Ernest Rice McKinney Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

David Coolidge

On Signing the Affidavits
and the Situation in UE

(8 March 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 10, 8 March 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Workers Party has expressed the position more than once in Labor Action that those unions which are holding out on the signing of the Communist Party affidavits, as required by the Taft-Hartley Act, are not unions which have advanced the most progressive programs of the labor movement: The unions which have not signed include the miners (UMWA), steel workers, (USA), printers (ITU) and electrical workers (UERMWA). To take an uncritical position on the attitude of these unions as non-signers and to lump them all together as progressive militant organizations; is to be extremely naive, uninformed, opportunistic or irresponsible and factional.

There is no unanimity of motivation among the four unions listed above as the basis for concerted action, for instance, in refusing to sign the affidavits. The International Typographical Union has not signed and has engaged in a strike and in long drawn out court action and litigation with the NLRB. The prime procedure of the ITU was not in connection with the affidavit question at all, but in connection with its efforts to win the strike. Lewis is also against signing, but it would be very difficult to establish that his reasons have a progressive character. Nothing has come from the mouth of Lewis since the AFL convention, and since he very bureaucratically took the miners out of the AFL, to indicate that Lewis is motivated by any principles in connection with his refusal to sign the affidavits. Furthermore, Lewis and the ITU both can be very brave and independent in this matter. Who and what union will take over the mines and the printing plants?

Murray’s steel workers also have not signed. Why not? One guess is as good as another. But here too Murray can also be brave. What organization will come forward to oust the USWA from the steel plants? The steel workers don’t sign but it is all right with Murray if the automobile union signs. He agrees for the UAW to sign and for the NMU and the UE not to sign. Murray’s principles are broad and very elastic.

Motivations Are Not the Same

We have already dealt adequately with the problem of the electrical workers (UE) in previous issues of Labor Action. All we need do here is to contrast the UE with the other non-signing unions. We have already pointed out that the UE Stalinist bureaucrats do not refuse to sign for the same reasons as Murray, Lewis, Curran and Randolph (ITU). We emphasize that all of them proceed from differing premises and motivations. They cannot be lumped together as a group of “progressive” unions which are opposing the Taft-Hartley Act. It is particularly necessary that the Stalinist leadership of the electrical workers’ union (UERMWA) be isolated from the others and exposed in the proper manner.

This is necessary for the reason that all of the other CIO unions with the possible exception of the NMU are in no danger of being disrupted by raids from the AFL, the unaffiliated machinist union (IAM) or mushroom independents, At we have said, the UMWA and the ITU are certainly in no danger. If such a danger existed, neither Murray, Lewis nor Randolph would be taking the position they are against signing the affidavits. No native labor bureaucrat would take any chance on having his union as an organisation endangered through refusal to sign affidavits saying that he was not a member of the Communist Party and that he did not believe in “the overthrow of the government by force and violence.” When one contemplates Murray. Lewis and Randolph refusing to sign and affirm such a position, it is very difficult to keep from laughing, even in one’s sleep.

This is the reason the Stalinist bureaucrats who lead the UE must be condemned and exposed particularly. Murray, Lewis and Randolph are mere prating demagogues, playing at being “radical” when it costs them nothing and when no harm can come to the organizations which they head. The Stalinist bureaucrats who head the UE, however, refuse to sign in a different way and for different reasons. Not only this but they do not have the same kind of interest in the maintenance of the unions as economic organizations of the workers, as the American labor bureaucrats of the type of Murray, Lewis and Randolph. The native bureaucracy has its roots in the union. Its base is in the union. It has no base any other place. The AFL-CIO-Railway Brotherhood bureaucracy has no refuge save in the unions, no protection, no prestige and no influence except that which it gets from the labor movement.

This is not the situation or the position of the Stalinist bureaucrats who head the UE. They attempt to make the UE membership believe that they are opposed to the signing of the affidavits, from a real position as radicals, socialists, and that they are taking a real progressive and militant attitude on this question. These bureaucrats apparently induce many thousands of workers to believe this.

