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Stolberg CIO Articles Faulty in Analysis

His Attack on Stalinist Disruption in Unions Weakened
by Whitewash of Leaders and Support of Class Collaboration

(February 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 6, 5 February 1938, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

While exposing the treacherous and disruptive role of the Stalinist Party in the labor movement, the Benjamin Stolberg articles, Inside the C.I.O., printed in the Scripps-Howard chain of newspapers, suffered from the usual defects of liberal journalism.

Although many labor leaders inspired by the Stalinists have condemned Stolberg’s articles, not a single prominent person outside the Stalinist circle has as yet disagreed with his fundamental analysis of the Stalinists.

Correct Premise

“The Communist Party today is neither red nor Communist nor revolutionary,” Stolberg wrote. “It is in every country a branch of the Stalinist dictatorship. The force of the Communists derives from their totalitarian source in Moscow. They are interested in the American labor movement only insofar as they can use it for the political purposes of Stalinist world policy. Hence, they must rule or ruin.”

This basic evaluation is correct. The West Coast labor movement, above all, has discovered through bitter experience, the real role played by the Stalinists.

Only a few weeks ago, the Sailors and Firemens unions repudiated in unmistakable fashion the Stalinist policies which Harry Bridges advocates under the guise of the C.I.O.

Militant, progressive and class-conscious unionism is feared by the Stalinists because of the obstacles it presents to the war-mongering policies advocated by Earl Browder and his henchmen. Stolberg’s expose of the Stalinists was, however, weakened by his inadequate explanation of this basic motive behind the “rule or ruin,” order of Stalin to the Browder-Bridges clique.

False Characterization

The United Automobile Workers of America has been the scene of the latest and most intensive campaign of the Stalinists to capture a powerful union movement.

Stolberg devoted considerable space to exposing the double-dealing and unprincipled maneuvers of the Stalinists there. Yet he lost much of the force of his arguments by a false characterization of Homer Martin, the sky-pilot president of the auto workers.

“Homer Martin and his administration in the U.A.W. are known as the ‘progressive’ group. That name describes their program,” Stolberg said. “The opposition known as the ‘unity’ faction is bent on only one thing – to control or destroy Martin and to try to impose upon the union a Communist-guided leadership.”

Actually, Homer Martin’s program in its trade union aspects differs not in the least from that of the unprincipled Stalinist clique opposing him. Heywood Broun, writing in the New Republic, might find fault with Stolberg’s praise of Martin, but he neglects to mention that Martin’s opponents are of the same breed. Broun picks one flaw in an effort to discredit the main import of the articles.

Unprincipled Opposition

It is a fact, testified to by the minutes of the International executive board meeting’s, that those “oppositionists” to Martin – Mortimer, Reuther, etc. (Stalinist stooges of the Broun variety) have voted with Martin on all important union questions since the convention last fall! That is why their “opposition” is unprincipled.

In the recent Pontiac sit-down, the entire executive board approved of Martin’s actions and criticism of the rank and file that had been goaded into a sit-down by the company. Incidentally, on all these questions, the Lovestonites went along as appendages to the Martin machine.

The pitfalls of liberal analysis are clearly indicated in the Stolbergian evaluations of the C.I.O. top leaders. Dave Dubinsky was called a “shrewd politician, a hard bargainer, as tough as he is honest, and full of fun.” At whose expense, we might ask? What about the Dubinsky who fought the left-wing for years ? Hillman, according to Stolberg, is, “almost the opposite of Dubinsky. He lacks Dubinsky’s good humor, his tough and homely democracy.”

“Hillman’s fault is his self-overestimation.” Yes, yes, but what about the internal situation in the Amalgamated Clothing Workers union? Remember what Hillman tried to do to Joseph Schlossberg because Schlossberg would not go along with the Roosevelt election campaign?

Weaknesses Ignored

Stolberg, throughout his series, said nothing about the fatal weakness of the C.I.O., its bureaucratic structure. In his desire to protect the C.I.O. from vicious outside opponents and from the insidious Stalinists, Stolberg did some unnecessary “white-washing” of the leadership.

John L. Lewis deserves credit for promoting industrial unionism as C.I.O. chairman, as Stolberg pointed out. But that does not excuse his faults. The Ohio district miners are still fighting for the right to elect their own officials. And when are the steel workers going to be permitted to hold a constitutional convention to set up an autonomous international union? Is Phillip Murray ever going to allow the S.W.O.C. to elect its own international officers?

Harry Bridges’ policies have divided the once powerfully united West Coast labor movement as Stolberg showed. But Lewis arbitrarily appointed Bridges, and thus bears joint responsibility.

Union Democracy

When Stolberg told about the struggle of the top C.I.O. leaders to establish “industrial democracy,” he did not emphasize that a necessary pre-requisite is “union democracy.” This weakness in the C.I.O. is fuel for the fires of labor’s opponents, and the way to take away the fuel is to establish union democracy in the steel and other C.I.O. unions where it is lacking.

Stolberg’s summary deserves special attention. “The program of the C.I.O. is simple, progressive and historically inevitable. Modern industrial labor must organize in industrial unions,” Stolberg wrote. Will the Daily Worker hack journalists call this a “fascist” argument? Stolberg is absolutely, correct.

“The C.I.O. is not getting ready for independent political action in 1940. The political arm of the C.I.O. is Labor’s Non-Partisan League, of which the various local and state-wide labor and farmer-labor parties are completely autonomous bodies,” Stolberg shrewdly indicated. It is precisely this policy that offers dangers to the C.I.O. movement. The failure of the C.I.O. to organize genuine independent political action has cost the workers plenty. The strike-breaker, Martin L. Davey, governor of Ohio, was the Labor’s Non-Partisan League nominee only a year and half ago, despite the protests of many progressives, especially in the rubber workers’ unions. Dependence on the capitalist politicians takes a heavy toll in the organized labor movement. If the workers in the “Little Steel” strike had depended only on their own strength and power, aided by the union movement, they would not have been trapped by the Daveys and Earles in whom they had been told to have confidence. Stolberg apparently assents to the C.I.O. class-collaboration policies.

We do not.

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