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AFL Pulls CIO’s Anti-CP Tactic on Dubinsky –

ILG Fates ‘Discipline’ for Supporting Morris

(19 December 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 51, 19 December 1949, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

There have been “reprisals against Dubinsky’s ILG (International Ladies Garment Workers Union) for his refusal to join the AFL labor unions” in their political endorsement and support of Mayor William O’Dwyer in the recently concluded New York election campaign. The ILG support of Newbold Morris, the Republican-Liberal-Fusion candidate, through the Liberal Party, of which the ILG is the mainstay, led to harassment of Joseph Tuvim, ILG delegate to the Central Trades and Labor Council, a request for investigation of him by the council president and his resignation. What further action will be taken by the AFL central body remains to be seen. However, the situation is so serious that there is a real possibility that the 200,000-member ladies garment union will withdraw from the AFL council.

In another international labor union and in relation to a different set of parties, the same thorny problem is raised by the AFL action as that which has racked the CIO during the past year.

Similar Issue in CIO

The issue arose in the CIO, as unionists everywhere remember and in most cases have had personal experience with, in relation to the dissident political program of the Communist Party. On a national scale, they suported Henry Wallace and in various localities backed candidates of their Independent Progressive Party, in opposition to CIO support of Truman or local “progressive” Democratic candidates.

1949 has been the year of the big anti-Stalinist campaign in the CIO, and they are everywhere on the run. They have been defeated mostly fair, sometimes foul, means. In the latter category, Philip Murray felt called upon to invoke the decision of the 1946 CIO convention, which with CP support at time, required officials of CIO councils to adhere to the decisions of national CIO policy. At its 1949 convention, the CIO went all out to forbid Communists, the only sizeable body of political dissidents in its ranks, to hold office in the CIO, for reasons of their political disagreement.

Minority Rights Blackout

While we are accustomed to the hardened old AFL bureaucracy, the trend to monolithism in the younger CIO union was all the more to be deplored. And while Labor Action didn’t give two hoots for Communist policy or its Kremlin-backed politics in the inter-CIO struggle, it was mightily concerned about the failure of the official CIO to provide for the rights of minorities and to give minority groups the right to political expression. Its present monolithic discipline would bar even Walter Reuther’s periodic avowals to form a labor party ... sometime somehow.

The present quarrel in the New York City AFL body, while it involves another set of political differences also among non-working-class candidates, over whose candidacy Labor Action is also not concerned, is basically similar to the CIO controversy. It, too, involves the rights of minorities to differ from official policy and to express and act according to their point of view.

Labor Action is concerned in two respects: (1) that the right to democratic expression is preserved, even if the differences are over; (2) that the channels of democracy are kept open for the formation of a labor party, which might, in its initial stages, also be a minority opinion. The AFL controversy is therefore of high importance, even in the second respect. William Green himself was constrained to threaten to form a labor party prior to Truman’s election.

We can only hope, despite the fact that we are non-partisan towards both Morris and O’Dwyer, that the ILG carries on a vigorous fight in behalf of its right to dissent. Such a fight would’help to stem the monolithic tide and give to the democratic forces in both labor organizations.

The growing danger in the American labor movement is the trend to “Conform! Adhere! Abide by! Agree with!” If the labor movement is to remain healthy, it must be reversed.

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