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Mary Bell

Labor ’Scope

UE Stalinist Leadership Bears Main
Responsibility for Developing Split

(10 October 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 41, 10 October 1949, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America has always been a laboratory of Stalinist politics, and since the recently concluded convention it appears that a dangerous experiment in fission is in the making. Virtually every source is now agreed that the long-talked-about split of Stalinist-dominated unions from the official body of the CIO is a sure thing, and may take place at the coming CIO convention in November.

UE President Albert J. Fitzgerald, in a recent magazine interview, casually called the question of split an “iffy” question. His co-thinker, John Williamson, in the October 4 Daily Worker said that a split “would be injurious and would weaken the fighting power of all labor.” But the threat of split, he continues, “comes from those leaders in CIO, who in their red-baiting hysteria and devotion to the reactionary policies of Wall Street, have lost all self-restraint.”

All Stalinist unionists are instructed to be on the alert for provocations. For, in their view, split will not be invoked by the Stalinists but “provoked” by the official CIO leadership.

The direction of the Stalinists was made clear in the by now notorious Resolution Against Raiding and Dictatorship in the CIO passed by their two-to-one majority at the UE convention. The resolution complains against raiding, invasion of autonomy rights and the demand for conformity on the part of the majority CIO leadership, then presents a series of ultimatums to the president of the CIO. It closes with the key paragraph:

“In the event the Executive Board [of the UE] does not receive these assurances from the president of the CIO, this convention authorizes the board to withhold pre-capita tax to the CIO for such time as it deems necessary for the protection of the interests of the UE.”

The intent of such a resolution is clear: Grant all our demands, give us free rein, or else!

Thus prepared for the national CIO, the Stalinists in the UE passed another resolution which again shows their direction and which prepares them internally to take action against the dissidents in the ranks of the UE itself. This was the resolution which empowers the General Executive Board of the UE to “assume original jurisdiction” over any member accused of “raiding or secessionist activities.”

This infamously bureaucratic device permits the Kremlin-minded Executive Board to reach into any local and try any member—there is no question of trial by ones peers. Its objective is obvious. It permits the board, acting as prosecutor, judge and jury, to throw out any unwanted oppositionists.

Look Who’s Complaining!

The public protestations of the CPers in the UE and elsewhere are that they are attempting to defend autonomous rights and democracy in the CIO. There is a point to be made about the tendency towards increasing conformity and the demand for it in the CIO, but it doesn’t belong to the Stalinists and they make it only because the current CIO political line doesn’t conform with the Moscow line.

The “conformity” resolution, adopted at the May 1949 meeting of the CIO Executive Board by a vote representing about 90 per cent of the dues-paying membership, stated in part:

“All members of the board who are unwilling to enforce the Constitution and carry out the instructions of the convention and, between conventions, of the Executive Board, are called upon to resign.

“All unions affiliated with CIO who are represented in the board by members unwilling to [do the above] are called upon to insist upon the resignation of such representatives and to nominate successor representatives who are willing to and will comply.”

Now, naturally, while at present it is aimed particularly against the Stalinists, who are the only sizable minority in the CIO, this is not a democratizing resolution. But this demand for conformity is not a sudden new demand. It was initiated at the 1946 CIO convention, where the Stalinists were in the clutches of their wartime alliance with Murray and the rest of the official CIO leathers. At that time, in response to Murray’s plea that all CIO bodies and leaders should carry out official CIO policy, the Stalinists were the aiders and abettors of this line.

Responsibility Is CP’s

In addition, the history of the UE has been of utter servitude to the totalitarian politics of the Stalinist party line and the union an almost laboratory-pure example of untrammeled bureaucracy. The Stalinists arc hoist by their own petard.

The chief responsibility for splitting must be placed upon the Stalinists. One cannot take seriously the pretended concern o/ the Stalinists and their Daily Worker that, a split would be the worst thing that could happen to the labor movement. That it will be a bad thing is unquestionable. There is not the shadow of a doubt that many misguided militants and good, honest rank-and-filers are still under the wing of the CP, especially in such a union as the UE which, until this year, had only the vestiges of opposition. And there is not the shade of a shadow that if the Stalinist UE remained within the CIO’, this year’s minority opposition, with all of its programatic weaknesses, would soon swell into a majority.

But the UE apparently will not and cannot permit such a thing to happen. They would prefer to split the CIO. They have made sure that’ they can “take care” of the opposition from inside by means of the “original jurisdiction” technique and, they can be provoked into splitting (or being expelled) from the CIO in the guise of defending their union against raiding. In other words, the Stalin line is that American Communist Party-liners must speak openly and independently for Russian policy, even if it means a further division in the labor movement.

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