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David Coolidge

With the Labor Unions – On the Picket Line

(7 July 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 27, 7 July 1941, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The New CP Line and the Trade Unions

When the war broke out between Stalin and Hitler, the Communist Party began to retrace its steps and return to its Peoples Front days. This will be its line now in the trade unions. All of the old signs, placards, streamers can be pulled out and dusted off. The old Peoples Front slogans have already appeared in the Daily Worker. As before, the Stalinists will, of course, pay some attention to the unions. They will want the workers to fall into step behind the “new” line. But the workers will have to watch their step. They will have to say to the Stalinists, “Not so fast, we want to ask you a few questions.” Then the workers can go back to the other Peoples Front days before the Stalin-Hitler pact. Then the Stalinists were yelling for Roosevelt and calling him the leader of the Peoples Front and the democratic front. They were demanding that France, England and the United States, the “democracies,” as the Stalinists called them, should go to war against Hitler.

Then one day, without saying a word to the Stalinist parties, Stalin signed a pact with Hitler. The Stalinist papers came out with the old line and didn’t even know that Stalin had signed this pact behind their backs. They were still yelling for war on Hitler after Stalin had made friends with Hitler. This pact gave Hitler the necessary backing to begin the war with the invasion of Poland. He knew that he had nothing to fear from Stalin.

As soon as the Stalinists recovered their breath they began to preach the pact would make for peace. While they were busy with this explanation Hitler invaded Poland and the Second World Imperialist War was on. The Stalinists turned the fire on England and France, especially England. They said the same things about England that Hitler was saying. The workers didn’t hear anything more about Hitler being the main enemy of the working class. The main enemy was now England.

When the United States began to prepare for the war, the Stalinists told the workers that it was an imperialist war and that we should be against it. The Workers Party and Labor Action said it was an imperialist war, too. The Workers Party explained to the workers that the Stalinists were not really against the war; they were only against England and the United States entering the war against Germany. This was because their leader, Stalin, had a pact with Hitler and was in the imperialist war on Hitler’s side. Of course, they didn’t want anybody to fight against their fascist ally and buddy, Hitler. The Workers Party and Labor Action also told the workers that if Stalin and Hitler fell out, the Stalinists would be running around again waving the flag and calling for the “democracies” to go to war against Germany.

From Turn to Turn They Remain Wreckers

But before we get to this we want to go on with the things that the Stalinists told the workers when Stalin and Hitler were friends. They said they were for peace and that the United States should stay out of the war. They organized the American Peace Mobilization and held a peace congress. They asked the unions to send representatives, and many workers came. They kept up their opposition to Roosevelt because they said they were against the war and Roosevelt was a warmonger.

The Workers Party through Labor Action kept saying to the workers “don’t trust the Stalinists. they will betray you as they have done before.” We said that they were only carrying out the policies of Stalin who had betrayed the workers in the Soviet Union and the rest of the world. We said, “Yes, this is an imperialist war – but under the domination of Stalin, Russia is in one of the imperialist camps, the camp of Hitler and Mussolini.” There was the Roosevelt-Churchill imperialist camp on one side and the Hitler-Stalin imperialist camp on the other side. the Stalinists, we said, are not for, peace and they are not against the war.

Neither were the Stalinists interested in the trade unions as labor organizations trying to carry on the fight to improve the conditions of the workers. They would tell the workers different things, depending on which side of the fence Stalin happened to be on. When they had the first Peoples Front they were against strikes. They wanted all the workers to be good patriots and not worry too much about wages and working conditions. In unions where they had influence or control they would expel a worker who did not agree with their party line and opinions. They even refused to defend workers who had been grabbed by the capitalist courts unless they agreed with the Stalinists. We said that they were “wreckers” and “poison” in the labor movement. Thousands of workers who have had experience with the Stalinists know that this is the truth.

They Are Betraying the Workers Again

But when Hitler and Stalin went to war the Stalinists changed again. Hitler is the devil once more. Churchill is not so bad now and pretty soon Roosevelt will be their hero again. Now they want the workers to support the war. They will be against strikes and will close their eyes to just grievances of the workers against the bosses. They are preparing to betray the workers again. In their new Peoples Program they say: “What is needed is speedy and effective aid to the Soviet and British peoples.” What does this mean? They use this language to fool the workers and make us believe that they are not for aid to the British government. This is nonsense. It is the British ruling class that is fighting the war under the leadership of the Churchill government. They are for the imperialist war now, just as they have been ever since Stalin signed the pact with Hitler. They have just changed sides, that’s all.

They want the “united front of the working class ...” Does this mean that they want unity between the CIO and the AFL? They were also against this. But the line’s been changed and soon we may see them ready for merging the CIO and AFL even on terms set by the AFL. The CIO workers voted against such a merger at the last CIO convention, and it was the Stalinists who made the loudest noise.

They say that they have changed because the Soviet Union has been attacked. Sure, the Soviet Union has been invaded, but the war is just as before Hitler invaded Russia. And Russia was already involved in the war in the Hitler-Mussolini imperialist camp. Furthermore, before Stalin had signed the pact with Hitler he had already enslaved the workers in the Soviet Union. He had destroyed their unions and murdered all the leaders of the October Revolution who wanted to lead Russia to socialism. Yet the Stalinists today are asking the workers to defend the Stalinist rule. Defend the Soviet Union, they say. Fight against Hitler. Support the United States ruling class and the British ruling class. Yesterday we told you to be for peace and against the war; then it was an imperialist war. Already, in England, the Stalinist leaders have called for support of the government, that government which yesterday they told the workers not to support. they say: Into the factories! Increase production!

The workers in the United States should not be fooled. The war is still an imperialist war. Our main fight is still against the war; against the bosses right here, for higher wages and shorter hours. Stalin has been forced to go over to Roosevelt and Churchill, but the war is the same: it is an imperialist war. Both camps are fighting for the right to exploit and enslave the workers of the world. Nothing has changed; Stalin has merely been forced out of his friendship with Hitler into the arms of Churchill and Roosevelt. They will use him to pull their chestnuts out of the fire. Workers in the United States should keep up the fight. Don’t let the Stalinists betray you! Don’t trust them!

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