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B.J. Widick

In the Labor Unions

(29 August 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 63, 29 August 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

CIO and Stalin

The heaviest blow ever delivered against the Stalinists in the CIO was given this week by Stalin through his agreement with Hitler.

Symbolic of days to come was the public attack Wednesday by Heywood Broun, president ally in the CIO, on the new Stalin line, Broun denounced the Stalin-Hitler pact in his national column!

It is no exaggeration to say that the bottom of the Stalinist strategy in the CIO dropped out this week.

A revulsion against the cynical deal between Stalin and Hitler is bound to sweep the entire labor movement. And a chief stock-in-trade of the Stalinists within the CIO, “anti-Hitlerism”, boomerangs against them, with a terrific thud.

Very significantly, John L. Lewis has maintained a discreet silence about the pact, although William Green, president of the AFL, rushed to print to chuckle over the dilemma of the present C.I.O. line which is Stalinist-influenced.

CIO Liability

For it is becoming increasingly clear to everyone that the Stalinists are a terrible liability to Lewis and the CIO from any point of view. Experience teaches that neither they nor their policies can be trusted.

We know of many CIO unions in the East and middle-West where progressive tendencies have been slowly arising. Now they have been given another punch against the Stalinists. It was furnished by Stalin.

The taunts of the progressives in the labor movement will be exceeded only by the unconcealed chagrin of the Stalinist followers. Because there is no answer to the fact that the overwhelming majority of people interpret the pact as, “the Stalinists and fascists are getting together.”

Many big CIO unions are holding conventions soon, including the national CIO. This places the C.P. in an inextricable dilemma. What happens to the carload of Stalinist resolutions that usually swamped progressives?

Where will the resolution on collective security be? The one which Harry Bridges, Joe Curran, Mervin Rathborne, and other C.P.ers defended at the last CIO convention.

No More Boycott?

What about the CIO national resolution to boycott German goods? And the one on peace and democracy? What kind of speech can John Brophy, Stalinized director of the CIO, give two weeks from now to the United Rubber Workers of America convention? Last year he talked against Hitlerism. Picture the headaches of the Stalinists in the auto workers unions trying to defend a Hitler-Stalin pact!

In the S.W.O.C. only a few weeks ago, David J. Macdonald, secretary-treasurer, with the approval of Phillip Murray, took a blast at “communism.” Steel Labor, official publication of the S.W.O.C., carried an editorial repudiating all “isms.”

Clearing their skirts of Stalinist association will be a major activity of many CIO leaders in the next period who previously went along. Of course, red-baiting, amalgams, etc. will be far too common and dangerous.

And the Militants?

From our point of view, however, the important question is what happens to the hundreds of union militants who joined the Stalinists under the illusion that it was a “progressive party.” Their first reaction inevitably will be, “We’ve been sold out!” All the fine talk by Stalinist organizers that “Our Party is the only real opponent of Hitler,” will mock the militants.

Obviously, if there is a serious dent in the ranks of the Stalinists – and it seems probable – it will come first from these healthy proletarian elements. Already there are reports of how Stalinist members in the CIO wince and duck when razzed by the cry, “Heil Stalin!”

A friend at the teachers union convention now meeting in Buffalo wrote today that the Stalinists were dazed and punch drunk by the news of the pact.

A crack up of Stalinist forces in the labor movement is now on the order of the day!

Incidentally, will the Stalinists be forced to employ a new technique against labor progressives in the future? Once they called them “Trotskyite-fascists,” or simply “Trotskyites.” Will they now snarl and call them “dirty anti-fascists”?

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