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Walter Jason

Reuther Forces Win
at State CIO Meet

(21 June 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 26, 23 June 1947, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, June 21 – In many respects the Michigan state CIO convention held here last week resembled the. 1946 gathering. The pro-Reuther forces won all posts by roughly 2,200 votes to 1,800 votes for the anti-Reuther caucus. Walter. P. Reuther, UAW-CIO president, was the big influence in the so-called “right wing” caucus. Supporters of George Tildes, UAW-CIO secretary-treasurer, Richard T. Leonard, R.J. Thomas and the Stalinists formed the “left wing” bloc. Over 75 per cent of the delegates came from the auto workers’ union.

But the convention had many distinguishing features to provide a substantial basis for a comparative analysis of the two conventions, and the two factions.

Stalinist Issue

At this year’s convention it was a debatable question whether the influence of Reuther over many delegates won victory for the “right wing” or if the disgraceful and disruptive tactics of the Stalinists lost for the “left wing.” Certainly, Reuther hasn’t advanced anything new in program in the past year. He gave the convention his usual analysis of the social problems of today. He advocated. nationalization of the steel and housing industries but he evaded carefully any discussion of the kind of political action needed to bring lasting results to the labor movement.

In the “right wing” caucus, Emil Mazey, regional co-director of the big East Side district, spoke for the Labor Party. He was well received. On the convention floor, one delegate, Doris Fishman, of the Public Workers Union, gave a hard-hitting talk for the Labor Party. But the Reuther-dominated Resolutions Committee supported a miserable third party resolution, which was overwhelmingly adopted even though it contained a section excluding totalitarian elements from this party. The Stalinists were too busy trying to make personal attacks on Gus Scholle, re-elected as president, to put up any serious discussion for their “broad coalition of labor-liberal forces” clap-trap or totalitarianism.

Last year the “left wing” tied the convention in knots on points of order, challenges on credentials and other organizational procedures. This year, a wild attempt by Yale Stuart, Stalinist hatchetman, to make a couple of speeches after the convention had voted to proceed with the next order of business, brought a tense situation. Stuart and his cohorts actually tried to jam the stage with supporters, grab the microphone and take over. Between the efforts of some husky sergeants-at-arms and the realization that this disruptive tactic was antagonizing the vast majority of delegates, the Stalinists retreated and the convention went on. During the discussion on political, action, Stuart again tried his stunt and again the convention was disrupted from discussing the issue at hand.

Of course, these incidents intensified discussion on one of the major off-the-convention-floor issues. It was the Communist (Stalinist) Party. On the first day, a bitter exchange between Stuart and Scholle brought charges of red-baiting against Scholle, and “rule or ruin” policy on the part of the Stalinists. As a result, on Monday night, Reuther appeared before his caucus and presented his full views on the problem of the Stalinists.

He defended, the right of anyone with any political views to function in the unions, but he vigorously denounced the policies of the Stalinists. He warned the delegates that the main goal of the Stalinist bloc was to seize control of the state CIO apparatus as a springboard for action to dominate the UAW-CIO. His only statement about Scholle and Hopkins, the incumbents, was to urge their re-election as a means of blocking the Stalinist drive for power.

In passing, Reuther also warned he would fight “ACTU or anyone else who tried to take over.” Of course, Reuther reviewed the CP flip-flops on domestic and foreign policy, and did a devastating job. The only point he made on his foreign policy views was: “Personally, I am against Standard Oil dominating the Middle East and I am against Stalin dominating it.”

Scholle repeated what Philip Murray, president of the CIO, recently said about the Stalinists, and his speech was packed with overtones of red-baiting. Later in the convention, a resolution incorporating the national CIO statement of policy on the Communist Party was brought before the Resolutions Committee for adoption. But Emil Mazey convinced the committee to drop it as it would lead to red-baiting and further confusing the issues at the convention.

