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War Bloc Runs UE Convention

Stalinists and Hillmanite Red Baiters
Join Hands in Putting Over Pro-War Line

(September 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 37, 13 September 1941, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

CAMDEN, New Jersey, Sept. 5. – The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, fourth largest union in the CIO, today ended its five day convention here with its Stalinist and Hillmanite leaders demonstratively joining hands in calling for unity on a program of all-out support of the war policies of the Roosevelt administration and opposition to John L. Lewis leadership in the CIO.

James B. Carey, outgoing Hillmanite president of the UE, sounded the final note of Stalinist-Hillmanite harmony in a speech at the closing convention session this afternoon.

Carey called on the UE members to give full support to the new president, Albert J. Fitzgerald, of Lynn, Massachusetts, the Hillmanite who gained Stalinist backing for the president’s post by agreeing to “compromise” on the red-baiting issue.

Carey, like the Stalinists, pleaded for “unity” on the fundamental issue of support of the imperialist war.

That Carey is not still president of the UE is no fault of the Stalinists. Throughout the convention, the Stalinists made desperate and determined overtures to Carey in an effort to achieve complete organizational, as well as political, accord with him. It was an open secret at the convention that the Stalinist and “compromise” Hillmanite leaders had spent hours with Carey on the Tuesday evening prior to the elections, trying to persuade him to abandon his anti-communist resolution in return for support for his re-election as union president.

Carey Insists on Red-Baiting Stand

Carey would not agree to this. He had built up his following on the promise of an “uncompromising” fight tp eliminate the “communists” from the union, and was under pressure from the bulk of his followers to carry out this program. For months prior to the convention Carey had led a campaign to secure the adoption or resolutions by the locals asking the convention to bar communists from union office.

Carey was confronted with the choice of risking the loss of the union presidency and retaining his personal following among the membership, or yielding to the Stalinists’ conditions and remaining president as the captive of the Stalinists, He chose to risk losing the presidency.

Carey no doubt made his choice in the belief that he could win on the red-baiting issue and gain the presidency as well. The approach of the forthcoming CIO national convention has tended to sharpen the fight for union posts and control, as each group in the Stalinist-Hillmanite camp would like to hold the dominant power at the CIO convention.

Thus, much of the convention time was occupied with the dispute over the “red” issue, a dispute which gave the false impression that them was a fundamental cleavage of “leftists” and “rightists” and which served to conceal somewhat the actual Stalinist-Hillmanite unity that prevailed on the basic political and programmatic issues.

Joint Report Keynotes “Unity” for the War

The keynote of this unity was struck at the very start of the convention in the joint report of the general officers – Stalinists and Hillmanites combined – which projected the program adopted by the convention.

This report stressed, above all, unity around the program of full support to the war policies of the Roosevelt administration and it set the tone of the entire contention. It contained not a single reference to the need for labor militancy, Roosevelt’s use of troops against strikers, the Administration’s support of anti-labor legislation, the strikebreaking role of the National Defense Mediation Board, or the growing Administration drive against workers’ rights.

Instead the report asserted that the UE made its advances “with very little recourse to labor’s traditional weapon – strikes and stoppages of work.”

This theme was repeated by the convention leaders, Stalinists and Hillmanites alike, throughout the convention. Not once, during the entire convention, did a speaker strike a note of militant labor struggle.

The first two days of the convention produced little beyond the adoption, at the Tuesday session, of a resolution, supported by the entire leadership of the union, approving the government’s war policies and urging the Administration to put its policies into affect “with all possible speed and energy.”

There was no discussion on the resolution. Carey put it to a standing vote. Only five delegates dared to rise in opposition.

Stalinists Hide Carey’s Anti-Labor Role

The fight over the anti-communist issue did not come on the convention floor until Wednesday. This fight, which at no time took on the character of a struggle over fundamental issues, at first arose as a “jurisdictional” dispute, with the Stalinists insisting that the resolutions committee, which they controlled, had jurisdiction over the issue, and the Careyites claiming that it properly belonged in the hands of the constitution committee, controlled by. the Hillmanites.