Abject Supporters of Kremlin Policy

We have already discussed the fact that these Stalinist totalitarian bureaucrats have no other principles than their support of the polities of the Kremlin. The Marshall Plan is inimical to Russian interests. The ERP is projected in the interest of U.S. imperialism but that is not the reason the U.S. Stalinists are against it. They are against the ERP (Marshall Plan) because U.S. imperialism is in conflict with Russian imperialism and the American Stalinist bureaucrats in the labor movement are partisans of and the most abject supporters of Russian imperialism. They are only against U.S. imperialism when that imperialism is in conflict with the Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia. They demonstrated this decisively during the war, as the Workers Party has emphasized again and again.

We say that the Stalinists in the U.S. are “abject” supporters of Russian imperialism. We mean by this that they bow the knee and make obeisance before all the twists, turns and changes in political line as ordered from the Kremlin. This is precisely what is transpiring these days In the UE. Since the Stalinist labor leaden are only formally trade union leaders, but actually and in practice mouthpieces in the unions for the Kremlin bureaucracy, their chief aim is to use the labor movement to advance the totalitarian political program of the Russian police state. The foreign policy of Stalin is the program which the Stalinist bureaucrats connive to get adopted by the unions. They are for Roosevelt’s foreign policy but against Truman’s. That is, they are for Roosevelt’s foreign policy as of after June 22, 1941.

The Stalinists in the unions do not concern themselves primarily with the question of maintaining the unions as unions, to take care of the economic demands of the workers. The unions to them are places where you get political resolutions passed which have just been cabled in from the Kremlin, to the GPU agent in charge of the party in each country. They need a big union only to get large per capita payments. This is useful in the maintenance of the expanded Stalinist staffs of bureaucrats, stooges and hangers-on, which infest every union under the control of the Communist Party. Apart from this financial aspect the Stalinist cops, in the unions, are satisfied with a small select group to attend union meetings, conduct negotiations and edit the union paper.

Will Members Permit It?

The problem before the UE today is whether or not the members of this international will permit their union to be wrecked by their leadership under the cover of being progressive and militant, when the fact is that this leadership is totalitarian and completely reactionary.

Is the UE membership going to remain asleep and let their Stalinist leadership get itself out of a trap by selling the UE down the river? This they can do by several types of betrayal which the Stalinists are experts at. This leadership is capable of coming fo agreements with Westinghouse. and General Electric which will shackle these workers and set them back for many years. This leadership can play around with its present criminal policy and create all manner of dissension and disunity in the UE. Already there are signs of unrest and same locals and shops are contemplating leaving the UE for the UAW. There are rumors that other international unions are looking with hungry eyes toward the UE. it is certain that the machinists (IAM) will become more and more aggressive in the matter of raiding the UE.

We believe that in the present circumstances the UE must sign the affidavits and place itself in position to preserve its integrity, resist raids from other unions and protect itself from the machinations of the employers who can certainly use use the Taft-Hartley Act against the union.

What Makes a Progressive?

These observations have been prompted in part by reading the attitude of the Socialist Workers Party on this question as contained in The Militant. The SWP is enamored of the militant attitude of all the unions which have refused to sign the affidavits. John L. Lewis is their darling and, according to The Militant, the real spearhead of the attack on the Taft-Hartley Act.

In its articles in The Militant, the SWP forms the unions which have refused to sign the affidavits into one militant and progressive front against the Taft-Hartley Act, led by Lewis, Murray, Randolph, Curran, Emspak-Mattes and their captive Fitzgerald. There is no analysis of the role of the Stalinists, of Stalinism in the UE or of the probable effects of the Stalinist policy on the future of the union. Inherent in the attitude of the SWP, as expressed in The Militant, is support of Stalinism in practice while carrying on a literary campaign, of sorts, against the Stalinists.

The SWP and The Militant keep up the tirade against Reuther as a reactionary in tow of the ACTU. This is just as nonsensical as to say that Lewis is progressive because he is not hitched to the ACTU. The fact is that Reuther is not being led around by the ACTU. The UAW program, wage increases without price increases, certainly did not come from the ACTU. But not only is Reuther reactionary, according to the SWP, because of the ACTU leading strings but also because the UAW signed the affidavits. Similarly, according to that position, the UE has not signed and this, of course, makes the Stalinist bureaucrats progressives in the labor movement. This is really a tough morsel to chew and digest.

Ernest Rice McKinney Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 7 July 2017