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B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(30 June 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 46, 30 June 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The United Progressive Furriers of New York recently put the Stalinist administration of the International Fur Workers Union on the spot with an open letter to Ben Gold, Stalinist president of the international.

“We are approaching already the middle of June but thousands of us are still crowding the sidewalks of the fur market – hungry, tired and worried.” the letter points out.

“The convention of our union in Atlantic City had the task of solving partly these problems, but the leadership of the Joint Council forgot all about the sufferings of the fur workers,” the letter accuses. It continues:

“You, Mr. President, have contributed a great deal towards this present condition by stirring up one part of the workers against another. Since you came back from the convention a whole set of schemes and maneuvers. were put into motion in order to whip the workers in line again.”

“You were convinced through the open forums that the unemployed mean business, and have therefore advised the leadership of the Joint Council to, rush through the convention decisions at the local meetings. You made your plan so that only few workers should attend local meetings.”

Silence Critics

“Never in the history of our union were there any kind of meetings held on holidays. Will you please tell us Mr. President, why all the four local meetings were held on the two nights of the Jewish holiday, ‘Shevuoth?’ ... Can you tell us why the largest local of our joint council, the Operators, with a membership of nearly 5,000 was assigned to meet in a hall that takes only about 300? Doesn’t that prove that you were not interested to have the furriers make an honest decision?”

“At the local meetings we found out that one of your decisions at the convention is to silence those who dare criticize you and your friends. You call it ‘democratization of the constitution.’ You want everyone in our union to bow to the bureaucracy. You want us to close our eyes and shut our mouths to the so-called victory of temporary jobs, permits for learners, permits for overtime, inhuman speed-up, clique rule in the shop, party domination in the union, dishonest elections, squandering of union money, collaboration with the bosses to the extent of obtaining thousands of dollars in loans from them.”

“That is what you call democracy. But tell us please, Mr. President, if you were a rank and filer today, would you also tolerate such conditions and accept in good faith such convention decisions?”

“Please be honest about it, Mr. President, you know that the workers are dissatisfied with the leadership in the Joint Council. You know that people in the labor movement have no use for totalitarian regimes even though they are covered by so-called united fronts such as you claim to have in our union. Aren’t you ashamed to speak of rues and constitutions, when the entire history of your fight for power has shown a sneering attitude and full disregard for the union’s constitution?

“You have spoken at the local meeting of the cutters. You lumped and cursed everyone that disagreed with you, but you must admit you met with no success ... Then your lieutenants tried hard to follow the footsteps of the ‘Leader’. They even tried to outdo you in demagogy, but the result was the same.”

“Of course we admit one thing. You people know the game – you dragged out the meetings with meaningless speeches until the majority of those present left in disgust. Then with your own boys left, you were able to take a ‘peoples’ vote and pass all decisions ‘overwhelmingly’ with a few hundred votes from all of the four locals for the entire membership of 15,000. Is this democracy?”

Why No Referendum?

“But what about our proposal to put the convention decisions to a referendum? Don’t you think, Mr. President, that such important decisions as elections once in two years to which the membership obligates itself to provide people with two years’ pay and vacations, and the boarding of the leatherworkers in the house of the fur workers which will involve us in new expenses with possible jurisdictional friction in the future. And last but not least, the silencing of the critics. That all these are important enough to be decided by all the fur workers and not by a handful of those present at the local meetings?”

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Last updated: 16 January 2016