On Wednesday morning, the resolutions committee presented a resolution, inflated by the Stalinists, which offered a compromise to the openly red-baiting Carey proposal.

The Stalinist resolution excluded specific reference to communists and communism, but laid the basis for persecution of genuine union militants.

This resolution declared that the union “has in the past made substantial contributions to the defense of this country” and is “today called on to do still more toward this defense.”

Therefore, the resolution concluded “that this union, firm in its loyalty to this country, to its democratic institutions and constitution, reiterates its vigorous opposition to any person who acts or works against the interests of the United States or of this union ... That any person guilty of such acts can have no place whatever either as member or officer in this union ... That any good-standing member of the union is entitled to all rights and privileges without discrimination, unless such member be proved guilty of acts against the nation or against the union in accord with the procedure set forth in our constitution ...”

Stalinist “Compromise” Resolution Dangerous

This resolution is so worded that while it can be used against genuine anti-war elements and union militants who might conduct strikes pr other labor “acts against the nation,” it can not so easily be turned against the Stalinists, who now proclaim their “loyalty to the United States of America and its Constitution.”

The reactionary red-baiting Carey could subscribe to every word of this resolution. He wanted, however, to have “communists” and “communism” specifically mentioned. He was forced, therefore, to oppose the Stalinist resolution on purely technical grounds, arguing that the single section dealing with the rights and privileges of members belonged to the jurisdiction of the Hillmanite-controlled constitution committee. Carey, as chairman, therefore ruled this section of the resolution out of order.

An appeal against this .ruling was made, and the appeal was won by a roll-call of 714 to 450. This vote was the first real test of strength between the Stalinists and Careyites.

Carey and Stalinists Pull Their Punches

During the ensuing several hours debate on the resolution itself, it became clear that neither the Stalinists nor Carey cared to attack each other in a forthright manner.

The Stalinists correctly argued that the anti-communist issue was supported by the anti-labor press, the employers and reactionary politicians.

But they deliberately avoided any direct attack on the Hillmanites, Carey or the Roosevelt Administration as being the actual sponsors of this move in the UE and other CIO unions. The fire of the Stalinists was directed at the “Inter-Local Committee of Progressive Trade Unionists,” an organization of Carey supporters, but never at Carey himself.

The Stalinists correctly charged that the proposal to discriminate against persons because of their political beliefs was a violation of the fundamental principles of trade union democracy.

But they did not show why Carey wished to put over this red-baiting proposal. They did not, for instance, point out that Carey’s attack was directed, in reality, at those who were for militant labor action against the bosses, who were opposed to collaboration with the employers and government and who fought against the Roosevelt war program. The Stalinists did not seek to discredit the real purposes of the red-baiters, but to smooth over the differences in order to unite with them.

Carey and his followers, for their part, could not point to anything in the present Stalinist program with which they disagreed. All their real differences had ceased to exist on June 22, when the Kremlin decreed full and unconditional support of the Allied imperialists.

CP “Democracy” Not for Trotskyists

The Careyites, through Clifford Haley, Local 1227, Long Island City, New York, resorted to a stupid expedient in an effort to win support for their position.

Haley “dramatically” confronted the convention with a photostatic copy of a pledge signed by several UE members who had attended a Communist Party training school in 1937. Haley did not attack the nature of the pledge, but merely used the document as evidence that certain UE members had been members of the Communist Party.

This pledge included agreement to build the Communist Party and “to drive the Trotskyists out of the labor movement.”

The only thing which the document proved was not that members of the Communist Party should be excluded by constitutional ruling from the union or union posts, but that the Stalinist plea for “democracy” in the union was a fake, as evidenced by their program to drive the Trotskyists out of the unions.

The Stalinist-sponsored resolution was finally voted on by a show of hands, and was adopted by two-to-one majority.

