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Walter Jason

The Leonard Caucus?
Well, It’s Having a Hard Time

(23 August 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 34, 23 August 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT – It happened even more rapidly than we assumed possible. The “new caucus” in the United Automobile Workers, CIO, headed by Dick Leonard, former vice-president, found itself divided and denounced by two members of its national steering committee for “red-baiting.”

The Daily Worker on Monday, August 8, carried a story from Detroit that spilled some beans on his “new caucus.” Just read the story and imagine the discomfiture of the self-professed “progressives” and true-blooded “revolutionists” who are involved in that miserable conglomeration called the Leonard caucus.

“Leonard, professing to speak for 100 locals in Michigan, lifted a leaf from Reuther’s own campaign for UAW presidency a year ago by announcing that his group will not allow the Communist Party to have a voice in union affairs.” When Reuther said that, he was denounced by the CP and the SWP for “red-baiting.” What does the SWP say now? Thus far, it has given the impression of taking full political responsibility for the line of the Leonard caucus.

Tracy Doll and Whitey Urban denounced this part of Leonard’s statement. “Urban said Leonard issued his statement without Leonard’s caucus leaders getting an opportunity to see it, despite the fact that their names were signed to it.” Is this an example of the “democracy” to be practiced by a Leonard regime in the UAW-CIO? Or, even worse, was this statement released with the approval of Ernie Mazey and John Anderson?

“To make the red-baiting dish palatable to the auto workers, who are dissatisfied with the wage-cutting GM escalator settlement and dropping of a number of basic demands in the Ford settlement, Leonard took a fly swat at Reuther’s handling of these settlements,” the Daily Worker said. We must admit that the characterization of Leonard’s program as a “fly swat” is rather accurate.

No Sign of Life

Incidentally, as the time nears for the GM workers to obtain an automatic wage increase due to the escalator clause, it is becoming more and more uncomfortable for the alleged “left wing,” Leonard included, to talk about the GM contract approving “wage cuts.”

We forgot to mention three other prominent individuals in this “new caucus.” They are Paul Silvers, Mel Bishop and Lloyd Jones. The inclusion of Mel Bishop is especially interesting. Certain self-styled “progressives” used as one of their main reasons for not supporting the Reuther tendency the fact that he had “reactionaries” like Mel Bishop in his. Bishop, according to these sources, was guilty of “slugging and beating up progressives.” But, then, that is a trifle, for Bishop apparently has “reformed,” about as much as Leonard has become a progressive.

Now that the Wayne County CIO convention has been ordered for September 2, 3 and 4, it will be very interesting to watch this new caucus in action. Its birth, or more exactly, its still-birth, hardly gives assurances of any healthy life.

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