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David Coolidge

The Second Article of a Series

Issues in the Faction Struggle
at the Auto Workers’ Convention

(1 November 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 44, 1 November 1943, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The first article in this series on the UAW convention closed with the statement that the Communist Party supporters in the convention received a defeat. The delegates voted down piecework wages by an overwhelming majority and would not be fooled by the Stalinist attempts to put over piecework wages concealed by such high-sounding phrases as “incentive pay wages,” or “doesn’t Brother Reuther want the workers to have more wages for more production?”

The next issue to come before the convention that was of a highly controversial nature was the fourth term for Roosevelt resolution. We do not mean that this resolution was hotly debated in the convention when we say that it was highly controversial, but rather that here again it was necessary to give heed to the mood of a membership that was beginning to develop doubts.

Two Pro-Roosevelt Resolutions

There were two resolutions, one supported by a majority of the resolutions committee and one presented by the Communist supporters, a minority in the committee. The Stalinist resolution gave unqualified, complete and uncritical support to Roosevelt for a fourth term. In this resolution there was no criticism whatsoever of the Roosevelt labor record, no discussion of any of the anti-labor decrees of Roosevelt, only unconditional surrender.

The majority (Reuther) resolution was timidly and mildly critical of the Roosevelt Administration. The resolution says that, “because of his preoccupation with his military responsibilities, reactionary Southern Democrats, together with industry and farm groups, have grasped at this opportunity to undermine the home front through emasculation of the sound policies of the New Deal.”

For this reason “it will be impossible to mobilize the same degree of continued enthusiasm and support for the candidacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and for his election for a fourth term if the present Democratic Party policy of appeasement of the foes of progress continues.”

The resolution urges Roosevelt “to take an aggressive position on the home front; against the foes of the New Deal, of progress and labor within the Democratic Party as well as outside it.” If Roosevelt “will do this as well as roll back prices, stop war profiteering, revise the Little Steel formula, institute democratic rationing, provide equal opportunity for employment irrespective of race or sex, etc., and “on the basis of an aggressive effort on the part qf the President and his Administration to fulfill this program, the membership of the UAW-CIO will mobilize its total resources for a campaign for the re-election of President Roosevelt for a fourth term, the re-election of Vice-President Wallace, and the election of a progressive Congress.”

What the Stalinists Wanted

When debate on this resolution opened it was announced that the Communist Party supporters on the committee had withdrawn their resolution. Why shouldn’t they? They are experienced enough to know that the Reuther resolution was also a surrender to Roosevelt; that it was formulated in somewhat cautious language because the ranks of the organization are not so stupid that they had not already begun to have doubts about Roosevelt being a “friend of labor.” The Reuther-Thomas conditions therefore represented not so much the position of Reuther and Thomas but the pressure of a skeptical rank and file.

Addes, expressing the position of the Communist Party faction, remarked that “I am in full accord with the resolution that has been presented by your committee. I am glad to learn that the minority have withdrawn their report.”

The only speech against the resolution was made by Emil Mazey of Briggs Local 212. When Mazey charged Roosevelt with the direct responsibility for the appointment of anti-labor boards and commissions, he was booed. Most of the booing came from the Addes faction (allied with the Stalinists), but other delegates joined in.

A Contest for Office

By this time the temper of the convention was rising, in preparation for the contest over the election of officers. The main contests were for the posts of secretary-treasurer and the vice-presidency held by Richard Frankensteen. The Reuther and Addes caucuses had been holding regular meetings and the convention was sharply divided. Everyone understood that this was in fact a contest for control of the International. Thomas was uncontested for re-election.

It must be emphasized again that the struggle between the two groups was for control of the International Board, that is, for control of the union. This does not mean that the fight was a pure and simple struggle for power with no real issues dividing the contestants. To believe that it was merely a struggle over office would create a false picture of the convention and of the real situation in the UAW.

There were and remain important differences between the groups, important programmatic differences, which are far-reaching in relation to the welfare of the International and its membership.

As was said in Labor Action last week, the Reuther group represented to some degree, all to inadequate, it is true, the basic and elementary economic interests of the workers. The element of ambition for power and leadership was probably there. Reuther has it. And so do the others. Reuther may want to become president of the UAW. It may be and probably is true that he would like a high post in the Roosevelt Administration. But of a far more serious nature is the political capitulation of Reuther to the Roosevelt bureaucracy and the war. This was clearly demonstrated in his support of the fourth term for Roosevelt resolution and his cringing attitude on the no-strike pledge.

Addes Retains Post

The struggle for control of the International was centered largely on the post of secretary-treasurer, in many respects a post fully as powerful as that of president. Richard Leonard was the candidate of the Reuther faction, and the incumbent, George Addes, was supported by the Communist Party and other groups.

In his platform, Leonard favored: “Full support of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and President Philip Murray ... for an all-out offensive against fascism on the battle fronts and against un-American, anti-labor forces on the home front.”

Leonard believes that the “war can and must be won without surrender by American labor of its basic rights and standards.” He announced his opposition to the Little Steel formula “and all attempts to force on labor undemocratic wage and manpower freezing.”

Leonard pledged himself to oppose vigorously “interference of any outside political party in the affairs of our union.” (Leonard’s platform did not explain whether or not this would include vigorous opposition to interference by Roosevelt and the Democratic Party.)

