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David Coolidge

Mass Action

(11 December 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 50, 11 December 1944, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Report on the CIO Convention

After reading the daily minutes of the recent CIO annual convention there is great temptation simply to set down what were the failures and shortcomings of this meeting and let it go at that. This would be the easy way because there were so many things wrong from the standpoint of labor and the present-day needs of the labor movement. But such an approach would serve no useful purpose. In fact, in the midst of a great deal of downright skullduggery, nonsense and time wasting, the CIO convention nevertheless did make some progress.

In the first place, the convention voted to continue the PAC, that is, the delegates voted not to liquidate the most articulate political formation which labor has ever developed in the United States on a mass scale and by the decisive section of the working, class: the workers in the mass production industries. By the continuation of the PAC, labor, at least labor as represented by the CIO, has said that the days of “no politics in the unions” have been left behind.

Most Progressive Step of Convention

This is a gain for – labor and to this extent the decision of the convention to continue the PAC and to extend its operations lays the foundations for real and genuine independent working class political action. For, of course, this is not what the PAC represents today. This was not what the PAC represented in the recent elections. Here it acted only as a committee to organize the workers as shock troops for the re-election of Roosevelt. The next step and the imperative step is for the awakened workers to insist on and organize for working class political action completely divorced from Republican or Democratic Party politics. To be serious about conserving the gains which labor has made and to make really permanent political gains under present concrete conditions means to proceed to the practical task of forming the Labor Party.

There can be no doubt now that thousands of workers have this in mind. They supported Roosevelt because they wanted to defeat Dewey, whom they considered the “greater evil.” The Workers Party, of course, does not support this point of view, having argued repeatedly in Labor Action that both Roosevelt and Dewey are capitalist candidates and that their parties serve only the interests of the capitalist employers. As Roosevelt swings into action in the coming months, labor will learn many things. Hundreds of thousands of workers will regret that they ever voted for him or for the candidate of any capitalist party. Then they will realize far more clearly than they do today what the Workers Party has been talking about in Labor Action when we advocated breaking with the Republican and Democratic Parties and setting up a Labor Party.

Talk of a New Party Is in the Air

Murray, Hillman and the others realize this. They know that the new political experience the workers have gained will impel them in the direction of Labor Party organization and independent working class political action. It is mainly for this reason, to retard this development, that so much emphasis was put on admonishing the convention about “third party” demands. In his address, Hillman said: “We likewise rejected all proposals for a third party. The experience of the past year has fully demonstrated the wisdom of that decision. It is my hope that this convention will reaffirm it. You don’t have to organize a third party just to accommodate those who won’t take time off to register and vote.” This is just so much tricky and obstructioning maneuvering, shot through with bureaucratic cunning.

What the past year has demonstrated is that labor can have its own independent Labor Party, that we do have political power if we will only organize and exert it in our own behalf. The PAC has demonstrated that. The last sentence in the quotation from Hillman is a slanderous piece of demagogy. He suggests that workers who demand a Labor Party do so because they are too lazy or indifferent to “register and vote.” These workers don’t want to take “time off” to throw their votes away on the capitalist candidates. They are not willing to follow Hillman, Murray and Bill Green in their most abject surrender to Roosevelt and the Democratic Party, or the Republican Party.

The Resolution on Political Action says:

“The experience of this election campaign has fully confirmed the correctness of our decision to abstain from and discourage any move in the direction of a third party. We reaffirm that decision and reject any and all proposals for a third party. A third party would serve only to split and divide the forces of progress at the very moment when unity is our greatest need. The political activity of the CIO must and will be continued on an independent and non-partisan basis, giving support to the progressive forces in both major parties and basing its judgment of candidates solely on their records.”

The Horse and Buggy School of Politics

This is strong language. Ancient language. Sam Gompers was using this language twenty-five years ago. “Reward your friends and punish your enemies.” But this isn’t 1920. The working class is miles ahead of the Harding era and the Coolidge era. Its militant vanguard in the unions is moving slowly but surely out of the Roosevelt era and out of the orbit of capitalist politics.

And we have to say right here that we are not talking about any hodgepodge hash of a “third party”: a mere fake containing Wallace and La Guardia and other “liberal” vote-snatchers who would be trotted out by the big capitalist politicians to derail any movement of labor toward independent political organization and action. We are talking about a mass Labor Party based on the unions, with a working class program and controlled by the unions.

The “Rejectors” Will Be The Rejected

The resolution rejects “any and all proposals” for this kind of party. The “political activity of the CIO ... will be continued” as at present. Who is deciding that the political activity of the CIO will remain tied to the Republican and Democratic Parties? Murray, Hillman, the top officialdom of the CIO, the leaders of the internationals, the paid organizing staffs and the followers of Stalin.

But these men are far from being the CIO. The AFL bureaucrats decided that there should be no industrial unions, that the great mass production industries should not be organized. But they are organized and today the eight-year-old CIO is as big and powerful as the fifty-eight-year-old AFL. Just as the AFL bureaucrats were not able to defeat the surge of the mass production workers toward industrial union organization, just so the CIO bureaucrats will not for long be able to hold back the development of the CIO masses to independent political organization and action.

Murray and the others gave a no-strike pledge to Roosevelt. But they didn’t stop strikes with their rejecting and deciding. Hundreds of thousands of workers have learned that the Murray-Green no-strike formula doesn’t work. They will surely learn that the Murray-Hillman-Communist Party, “No Labor Party” formula will also do them no good.

The CIO leadership organized the PAC for the sole purpose of getting Roosevelt re-elected. Legions of workers know now, however, that it can be used for something else. Let Murray, Hillman and their associates “reject” and “decide” as they will, but the final answer will come only from the masses in the mines, mills, fields and factories as they learn more, as their experiences deepen and they see that the capitalist parties are not for them.

(Another article on the CIO convention will appear next week)

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