Chapter Thirty-Four: American Imperialism Hobbles the Trade Union Movement (1945-1951)

34. American Imperialism Hobbles the Trade Union Movement (1945-1951)

William Z. Foster at rally against Taft-Hartley Law
One of the major problems confronting Wall Street in the development of its war program of world imperialist conquest, upon emerging from World War II, was to avert and break up the broad and powerful opposition of the working class—for, obviously, monopoly capital could not make any serious headway toward world mastery if it had to confront a rebellious proletariat. Regarding the workers, it was imperative, if they were to be drawn into the war program or at least not successfully to oppose it, that their heads be stuffed full of war propaganda, that they be made to bear the lion's share of the economic burdens, that they be crippled in their right to strike, and, above all, that the left wing among them be crushed.

The most effective ones to tackle these tasks for the Wall Street capitalist warmongers were, of course, the conservative trade union leaders—the characteristic American brand of Social-Democrats. They had always served the bosses well in the past, as we have pointed out—during World War I, during the following post-war capitalist offensive, during the Coolidge prosperity years, during the great economic crisis, and on many other occasions, and they would not fail them this time. Nor did they. This was because they are, indeed, "labor lieutenants of capital in the ranks of the working class."

It was not much of a problem for the bosses to get a man such as William Green, A.F. of L. president (and those around him) to take up the job of dragooning the working class into the war program. For Green talks and feels and lives like a capitalist, and he is ever on guard to defend the capitalist system. Recently he declared: "The American Federation of Labor supports our American capitalist system and free enterprise . . . just as vigorously as we support trade unionism and the right to organize and bargain collectively."1

Philip Murray (and his associates), for all his posing as a progressive, might well have said these very words himself, because they express his sentiments precisely.   Not long since he also stated his opinion of the capitalist system as follows: "We have no classes in this country; that's why the Marxist theory of the class struggle has gained so few adherents. We are all workers here. And in the final analysis the interests of farmers, factory hands, business and professional people, and white collar workers prove to be the same."2

The history of the American trade union movement during the post-World War II years, in one sense, is the story of the systematic demobilizing of the workers' opposition to the war program of Wall Street imperialism by the top leaders of the A.F. of L., C.I.O., and Railroad Brotherhoods. These people do not, of course, do this reactionary work for nothing. They reap a variety of rewards, all very valuable to them. For one thing, and the most important, the employers have tacitly agreed not to try to destroy the unions outright by an open shop drive, as they did after World War I.' This gives the union leaders a semblance of guarantee that they can maintain intact their huge body of dues-payers, from whom they milk their enormous salaries.3 Besides, as never before, the Greens, Murrays, Reuthers, Harrisons, et al. are being played up in the public eye and heroized as great "labor statesmen." Also, more than ever, the labor bureaucrats are being given sinecure jobs in the government apparatus, even though as yet only in third-line capacities—as advisers to the war economic committees, as "labor attaches" to the various U.S. embassies, and the like. The time is not yet here, however, when the American capitalists, in seeking to control the masses of workers, will corrupt their Social-Democratic leaders by giving them posts in the Cabinet, ambassadorships, or even by making them the heads of the government, as their likes in Europe have done.

The major reward, however, which the top American trade union leaders hope to gain by supporting imperialism's drive for world conquest, is to secure a big share in the latter's loot. Their aim, in tune with that of Wall Street, is to establish control over the labor movement of the entire world. This is the first time in labor history that any national trade union movement has set such an imperialistic goal for itself, but it is precisely what the A.F. of L.-C.I.O. leaders are trying to do. They are indeed labor imperialists, with their "foreign departments" and roving agents in Europe and Asia. With millions of dollars, their attitude is arrogant toward all other countries' union leaders. Such elements, as the Communist Party declares, are most dangerous enemies of the working class.


As they came out of World War II, the workers were in a militant, fighting mood. Having just participated in the winning of the great anti-fascist war, they had absorbed much of its aggressive democratic spirit. They also suffered under many economic grievances. During the war they had been held to 15 percent wage increases above 1941 rates under the "Little Steel" formula, while the cost of living advanced about 35 percent. Moreover, with the cutting off of munitions production and the elimination of overtime work at the end of the war, the workers' "take-home pay" was deeply slashed. So they demanded wage increases up to 35 cents per hour. And they struck to enforce their demands—over 4,500,000 of them in 1946, the first post-war year. This was the biggest strike year in American history. Miners, steel workers, auto workers, electrical and radio workers, maritime workers, railroaders, packinghouse workers, and many other groups participated in the strikes. Nearly all the strikes were victorious. The fight of the workers was facilitated because big foreign loans, huge domestic commodity shortages, a wartime piling up of purchasing power, and the beginning of armament preparations for a new world war had prevented a deep_ post-war economic crisis.4 Naturally, the progressive unions and the Communist Party did all they could to strengthen the great strike movement and to give it clear political direction.

