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Walter Jason

News and Views from the Labor Front

State Convention to Test
UAW Groups

(16 June 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 24, 16 June 1947, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT – Delegates are gathering here on June 16, 17 and 18 for the annual CIO state convention at a time of crucial importance to the union movement?

The burning issues of the day are bound to occupy a major part of this convention, in contrast to last year’s mainly organizational fight between the so-called right and left wing factions in the CIO, in this case, of the UAW-CIO in particular.

For the problem of meeting the anti-labor offensive cannot be ignored or buried. The Taft-Hartley bill may be signed by President Truman. It may be left unsigned, to become a law. Or it may be vetoed and passed anyhow.

Labor Party Issue

The point is that labor must reevaluate the political program that brought it into its present defensive position. It must chart a course for victory in the next period.

And that is why the question of a labor party will assume major significance at this convention, in spite of all attempts to shift it aside. Interwoven with this question and every Other disputed point at this convention is the UAW-CIO factional struggle, for both Reuther and the anti-Reuther forces are using this convention as a testing ground of strength in preparation for the coming national UAW-CIO convention.

The predominant influence of the UAW-CIO delegates to the state convention arises from the fact that the auto union is the decisive section of the labor movement in Michigan. The importance of the UAW-CIO factional struggle at this convention is that both major auto factions will play a decisive role in the respective “right” and “left” wing caucuses.

The major political answer of the Stalinist bloc to the burning issues of the day will be in the slogan “Support Henry Wallace.” In the camp influenced by Reuther there will be confusion, opportunism, conservatism and some labor party sentiment. Much of the confusion will arise from agreement among some delegates with what Wallace says, but dislike of Wallace’s blessing from the Communist Party. The conservatism will come mainly from the present leadership of the state CIO, headed by Gus Scholle, president. Unlike last year, when Scholle found Philip Murray, CIO president, tacitly supporting the left wing, Scholle expects support from Murray in his anti-CP attitude and in his general line, “Support national CIO policy.”

ACTU’s Influence

How far labor party sentiment has spread in Michigan CIO ranks will be revealed at this convention. Certainly it will be an issue in the Reuther-Scholle caucus meetings held before the convention. Of special interest to progressive workers in the Reuther camp will be the role of Emil Mazey, co-regional director of the big East Side region of the UAW-CIO. He is the only leader of prominence in the Reuther camp who has spoken repeatedly for a labor party.

The Stalinist bloc has been working hard before this convention to link directly Gus Scholle and Governor Kim Sigler, the Republican witch hunter. But much of this campaign failed to catch fire among the ranks when Scholle made a shrewd speech before a legislative committee against the Callahan red-hunt bill, while spokesmen for the Stalinist forces fumbled the ball. Scholle’s speech was made before a huge delegation of CIO unionists as well as committee members. Sigler, of course, was for the Callahan bill.

If the reactionary influence of the Stalinists is the curse of the so-called “left wing” bloc, then the curse of the Reuther camp is the vicious ACTU (Association of Catholic Trade Unionists) influence. ACTU openly endorsed Sigler’s witch-hunt in an editorial in The Wage Earner, their weekly publication. ACTU moaned when Walter Reuther denounced Sigler’s red-baiting. But ACTU is very influential in some circles, especially in the state CIO leadership, and its reactionary role needs further exposing. Paul Weber, of the American Newspaper Guild, and ACTU “braintruster,” is a case in point. He is a vice-president of the state CIO.

In terms of organizational strength at the state CIO convention, both sides claim a majority of delegates. It seems probable, however, that the right wing will again retain control. It is important, of course, to keep the state CIO from becoming a tool of the Stalinist bloc. But that is not enough. A good house-cleaning of the reactionary elements in the Reuther-Scholle camp would be of further aid to the progress of the Michigan labor movement in fighting off the bosses’ offensive.

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