The “left wing” caucus pulled a very obvious stunt; of red-baiting the Reuther caucus, but it boomeranged. A leaflet was passed out on the last day of, the convention showing a photostatic copy of a printer’s bill for the Socialist Party and paid, for by the. Michigan CIO Council. This was supposed to prove that the Reuther wing was dominated by “Socialists.” Ill fact, the candidate of the “left wing” for secretary-treasurer was a former supporter of Scholle, who was quoted throughout the convention as “breaking with Scholle because be had too many damn Socialists around, him.” The individual; was John Skrocki, former vice-president of the Michigan CIO.

Naturally, a delegate asked Barney Hopkins, the secretary-treasurer, if he had paid that bill. Hopkins replied: “Yes. We paid that bill as indicated. The trouble with the leaflet is that it doesn’t explain what that bill was about.”

The Michigan CIO Council had paid printing bills for many liberal-labor organizations for FEPC petitions during the big campaign last fall for a state FEPC law. It had facilitated the work of the drive. This explanation was not challenged by the Stalinists, and embarrassed sortie of the Negro supporters of the “left wing” caucus.

Negro Question

Another major issue at this convention was the Negro question. Before the convention, a disgraceful attack was made at Dodge Local 3, UAW-CIO, by supporters of the “left wing” against the “right wing” slate because it had three Negroes on it. “Left wing” forces used the vilest Jim Crow arguments.

At the convention, on the third day, a parade of Negro delegates supporting the “left wing,” packed the speakers’ platform, carrying signs, demanding a Negro executive vice-president of the state CIO Council. It was during the report of the Constitution Committee. Stalinist spokesmen heatedly demanded that Negroes be given representation in a policy-making position.

The first speaker against this proposal was the first vice-president of the Michigan CIO Council. “I have never been elected to any post in my local union except, on merit. I think I hold this job on merit and I want to be re-elected on my merit as a union man.” The speaker was Bill Humphries, of Muskegon, a Negro! Incidentally, he was re-elected. Other Negro supporters of the Reuther caucus spoke in a similar vein. As a result, the Stalinists withdrew the proposal, claiming they were really fighting only for an executive vice-president.

Fails to Meet Challenge

What did this convention accomplish? It failed to meet the challenge of the crisis before the labor movement. In this connection, the alleged “left wing” again demonstrated its total bankruptcy. (They never can attack any programmatic speech Reuther makes, for as cautious as he has become, he is still miles ahead of them.) The “left wing" remains an unholy alliance of ignorant bureaucrats like R.J. Thomas, conservatives like Richard T. Leonard, careerists like George Addes, and some red-baiters, all of whom go along with the Stalinist political line in exchange for, organizational support. Few people are as uncomfortable these days as Leonard, who as head of the PAC in the UAW-CIO, must go along with Philip Murray in his pro-Truman policy, while the powerful Ford Local 600, dominated by Stalinists, goes pro-Wallace. Is he sweating?

In the Reuther tendency, Walter Reuther, dominates all policies or lack thereof Reuther deliberately provides room for divergent views on political questions in his caucus. Labor Party agitation of one kind or another always features big Reuther caucus meetings before conventions. Emil Mazey, Reuther’s most progressive associate (he is more progressive by far than Reuther), is distinguished in the UAW-CIO top leadership by his persistent pro-Labor. Party views. The conservative wing of the Reuther tendency is ACTU, whose views we outlined in last week’s Labor Action. Gus Scholle, head of the Michigan CIO, fits into the conservative side of this picture.

But the Reuther tendency, with all its weaknesses and contradictions, deserves support not merely because it contains pro-Labor Party groupings, and provides elbow room for discussing important issues before the labor movement. Above all, what is decisive is that there are elements in the Reuther tendency who understand that labor’s fight must go beyond a struggle for wages, embrace a broader social outlook, as was indicated in the program that the Workers Party hailed as the GM Program for wage increases without price increases.

Every important crisis facing the UAW-CIO demonstrated this. Last week’s Labor Action article on the question of the FE-UAW merger proposal, once again proved this. The place for all militants in the UAW-CIO is within the Reuther caucus fighting for the Labor Party, and a continuation of the sound, progressive union policies that built the UAW-CIO.

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