All this made, indeed, a pretty kettle of fish for the ruling class. With the workers so very militant, the prospects of the American drive for world conquest through war were not too brilliant. The employers and their Truman government were gravely alarmed, as were the top union leaders, at the aggressive spirit of the workers (which, incidentally, knocked into a cocked hat Browder's theory of a post-war class peace). Something had to be done to control the situation, and the employers undertook it in the Republican 80th Congress, in June 1947, by the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, with the help of many Democrats in both houses.   In 1947, also, 30 states passed "little Taft-Hartley" laws.

The federal Taft-Hartley, law was neatly designed to weaken the trade union movement. Among its many reactionary provisions, it abolishes the closed shop, establishes a 60-day "cooling-off" period before strikes may be declared, outlaws mass picketing, authorizes employer interference to prevent the unionization of their plants, condemns secondary boycotts, re-establishes the use of injunctions in labor disputes, enables unions to be sued for "unfair labor practices," denies the unions the right to use their funds for political purposes, grants decisive powersto the National Labor Relations Board, and compels union officials to sign affidavits to the effect that they are not Communists.

The Taft-Hartley law drastically robs the trade unions of their customary independence and freedom of action by subordinating them to control by the capitalist government, as never before in their history. This was dramatized by repeated huge fines against the United Mine Workers for striking, and also by the Supreme Court's fine of $750,000 against Bridges' longshoremen's union for "boycotting" and for refusing to cross the picket lines of a striking trade union. The law constitutes a long move toward transforming the unions into state-dominated labor bodies on the Hitler-Mussolini model. The harmful nature of this legislation is shown by the fact that the trade union movement, although previously expanding rapidly, has made no substantial numerical growth since its passage, although the economic situation has been highly favorable. Also company unionism has been given a new lease on life, and the whole wage fight has been slowed up.

President Truman, with his eye on fooling the labor voters, formally vetoed the Taft-Hartley bill, but he made no effort whatever to rally his party members in Congress to fight it—about one-half of them supported the measure in the first place and also voted to override his veto. Indeed, Mr. Truman's drastic action in breaking the national strike of the 280,000 railroad engineers and trainmen in May 1946, and his subsequent proposal to Congress to force the railroad workers into the army as strikebreakers, demonstrated that he, like the employers, was quite in accord with the basic principles of the new law.

The Communist Party conducted an energetic nation-wide struggle against this fascist-like law, before, during, and after its passage. The Party warned the working class that this attempt to put the unions under government control and domination would not only injure the workers' living standards but would facilitate Wall Street's drive toward fascism and war.

The top leaders of the A.F. of L. and C.I.O. made a big to-do of opposition to the Taft-Hartley Act, but their resistance to it was without solid substance. Green denounced the law as "a slave measure, un-American, vicious, and destructive of labor's constitutional rights," and Murray declared it to be part of "a co-ordinated "program to destroy the living standards of our people." The law could have been defeated by a bold refusal of the trade union leadership to sign up under it. John L. Lewis, many progressive leaders, and the Communists proposed just this; but the top A.F. of L.-C.I.O. leadership would have none of it. The 1947 convention of the A.F. of L. voted compliance with the law, "under protest," which traitorous action caused the U.M.W.A. to quit the Federation.  The C.I.O., at its convention in the same year, left it up to its affiliates "to decide upon a course of action."

Gradually the Steelworkers, Auto Workers, and other conservative-controlled C.I.O. unions, like the A.F. of L. unions, accepted the law. Only the United Mine Workers, the Typographical Union, and the dozen broadly progressive unions in the C.I.O., along with the Communist Party, made a real fight against the infamous act. What has actually happened regarding the Taft-Hartley legislation is that the employers, with the indirect help of the Truman Administration, and with the connivance of the top A.F. of L., C.I.O. and Railroad Brotherhood leadership, have hobbled the labor movement—a major necessity for the carrying out of Wall Street's plans of world conquest and war.


