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Delegate Couldn’t Get Hearing
at APM Meeting in New York

Mazey, Detroit Union Delegate, Refused the Floor by Stalinist Managers
of the “Convention”, Tells The Militant His Story

(April 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 16, 19 April 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“They talked a lot at this American Peace Mobilization convention about fighting to win democracy here at home first before sending an army to fight for democracy in Europe. Well, after sitting through this so-called convention for two days, I think the fight for democracy ought to begin right inside the American Peace Mobilization outfit.”

That is how Ernest Mazey, vice-president of Detroit local 29, State, County and Municipal Workers of America (CIO) and his union’s delegate to the two-day American Peoples Meeting of the American Peace Mobilization held April 6–7 here in New York, summed up the APM convention to this Militant reporter.

“Fight for democracy at home? A rank-and-file delegate would have needed a whole Army division to get to the ‘mike’ in that ‘Peoples’ Meeting. I ought to know, because I tried it for two days,” said Mazey.

Mazey has the distinction of being the sole delegate, of the “4,225 delegates and 748 official observers” whom the APM claims attended the convention, who even had the temerity to ask for the floor during the general sessions of the convention. In fact, his insistence on being permitted to discuss the main resolution of the convention, after its presentation to the general session Sunday afternoon, created almost a full-blown panic amongst the sundry top officials who ran this “peace” travesty with an iron hand.

A Stalinist Fraud

The story of Mazey’s attempt to exercise his right as a delegate to speak at this “Peoples” convention demonstrates the fraudulent character of the APM as a genuine peoples movement against the war.

“The delegates never had a chance to discuss any of the resolutions or the program. The whole first day, Saturday, was spent in getting the delegates straightened around, registering them, and so forth. In the afternoon, they trotted us out in the rain to Randall Island stadium and after we soaked around there for about half an hour, they trotted us back.

“We didn’t get down to business until. Saturday evening,” Mazey went on. “Then we found that there were no general sessions for that day at all. We could merely sit in on one of a dozen or so discussion ‘panels’ and commissions. The conference on the topic Labor and War was divided into six different sections alone. Imagine trying to have a voice on the resolutions or trying to discuss before all the delegates in that kind of set-up.

“These ‘panels’ were a joke. The chairman, ‘keynoters’ and secretaries of these ‘panels’ were all hand-picked in advance. We didn’t have a chance even to vote on them. They came in with the complete drafts of all resolutions and programs prepared in advance. These resolutions were shoved through on greased skids. Everything was cut and dried.”

Mazey then described in detail how he tried unsuccessfully to get the floor Sunday afternoon at the general session.

Stalinist Gag Rule

“I wanted to represent my union honestly, and fight for the program against war which I believe is in the interests of the workers. I was determined to speak if 1 disagreed with any resolution. I was sitting up on the platform not more than 15 feet from the chairman, at the Sunday afternoon session in Mecca Temple.

“The main business of the Sunday afternoon general session, which began about four in the afternoon, was the report on the Declaration of the American Peoples Meeting. This was the key document of the convention and was supposed to summarize its entire program against war.

“When Fields, the executive secretary of the APM, finished his report on the Declaration, I rose to my feet before the entire assembly and in as loud a voice as I could muster I shouted: ‘Mr. Chairman, I want to discuss this Declaration!’

“The Chairman just ignored me as if he didn’t hear me. He went on to introduce the next speaker. That’s all there was to this ‘convention’, anyway. A bunch of hand-picked speakers, most of whom didn’t represent anyone but themselves, who took up the whole time of the, convention, The delegates were just shoved out in the cold.

“Right after the chairman had introduced the next speaker, Donald Henderson, who was to give the report of the Resolutions and Program committee – which the delegates didn’t elect – I went to the chairman to find out why a delegate couldn’t get the floor in this convention.

Stalinist Runaround

“The chairman gave me a very evasive answer to my question. He tried to say he hadn’t heard me – and I was shouting at the top, of my voice just a few feet from him. Then he told me to put my request in writing.

“Well, I’ve been to a lot of big union conventions, but if’ the chairman of any of those conventions had told any delegate who wanted to speak on a serious question that he had to ask for the floor in writing the conventions would have been stopped right then. I’ve seen and heard about a lot of bureaucratic practices, but nothing to come close to this.

“Alright, I wrote my request for the floor on a slip of paper and gave it to one of the ushers and told him to give it to the chairman. He went up and gave it to the chairman. The chairman read it and passed it on to Rev. Thompson, who was the general chairman of the whole convention.

“Then I saw Thompson leave the platform immediately with the request note in his hand.

“I waited quite a while, maybe an hour, to see if they’d give me the floor. Meanwhile, the resolutions and program were being presented and adopted. Every single one wag simply read off and put to a voice vote without any discussion. There were plenty of things on which I am sure many of the delegates disagreed, but a lot of them must have seen what happened to me when I tried to discuss, and so they just kept their mouths shut. The chairman didn’t even call for discussion.

“By this time, I was getting plenty sore. I moved up to the very first row of seats on the platform where the chairman couldn’t say he couldn’t see me or hear me.

