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David Coolidge

Mass Action

(1 January 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 1, 1 January 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

How Progressives Get Licked

We have just learned that Joe Hanley, president of Local 108 of the Farm Equipment Workers in Chicago, has been defeated for re-election by a Communist Party slate. Thus another militant trade union leader goes down to defeat before the reactionary forces in the labor movement. What is particularly bad about the Hanley defeat is that he was defeated not by just ordinary trade union conservatives, but by the most venomous, poisonous and reactionary people in the whole trade union movement. This is the difference between the defeat of Bass of Goodrich Local in Akron and the defeat of Hanley.

After all, as a rule, pure and simple trade union conservatives believe in the preservation of the union as an organization for the maintenance of workers’ rights and improved working conditions. This goes for the bureaucracy at the top, but the Stalinists are not of this stripe. They go into a union to rule it in the interests of the Stalinist bureaucratic clique.

At present this means to fasten the union to the no-strike pledge, to put in the incentive, piecework pay, to kill all militancy in the union, to frame workers who demand militant action, to drag the union through the mire of capitalist politics: in a word, they go in to wreck the union and to deliver it over to the employer and the government.

An Old Story by Now

We don’t know all the details, but here again we have the same old story: a militant leader who failed to understand that not only militant trade union organization is necessary, but also the political education of the workers; Labor, whether in the Farm Equipment Union or in any other union, cannot stand against the political machine of the Stalinists or the capitalist political machines unless it is politically educated to understand the nature of the issues with which labor is confronted.

The Workers Party and Labor Action have been pounding away at this question for some months now. Many militant workers are beginning to understand. Some of them join the Workers Party, where they can have the association of other militant workers who face the same problems. Here they can acquire the necessary political education and learn how to associate themselves for the most efficient action as workers and on the foundation of a genuine and militant working class program.


A Prostitute Plying His Trade

Roy Hudson, writing in the Daily Worker for December 24, charges that “hypocrisy” is “proven” against the leaders of the fight against the no-strike pledge. The fight is a “conspiracy,” organized by “disrupters, headed by Reuther, the Trotskyites and other pro-Lewis forces.” According to Hudson, Avery refuses to abide by a decision of the WLB and the “disrupters” refuse to abide by the no-strike pledge. That is the “hypocrisy” and that is the “conspiracy.”

This stinks too much to fool anybody; Even if we admit that the UAW membership approved the no-strike pledge, surely that same membership has the right later to disapprove. The leaders of the movement to rescind the pledge resort to the most democratic method: let every member of the UAW cast a secret ballot and express his opinion. Of course, this is precisely what the Stalinists are against: the opportunity for a trade union membership to have the opportunity to express its opinion.

The Stalinists are against fair and honest voting in elections. They don’t like this method of giving every member a chance to vote and protecting his right to vote as he sees fit. They believe in and practise methods which prevent a membership from expressing its real opinion. These people believe in stealing elections or in organizing voting so that it will be as difficult as possible for the membership to vote. Then they can rush in their stooges and win the vote or the election by an “overwhelming majority of “the honest workers.”

The only disruption in the no-strike pledge referendum is the disruption of the plans and methods of the Stalinists. Any honest and democratic procedure is a disruption of their plans. Any honest and decent procedure for the membership of a union to express its opinion is a “conspiracy” to the Communist Party.

Avery Is Aided by American Communists

Sewell Ayery refuses to abide by the decision of the WLB because it is his, that is, the capitalists’ WLB. He refuses because he wants to do everything possible to harass the unions. He believes that he can get away with it. He is fighting for his class interests as a capitalist. Despite their raucous tirades against Avery, the Stalinists fight at his side and arm in arm with him.

The workers refuse to abide by the no-strike pledge because they have discovered that the pledge is only an aid to Avery and the other capitalists. The leaders of the movement to rescind the no-strike pledge want the membership of the UAW to express its opinion, in the most democratic mariner. The Moscow bureaucrats advocate that labor lie on its back and permit the Averys to walk on its face. This is what they call “winning the war.”

What does Hudson mean by “pro-Lewis” forces? Is Walter Reuther pro-Lewis? When, where and how does he demonstrate this? Does Hudson take every worker in the land for a plain fool? Not only is Reuther not pro-Lewis, and Hudson knows this, but Reuther is not even a leader in the agitation against the no-strike pledge. On this point he is closer to the Stalinists than he is on the question of supporting the war. Whom are the Stalinists trying to push Reuther off on?

Capitalists Gain from No-Strike Pledge

The Workers Party and Labor Action are not pro-Lewis. We supported the UMWA last year during the strikes. We supported Lewis in the matter of the miners’ fight for life. Thousands of workers in the CIO and the AFL supported him also. We will support Lewis again if and when he leads his Union in any militant action for the redress of their grievances. If Philip Murray should dry his eyes and lead his steel workers in a struggle for that seventeen-cents-an-hour increase we would support him also. Labor Action would support him in big bold type, just as we did Lewis and the UMWA in 1943.

Hudson closes his article with the call for retaining the no-strike pledge. He calls that a “victory” which can be won if “no quarter is given to the enemy.” To keep the no-strike pledge would be a victory: a victory for the Stalinists; which is only another way of saying a Victory for the Averys, the NAM, Ford, Chrysler, the duPonts, the WLB and all the capitalist employers.

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