The next big war job the employers had for their imperialistic labor lieutenants was to have the latter help them put across the Marshall Plan among the workers of the United States and Europe. The Marshall Plan, launched in mid-1947, was the heart, at that stage, of Wall Street's developing war plan. As the Communist Party pointed out, it was the main means to achieve American political and economic penetration of the European countries and also to arm them for an eventual anti-Soviet war. The Party showed tirelessly the folly of liberals and labor leaders in supporting this key imperialist war measure. In order to jam the plan through, the whole current imperialist propaganda about economic recovery and the defense of world democracy, coupled with violent Soviet-baiting, was greatly stepped up. In appreciation of the role of the labor bureaucrats, in all this, Secretary of Labor Maurice Tobin declared that they were worth to the government "a hundred divisions or all the striped pants diplomats that are to be found in the State Department."5

The A.F. of L. leaders were easy game for the State Department to enlist in this war campaign. At their 1946 convention they violently attacked Soviet foreign policy and indulged in their usual orgy of redbaiting. In their 1947 convention, likewise, they gave full endorsement to current State Department policy. They backed the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, supported the government's developing economic attack upon the U.S.S.R., endorsed the plan for a Western European pact, poured out limitless hatred upon the Soviet Union, and repeated to the workers all of Wall Street's tricky imperialist propaganda for war.

With the C.I.O., however, things were a bit more difficult for the warmongers. The group of progressive-led unions, counting well onto a million members, were very influential and had kept the organization on a relatively progressive course. Thus, at its 1946 convention the C.I.O. actively opposed the tendencies toward Soviet-baiting, militarization, and war. Its resolution declared that "We reject all proposals for American participation in any bloc or alliance which would destroy the unity of the Big Three."6 This resolution, inspired by the left, was adopted in spite of strong inner-committee opposition from Reuther, Rieve, and other right-wing elements.

The 1947 convention of the C.I.O. in Boston faced a greatly intensified national propaganda for war.   Nevertheless it was impossible for the right-wing elements, as they tried to do in committee, to make the convention endorse either the Truman Doctrine or the Marshall Plan.  The resolution which was finally unanimously adopted was a compromise, vaguely worded.   It endorsed American help  to foreign  countries  in need; but it qualified this endorsement by stating that "under no circumstances should food or other aid given to any country be used as a means of coercing free but needy people in the exercise of their rights of independence and self-government or to fan the flames of civil warfare."   The resolution also demanded disarmament and condemned the prevailing war propaganda. It called for "the fulfillment of the basic policy of our late President Roosevelt for unity of purpose and action among the three great wartime allies—the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union within the United Nations." The left and progressive group stated its opposition to the Marshall Plan during the discussion on the resolution.

The situation in the C.I.O. was very disconcerting to the warmongers; so Secretary of State Marshall was sent to address the convention and to push its political line to the right. This gave Philip Murray the opportunity he had been waiting for—to wangle through an endorsement of the government's war program. What he could not do through the regular action of the convention he accomplished indirectly, by stating personally, after Marshall's speech, that the convention resolution on foreign policy really signified an endorsement of the Marshall Plan. It was a mistake that the progressive delegates did not challenge this interpretation on the spot. Murray's statement was wired all over Europe, with the lying comment that the C.I.O., the progressive wing of the American trade union movement, had, with the agreement of the Communists, unanimously endorsed the Marshall Plan.

During the subsequent months Murray came out fully for the government's war program, with some criticism designed to soften the discontent in the C.I.O. Soon, however, he took his place among the most bitter denouncers of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party. This general pro-war line prevailed at the 1948 C.I.O. convention in Portland, Oregon. Besides endorsing the basic war policies of the State Department in the face of the left-wing opposition, the convention developed an orgy of redbaiting, in some respects even more virulent than that customary in A.F. of L. conventions. The C.I.O. leadership was now well on its way to supporting the American-sponsored civil wars, first in Greece and later in Korea, the gigantic militarization plans of the United States, the reduction of the workers' living standards, and all the rest of the preparations for war. Like the heads of the A.F. of L., the C.I.O. leadership thenceforth became a labor branch of the Stale Department.


The most imperative task confronting the warmongering American employers in the capitalist countries, if they were to break up the elementary working class opposition to their war program, was to isolate the Communists and other left-wingers and progressives from the trade union masses. successful, this would deprive the labor movement of its clearest thinkers and best fighters for peace. This attack upon the left wing in the trade unions, world-wide in scope, would imply, among other anti-labor operations, a split in the C.I.O. in the United States. To this latter crime against the workers the Murray-Reuther leadership, at the behest of the government, gave a willing hand.

