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Walter Jason

Faction Fight Intensified
in UAW Local Elections

(2 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 10, 10 March 1947, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, March 2 – An intense campaign for control of the local union offices is now taking place between the pro and anti-Reuther forces in a series of important local elections as the factional struggle in the UAW-CIO reaches new heights of bitterness. The outcome is by no means certain.

A major upset occurred last week when the Reuther forces carried a majority of offices and executive board members in the election at Local 155, for ten years an undisputed Stalinist stronghold. Nat Ganley, member of the Central Committee of the Stalinist party, was driven from office. Only John Anderson, incumbent president, was re-elected, and his victory was by a handful of votes.

In turn, another upset was the defeat of the Reuther camp at Briggs Local 212, where the indictment of John McManus, financial secretary, on charges of being involved in a 70,000 gas stamp embezzlement just before the run-off elections, took the entire Reuther slate to defeat

In this connection, Emil Mazey, co-director of the East Side and former Briggs Local president, charged that the indictment was timed to coincide with the elections, and McManus, for ten years the financial secretary of the local, filed suit for $100,000 for false arrest. Nevertheless, the slate was defeated.

At Packard Local, Whitey Urban, in the Stalinist camp, won easily from a right-wing candidate.

At Ford Local 600, the biggest local union in the world, a bitter and vicious struggle began this week as unit elections and general elections began.

Following the personal appearance of Walter P. Reuther, international president, at Local 7, the home local of R.J. Thomas, where Reuther did a devastating job of answering Thomas’ recent accusations against him, interest focused this week on the elections there between pro- and anti-Reuther slates.

In each of these campaigns, various kinds of attacks were being made and answered, depending on the kind of opposition and the character of the contestants. But there was one common feature in all of the local elections. It was generally a pro- and anti-Reuther battle.

At Local 155, where the Stalinists admittedly ran the union, the Reuther forces concentrated mainly on the lousy trade union job the Stalinists had done. Not one single leaflet attacking the Stalinists as such was issued. “Red-baiting” was conspicuous by its absence! The Reuther forces won.

At Local 600, where the pro-Reuther forces consist primarily of a small handful of Association of Catholic Trade Union leaders (ACTU) there was a red-baiting campaign against the Stalinist administration.

At Local 7, the Stalinist bloc has put on a red-baiting campaign against the Reuther forces! It has dragged in the standard cries about “outside interests,” “Communists,” “Socialists,” “Trotskyites!” in a truly amazing example of the degeneracy of this group within the labor movement.

Negro Caucus

At a large caucus meeting of George F. Addes forces, Richard T. Leonard, international union vice-president, made a vicious speech against the Reuther forces in which, as his main point, he charged that “the three major dangers to the labor movement an America today are Gerald K. Smith, Walter Reuther and Senator Bilbo.” In Stalinist locals, Reuther is attacked as a fascist!

Taking advantage of the fact that there are Jim Crow elements in the Reuther camp or, to be exact, more Jim Crow elements in the Reuther camp than in the Addes-Thomas-Leonard-Stalinist camp, the Stalinists are using their big influence among the Negroes to whip up sentiment against Reuther and all his supporters. As a powerful weapon in this campaign, the Stalinists have organized a secret all-Negro caucus and this development is causing grave concern because it tends to sharpen existing differences and prejudices!

This secret caucus was attacked by Reuther in his speech at Local 7 in which he accused the Stalinists of exploiting the Negroes for their own political purposes. The demand of this caucus that the UAW-CIO elect a Negro as a special Executive Board member, with no vote, but to head the FEPC department, was called another form of Jim Crow by Reuther. “Sure, the popular way to get support among the Negroes is to support that demand, but it is just another form of Jim Crow, and I am against it,” Reuther said. All union officials should be elected on merit, on union ability, he emphasized. To which the Stalinist hatchetmen reply: “See! He’s another Bilbo!”

Attacks Stalinists

Besides repeating what Labor Action reported last week on the Allis-Chalmers strike dispute between him and Thomas, Reuther made a major attack on the Stalinist party for being an agency of Moscow and for putting those interests above the interests of the workers in the shops.

He pointed out that the J.I. Case strike was solid after 15 months, a strike longer than the Allis-Chalmers walkout, and that the strikers were solid. At Allis-Chalmers Over 5,000 have now gone back to work! Reuther said the difference was because the Allis-Chalmers strike leaders permitted the Stalinists to exploit the picket lines, and divided the strikers, so they became prey for company propaganda. He said a full report would be made to the UAW membership as soon as the strike was settled.

Of course, the flip-flops, the piecework advocacy of the Stalinists during the war, their demand for a five-year no-strike pledge after the war until their line was changed – all these were pointed out by Reuther, who was enthusiastically received by the overflow membership meeting. “Any criticism you make of the Communist Party brings from them a cry of red-baiter. It is a neat formula for them,” Reuther pointed out. “The only way to avoid being a red-baiter in their eyes is to follow the flip-flops of the party line.”

Far too many militants in the UAW-CIO, be they Socialists, Trotskyists or independents, have been called red-baiters by the Stalinists when they have attacked reactionary policies of this notorious gang, for the ranks to be fooled by the Stalinist shouts of injured innocence.

Reuther’s Error

Reuther’s error, and this may become dangerous, is the fact that in his attack on “outside interests,” referring to the Stalinists, he makes no distinction between that dangerous political tendency within the union movement, and the progressive and revolutionary tendencies who have “no special axe to grind,” but devote themselves to fighting for a program based exclusively on the needs of the men in the shops! The overtones of “red-baiting” in Reuther’s speeches come from this opportunistic approach. In this he is no different, of course, from his opponents in the Addes-Thomas-Leonard bloc, whose views are as opportunistic. Even R.J. Thomas, in the speeches written for him by the Stalinists, uses Reuther’s formula, “I am against control of the union movement by Communist's, Socialists or Trotskyists.”

Quietly working behind the scenes in this furious struggle is George Addes, financial secretary-treasurer, who is rapidly building his fences to be a “third camp” candidate for president in the event R.J. Thomas continues his reckless actions which are discrediting him. Thomas is not just stooging for the Stalinists, but is also doing Addes’ dirty work.

Already key Addes men are saying: “We need a strong man for president who isn’t a factionalist like Reuther or Thomas. Now Addes is a real strong man; he could unite this union!” All of which would mean that the Addes-Leonard-Thomas-Stalinist bloc would simply drop Thomas and his handful of supporters into the dump heap and take over full control of the UAW-CIO. As against this, the Reuther tendency remains the progressive one in the struggle and deserves the backing of the militants in the union.

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