“Then I went up to the chairman again, just a couple of feet from the loud-speaker, and again loudly asked for the floor. Somebody else hastily grabbed the ‘mike.’ The chairman began to argue with me and deliberately lied about not having received my written request for the floor. Then he said there were too many ‘regular’ speakers for the delegates to be given a chance to speak.

“By this time, I was burned up. I pulled out my credential, wrote out another request on the spot;’ and personally handed it to the chairman, who then handed it again to the Rev. Thompson, who in turn, went into immediate private conference with Field, the executive secretary.

Just a Circus

“Some ‘peoples’ convention! We heard Congressman Marcantonio, we heard Paul Robeson sing, we heard that well-known Stalin stooge, Corliss Lamont, tell all about how the Soviet Union was not in Hitler’s camp and ‘makes pacts with both sides.’ But we didn’t hear one authentic voice from people, the real people, the workers like me who had come hundreds of miles thinking we were going to discuss and draw up a program which would be really effective in the fight against, war.

“Finally, someone started to make some announcements over the loud-speaker. I was startled to hear a high-pitched voice frantically calling all over the hall, ‘Will Ernest Mazey please contact Frederic Fields on the stage immediately!’ Wasn’t that a hot one, and me standing within ten feet of Fields all the time.

“Fields began by asking me why I wanted to speak. ‘What do you want to say? What do you want to discuss?’

“I answered plenty sharply, ‘I don’t have to tell you what I want to discuss. I’m a bona-fidedelegate and I want the floor thrown open for free discussion. What I have to say, I want to say to the delegates. That’s my elementary right as a convention delegate. Do I have to submit to a censorship before I can get the floor?’

Then Come Threats!

“I guess I was getting a little too tough for Fields to handle so he then called over a fellow named De Lacy, who had been the chairman in the morning session and who is president of the ‘Washington Commonwealth Federation

“De Lacy got pretty ugly. ‘I’m a politician,’ he started out, ‘And I don’t think you should get the floor. If you should get the floor by any chance, I’m warning you now, you’ll be attacked!’ Attacked? Why, that fellow didn’t even know what I was going to say! He went on, ‘I’m a politician, and if you speak, I’ll get up and denounce you as, a disrupter.’

“Then this De Lacy took Fields a little aside and said in an ugly tone, loud enough for me to hear ‘Maybe I’d better get in touch with the public relations committee.’

“Well, he didn’t have to hit me over the head for me to know what he was probably talking about. I’d seen Homer Martin’s ‘public relations committees’ in action against progressive unionists in the auto workers union in Detroit. Only we called them ‘goon squads’.

“I stopped trying to get the floor then. And peace once more reigned over the American Peace Mobilization. But not for long I’m going back to Michigan – I told those birds this – and I’m going to spread the word as far as I can among the 500,000 CIO members there about what kind of fake convention this was.”

Mazey also gave some of his impressions about the composition of the convention, its program and sponsors.

Mainly Bourgeois Pacifists

“I never saw any convention like that. Anybody could come in. It was top-heavy with middle class and professional people. Of the 4,200 delegates, only 1,700 were claimed from trade unions, and the biggest single groups of these were from office, professional and government employees unions. There were over 1,000 delegates claiming to represent professional ‘peace’ groups, the kind that howl for peace and then fold up under the first real pressure.

A Phoney Program

“I’m not saying there were not a lot of good union elements here, who did represent a genuine following. But these workers surely didn’t come out of this merry-go-round affair with any program that they could honestly offer to the workers as a program which could actually put a stop to war.

“The only thing they added to the ideas that were in the Call they issued before the convention, was the slogan, ‘The Yanks Are Still Not Coming.’ That had about as much sense as the old slogan which the Stalinists used to sling around the unions, ‘The Yanks Are Not Coming.’

“If any worker wanted to understand what causes wars, and how wars are an inevitable product of the economic and social system, and how you have to change the system to stop wars, he didn’t get a chance to learn it at this convention.

“They talked about fighting for democracy within the armed forces, but how, they failed to say.

“As for this being a ‘peoples’ meeting, that’s plain hooey. You show me any ordinary meeting of workers, any union say, where the mention of the name of a book about the Soviet Union will start up a big ovation. Well, when one of the speakers referred to the Dean of Canterbury’s book, The Soviet Power, which I know the Stalinists have been pushing, there was a great big applause.

Tomorrow’s War Mongers

“What was Corliss Lamont doing there as an invited speaker? He gave a big speech about what the Soviet Union is doing for peace. The American Peace Mobilization says it’s against sending American troops to fight on foreign soil.

“But Lamont got a hand when he said that the Soviet Union and the United States ought to sign a pact to join together against Japanese aggression. And these same people will be telling us tomorrow, if such a pact is signed, that we ought to support this government in a war against Japan because it will help defend the Soviet Union!

“The plain truth is that this whole outfit is just another Stalinist ‘front’ organization. The whole thing smelled like this morning’s Daily Worker. Most of the speakers and leading figures were persons known for years to be close to the Stalinist movement.

“The whole bureaucratic, high-handed way in which this convention was run smacked of the kind of thing we’ve long since learned was characteristic of the Stalinists in the trade unions.

“This kind of movement can never fight for democracy here at home. It can never stop war. All it can do is confuse and mislead the workers, and discredit and disorient the anti-war fight.”

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