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Walter Jason

UAW Faction Fight Heads for Showdown

(14 September 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 38, 23 September 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, Sept. 14 – An ominous preview of the next stage in the deadly factional struggle within the UAW-CIO, and the entire CIO, occurred this past week in this events surrounding the so-called amalgamation “convention” of the Wayne County CIO Council and the Political Action Committee.

For neither unity, nor amalgamation, nor a convention was achieved, and the deep gulf between the Reuther forces and the Stalinist bloc in the UAW-CIO widened. So much so that many people talked of the events as a real split.

In order to understand the decisive significance of these events in the auto center it is necessary to review the story of the Wayne County CIO Council and the PAC.

Test of Strength

The Stalinists controlled the Wayne County Council, lock, stock and barrel. Reuther forces dominate the PAC. The two bodies have been functioning separately on every issue.

In an effort to achieve at least a semblance of unity, the national CIO proposed to merge the two bodies at a special convention, to which delegates would be elected on the same basis as at regular union conventions. In this case, they would follow in the main the manner in which UAW delegates were picked.

Thus, the Wayne County convention was another test of strength between the Reuther forces and the Stalinist bloc, and was seen that way by everybody. The Stalinists needed a victory if they were to keep their bloc together because they had lost the recent Michigan CIO state convention to the Reuther forces.

Stalinists Pack Convention

A special committee from the national CIO, composed of Alan Haywood, Thomas Burns and John Brophy, was selected by Philip Murray to supervise the Wayne County convention to assure its democratic nature and to keep the factional struggle within bounds.

Most UAW locals elected their delegates according to the rules set up, but the Stalinists in control of Ford Local 600 and Packard Local 190 did not elect their delegates according to the convention call. At Ford Local 600, in spite of protests and a warning from Haywood that the selection of delegates would not be recognized, the General Council chose them, instead of the ranks by election. A similar bureaucratic maneuver was pulled at Packard. Ford Local 600 is the biggest in the world, and the huge Stalinist delegation from there guaranteed them a majority at the convention.

Naturally, the Reuther forces objected vigorously to this packing of the convention, and their appeal to Haywood seemed to carry. Until two days before the convention, it appeared that Haywood would call it off, at least until Ford and Packard delegates were elected by the rank and file. The Michigan CIO News, for example, which appeared the day before the convention, carried a page one story, on the authority of Gus Scholle, Michigan CIO director, that the convention would be called off.

In any event, the Reuther caucus told Haywood that if the Stalinists were allowed to pack the convention illegally, they would not participate.

Showdown Inevitable

The Reuther forces strongly urged Haywood and Murray to stand firm against the Stalinists and permit a real convention. In fact, Reuther’s key men proposed to Murray that Tom Shane, of the Steel Workers, and a real Murray man, be made president of the amalgamated body. The Reuther forces did not propose to control the about-to-be-formed council. They proposed that Murray’s forces control it, in the interests of achieving unity in the CIO movement here. For various reasons, Shane couldn’t take it, and a showdown between the Stalinist bloc and the Reuther forces became inevitable.

The Stalinists, on the other hand, put tremendous pressure on Haywood to sanction the convention. In fact, they issued a convention call on their own through Pat Quinn, CIO Council president, and Sam Sage and others in control of the Council. They bluntly told Haywood and Murray that they were going to hold a convention and elect officers.

This is very important for an understanding of the coming period of the struggle in the CIO. The Stalinists simply rode roughshod over Haywood, who didn’t dare denounce the convention called by the Stalinist bloc because the Stalinists threatened to fight Murray openly in the national CIO Executive Board. George Addes, secretary-treasurer of the UAW-CIO, and R.J. Thomas, a national CIO vice-president as well as UAW vice-president, used exactly this kind of threat against Haywood and Murray.

The fact that the Stalinists won complete control again of the UE, by such a big majority, was one of the reasons they were able to become so reckless and brazen in their maneuvers here.

Reuther Stays Away

In passing, let it be noted that these events accomplished one major aim that Walter Reuther has had in mind. No longer is the clash in the UAW-CIO only between Reuther and the Stalinist bloc. The Stalinists clashed directly with Murray and his representative, Alan Haywood.

Since Haywood and Murray have been made “captives” at the present stage of the struggle, unwilling ones to be sure, Haywood did not denounce the Stalinist call for the convention. Rather, he simply left Detroit before it began, and thus left the entire status of the convention up in the air.

The question-mark status of the convention was emphasized also by the fact that the Reuther forces did not attend, and even the Stalinists didn’t dare claim that over 366 out of over 625 delegates attended. Nor were all the delegates who attended in the Stalinist camp.

Thus the convention met yesterday and passed a series of motions amalgamating the PAC and the Wayne County CIO Council. All the Executive Board members of both bodies were put on a new Executive Board and election of permanent officers postponed until next spring. The Stalinists captured the convention, to be sure, but the question remains, what did they capture?

The “convention” was supposed to meet two days, but adjourned after six hours of session on the appeal of Nat Ganley, Stalinist leader in the UAW-CIO, who sought to throw a bread crumb to Murray and Haywood by a speech in which he emphasized that this body had no authority to make policy but rather must go along with national CIO policy. Besides, another meeting would be called soon to take up the matter of the November elections. The conciliatory tone of his speech was intended more for the delegates who were worried by the press headlines heralding a split in the CIO, than for Murray, for at long last the national CIO knows exactly what the problem of the Stalinists in the CIO has become.

Stalinist Aims

The “get tough with Murray” policy of the Stalinists can be explained only one way. The Stalinist strategy and tactics in the next period is dictated by one main aim: Control of the national CIO. The violence of the attack on Reuther is precisely because he is one of the major obstacles in that path. Control of the UAW-CIO is an indispensable prerequisite to success.

The coming convention of the national CIO will pose all these problems clearly and sharply. Unless the entire CIO movement, and above all, the ranks of the UAW, become aroused and stop the ruthless drive of the Stalinists for domination of the CIO, there will be a paralyzing factional struggle everywhere, as there now exists in the UAW, and the, labor movement will suffer badly.

More and more auto workers are beginning to understand this entire problem and see the main point that the Stalinists are seeking to control the labor movement as an agency of Moscow so they can use it for pressure purposes in Washington. The sharpening clash between the American and Russian imperialisms has caused an intensification of the drives of the Stalinists within the CIO for power.

As an integral part of the Stalinist drive for power, they have worked out a national CIO strategy for wage increases, which includes a proposal for a general strike in all auto plants next spring. They intend putting on a “militant” cloak in an effort to win the ranks of the CIO, against which only the GM Program stands on a par. This is another real problem for Murray. Either he works jointly with Reuther, whose program can offset the Stalinists, or he faces the possibility of a defeat in the CIO.

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