B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Walter Jason

Murray Takes Burocratic Road
to Purge CP Gang in the CIO

(31 October/1 November 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 45, 7 November 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

CLEVELAND. Nov. 1 – After a sharp but perfunctory debate on the issue, the CIO convention today by overwhelming vote adopted an amendment to its constitution barring any Communist Party member from serving either as an officer or member of the executive board.

The amendment reads: “No individual shall be eligible to serve either as an officer or as a member of the executive board who is a member of the Communist Party, any fascist organization or other totalitarian movement, or who insistently pursues policies and activities directed toward the achievement of the program or the purposes of the Communist Party, any fascist organization or other totalitarian movement, rather than the objectives and policies set forth in the constitution of the CIO.”

The Stalinist leadership of the United Electrical Workers (UE) virtually walked out in advance, with an announcement that they were withholding per-capita tax payments to the CIO in accordance with their convention ultimatum.


CLEVELAND, Oct 31 – In marked contrast to the big headlines and stories about the 11th convention of the CIO which began here today, events are proceeding in a cut-and-dried fashion with all major issues settled in advance. This convention is simply ratifying what has already been decided.

When CIO President Philip Murray brusquely turned down a plea by the Stalinist bloc for any kind of compromise at. a special conference they held yesterday, the sharpest Issue at this gathering was decided. The Stalinists are going to he “cleansed.” The only real enthusiasm generated today by the 567 delegates was at Murray’s announcement of this fact.

Before this appears in print the constitutional amendments and appropriate resolutions virtually expelling the Stalinist-dominated unions and barring “communists and fascists” from office in the CIO should be a matter of convention record and approval.

[See editorial on this page for comment on Murray’s anti-CP policy. – Ed.]

Late Monday afternoon, the first “discussion” took place on the convention floor. A committee on officers’ reports included Murray’s sharp attack on the CP as part of their report. Wheretipon a spokesman for the Fur Workers Union took the microphone and quietly, with an intent audience listening, denied the charges. Then Walter Reuther, as acting chairman, took the vote, and the officers’ report was adopted by overwhelming vote.

Monday afternoon also, the convention gave Dean Acheson, secretary of state, a standing ovation, and listened to the lecture he delivered on the subject of a “Fair Deal” to the people of the world as a real alternative to “Communist promises.” As if this is not enough, the convention will also hear General Omar Bradley Wednesday afternoon. All of which should be sad news to the European labor movements looking for help from the CIO against Stalinist and Wall Street imperialism. The fact that two top officials from Washington, whose role in another war would be decisive, are main speakers here, indicates how deeply the CIO leadership has involved itself in the war machine.

Even more tragic is the fact that there is not one iota of real discussion of these political questions and policies at the convention. The Stalinists seldom attend the sessions, and no one else has even taken the floor – at least as yet.

Further indication of the political climate in the top CIO is shown in the applause given to Murray when he mentioned the support by the CIO of the Marshall Plan and the Atlantic Pact, without so much as a word of criticism of any kind on these policies.

Undisputed Boss

There is little evidence of the early crusading spirit of the CIO here. The heat of the great strike struggles of 1937–38 is gone. Even the present steel strike cannot hide the fact that a kind of complacency and self-satisfaction exists in the now permanently established CIO bureaucracy. Whatever opposition might exist, at least in the eyes of many of the leaders of CIO unions, will be gone before the week is over. And there is a real impatience here to get it over with.

This convention is set in the mold of the Steel Workers’ convention. Philip Murray is undisputed boss. No resolution, no constitutional amendment, no action on this convention floor will be taken or approved without his OK. This is as true behind the scenes as it is on the vast stage at the front of the convention. Discussion will be handled along his lines. Murray will decide who speaks and when. And after this convention, the organizational measures outlined for approval here will give the whole CIO the Murray stamp, and that includes the United Auto Workers too.

The tone of this convention was set by Murray in his major speech today. Here is “God’s angry man,” puzzled, irritated and impatient with events and political forces that disturb the old ways and old days. Murray was bitter at the fact that “decent American labor is caught between dictatorships and totalitarianism, like Wall Street arid the Communist Party.” He denounced both, with special blows reserved for the “diabolical, subversive Communists.”

What answer does Murray give to this dilemma? His description of the situation is accurate. For the CIO leaders at this convention, one part of this dilemma is easy to solve: expel the Stalinists and any unions they dominate. It is, as events will demonstrate, hardly an effective answer. For Stalinism is far too powerful on a world scale to be vanquished anywhere by bureaucratic decree or organizational divorce.

The delegates who see the small, miserable and desperate Stalinist group here as the whole problem just don’t know anything about Stalinism and the shrewder CIO leaders like Walter Reuther might be able to tell them. And it will be very interesting to see if Reuther does say anything different from Murray’s denunciation of “communism.”

Will They Face Up?

What about Wall Street? Murray rages at the failure qf the manufacturers and bankers to “live up to their public responsibilities.” But his strictures are in vain. Wall Street knows its own class interests quite thoroughly and needs no advice from him.

Thus this convention gives every indication of continuing the blind and short-sighted policies which have featured the recent history of the CIO. The “New Men of Power,” as C. Wright Mills so aptly described the new trade-union bureaucracy, remain men without much vision, unable to face up to the major tests of today.

B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 24 February 2023