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David Coolidge

Fight for GM Program Continues

(15 April 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 15, 15 April 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Just one week after the adjournment of the UAW convention, the hired labor “experts” of the capitalist press are explaining that Reuther is already in difficulties because he doesn’t have a majority of the UAW IEB, and because Thomas and Addes, according to these hired men, are lining up in a bloc against Reuther.

In the Sunday New York Times, Walter Ruch is certain that Reuther is outvoted in the IEB by 9 to 13, or by 430 votes to 739 votes. Furthermore, says Ruch, Reuther has already been notified by the Addes-Thomas bloc that for the coming IEB meeting in Chicago he must put his whole program in a “package” and lay it before the IEB at one time. According to Ruch, the Addes-Thomas faction will not tolerate Reuther operating one step at a time to get his program across piecemeal.

Program Is Main Factor

We don’t know whether or not this is the case, and we are certain that neither does Ruch. The membership of the UAW does not need to be too much concerned with this question either. Reuther was elected after a bitter factional struggle at Atlantic City. The program which he had advanced during the GM strike was the decisive factor in his election. Reuther did net displace Thomas merely because the delegates and the membership of the UAW were tired of Thomas and wanted to give someone else a chance.

It was the power of the new conceptions and the now programmatic ideas advanced in the GM situation which gave the UAW workers, and above all the progressives and militants, a sense of going in a new direction. Among the rank and file this was, of course, very primitive and confused, but it was there.

This is what the progressives and militants need to concern themselves with today; not what the capitalist press says about who has the majority or the most votes in the IEB.

Keep the Heat On!

Reuther is president. He will be president for about 16 months before he comes up for re-election. No one can say now exactly what the line-up will be in the IEB. Any maneuvering by the Addes-Thomas forces in the IEB, even if they turn out to be the majority, will not be decisive. It is not a majority in the IEB, whether it is Reuther’s or Thomas-Addes’, which will be the decisive factor in the situation. No Addes-Thomas majority can for long hamper Reuther in the carrying through of the program to which he is committed.

It is the militants and the real progressives who are the decisive force in the UAW, if they will only recognize this fact and let it be known to Reuther and Thomas-Addes. They should make Reuther realize that they expect him to go into action with the program which they voted for when they elected him. They should let Thomas and Addes understand clearly that they will tolerate no obstructionist tactics from them. Also, they should let the Stalinists know that none of their anti-labor Kremlin political shenanigans will be tolerated.

If the progressives and militants who led the fight for Reuther, and who were responsible for his election, proceed in this manner they will rally the rank and file to their support and behind the new program to which Reuther is committed. Should Reuther waver or falter in the pushing of the program, such an attitude on the part of the progressives and militants will keep the heat on. Such a procedure will bring pressure not only on Reuther but on the whole IEB.

It is correct pressure of this type which will determine where the IEB members will jump, and what they will vote for and what they dare not vote against. It is the pressure of the rank and file under the leadership of the progressives and militants which will determine who has the majority on the IEB.

Program Will Prevail

If Reuther stands up and fights for the program which he has been given a mandate to carry out, that program will prevail in the UAW, even though for the present, Thomas and Addes may succeed in organizing a voting majority in the IEB. Because at the next convention the progressives and militants can go prepared with the support of the rank and file to vote every member off the IEB who obstructed the carrying out of the program. The membership of the UAW got rid of Thomas as president, and it can get rid of Thomas as vice-president, Leonard as vice-president and Addes as secretary-treasurer.

The task of the militants and progressives right now is to render full support to Reuther in every step which he takes to carry out the program which has been adopted. It is their task, also, to demand that he carry out this program. It should be the function of the militants. and progressives to understand this program to win the rank and file to its support. It is their business to demand that the program be strengthened where it is weak. And it is weak in many places.

The chief weakness of the Reuther program is the dismal failure of Reuther and the progressives to understand that this program, even as it is written, is only so many pronouncements on paper until it is given a correct and concrete political content and orientation.

For Real Political Action

As written, the program does not ignore political action; it does worse: it makes a miserable farce of the very idea of independent working class political action. The section headed Political Action reads as follows:

“We propose an aggressive program of political action to, elect candidates pledged to this program within the existing party structure. But we stand for independent political action. Labor should join hands with farmers, professionals, small business and other functional groups to build the base for a new progressive party.”

This plank is a masterpiece of contradiction and skullduggery. Even from a literary standpoint it is incoherent. Politically it is incomprehensible. The Republican and Democratic Parties are called upon to convert government owned plants “into public corporations and cooperatives under democratic controls in the public interest” if “private enterprise will not use these plants.” The two capitalist parties are called upon to support the demand that “wage increases” be paid “out of profits and productivity – with no price increases.”

Reuther, according to his “political action” plan, is going to get this “within the existing party structure.” But at the same time he is for “independent political action.” Where? When? How? Inside the Republican- Democratic Parties? Does he expect to elect enough “candidates pledged to this program” to capture the Republican and Democratic Parties?

He wants to “build the base for a new progressive party.” But he isn’t even for this right now. Right now he is for the Republican and Democratic Parties. Later he will be for getting started on the base for a “new progressive party.” This sort of thing can have no other name than shysterism. Reuther is against the formation of an independent Labor Party by the working class. He is in full agreement with Murray and Thomas on this matter of independent working class political action. The Republican and Democratic Parties are good enough for them.

But it is precisely at this point that the progressives and militants have a job to do. It is the job of changing the program to include a demand upon Reuther and the IEB for action in connection with independent working class political action NOW. They can start with the PAC – by demanding that the PAC be turned into an independent Labor Party NOW.

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