The alliance between the progressive left wing and die center forces, as against the Reuther-Rieve-Green right wing, had lasted and led the C.I.O. for a full decade. From 1936 to 1941, as we have seen, the main basis of this alliance was the organization of the workers in the great trustified industries; from 1941 to 1945 the left-center bloc worked for the winning of the war; and from 1945 on, as the left proposed, its task should have been to fight for the realization of the kind of democratic peace for which the war had been fought and won. But now the Murray group, swallowing whole the Reuther right-wing program and doing the bidding of the Truman war makers, decided to destroy the progressive bloc, which had built the C.I.O. and made it into the most advanced labor federation this country had yet known.

After the Boston convention, where Murray had sneaked through his snide endorsement of the Marshall Plan, the tension between right and left in the C.I.O. sharpened rapidly. At the January 1948 meeting of the C.I.O. Executive Board an open rift occurred between the broad progressive wing and the Murray forces. It developed when Murray demanded that the Board endorse the Marshall Plan outright and also commit itself to the candidates of the Democratic Party in the coming presidential elections. The broad progressive bloc opposed both of these propositions, which were carried nevertheless. Murray then insisted that all affiliated unions must support these decisions, under an implied threat of expulsion. The eleven attacked and progressive-led unions, however, in line with a century of American trade union experience, claimed the autonomous right to take such positions as they saw fit on political questions.7

The following eighteen months were marked by hundreds of membership raids by the right-wing against progressive unions, by the reorganization of the New York City Industrial Union Council and other local and state councils headed by left-wingers and progressives, and by intense quarrels within the C.I.O. over the Wallace election campaign. The attacks upon the Communists and the progressive unions were all supported by Murray.

Meanwhile, the progressive unions, facing an increasingly severe war hysteria, suffered some losses through renegade leaders. That is, in the auto industry the Addes-Thomas group folded up in the face of the war fever, and union control went into the hands of Reuther. Joseph Cur-ran, president of the National Maritime Union, who formerly had worked freely with the Communists, also went over to the right. Most of the board members of the N.M.U. and the Transport Workers Union, seeing the tremendous prestige of the Party won by the good work of the Communists in the union struggles, had previously taken out cards in the C.P. Among them were many who were mere opportunists, and as soon as the government put pressure upon the unions to support the war program, they promptly collapsed. These defections were due to a mixture of sell-out, ideological confusion, and just plain "cold feet."

One of the more notorious of the turncoats was Michael Quill, president of the Transport Workers Union, a close crony of Browder. A combination of Browderism, war hysteria, and bureaucracy and extravagant expense accounts in the C.I.O. caused him to abandon his left pretenses. The first outright sign of his renegacy came early in 1946, when he voted in the New York City Council to give an official reception to Cardinal Spellman upon the latter's return from hobnobbing with dictator Franco—whereas Benjamin J. Davis, Jr., and Peter V. Cacchione, Communist Councilmen, voted against this reactionary proposition. The final break came in New York in 1948 over the matter of subway fares, when Quill took the bosses' line and supported the ten-cent fare, while the Party in harmony with the people's interests, backed the five-cent fare. 

An important element in cultivating the split in the C.I.O. was the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists   (A.C.T.U.).   This body,  organized in 1937 by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, has as its aim typical, but thinly disguised, clerical fascism. Frantically anti-Communist, it bases itself upon the labor encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, and it aims at controlling the labor movement.  With local groups and its own press, plus active support from the hierarchy,  the A.C.T.U. is a major reactionary force, dividing the workers along religious lines. Its militants were fanatically active in splitting the C.I.O., and Murray, Carey, Brophy, Haywood, and other top C.I.O. leaders actively supported the A.C.T.U.8 When Murray worked with the progressives, he opposed the A.C.T.U., but later he gave up this opposition, along with the rest of his thin veneer of "progressivism."

The developing split situation came to a head at the C.I.O. convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in October 1949. Murray and Reuther were resolved at all costs to expel the progressive unions. The latter, on the other hand, fought for the unity of the C.I.O., declaring that trade unions necessarily had to include all the workers, of whatever political opinions. The broad, progressive-led forces controlled 71 of the 308 delegates, representing over 900,000 members, without counting the large progressive minorities in the right-led unions. The convention was a swamp of redbaiting.

The central attack by the right wing at the convention was made against the big United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers. This progressive union, the U.E., was charged mainly with opposing the Marshall Plan and the Atlantic Pact, refusing to support Truman, the Democratic party presidential candidate, and criticizing the C.I.O. leadership for not fighting aggressively against the Taft-Hartley Act and the wage-paring policies of the government—all of which actions, even if true, the union had a perfect right to carry on, both under the C.I.O. constitution and in accordance with long-established American democratic trade union practice.

