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Walter Jason

UAW Factions Vie over Policy

(2 September 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 35, 2 September 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT – In spite of an apparent agreement on a wage-price policy by the majority of the International Executive Board of the! UAW-CIO, the factional struggle in the top leadership has not abated, but is rather becoming more intensified.

Major developments within the labor movement here testify to this conclusion. Recently we reported on the shifts among the top leaders in the UAW-CIO on wage-price policy. Walter P. Reuther, UAW president, finally has won overwhelming support for his basic idea of fighting for wage increases without price increases. Simultaneously both Richard T. Leonard and R.J. Thomas, vice-presidents, have deserted their Stalinist supporters on the demand that wage negotiations be reopened at all major corporations.

Nevertheless, the anti-Reuther bloc functions together in an effort to wrest organizational control of the UAW away from Reuther. In this connection, George Addes, secretary-treasurer, bears the biggest responsibility for the unprincipled factionalism prevalent in the top leadership. His refusal to break completely with the Stalinists pours kerosene on the factional fires within the union.

Financial Problem

At the recent UAW Executive Board meeting the acute problem of financial retrenchment, or more exactly, the elimination of “pork choppers" from the payroll was supposed to be settled. A special committee, including Reuther and Addes, came to virtual agreement and was supposed to make one report to the board. However, Addes suddenly came in with a separate report and made proposals which were aimed mainly at weakening the international union administration under Reuther’s control.

An illustration of the reckless character of Addes’ proposal was the virtual elimination of the vital veterans department. The board by a small margin voted to reduce the vets department’ by one person. This, in spite of a convention mandate to the International Executive Board to set up a functioning department. The reason for the elimination of the vets department is, of course, the fact that Emil Mazey, the well known militant, is director of it, and the department was making a splendid record of achievement.

Another example: At the March convention of the UAW, a special board to investigate R.J. Thomas’ charges of “intimidation of delegates, racketeering, etc.,” was set up. It refused to make a written report to the board, it admitted that the only intimidation it had uncovered was one delegate who swore he was threatened if he didn’t vote for Thomas! The investigators tried to smear Reuther with Dubinsky, without any proof. In a word, they didn’t accomplish their mission. Nevertheless, the special board was continued at a big expense to the international union for another three months. Yet Addes talks about economy.

Wayne County Control

Besides these developments in the UAW board, there looms the bitter fight at the coming Wayne County CIO convention to be held in two weeks. This has taken on the character of the UAW-CIO convention and the Michigan State CIO convention. Both the Reuther forces and the coalition against Reuther are making every possible effort to win control of the Wayne County CIO Council that is to be set up by the special convention. At the present time, the Reuther forces control the Wayne County PAC and the Stalinist bloc controls the County Council. They are supposed to be merged into one body, to be the authoritative body of the CIO in the Detroit area.

To round out the picture of the developments in the UAW, we must cite a few more recent events.

Philip Murray, CIO president, ordered the Steel Workers Union here to disregard the NMU picket lines in the Great Lakes Strike. The Steel Workers Union officials, who up to this time had worked with the Stalinists, followed Murray’s orders. This growing antagonism between Murray and the Stalinists might be reflected in the Wayne County CIO convention.

Some people took seriously the story that appeared only in the New York Times about R.J. Thomas being ready to be drafted for president to replace Reuther, following Thomas’ ill-timed blast at Reuther a few days before the UAW-CIO board met. Actually this story was cooked up by the New York Times correspondent, Walter Ruch, simply for copy. In an informal conversation with reporters, Thomas was readily provoked into shooting his mouth off. His real feelings, bitter personal resentment over losing out as president, came out. No other reporters paid any attention to Thomas’ ravings. It would be news if he didn’t rave. However, the Times took Ruch’s story seriously, and printed it.

Another significant event. Although Richard T. Leonard at present is still in the coalition against Reuther, his position is becoming impossible because he is now facing the danger of the Stalinists taking over fully in the Ford locals, and opposing all his policies. Ford Local 600, the biggest local in the world, is dominated by the Stalinists and they have been making things very uncomfortable for Leonard. Leonard’s reaction shows signs increasingly of making him the genuine right winger of the UAW-CIO.

All these things fit together in a general pattern which indicate that the pressing inflationary crisis is bringing into being three major tendencies within the UAW, irrespective of the present line-ups, and unprincipled maneuvers. The right-wing of the UAW is coalescing under Leonard. A broad socially minded tendency is emerging under the domination of Reuther and his followers are more often being attacked as socialists. This is under severe attack from the Stalinists and from the reactionaries in the locals. Finally, there remains the Stalinist faction as the third tendency within the UAW-CIO.

The important fact about all these developments is that the hard facts of life are preventing the UAW from becoming just another union, in which a status quo philosophy suffices. The situation is forcing a clarification of political lines.

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