B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Walter Jason

The Labor Veteran and the AVC

(22 November 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 47, 22 November 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

An important if not decisive aspect of the problem of any veterans’ organization has been and remains its attitude toward, and its relations with, the labor movement.

Not the least of the reasons why the ambitious plans of the Brass Hats of the American Legion to recruit millions of World War II vets failed was the bitter opposition of the labor movement to the reactionary policies and role of the American Legion in American society.

Any organization which is stained with a reputation of “strike-breaking” is hardly likely to find much support in a social atmosphere where 15,000,000 union members work and live.

It was the persistent and really devastating criticism of the American Legion by the labor movement that did a job on the Legion. It remains a parasitic pressure agency, controlled by vested interests whose limitations as a social force fortunately are understood by millions.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars apparently understood this lesson, for early in the war the powers that be of this organization, made a friendly “working agreement” with organized labor and on some issues found itself united with labor on social legislation issues (housing, for example).

Close Ties Essential

Among the newly born veterans’ organizations of World War II, the American Veterans Committee certainly got off on the right foot, insofar as the question of relations with the labor movement was concerned. It at least understood the need for a “sympathetic” attitude toward organized labor.

The impact of events has taught the necessity of some revision in the “sympathetic” attitude. As a matter of fact, It is not being too blunt to say that now the AVC has a future only insofar as it allies itself closely with the vast movement representing the millions of workers in America today.

For the millions of veterans who returned to work, by and large, have become union men. The chief organizational instrument they utilize to take up their problems is the union of which they are a member, and properly so.

UAW Veterans Work

Let us take the outstanding example of this tendency, the work of the UAW-CIO veterans department. Since World War II, the UAW-CIO has serviced the 250,000 veterans who are in the auto shops in a manner similar to that of veterans organizations.

There were national policy conferences, persistent lobbying for veterans’ legislation, court cases on seniority questions, a successful series of drives for bonuses. Under the direction of Emil Mazey, the veterans department of the UAW-CIO has out-serviced the older veterans’ organizations. It has sought to convince other CIO unions to follow a similar course.

But the fact remains that sufficient special problems remain which the union movement feels it cannot handle, unless it were to set up its own veterans organizations, rather than veterans committees in local unions, and a department in the international union.

It was inevitable that the union leaders would turn in the direction of the AVC as the organization to handle those problems in this period. The CIO and the AVC saw eye to eye on so many public questions as to dictate alliance.

As usual, the UAW took the lead in bringing home to union members the value and need for an AVC. The international union executive board, the policy making body between national conventions, this last spring urged all local unions to help build labor chapters of the AVC. The national CIO has assisted, and other unions .like the International Lady Garment Workers Unions, also have done much to help AVC.

Convention Results

This is the beginning of the possibility of success for AVC. A concerted post-convention organization drive, using all the techniques, some organizers, finances, and other assistance from the union movement offers a real hope of success in building the AVC as a progressive social organization, welding the veterans and unionists into a firmer and more effective social force in America.

Of course, this idea depends on another: the results of the AVC convention. Certainly the union movement hasn’t the slightest interest in building or helping any organization which is just another “transmission belt” for the rule or ruin clique of the Communist Party. But neither can it be aided by an organization which so fails to meet the Stalinist challenge on an effective political and democratic level, that it reduces Itself to impotence and succumbs to dangerous concepts in the process.

Smashing the influence of Stalinism is a MUST for the AVC convention if it is to have any serious future. This, however, must be done properly, and not by indefensible expulsionist means. It’s a safe guess that the delegates from many labor chapters of AVC will not be in the background of this fight, for the union movement needs a powerful, non-Stalinist AVC, and the AVC needs the labor movement.

B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 8 October 2018