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Sam Adams

London Labor Conference Echoes
Big 3 Imperialism

(February 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 8, 19 February 1945, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The World Trade Union Conference now meeting in London was initiated by the British Trade Union Council, one of the pillars of the International Federation of Trade Unions. To it were invited all the unions of the world – or at least a great part of them – including Russia’s so-called unions, which are neither free nor unions, and the CIO, previously barred from the IFTU because of the opposition of the AFL.

The British TUC called this almost all-inclusive conference as a political affair, and considered its deliberation to be merely advisory, having in mind a subsequent inclusion of the CIO and the Russian “unions,” into the IFTU. It raised this question at the executive council meeting of the International Federation of Trade Unions, only to meet with the stern rebuff of the AFL delegations which, although their attitude is generally reactionary, especially on the matter of the CIO and industrial unionism, are certainly mainly correct in their position on Stalin’s Russian “unions.”

The conference, reportedly representing fifty-one countries and 50,000,000 unionists (counting Russia’s 25,000,000 “unionists”), is just what the British originally intended it to be: a political gathering which has little in common with genuine unionism or its international promotion and unity. Here are the main topics of discussion:

What They’re Discussing

  1. Germany, and how to enslave the German workers to make them pay for the crimes of their capitalist rulers and the capitalist rulers of all other countries who aided Hitler and the Junkers to destroy the German labor movement.
  2. Recognition at the conference of Russian dominated “unions” from the Lublin Committee in Poland.
  3. Recognition of newly-formed unions in formerly occupied countries where Stalin’s agents have seized control.
  4. The organization of a new trade union international composed of all unions, the CIO and the Russian, thus forcing the liquidation of the IFTU. Behind this demand stands Russia and the CIO delegation headed by Hillman (whose politics parallels the international communist line) and containing innocents like R.J. Thomas and Stalinist fellow travelers like Joseph Curran and Albert Fitzgerald.

The Russian representatives and their Stalinist aides from other countries really dominate the conference. Only Citrine’s strong opposition prevented the conference from seating the Lublin, Yugoslav and Italian delegates. R.J. Thomas rushed into this dispute with his customary tear-jerking plea for unity, and proposed to turn over the question to the credentials committee. That solved this dispute for the moment.

On the matter of Germany, the conference took the extremely reactionary, Van Sittartist view, that German workers should be enslaved to pay reparations to the Allies for the crimes of their fascist rulers. Here the Russian view dominated, although it had no real opposition. The British unionists hold to the same position, and to the everlasting shame of the rank and file of the CIO, their leaders endorsed this imperialist idea of making the people pay for the crimes of their rulers.

What has actually happened on this point is that the “labor leaders” of these various countries adopted the policy of the imperialist rulers of their countries. They showed in London that they were really acting as “labor lieutenants of capitalism.” It took a conservative labor leader like William Green to correctly denounce this action of labor unions supporting labor enslavement!

For New World Body

The real pressure for a new international trade union federation came when Sidney Hillman arrived at the conference and really put the heat on to liquidate the old IFTU and substitute it with a new outfit, one that cannot fail to be controlled by the Russians and thereby reflect the Stalinist political line.

When the British objected that the conference was called by them for advisory purposes, the delegates voted for the American proposal to establish a continuations committee. Thus the dupes in the CIO fell right in with what the Stalinists want. The fact that Hillman emphasized that the new body shall be democratic will not affect Russian control. They have their share of zealots in the CIO present in London. The French representatives are loaded down with Stalinist-Communists. In addition, there is Lombardo Toledano, Stalinist leader of the Latin American union movement, to assist when necessary.

What is happening in London is that the international Stalinist movement has finally broken through its world trade union isolation. With the impact of the war it wormed its way into the very center of an embryonic trade union international. This will merely pave the way for its further infiltration into the unions of all countries to represent there the interests of Stalin’s Russia against the true interests of world labor.

You will then see the international no-strike pledge, boss-labor collaboration and anti-labor policies at work. The Communist Party and its trade union representatives do their dirty work here. Now it will be blessed with the formal approval of an international trade union body, in which the short-sighted and politically naive CIO leaders played a stellar part.

The World Labor Conference is not yet over and its final decisions are still to come. The present acts are still provisional. But great damage has already been done.

Our next article, therefore, will contain a complete resumé of the London conference.

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