In this convention, which was loaded with redbaiting and war hysteria, the U.E. was ruthlessly expelled and its charter turned over to the fascist-minded national secretary of the C.I.O., James B. Carey, who not long before had declared at a public meeting in the Hotel Astor in New York: "In the last war, we joined with the Communists to fight the fascists. In another war, we will join with the fascists to defeat the Communists." So the splendid U.E. union was split, about half of its members eventually going to either side. The convention also decided to bring to trial, later on, all the other progressive unions.

During the next few months, therefore, the C.I.O. Executive Board expelled one union after another, giving them mock trials. Finally, including the U.E. (450,000), eleven unions were ousted—the United Farm Equipment Workers (40,000); International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers (85,000); Food, Tobacco and Agricultural Workers (36,000); United Office and Professional Workers (25,000); United Public Workers (60,000); American Communications Association (15,000); International Union of Fur and Leather Workers (100,000); International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (85,000); National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards (6,000); and the International Fishermen and Allied Workers (20,000). At the 1950 convention of the C.I.O. in Chicago there was not one left-wing delegate in attendance; the process of transforming the C.I.O. top bureaucratic machine into a tool of the State Department was complete.

Thus was perpetrated one of the worst crimes in the whole history of the American labor movement. The C.I.O. right-wing leaders, by ousting the entire eleven progressive unions, had deliberately stripped the C.I.O. of the principal dynamic force that had built the organization and made it into the advance guard of the American trade union movement.

The group of eleven expelled unions not only gave the progressive political lead to the C.I.O., but the strongest among them, such as the U.E., Longshoremen, Fur Workers, and Metal Miners, have won much better working conditions and far higher wages for their members than the right-wing C.I.O. and A.F. of L. unions. They are pace-setters for the whole labor movement. In particular, these unions are alert to improve the Negro workers' conditions in the industries, and also to open the door to their advance to official positions in the labor movement.

The criminal splitting action was finally to produce disastrous consequences for the C.I.O., as we shall see later. Murray, Reuther, and company, who engineered this outrage against the working class, did it with the acclaim and assistance of the capitalist press, the employers, and the government. Wall Street could well rejoice over the services of its labor lackeys heading the C.I.O. The progressive unions made a hard fight to save the unity of the C.I.O.; but in this fight they often lacked united action. At the beginning, too, some of their leaders were unable to realize the depths of treachery to which the Murray group, with whom they had worked for so long, was sinking in order to further Wall Street's war program.


The Latin American Confederation of Labor   (C.T.A.L.) has long been a thorn in the side of American imperialism throughout the latter's great hinterland in the countries south of the Rio Grande. Communists and other progressives of Latin America were decisive in founding this most important body. Organized in 1938 and headed by the independent Marxist, Vicente Lombardo Toledano, the C.T.A.L. immensely strengthened trade unionism in Latin America. It has given real power to the people's   fight   against   landlordism,   capitalism,   clerical   reaction,   and American  imperialism.   It  has vigorously   opposed  Wall   Street's  war program. Hence, it had to be destroyed, and monopoly capital set its "labor lieutenants" in the A.F. of L. and C.I.O. top leadership to the task. The A.F. of L. leaders are old-time tools, sort of third-line partners of American imperialism in Latin America.  From 1918 to 1930 they operated with the so-called Pan-American Federation of Labor, through which the Gompers A.F. of L. clique shamelessly supported the policies of American imperialism. The Pan-American Federation of Labor finally became such a stench in the nostrils of the Latin American workers that it had to be abandoned.   Nothing abashed, however,  the A.F.  of L. leaders—Green, Woll, Dubinsky, et al.—responding to State Department orders for the post World War II period, proceeded to organize the Inter-American Confederation of Workers   (C.I.T.) in 1948, in Lima, Peru. It was founded as a hostile body to the C.T.A.L., a second edition of the Pan-American Federation of Labor.

The C.I.O. leaders, however, were in a more difficult position where wrecking the C.T.A.L. was concerned. In the years when the C.I.O. was hearkening to the left and following a progressive course, they had hailed the founding of the C.T.A.L., entered into close co-operative relations with it, and condemned as treason to labor the attacks already being made upon it by the A.F. of L. But when the orders went out from the State Department that the C.T.A.L. had to be split, Philip Murray, swallowing his erstwhile principles, joined hands with the A.F. of L. in the attempted union-smashing. All of a sudden he discovered that the splendid Communist fighters in Latin America were a "menace." The joint disruptive activities of the A.F. of L. and C.I.O. resulted in holding a labor conference in January 1951, in Mexico City, at which the C.I.T. already discredited, was reorganized into the Inter-American Regional Workers Organization (O.I.R.T.).9 This body is a direct rival of the Latin American Confederation of Labor. Although making the usual extravagant membership claims, its founding conference in reality consisted of a collection of decayed Social-Democrats, Trotskyites, and representatives of government-controlled unions of Latin America. It has no solid working class backing in these countries.

