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Jack Wilson

Meeting a Current Problem in the Labor Movement

The “New Line” of Stalinism:
A Danger in the Trade Unions

(29 April 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 17, 29 April 1946, p. 2-M.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Every trade union militant knows from his own experiences that the Communist (Stalinist) Party has made a turn in its union policies since the war ended and the imperialist antagonisms between Russia and the Anglo-American bloc became intensified.

In the war period it was easy to distinguish the Stalinists by their vicious anti-union policies – for the speed-up, against any strikes, against job action – and by their outdoing the American Legion in flag-waving.

These reactionary policies in the union movement were relatively easy to oppose, for they ran counter to every ABC interest of labor. These policies alienated all militant workers and cost the Stalinists much of their union support.

The extent of the defeat suffered by the Stalinists in the union movement has been revealed in the Stalinist press. Recently a report from the coal fields quoted a coal miner in explaining why Stalinist branch after Stalinist branch had disappeared. “The party deserted us in the war,” he said. The truth, of course, is that the Stalinists long ago deserted the working class in its struggle for emancipation, but it took the war to bring that home to many people.

The Stalinists recently published excerpts from a report by John Williamson of their political committee, in which he said: “Generally, our party is not yet rooted in the shops and industries that can be decisive in determining the main course of the workers’ struggle.”

In General Motors there are only 122 CP members, after a ten- year concentration! In Toledo, out of 252 party members, only 24 are auto workers.

In New York, the percentage of industrial workers in the CP dropped from 34 to 29 per cent In Michigan from 66 to 58 per cent, and in California from 41 to 38 per cent.

In a word, the Stalinist party changed its composition as a result of its role during the war. It lost much of its working class support.

New Stalinist Line in Unions

Today, the Stalinists are engaged in a well-financed and well- organized campaign to re-establish and increase their trade union influence. A recruiting drive for 20,000 members has been announced.

How does the Stalinist party expect to accomplish this goal? By its turn in trade union policies. The Stalinists have now put on the costume of union militants again. They are for strikes, they speak against “company security” and they talk about a new political party which they label a third party.

But before taking up their new program, it is necessary to call something else to the attention of trade union militants. The future role of the Stalinists cannot be judged solely by the policies they carried out during the current strike wave.

The post-war strike wave caught the Stalinists in the period of their policy change. Except for isolated cases like the packinghouse strike, where they mobilized themselves on the new program, the Stalinists had just begun to carry out their new line.

What is the actual form that these new policies will take? The Stalinists are again concentrating on trade union struggles, and for the building of a third party. In the field of foreign policy, they concentrate all activity around the slogans “Against Anglo-American imperialism” (but not Russian, to be sure), and they have raised the slogan, “A Struggle for Socialism.” All in all, mighty “radical” for the same outfit that out-Legioned the American Legion in the war.

These new policies coincide to a considerable extent with the moods of the discontented masses in America today. The Stalinists expect to capitalize on this fact. The deep dissatisfaction among the people with the two capitalist parties provides fertile soil for the third party slogan, especially as a neat flank attack on the idea of a Labor Party.

As for the anti-union policies pursued during the war; the expulsion of Earl Browder is supposed to serve as a convenient scapegoat. “We expelled the man who revised the basic party program.” This is the Stalinist alibi among workers.

The new turn of the Stalinists, therefore, presents a real problem for trade union militants and revolutionary socialists in the union movement. Stalinism isn’t dead in America; it is just beginning to make its major drive for mass influence!

Avoid the Trap of Red-Baiting

Points one, two, three and the next twenty, in a program of fighting Stalinism successfully, are that it cannot and must not be fought from a “red-baiting” point of view. This is a fatal policy. The history of the labor movement is strewn with bodies of unionists broken in that kind of struggle against the Stalinists. Last week the utility workers’ convention passed a resolution which barred any believer in “Communism, Nazism” or any ism from holding office. That kind of victory over Stalinism only obscures the real issue. For it is part and parcel of the same totalitarian

methods which mark the Stalinist tactics. It is precisely on this issue, “democracy within the unions,” that union militants can score their first dent in the Stalinists’ newly-painted armor tinged with red. The Stalinists as agents of a totalitarian power reflect the character of their rulers: the Stalin machine. In American trade unions they are forced to fight against freedom of speech and press, except, of course, for themselves. In unions which they control, they maintain a ruthless bureaucracy. Thus, even the new Stalinist policies find themselves going counter to the democratic yearnings of the masses. The program of a Philip Murray fails in fighting the Stalinists among other reasons because it also violates the democratic principles required to keep alive a progressive union movement.

On the matter of political action, advocates of a labor party – and its foremost proponents must remain the revolutionary socialists – must continue to counterpose that idea to the Stalinist propaganda of a Third Party.

In combating the Stalinists within the union movement, it is very important to bring out the record. Let it speak. The war record of the Stalinists in particular subjects them to merciless and well- deserved blows. Stalinism is a deadly danger within the labor movement, but the record is not enough.

Only by participation in the mass struggles, in the consistent advocacy of a genuine class struggle program, such as our transitional program provided us, and by continuing as fighters of real trade union democracy, can the revolutionary socialists guide trade union militants in their activity and successful struggle against the Stalinists, and build the base for a genuine mass revolutionary party rooted in the labor movement.

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