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Walter Jason

Leonard Launches New UAW Caucus

(16 August 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 33, 16 August 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT – In case any autoworker hasn’t heard, there is a “new caucus” formed in the UAW-CIO. Richard T. Leonard, former UAW vice-president, announced its formation last week.

According to the publicity thus far given out, this caucus is against all “ism’s,” against the Communist Party, against Walter P. Reuther, against Reuther’s “peace at any price policy,” and for better contracts,, social security, pensions, justice, good fellowship, as well as better jobs for the members of the caucus, especially those who once held union posts and have been retired from them by the rank and file in the elections during the past year.

Among the great stalwarts who head this “new caucus,” are Tracy Doll, for years the mouthpiece of the Stalinists in the Wayne County CIO council, and a man about to lose his job. (He has broken with the Stalinist caucus recently – just by accident, to be sure, at a time when they appear to have lost control of the council, and power over his job.)

Kenneth Forbes, recently deposed as regional director, is another leader. Ditto Tom Cunningham, twice defeated candidate for president of Local 7. Some of the other members of the national steering committee are Ernie Mazey, John Anderson, and Gene Butler, of Detroit, and Joe Berry of Flint. Whitey Urban of Packard local is another.

Flock to Murray

Just to list some of the leaders is to indicate what this caucus represents. All the non-Stalinists in the Stalinists caucus, have joined together to break with their Stalinist buddies because the CP is pretty much through in auto.

Indications of this break came recently in the Wayne County CIO council, when all these forces deserted the CP in its fight to retain control of the council, after Phil Murray, CIO president, put the heat on everyone.

Murray demanded and obtained a postponement of the annual convention until non-affiliated locals could join and thus assure a sufficient majority to clean out the Stalinists.

Tracy Doll, as president of the council, made the motion to support Murray’s telegram along those lines. Not to be outdone, Dick Leonard made a similar motion. But the final blow came when Erwin Bauer, of Local 306, also spoke for postponement of the convention (without acceding to Murray’s demands on representation). The CP all but uttered, “Et Tu Brutus,” at this display of independence. Until this meeting, the above mentioned people have been breathing fire and brimstone at the very mention of Murray’s name.

Something to Behold

That meeting of the Wayne County CIO council was truly a spectacle to behold. The Stalinists were sick-looking, and deservedly so, at how their allies were suddenly finding themselves to be CIO patriots after all.

The Reuther caucus sat through this meeting, enjoying themselves thoroughly, as they watched Doll, Leonard, and the others retreat to safer shores.

This was just one of the events that caused the formation of the “new caucus.” Although the Leonard group hasn’t announced its full program, certainly enough has been presented for a critical analysis of this tendency.

Take the matter of being against “isms.” To whom will that point in the platform appeal, except to the 100 per cent “American” type; that is, the reactionary and backward elements in the union. How some of the people in that caucus swallowed such a plank is almost difficult to understand. But then if your thinking can get you in the position where you believe Russia is a state worth defending, you can believe anything.

Although we haven’t seen the Stalinist comment on the section against the Communist Party, we are sure they’ll denounce it as “red-baiting,” and point out, with some justice, that these same people called Reuther a red-baiter because he said either identical or similar things about the CP. But then such a switch in position is a minor trifle, in the interests of a clever maneuver, no doubt.

Sizzling Militancy

The payoff comes on the big issue, “militant trade union policy.” And look who the speaker is: Dick Leonard, author of the company security clause in the Ford contract, the advocate of a lousy pension plan system which the Ford workers decisively rejected.

Leonard denounced the results of the recent strikes and negotiations. The UAW-CIO should have obtained adequate social security, and pensions! Yes sir. And why didn’t brother Leonard say so during negotiations at Chrysler, for example, because, you see, he didn’t want to upset the apple-cart. So he went along, and made some speeches, along with his supporters, on how good the Chrysler contract was. And his supporters said Leonard deserves to be Chrysler director because of his outstanding work in Chrysler negotiations during the strike.

And besides, Leonard led the opposition to any escalator clause, that sell-out clause which only the corporations and the nasty “Trotskyites” want. Just in passing, we’d like to see Leonard and Ernie Mazey on the same negotiating committee, when the issue of an escalator clause came up. Or is agreement on this question just another trifle, not to interfere with the formation of a “progressive caucus.”

As for the “peace at any price” policy which Reuther allegedly follows, it seems that only recently in Detroit the Reuther forces led a strike at Chrysler which they organized. And prepared one at GM in event the corporation didn’t come through. But then, autoworkers are supposed to be simple-minded, and not remember such things. So this clique of disgruntled ex-porkchoppers, political opportunists, and ex-fellow-travelers, tried to sell this song and dance to the autoworkers. The response is not likely to be good.

Silence Not Always Golden

There are a couple of other interesting points to bring up in preliminary discussion of this caucus. One of the burning issues before the autoworkers is the question of political action. Where does this caucus stand? Silence! Talk about militancy and bravery.

Everyone knows where Urban and Cunningham stand. They are strong Wallaceites. Leonard, it can be safely said, is going along with Murray policy. So why in Marx’s sake should persons like Ernie Mazey take political responsibility for that kind of mish-mash tendency?

Walter Reuther dismissed the whole thing as “just another example of the kind of factionalism the UAW members won’t stand for.” He’s a lucky fellow, for it would take a few political miracles to cause the Leonard caucus to make him lose any sleep.

The Leonard caucus has announced a big meeting in September, where it intends to present a complete program. This we’ll watch with interest, and report our findings for Labor Action.

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