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Jack Wilson

UAW Heads Compromise on Offices

(28 April 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 18, 6 May 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, April 28 – The first meeting of the international executive board of the UAW-CIO ended this week with a compromise on organizational posts between the Walter Reuther and George Addes-Stalinist forces in the auto workers union.

Reuther obtained the position of educational director for Victor Reuther, his brother and lieutenant. He also retained directorship of the General Motors division of the UAW-CIO.

Addes kept control of the research department with the reappointment of James Wishart, a key Stalinist, as director. R.J. Thomas, vice president, took charge of the competitive shops division.

Behind The Compromise

The significance of this compromise, however, is what is important to the auto worker militants, not the posts themselves. After the Addes-Stalinist machine in a bloc with Thomas and Richard T. Leonard, the other vice president of the union, presented and won by majority vote the adoption of the full program for the UAW-CIO two events occurred which forced the majority to restrain itself from a further head-on clash with Reuther.

The sharp attack by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt on the UAW-CIO majority on the executive board, was a serious blow to the long-range plans of the Stalinists for a Third Party.

Unless prominent figures like Mrs. Roosevelt, Henry Wallace and others take a part in the Stalinist plans for a third party it is doomed in advance. Any policy calculated to antagonize completely these people is a tactical blunder from the Stalinist point of view, and that was recognized immediately. The Stalinists neatly refrained from a direct answer to Mrs. Roosevelt, and instead R.J. Thomas, as usual, was allowed to make the reply, and take the rap.

Secondly, in this same connection, the fact that Reuther is also inclined towards a Third Party movement – his brother Victor was one of the sponsors of the recent Chicago conference held on this question under the direction of Socialist Party and liberal forces – posed another difficult problem for Addes and the Stalinists. Their only attack on the Reuther move was that it was premature. But the fact remains that if any Stalinist strategy for a Third Party is going to succeed, it must include the UAW- CIO, and that means Reuther also. In program, the new line of the Stalinists tends to coincide with that of Reuther in the UAW-CIO. This is the dilemma and problem of both Reuther and the Stalinists.

Stalinists Given Warning

The other major event that occurred while the UAW-CIO executive board was meeting, was the first open, direct and blunt attack on the Stalinists within the CIO by a major figure in the CIO. Emil Rieve, president of the Textile Workers, delivered a sharp attack against the Stalinists at the textile workers convention now being held. Coming on top of the crude exclusion of the Stalinists from the Southern organizing drive of the CIO, it is a storm warning signal to the Stalinists. The top CIO officialdom is opening up its fight against the Stalinists. Sidney Hillman’s speech last week against a Third Party was another sign.

Any further direct attack against Reuther by the majority of the executive board of the UAW-CIO would guarantee Reuther’s unity with the “right-wing” forces in the CIO who want to intensify the fight against the Stalinists.

Reuther took full advantage of this situation by issuing another blast against the Stalinists on the last day of the executive board meeting. He called attention to the provision in the UAW-CIO constitution barring “Communists” from office. He declared that there would be no appointees on the union international payroll who were “Communists” (Stalinists). Of course, he had just voted to retain Wishart in the research department.

The point is that Reuther – in view of the national struggle developing within the CIO between the top leadership and the Stalinists – is squeezing every possible advantage from that situation.

Ranks Must Intervene

The trouble with all these developments is that policy and program of the UAW-CIO are being developed in the machinations and maneuvers of the top leaders, and not by a powerful and healthy intervention of the rank and file. There still exists too much confusion over policy left unsettled by the recent convention for the ranks to intervene decisively, as they must sooner or later. And the sooner the better.

The action of the UAW-CIO executive board to authorize strikes at Ford and Chrysler was a maneuver, and nothing else. All Ford locals received wires from the executive board demanding that the contract, including company security, be ratified quickly. The demand for retroactive pay immediately at Ford is a tactic to assure ratification of the contract. The strike threat at Chrysler over discharge of men over 65 years of age likewise is a tactic in negotiations on this issue. Everyone expects Chrysler to shut down for a few weeks for parts shortages, and no one is anxious for a strike, because it means at least three weeks without the unemployment compensation that a lay-off would bring in. The local unions weren’t even sounded out by the executive board on strike sentiment.

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