, alienated all support the KKK had among the thousands of workers in the Midwest mass production industries before the CIO came along. It is a fact, for example, that once upon a time 90 per cent of Akron’s rubber workers were members pf the KKK. And Toledo and Detroit were two other strongholds of the Klan in the North. Now the KKK is reviving in these areas. That is what is so extremely significant and important to the labor movement. That the KKK can hold open recruiting drives, in Detroit must come as a shock to every union militant associated with the CIO.
The KKK program in the union consists first and foremost of creating bitter and union-busting feelings by its venomous attacks on the “Catholics, Jews, Communists, Negroes and Foreigners.” It seeks to divide the workers along religious and racial lines. It preaches Jim-Crowism within the union movement.
What is involved is not only that the KKK is a prototype of a fascist force, or that its program is reactionary.
The specific program that KKK members advocate in the CIO unions is a direct violation not only of the whole spirit and tradition of the CIO movement, but of the laws of the CIO stated in the CIO national constitution, which say that the CIO basic principle, is social, economical and political equality.
The CIO takes in all workers, by its constitution, irrespective of their race, creed or color. The KKK fights openly, against this whole idea, and violates every single basic principle of the CIO.
The CIO can no more tolerate the KKK or it members within the CIO unions than it can tolerate stool-pigeons and other direct agents of the bosses.
The question before the CIO is not one of freedom of speech for a working class political opponent, that is, an individual who starts from the same pro-labor basis but disagrees on program for carrying it out.
The KKK openly stands anti-labor. It acts against labor. It is the spearhead of all the foul “forces “of reaction. It is the natural basis for a full-blown fascist movement.
Inclusion of its members within organized labor is like permitting a cancer germ to be placed in a healthy body. Death is the only result.
In self-preservation, the CIO must immediately drive the KKK out of its ranks.
Unless the CIO does this nationally, Phillip Murray, CIO president, will find, for example, a group of men carrying CIO cards who oppose him merely because he is of Catholic faith (whereas freedom of religion is a cardinal point among the rights defended by the CIO). Other union officials and members will be opposed merely because they are of Jewish faith. Militants because, they will be, branded “Communists.” Negro unionists will be subjected to “lynch-law” terrorism.
“Poison the atmosphere of the CIO by creating and fomenting racial and religious prejudices.” Those are the instructions of the Imperial Wizard of the KKK to his blind followers in the CIO.
“Hurl the cry of Nigger-lover at any CIO unionist who wants the South organized,” the Imperial Wizard adds. This way perhaps the Negro and white workers can be further divided. Perhaps the Southern White worker can be made a victim of the prejudices inculcated in him since birth and the CIO kept from organizing the South to benefit all workers, Negro, white or any other race.
Only the bosses benefit from the KKK program.
Drive the KKK put of the CIO! Cut this cancer out of the unions!
Last updated: 24.2.2013