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David Coolidge

Reuther, Thomas Evade
Rank and File Mandate

(6 May 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 18, 6 May 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

During the recent meeting of the International Executive Board of the UAW-CIO two statements were issued: a Policy Statement by the Addes-Thomas-Stalinist bloc and a statement by President Reuther containing his policies for the UAW-CIO. The first statement was presented to the IEB by the Addes-Thomas-Stalinist forces as their program for the UAW. This statement of policy and program was voted on by the board and adopted against the votes of the Reuther supporters. In the first test, therefore, the Addes-Thomas-Stalinist bloc demonstrated that it has a voting control of the IEB.

The Reuther statement was announced near the end of the IEB sessions. It was issued as a statement of policy by Reuther as president of the UAW and was evidently not placed before the IEB for a vote.

Forced by GM Program

The outstanding feature in the Addes-Thomas-Stalinist statement of policy adopted by the IEB is the clear attempt of this group to restore its prestige and satisfy the demand of the rank and file for a more militant policy than that followed by this bloc in the past. Their Policy Statement is, furthermore, an attempt to make up for the disgraceful conduct of this group at the recent UAW convention.

Above all, the new program of the Addes-Thomas-Stalinist bloc is their way of admitting the power and the appeal of the GM program, which really was the basis for the victory of Reuther at the Atlantic City convention. The Stalinists and their captive, Addes, understand these things. Thomas does not, of course, but he is useful to Addes and the Stalinists as a front and as window-dressing. In the concrete situation the Stalinists and Addes knew that they could not confront the membership of the UAW with the conservatism and the reactionary attitudes which they assumed at the convention.

They know also that they could not come forward at the IEB meeting with that time-worn piece of programmatic bunkum: “support the program of Philip Murray.” When they advanced this slogan at the Atlantic City convention they were merely trying, very demagogically, to find a way of knifing the GM program without making a frontal attack.

Some Shenanigans

The Addes-Thomas-Stalinist program begins with the statement that “our big wage victories had to be fought for and won.” They did not result from a “partnership of industry and labor.” The program repudiates “all plans attempting to link wage increases to increased manual productivity.” This is an attempt to distort the GM program which tied the demand for wage increases to profits and prices. The only people in the labor movement, so far as we know, who have attempted to “link wage increases to increased manual productivity” were the Stalinists, with their piece-work incentive pay schemes during the war.

This program affirms “our historic position that capital is entitled to a fair return on its investment but that the worker must not be penalized” because of “shortcomings of management.” It would be difficult to crowd more nonsense into a single sentence. It reads like a pronouncement coming from the board of Matthew Woll’s AFL photo-engravers.

“We affirm our policy established at the 1943 Buffalo convention that piecework systems of compensation shall not be instituted or extended.” The Stalinists who helped Addes with this program were some of the same boys who fought tooth and nail to establish “incentive pay” at the Buffalo convention. The program calls for the 30-hour week with 40 hours’ pay and 30 days’ vacation after ten years’ service.

Addes, Thomas and Leonard are for “union security” and not “company security” as they were in the case of the Ford Motor Co. These three have advanced a long way on paper since they counted the vote for president at the UAW convention.

Third Party Nonsense

They want a “broad third party”; they promise to expose “the Republican and Democratic reactionaries”; they will tell Truman that he and his administration “are yielding and capitulating on issue after issue to the forces of reaction.” Here the Addes-Thomas-Stalinist group attempts to pass ahead of Reuther, who was not so specific in his political platform in connection with the two capitalist parties.

At bottom there is nothing to choose between the two groups. Reuther is for electing those running on both tickets who are friendly to labor, while the Addes-Thomas-Leonard group agrees to “expose” reactionary Republicans and Democrats. Both want a “broad third party.” It must not be organized too soon, however, and its base must not be too narrow. The working class is far too narrow a base for both sides.

This program calls for “collective security by the peace-loving nations.” This sentence reads as though it came straight from one of Browder’s ancient speeches. They urge the “Big Three – Britain, Soviet Russia and the U.S.A. (the ‘peace-loving nations’) to iron out their differences.”

They are for price control but in holding prices down the union must concern itself with whether the corporations are protected in maintaining their high-profit levels. “The corporations are ... capable of protecting their own profit levels.” When did Thomas and Addes learn this? Above all, when did Leonard learn it? They all have certainly made rapid strides in their education since the first proposals on “company security” which they approved for the Ford Motor Co. Did they perhaps learn something besides mud-slinging at the Atlantic City convention?

They are for price control but they won’t touch the “Open the Books” formula nor will they consent to have wage demands tied in with prices and profits. To them this is a scheme “to cut workers’ wages if living costs decrease by a certain percentage.” Thomas-Addes are stuck here just as Reuther was stuck. Neither Reuther nor the others can have an answer. The only answer is that given by the Workers Party in Labor Action:

Nationalize the Big Industries Under Workers’ Control!

Reuther said in a press interview that if a corporation could not pay decent wages it should not be in business. We don’t hear anything about this nowadays, however.

As we said above, this program is an attempt to drown the GM program and at the same time escape the wrath of the rank and file who supported that program and who want more of it. This program is put forward by a group who want power and offices. They could not hold power nor could they retain their offices beyond the next convention if they carried through with what they stood for at Atlantic City.

Reuther’s Reply

How did Reuther meet the Addes- Thomas-Leonard-Stalinist attack? What did he say about their program? He issued a statement on “Policy.” We are handicapped in discussing the Reuther statement because we do not have the whole statement. For some strange reason the New York papers carried only an “abstract” of the statement. We do not know what they left out.

The statement as we have it is very tame indeed. Reuther accepts virtually all of the proposals of the Addes-Thomas program. There is nothing in his statement to differentiate him from his opponents except he wants to “be vigilant to protect the union against those whose loyalties to groups outside the union and to foreign powers cause them to take positions and from time to time shift such positions on union issues, without regard for the welfare of either the union, its members or our country.”

It is clear, of course, that Reuther is talking about the Communist Party. But how is Reuther going to protect the UAW against the Stalinists? The best way is to stand up and fight for the GM program: for integrating wage demands with demands about profits and prices. What does it mean to talk about protecting the union from the Stalinists so long as he tries io harmonize the GM program with the sly programmatic vaporings of Thomas, Leonard and Addes, who are now in tow of the Stalinists?

Reuther, so far as we read, has abandoned his GM program. Not only this, but he is now piously calling for “unity” and “harmony.” He expects harmony with those who are hellbent on countermanding the mandate of the convention.

How does Reuther expect to protect the union from the Stalinists when his political platform is essentially no different from theirs? He wants to mobilize the union “in an aggressive program of political action to elect candidates who are pledged to fight for the domestic and international policies championed by the late President Roosevelt.” Here is another ancient shibboleth. Add to this “Support President Murray” and you have anything but a real fighting and militant program for labor in 1946.

Save GM Program!

The backsliding of Reuther away from the GM program is a real challenge to the militants in the UAW. They and they alone can save the GM program with all its revolutionary implications. But they will have to rise from their slumber and their indifference. They will have to go far beyond the point they reached at the Atlantic City convention. They will have to move ahead politically; far, far beyond the “broad third party” stage. They will have to come to grips with the important truth for labor: that the working class is a broad enough base, and a correctly narrow base, for labor’s independent political action. All others must fall in behind and be led by labor, which has demonstrated that it speaks for the WHOLE of the people, in a nation-wide Labor Party based on the trade unions.

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