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CIO Leaders Push Rightward Drive

Use Convention to Whoop Up Program of U.S. Imperialist

(6 December 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 49, 6 December 1948, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In contrast to the leftward shift of the American workers as reflected in the national elections, the recent CIO national conventions marked a demonstrative push to the right by the top CIO leadership.

The election results were, above all, a mandate to the union leaders themselves to mobilize labor’s ranks for an aggressive fight to secure improved living standards, adequate housing, civil rights.

These crucial needs of the workers were completely subordinated by Philip Murray and his top machine at the CIO convention. The bureaucrats turned the convention into a “victory” demonstration for the Democratic politician they had salvaged from the trash bin and for his basic program of militarism and imperialist war preparations.

They concentrated almost entirely on a drive to crush the Stalinists, a vulnerable and discredited minority to whom they attributed all evils. This was a convenient means to divert the convention from its real duties – the elaboration of a militant program of action to win what had been promised by Truman in the election campaign.

In the process of attacking the Stalinists, the Murray machine grasped new bureaucratic powers. It voted itself dictatorial authority not only over local CIO councils, but over the international unions – a new and far-reaching concentration of power in the hands of Murray and his lieutenants. It laid down the ultimatum that everyone and every section in the CIO must conform to the political views and foreign policy held by Murray and his group.

A Grave Omission

Only incidentally, sandwiched in between long hours of ballyhoo for the Marshall Plan and Wall Street’s bi-partisan foreign policy, was brief recognition paid to the real problems confronting the workers – unconditional repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, fourth-round wage increases, organizing the unorganized, etc.

Resolutions on all these questions were adopted by the convention. But both the resolutions and the brief discussion op them suffered from a grave omission. Not a word was said about; hpw to implement these resolutions, how these progressive aims are to be won.

A Fool’s Game

Take the question of the Taft-Hartley Act. The CIO called for unqualified repeal of the act and restoration of the Wagner Act without change: But no-one knows better than Philip Murray that reliance on promises of capitalist politicians – even those so indebted to the labor bureaucrats as the Trumanite Democrats – is strictly a fool’s game. He knows Truman is seeking to replace the Taft-Hartley Act with a “substitute” law embodying many Taft-Hartley features.

Only a united nationwide fight by labor will force Truman and the Democrats to live up to their promises on the Slave Labor Law. But the Murray machine is first of all concerned with cementing its coalition with the Trumanites and proving how “right” it was in supporting Truman and opposing the formation of a labor party.

New Wage Boost

Take the question of wages. The resolution adopted showed black on white that the workers need higher wages. But there wasn’t a hint of any program on how to win higher wages. There was no proposal for a unified struggle. It was clear that the wage drive is powered solely by the hope that the corporations will toss the workers a few more crumbs without any serious fight.

The problem of organizing the unorganized – of whom there are tens of millions – was raised primarily as a factional issue against the Stalinists; It remains to be seen whether the Slogan of “organizing the unorganized” will be used simply as the pretext for Murray’s intervention in Stalinist-dominated international unions or for a genuine campaign to bring new millions into the CIO ranks.

The Murray leadership was mainly intent on demonstrating to the Truman administration how indispensible the CIO bureaucrats are in putting over the program of U.S. imperialism. This war program is a huge road block in the path of any progressive reforms.

The vast arms expenditures, the subordination of civilian needs to war production, the bolstering of rotten dictatorial regimes in Europe, Asia and Latin America, can only result in economic dislocations and crisis, the imposition of new burdens on the American masses.

This fear haunts, the workers. They hang between the pit and the pendulum – the swinging blade of inflation that slashes their living standards and the black abyss of depression and unemployment.

This is the same crucial problem the workers faced before the election. But the labor leadership gave no sound answer to it. They played the old senseless game of capitalist two-party politics and backing the “lesser evil” instead of building a labor party fighting for labor’s own program."

Denied this latter choice, the workers voted for the “lesser evil” once more and thereby gave expression, however misdirected and ineffective, to their desire for a real change in the direction of economic and social betterment. The Murray machine betrayed that desire.

As for the Stalinists at the CIO convention, they showed once again, through their total failure to offer any program of action to meet the needs of the workers, that they can never be a progressive force. They went right down the line with Murray on these issues.

The CIO convention once more demonstrated to the hilt that a new and different type of leadership is needed – a militant, class-conscious leadership paying allegiance neither to Wall Street’s State Department nor the Kremlin. That leadership must arise from the union ranks in the process of struggle against the bureaucracy and will make giant strides in the days of unfolding economic and social crisis that are bound to come.

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