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Sidelights on the Steel Convention

(June 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 22, 1 June 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

CLEVELAND – The delegates and officers at the steel workers convention were somewhat different from those at other CIO conventions.

Philip Murray, Van Bittner, Clinton Golden and David J. McDonald were pretty old and tired looking. And they were obviously afraid of any serious dispute. A case of Lewis jitters, I call it.

The Murray forces, running the convention in traditional miners’ convention style (if you know what I mean), made it a point to distinguish themselves from the Stalinists there.

How the Stalinists, pleaded for a resolution opening a second front! But Murray, although behind a resolution for all-out support of the war, refused to give the Stalinists this concession.

Many delegates laughed and some were sore at the “party line” speeches on the second front idea. The Stalinists pleaded for the right to introduce an amendment to the Murray resolution on the war, but Murray bluntly refused. I guess he learned from John L. Lewis’ and his own sad experience with the Stalinists in the past.

One of the most frequently discussed subjects after convention sessions was the John L. Lewis problem. Opinions varied. The Lewis forces kept silent on the convention floor. William Mitch, Southern director of the SWOC and a Lewis man, didn’t even show up at the convention. He was conspicuous by his absence.

The Stalinists insisted Lewis was an outright fascist. Some delegates expressed a desire to see Lewis as president of the CIO again: “He doesn’t give concessions as easily as Murray.” Others feared for their bureaucratic posts if Lewis regained power. By no means was there any definitive opinion, such as the daily press would indicate, of 100 per cent support of Murray.

If Murray had come to the convention with a dollar a day wage increase and the union shop in Little Steel granted, his future as steel leader and CIO president would be assured. But he didn’t.

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