The O.I.R.T. conference was a twin to the meeting of foreign ministers of all the American states (O.A.S.), held in Washington, in March 1951. 10 They were related parts of the same imperialist machinery. The O.I.R.T. undertook to break the resistance of the Latin American workers and peoples to Wall Street's war program, and the O.A.S. sought to push the governments, armies, raw materials, and manpower of Latin America even more completely under the control of the United States government. The programs of both conferences were dictated completely by the respective American delegations, acting in the interest of American monopoly capital.

The C.T.A.L. is withstanding the Wall Street-inspired attack by the A.F. of L. and C.I.O. leadership; but trade unionism in Latin America has nevertheless been seriously injured. The American leaders, who are insolently trying to break up the labor movement of the neighboring countries to the south, bear a direct responsibility for the reign of terror which, under State Department stimulation, has raged throughout a large part of Latin America since the end of the war. This has resulted in several reactionary governmental coups d'etat and in the shooting and jailing of hundreds of trade union militants and other left-wing fighters for the peace, material welfare, and national independence of their peoples and countries.


To destroy the strong and united trade union movement that developed after World War II in Europe, which is a powerful factor for peace and democracy, was also a "must" for the Wall Street warmongers, if they were to make any headway with their program of world conquest. Nothing loath, therefore, their faithful cliques of imperialist-minded strikebreakers and union-wreckers, the top leaders of the A.F. of L. and C.I.O., set actively about the task of splitting the trade union movements in France, Italy, Germany, and other countries. They were animated by the Hitlerite slogan of the crusade against communism. This work was handled on the spot by such men as Irving Brown (A.F. of L.) and James B. Carey (C.I.O.). Millions of dollars were spent lavishly under State Department direction. From 1948 on there was to be seen throughout Europe the shameful spectacle of American labor leaders working hand in hand with reactionary Social-Democrats, governments, and employers to break the hard-pressed workers' strikes and to split their unions. Later on this disruptive campaign was extended to the Far East, where big trade union movements had also sprung up after the war.

The American and European Social-Democratic forces, unable to win the democratic leadership of the great post-war labor movements, which more and more looked to the Communists for guidance, characteristically set out to wreck them. Their meager results in France and Italy, their main points of concentration, are the measure, however, of their union-wrecking failure in general. Says the official organ of the World Federation of Trade Unions (September 1951): "The C.G.T. unites more than 80 percent of all French union members. Actually, the C.G.T. has many more Catholic members than the Catholic unions, and many more Socialists than the Jouhaux outfit." And in Italy, reports a trade union delegation from the United States, the "C.G.I.L. has a great majority of the workers in its ranks. It has a membership of 5,000,000, while the Christian Democratic Union has 500,000 and the Social-Democratic Union— 150,000."11

The international union-wrecking campaign, engineered by the U.S. State Department, reached its greatest intensity, however, in the organized drive to split and break up the World Federation of Trade Unions itself. This powerful body (see page 446), founded as the war was near-ing its end, is at the heart of the great post-war democratic-socialist movement that has swept through Europe. It represents an altogether higher level of international labor union organization than had ever before been achieved. It stands as a tremendous force squarely in the path of American imperialism, and as such it has been fiercely attacked by all the latter's labor agents and stooges.

The C.I.O., affiliated to the W.F.T.U., opened up the latest organized attack. On April 30, 1948, through its fascist-minded agent, James B. Carey, it demanded that the W.F.T.U., whose Executive Committee was then meeting in Rome, come out in support of the Marshall Plan. The British and Dutch unions, controlled by reactionary Social-Democrats, backed up this demand. The proposal was rejected, the W.F.T.U. majority supporting the position that in order to preserve world labor unity each affiliated national trade union center should take such position as it desired on the Marshall Plan. This sane proposition, of course, did not satisfy the agents of the State Department; so on January 1, 1949, at the W.F.T.U. Executive Bureau meeting in Paris, Carey and his pals proposed to suspend the activities of the organization for a year—an obvious way of getting rid of the W.F.T.U. altogether.   When this outrageous proposal was voted down, the C.I.O., British and Dutch union leaders walked out.12 The world labor movement was split, and the capitalist press everywhere emitted a howl of joy.

