Felix Morrow

Progressive Stand
of the CIO Convention

Its Defense of Industrial Unionism
Must Be Backed Wholeheartedly

(7 December 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 49, 7 December 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

(This is the second of a series of articles on the CIO Convention.)

I think it is worth dwelling again, as in my first article, on the great significance of the stand taken by the CIO convention on labor unity. I have described the dramatic sequence of speeches, culminating with that of John L. Lewis, affirming the continuance of the fight for the victory of industrial unionism in the mass production industries. It is worth repeating that Lewis was so effective precisely because he told the whole truth when he told the CIO unions: “There is no peace because you are not yet strong enough to command peace upon honorable terms.”

One can hardly exaggerate the cumulative effect of the speeches of the pro-CIO forces. It was certainly devastating to the Hillman supporters. The corridors had been full of talk about defections to Hillman among the Rubber Workers, the Auto Workers, etc. If any of these had wavered, it was not apparent when the debate on unity took place! When it came time to vote, not even the Amalgamated delegates chose to record themselves in opposition.

The importance of this great victory is best realized if we recall the atmosphere in which the convention met. For months, the delegates had been under governmental and employer pressure to effect “unity” with the AFL. That pressure had increased tenfold since Roosevelt’s electoral victory. Would the delegates re-fist all that pressure?

Unfortunately they, and especially their chief figures, had shown themselves unable to resist other kinds of pressure from the same sources: they have been cowed by the “national unity” ballyhoo to the point of well-nigh surrendering the strike weapon, have retreated or stood still on all the major fronts, and as a result the CIO could report dishearteningly few gains during the past year.

Fortunately, the convention delegations understood that on the question of “labor unity” there could be no retreat; that if they capitulated on this question, there would be no industrial union movement at all. And they stood firmly by their guns.

It is all too true, that the convention did not take the steps necessary to implement its affirmation of the principles of industrial unionism and organizing the unorganized.

It was not accidental, for instance, that the key problem of organizing Ford was almost forgotten. and had to come on the floor the last day by unanimous consent of the delegates—apparently the UAW delegation had forgotten to hand in any resolutions on the Ford issue before the convention!

It must be reported that, despite some perfunctory speeches which may look well in the printed record, the entire psychology of the convention leadership was that of people on the defensive who fear the consequences of turning the tide toward an offensive against the bosses and their political agents in Washington.

That means that the gap between Lewis, Murray and their associates on the one hand, and the Hillman breed on the other, is by no means deep enough to assure the future of the CIO Hillman is satisfied by Washington’s handouts; Lewis and Murray aren’t. But both Hillman and

Lewis-Murray think primarily in terms of handouts from Washington, are preoccupied with aid from the NLRB and the governmental agencies in general, rather than in leading the organized workers to win their demands by their own independent strength.

All this is unfortunately true. But by the very decision to continue the fight for industrial unionism, the convention committed itself to a road which will lead many a labor leader who now thinks in Murray and Lewis’ terms into realms he never expected to tread.

The road of industrial unionism has a logic of its own, which is not the present logic of Lewis and Murray! It is a logic of militant struggle for the great masses, of class struggle, though Lewis and Murray deny the reality of that class struggle.

The methods of class collaboration, of currying favor with the bosses and Washington have brought no results. Their bankruptcy becomes increasingly evident with every passing day.

In this epoch of the death agony of capitalism the workers are literally driven to struggle for very preservation of their lives against the war machine of the government and the bosses. Fight or die! Increasingly, those become the only alternatives. The decision of the CIO convention assures the workers of a powerful weapon in the coming great battles.

That is what the convention will be remembered for, that is what will be recorded in history as its enduring contribution, when all the patriotic, and conciliatory speeches of Lewis and Murray will have been long forgotten.

Last updated on 14 November 2020