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David Coolidge

Mass Action

(22 January 1945)1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 4, 22 January 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The recent exchange of diplomatic notes between Green and Murray on the unity situation in the labor movement only serves to illustrate how far apart the AFL and the CIQ are on this question of merging the two big organizations.

Green says he and the AFL want complete organic unity. Murray is for a “broad” united front on important issues: The upshot of the whole matter is that nothing happens and the two organizations go their own separate way as they have gone for the past eight years.

Aside from the fact that there are real and important differences between the CIO and AFL, it is also a fact that one of the factors operating against merger is the bureaucratic interests of the top leadership of the two organizations. These two big labor bureaucracies, with their salaries staffs, power and prestige, are not anxious to risk even partial liquidation or loss of prestige.

To this must be added the fear in the CIO that merger between the two organizations might provide the opportunity for the return of John L. Lewis to a dominant position.

Since there is reason to believe that the UMWA will be back in the AFL, a merger between the AFL and the CIO would find Lewis right in the middle of the unified organization. With his ability and aggressiveness it would be extremely difficult to keep Lewis out of the leadership. In fact, in case of the retirement of Bill Green the miners’ president would probably, in time, become the president of the united organization.

In an editorial the UMWA District 50 News states that both the AFL and the CIO are subservient to “the Roosevelt Administration on all matters of major policy.” This, of course, is true and would remain true throughout the war unless there was some real opposition from the membership which is not in sight at present.

The News’ editorial goes on to say that “it is this domination of the two labor groups by political forces outside of labor that has kept them divided.” While this is partly responsible for the continuation of the split, there are other reasons. We have already mentioned one above. But there is also the continued contradiction between the craft union set-up of the AFL and the needs of the overwhelming mass of workers. These differences certainly have not been reconciled, as is clear not only from the orientation of the two organizations, but also from the many disputes which have already taken place and still take place today.

The labor movement will continue to be “dominated by political forces outside of labor” so long as labor has no working class political program and organization of its own.

The trade union movement will not and cannot be neutral in the matter of politics. Politics will not and cannot be kept out of the unions. The unions will go for capitalist politics or for labor politics. Furthermore, labor politics does not consist in the simple exercise of merely opposing the “Roosevelt Administration,” as was the case with the UMWA when Lewis, the Journal and the News supported Dewey in the last election.

The labor movement will be dominated by political forces outside the labor movement until labor actually organizes politically on an independent basis and program inside and through the labor movement.

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Last updated: 17 April 2016