So far as most of the delegates were concerned, this vote expressed an honest opposition to red-baiting policies. From that standpoint, the vote was a blow to the Hillmanite red-baiters and reactionaries and an affirmation of the progressive and democratic sentiments of the UE rank-and-file.

“What About Jackson?”

Nevertheless, the Stalinist “compromise” contained certain dangerous implications, as one delegate, Edward Lopez of Bayonne, New Jersey, pointed out. Lopez called attention to the phrase “acts against the nation”, and asked Fitzgerald, the chairman of the resolutions committee:

“What about Jackson? He’s been thrown into a Canadian concentration camp. If he’s found guilty, will he be thrown out of the UE because he’s against the interests of his country?”

This question referred to C.S Jackson, president of UE District Council No. 5 in Canada, who was thrown into a Canadian concentration camp several months ago after he returned from a UE conference in the United States. He has been interned for month without trial, and the UE is conducting a fight for his release. Fitzgerald “answered” Lopez’s question with the single statement:

“That’s Canada. This is the United States we’re in.”

The Roosevelt Administration Hillman, and all the bosses have already termed strikes and militant labor actions in the war industries to be “acts against the nation.” And now they will be so termed by the Stalinists an Hillmanites n the UE.

The defeat of Carey on the red-baiting issue led to his defeat for re-election at the afternoon session Wednesday. The Stalinist backed the Massachusetts, Hillmanite, Fitzgerald, against Carey The combination of Stalinists and “independent” Hillmanites was sufficient to elect Fitzgerald. The vote was 635 to 539. Carey received considerably more votes for president than for his position on the anti-communist issue. This indicated that many delegates, as a result or the Stalinist cover-up of the anti-labor character of Carey’s red-baiting, did not think his red-baiting of enough moment to warrant opposition to his holding the highest office in the union.

Stalinists Support Carey for CIO Post

Immediately after Carey’s defeat, Organization Director James Matles, one of the Stalinist leaders, proposed that the UE support Carey for re-election as CIO National Secretary at the coming CIO convention. Such a motion was passed on Thursday morning. Carey, on his part, revealed how shallow was his cleavage with the Stalinists, when he seconded the nomination of the leading Stalinist in the union, Julius Emspak, for UE secretary-treasurer. Carey called for a unanimous vote for Emspak in the interests of “unity”.

Carey made one final move to get his anti-communist .program adopted, when he proposed that union locals be permitted to set up their own qualifications for union officers. This was calculated to permit local unions to put anti-communist clauses in their local constitution. The convention supported a counter-proposal to this, brought in by the constitution committee, by a vote of 789 to 377. The constitution committee, Carey’s own, abandoned his line at the Stalinists’ “unity” plea.

It might be assumed that with the scores of vital issues and problems confronting labor in this war period, the convention would have seen enlivened by much discussion and debate. This, unfortunately, was not the case.

Vital Issues Are Not Discussed

The dead-weight of the Stalinist-Hillmanite leadership simply smothered any possible real discussion on the war, the role of the Mediation Board, the right to strike, government strikebreaking, labor participation on government agencies, priorities unemployment, organization of the unorganized, etc

Such of these questions as were dealt with at all merely received passing reference in speeches on other questions or in resolutions hastily passed with little or no discussion, most of them jammed through at the very end of the convention.

The vital problems of priorities unemployment and the organization of the competitive shops, problems of extreme moment to the UE members, were passed off hastily in inadequate and undiscussed resolutions.

Every question, every problem was subordinated to the one reactionary aim: to line up the union behind Roosevelt’s war program.

This convention has established definitely the fact that the Stalinists and Hillmanites, drawn together by fundamental agreement on the war, are in the process of establishing an alliance against the forces of John L. Lewis and all those anti-war elements and militants in the CIO who have thus far prevented the pro-war reactionaries from making the industrial union movement an appendage of the government’s war machine.

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