Meanwhile, the A.F. of L. leaders, long-time enemies of effective international labor organization, were also up to their necks in this union-wrecking business. Teaming up with the C.I.O. and the other splitters, they called a general congress in London in November 1949, and formed the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (I.C.F.T.U.). The United States and Canada had 21 delegates there from A.F. of L., C.I.O., U.M.W.A., and Christian unions. Needless to say, the Americans ran the whole show as dictatorially as their capitalist bosses were running the United Nations.  This was bureaucratic labor imperialism at work.

The I.C.F.T.U., ever since its foundation, has continued its union-smashing, strikebreaking course. It has not been successful, despite its heavy backing from the American, British, and French governments, as well as from employers all over the world. It now claims some 50 million members, but actually it has (principally in the British and American unions) about 30 million. On the other hand, the W.F.T.U., due chiefly to the huge growth of its affiliates, reported 78 million members in 65 countries at the end of 1950. The W.F.T.U. continues with its progressive program of helping the workers in all countries to build their labor movements, of fighting against fascism, and of bringing forward the interests of labor in all international spheres for maintaining world peace. The W.F.T.U. has proposed a united front with the I.C.F.T.U. to fight to maintain peace, but this was rejected.

The C.I.O. leaders, aping the reactionaries in the A.F. of L. top circles, are seeking to justify their crime of splitting the W.F.T.U. by howling the usual litany of anti-Soviet charges—that the Soviet trade unions are not real labor organizations, that the Russian Communists dominate the W.F.T.U. autocratically, and the like. But these redbaiting charges fit ill indeed with what the C.I.O. said and did in the years when it was still following a progressive policy. Thus, in 1945, the C.I.O. sent a labor delegation to the U.S.S.R., including the present-day redbaiters, James Carey and Joseph Curran. This delegation upon its return submitted a unanimous report lauding the Russian unions. "Our observations," says the report, "have increased our pride in being associated with such a great trade union movement through the World Federation of Trade Unions." The delegation also declared that "It has greatly strengthened our own determination as C.I.O. representatives to do everything within our power to cement cordial relations with the Soviet trade unions and to establish even closer unity between our two great countries for the maintenance of lasting peace and for growing prosperity and democratic progress."13

Repudiating the then current charges of A.F. of L. leaders that the W.F.T.U. was Communist-dominated, the C.I.O. convention of 1947 in Boston declared: "This organization [the W.F.T.U.] has demonstrated that the representatives of the labor movements of all the world can meet, work together, and co-operate in complete agreement toward solution of the problems which vex the world." The convention decided that "the C.I.O. pledges its continuing support to the strengthening of the W.F.T.U. and to the decisions and policies of the W.F.T.U."14

But needs must when the devil drives. So when Wall Street decided that the W.F.T.U. had to be split as a basic obstacle to its program of expansion, fascism, and war, Murray, Carey, Curran, Green, Rieve, and other C.I.O. leaders, plus the A.F. of L. upper clique, loyal to the maintenance of capitalism, leaped to do their masters' bidding, with all the fixings of anti-Communist, anti-Soviet slander. It mattered little to them that in doing so they not only had to fly in the face of all the facts and to betray the interests of the world's workers, but they also had to turn tail upon everything they had previously said and done regarding the W.F.T.U.

Business Week (July 21, 1951) openly boasts of the U.S. State Department control of the new, scab international. It says, "Though disguised, lest it give Communist propaganda a further opportunity to charge American domination of non-communist unions abroad, U.S. influence was almost unchallenged at the international labor meeting that ended its sessions in Milan, Italy, this week. It was exerted through American union delegates who came from the A.F. of L., C.I.O., and independent unions."15

But the imperialist A.F. of L.-C.I.O. leaders are having serious difficulties in establishing their hegemony over the conservative wing of the world trade union movement, just as their imperialist capitalist masters are meeting great obstacles in consolidating their hegemony over the capitalist world. At the November 1951 meeting of the I.C.F.T.U. in Brussels two major A.F. of L. proposals were rejected. Now A.F. of L. leaders are petulantly threatening to cut off their big subsidy to the I.C.F.T.U., and some are even talking of withdrawing from that body altogether.16


The alliance (subordination) of the A.F. of L. and C.I.O. leadership with Wall Street imperialism in its expansionist drive is having destructive effects upon the American trade union movement. It is sapping the basic vitality of organized labor. This bastard hook-up with big capital is, in sum, pushing the labor movement into a crisis, despite its outward appearance of wealth, strength, and prosperity.