Addes’s candidacy for re-election was based largely on his record as secretary-treasurer, his union record and his “experience.” Since it was well known that both candidates were ardent supporters of the war, of Roosevelt and of Phil Murray, there wasn’t any need to go into details on these matters.

On these questions the candidates were like two peas in one pod. The struggle therefore reduced itself to one prime consideration for hundreds of delegates: should the Stalinist Communist Party get the opportunity to drive its disrupting wedge into the International.

Addes won by 3,748,235 votes to 3,676,979 for Leonard, a majority of 71,256.

The next contest was between Walter Reuther and Richard Frankensteen. Reuther defeated Frankensteen by a majority of 350. Since there was another vice-president to be elected, Frankensteen had another chance. After casting around for a man to run against him, the Reuther forces, decided to run Leonard, the defeated candidate for secretary-treasurer. There had been some talk of their supporting Tom Di Lorenzo of Brewster Local 365 in New York City. There was discussion on other Reuther leaders, but the final decision was for Leonard. Leonard, went down to defeat again by a Frankensteen majority of 253 votes.

The next struggle was for places on the International Executive Board. Those elected were: Leo Lamotte, Melvin Bishop, William Stevenson, Percy Llewelyn, William McAuley, Carl Swanson, Arnold Coxhill, Richard Reisinger, Paul Miley, Richard Gosser, Arnold Atwood, Jos. Mattson, John Livingston, L.H. Michener, George Burt, Thomas Starling, William Blakeley and Charles Kerrigan. The Reuther forces retain the leading influence in the board, but the balance of power is held by Thomas, with his 83 votes.

A Changing Vote

An interesting question arises as to why the delegates acted as they did in connection with the elections of officers and board members. They supported Addes against Leonard. The next day they swing back to Reuther and support him against Frankensteen. Following this they desert the Reuther faction and support Frankensteen against Leonard. It seemed clear that the delegates were reluctant to give too much power to either faction, the Stalinists-Addes-Frankensteen, or the Reutherites. They were set against turning the union over to the CP, but they were also skeptical about Reuther. Consequently, it is apparent that they decided to keep the status quo, with Thomas as the balance of power.

The majority of the delegates knew that Reuther was closer to their basic economic interests than the Stalinists, as was demonstrated on the question of incentive pay. All of the really alert delegates knew that the Communist Party was not to be trusted at all; that this outfit was playing an “aggressive and sinister role in support of Moscow, a second front, piecework, union-wrecking, flag-waving, that is, Stalinist politics. On the other hand, they did not believe that their best interests would be served by placing too much power in the hands of Reuther.

The No-Strike Pledge

The resolution on the no-strike pledge did not get to the floor of the convention until Sunday morning, the last day of the convention. It was after all officers had been elected and Roosevelt had been endorsed for a fourth term. Thus, this troublesome question could not in any way enter into the determination of the fitness of the various candidates to hold office.

There were two resolutions: the Reuther majority resolution and a Stalinist minority resolution.

Originally the first resolve of the majority resolution read: “That this convention of the UAW-CIO reaffirm its pledge to the nation and its fighting men to maintain continuous and uninterrupted production of materi- [line of text missing] prosecution of the war.” At the insistence of the minority and with the ready consent of the majority, this was amended to insert the phrase “without any qualification” immediately following the word “nation.” The majority and the minority Were getting together on the no-strike pledge.

The Reuther majority was ready to make other concessions also. The second resolve in the majority resolution read originally: “That in those plants where management is not bargaining in good faith and is taking advantage of the war situation and labor’s no-strike pledge to destroy collective bargaining, the International Executive Board shall take steps to insure continuous production by urging government operation of such plants.”

Addes introduced a slick but meaningless amendment to the effect that the International Executive Board shall, in order to assure continuous production, urge that under the conditions named, the plants shall be taken over by the President under his emergency powers and not under the provisions of the Smith-Connally Act. The Addes amendment further provided that there should be full rights of collective bargaining in the conscripted plants and the “elimination of all profits.” The amendment was accepted by the majority.

Speech of Emil Mazey

Emil Mazey spoke against the resolution, saying that he was for the “outright revocation of the no-strike pledge.” He said that the problems of the workers would not be solved by this resolution. He pointed out that the Addes amendment about taking all the profits was “outright fantastic.”

“I am in favor of abolishing profits altogether in those plants,” said Mazey. “The interests of the employers and workers are directly opposed to each other.” Mazey told the convention that the class struggle is not abolished during wartime but is intensified. He challenged any person in the convention to prove that a single soldier had lost his life because the workers were not producing enough.

Mazey closed with the statement: “In order to establish collective bargaining we must revoke our no-strike pledge.”

Mazey’s speech got some applause. It is interesting to note that the reception given his no-strike pledge position was received with far greater tolerance than his previous remarks against the fourth term resolution.

Thomas told the convention that before the war he had the best record of any international president for calling strikes. “When the war is over,” he said, and if management acts as it does now, “I am going to make a better record than I did before.”

The ball was rolling and Addes got up next in support of the pledge. He said that the employers want the convention to repudiate the pledge so that they can provoke strikes. Strikes during the war will wreck the union. In Germany or Japan, Addes said that he would advise strikes to hamper production. Addes said that he would not say that those in the union who were for revoking the no-strike pledge were fifth columnists. Addes would not make this charge directly and openly, but there could be little doubt that this was what he meant.

As nearly as could be estimated the resolution for reaffirmation of the no-strike pledge carried by a vote of about two to one.


A concluding article will appear in the next issue.

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