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David Coolidge

CIO Statement on Stalinism
Straddles Issue

(25 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 47, 25 November 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

ATLANTIC CITY. Nov. 18 – The eighth constitutional convention of the CIO opened here today with the usual ceremonies and organizational details which are associated with trade union conventions. The meeting was opened by Carl Holderman, who, in the course of his introductory remarks, told the convention that he hoped that Philip Murray would be drafted for another term as president of the CIO. This, of course, was the opening gun in the “draft Murray” movement. The election takes place on Friday morning and. of course, no one has any notion that Murray will not “choose to run” or refuse to accept, as there is no candidate for him to run against.

In his opening speech Murray said that this will prove to be a unified convention. How true was this prediction was to be demonstrated a few hours later in the day. He said that the most important question to come before the convention was the matter of wages and collective bargaining. He reviewed the history of last winter’s strikes, taking them union by union to demonstrate that not only had industry refused to bargain properly with the unions but that these same industries had “refused to accept the recommendations of their government.”

He put the question: “Who was striking against the government?” and gave as his answer that it was “the heart of big business in the United States.” He pointed out that the steel companies got a price rise of 350 millions to meet a wage increase of 165 millions. He said that the biggest threat to “free enterprise” and to the country was the estimated corporate profits for’ this year of 15 billions of dollars. Industry would get this huge profit while labor was working for wages $13.04 below March of this year.

Harmony Reigns

The big event of the day and the matter which brought the delegates back to life after the boredom of MacDonald’s report on the Officers’ Report, was the resolution on Declaration of Policy. (See page 2 of this issue – Ed.) This was the resolution against political “interference.” Murray made the only speech on the resolution. He said that in the past few months the CIO had been denounced and slandered as being communist. This campaign of vilification had been waged, he said, in order to get votes at the polls.

Without consulting any officer or member of the union or anyone else he had decided to lay the matter before the executive board. In the board he had expressed his convictions about communism. There was no disagreement in the board with his expressed convictions. The committee of six which he had appointed (three Stalinists and three non-Stalinists) to work out a policy on this question submitted a unanimous report to the board. This statement was unanimously adopted by the board.

Murray said that he wanted to make it clear that the statement on policy was not a legislative document. Legislation on this question properly belonged to the various CIO internationals. The resolution was rather a statement of policy designed to chart a course. It was not to be used as a repressive measure. He was opposed to repression in any form. While this was true, Murray said that the resolution must be adhered to after adoption. The CIO does not care to be bothered with and will not tolerate interference, not only from the Communist Party but from other political parties. The CIO is a trade union and must attend strictly to its affairs as a trade union; as an American trade union, giving allegiance to no other country except the United States.

No Debate

Murray closed his speech by telling the delegates that since the EB had already passed the resolution unanimously, he hoped the delegates would respond unanimously by a rising vote. He hoped that there would be no needless debate.

It can be said most emphatically that Murray got his desire. There was no needless debate. There was no debate at all. Not one delegate took the floor. They had abundant encouragement from Murray to accept the decision of the EB without even asking one question or making one remark. When the vote was taken three delegates voted against. There was a rumor going around that later they had recanted. (The press so reported – Ed.) A remark was made that “the party [Stalinist] got on the job in a hurry.”

The way this question was handled was extremely interesting. While one can understand Murray’s concern over having a “unified convention,” it is very difficult to understand how he expects to develop any worthwhile unity from such a bureaucratic procedure. It is easy to understand Murray’s apprehension over a terrific factional struggle which might do harm to the CIO. But what kind of unity is it which comes from saving such an important resolution adopted in so sheepish, submissive and undemocratic a manner.

Nothing Settled

Furthermore, did not the delegates have the right to know why three delegates voted against the resolution? Didn’t they have the right to hear the arguments which caused the EB to vote in favor of the resolution? Didn’t the delegates have the democratic right to hear the position of the Stalinist members of the EB on this question?

One leading member of the EB. who had voted for the resolution made the remark, off the record, that the resolution settled nothing. This is all too true. How can It? For one reason, what is interference in the affairs of the CIO? Someone might have asked the question whether or not the Democratic Party had ever interfered in the affairs of the CIO. But perhaps Murray thinks that the Democratic Party is not a political organization.

At any rate, the adoption of this resolution ended the first day of the convention.

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