The top union leaders, tied up with the bosses on the war program, are failing to maintain the workers' living standards. This is because, like President Truman, they are in tacit agreement with the exploiters that the workers must bear the lion's share of the cost of the preparations for war. Inflation is a definitely planned part of the war program, agreed upon by these misleaders of labor. Between 1944 and the end of 1950, consumers' prices went up 40.3 percent, while wages advanced only 25 percent. Meanwhile, the bosses' profits soared by 97.5 percent. The workers' taxes have gone sky-high. Real wages in the United States are now at least 25 percent below pre-war, and capitalist profits are about six times higher. President Truman, in San Francisco, even boasted that 1951 profits will reach the enormous total of $46 billion.17 Yet the union leaders do everything possible to check the workers' fighting spirit. Indeed, sitting on the Wage Stabilization Board, they are helping to enforce the wage freeze. The only way they will take action is when forced to do so by the rebellious workers.

The union leaders also are making only a token, for-the-record opposition to the deadly menace of fascism which is steadily creeping upon the country. Their "struggle" to repeal the Taft-Hartley law is only a sham battle, and they will accept minor amendments. They make even less resistance to such deadly measures as the McCarran Act, the loyalty tests and job screenings, the persecution of the Communist Party, and the many invasions of the rights of the Negro people. At its 1951 convention, however, the C.I.O., under mass pressure, did condemn the Smith Act and the prosecutions under it. The failure of the A.F. of L. and C.I.O. leaders to act vigorously against the growing fascist menace is due to the fact that, inasmuch as the bosses know that only by curtailing the people's democratic liberties can they put across their war program, their labor lieutenants inevitably reflect the same attitude. These misleaders are trying to ignore the major lesson, so brutally taught by Hitler and Mussolini, that the attack upon the Communists is but the opening phase of a general assault upon the entire labor and progressive movement.

The top union leaders are likewise, at the behest of the bosses, fastening a new and more deadly system of class collaboration (working class subordination) upon the unions in the industries. This course, typified by the current General Motors contract with the U.A.W.-C.I.O., is expressed by five-year agreements, escalator clauses which tie wage rates to lying government statistics on living costs, no-strike pledges, speed-up, and an all-out reliance upon biased government wage boards. Fortune says that the Reuther-G.M. agreement "goes further in its affirmation of free enterprise and of the workers' stake in it than any other major labor contract ever signed in this country."18 The results of all this class collaborationism are to hamstring the militancy and fighting capacity of the unions, to undermine and destroy collective bargaining, to force the workers into declining living standards, and to guarantee limitless profits to the employers. Before the Korean war only 500,000 workers had such boss-inspired agreements, but by the middle of 1951 the number had reached five million and was rapidly increasing.

The deepening crisis of the trade union movement, due to the leaders' support for the war program of Wall Street imperialism, is most clearly seen in the political degeneration which has overtaken the C.I.O. leadership since its expulsion of the progressive unions. The organization has lost its fighting spirit, its policies now being dictated mainly by the cunning opportunist, Walter Reuther. Once the C.I.O. was the dynamo of labor unionism, but no longer can the C.I.O. claim to be the progressive, leading section of the trade union movement. E. A. Lahey remarks correctly that since the split, the C.I.O. "and the traditionally more conservative A.F. of L. have been much more alike in their ways of thinking."19 Indeed, in some respects, in its slavish subordination to the Truman government (which only a few years ago Murray denounced as "reactionary" and "cowardly"), in its violent redbaiting and warmongering, in its suppression of trade union democracy, in its surrender to the new escalator type of union agreement, and in its cultivation of the sinister A.C.T.U., the C.I.O. top leadership has become even more conservative than the heads of the A.F. of L. About the only difference is that the C.I.O. top leadership still clings to a few progressive phrases in its resolutions, remnants of the time when the C.I.O. followed a real progressive course.

The political degeneration of the C.I.O. leadership has also resulted in numerically weakening the organization. In 1947 the C.I.O. could justly claim its often stated figure of six. million members, but now it numbers hardly more than four million.20 Actually, the A.F. of L., which during the war had fewer members than the C.I.O., now has nearly twice as many. The C.I.O.'s old-time vigor in organizing the unorganized-due to the influence of the left wing—is now a thing of the past. The C.I.O. drive to organize the South—"without participation of the Reds" —was a flat failure. The C.I.O. is also torn with jurisdictional fights, bred of the earlier raids upon the now-expelled progressive unions.

The Green-Woll-Meany-Hutcheson clique of reactionaries controlling the A.F. of L.—long-time enemies of industrial unionism—have perceived the internal crisis of the C.I.O. and are now proposing to try to tear that organization to pieces. This is the meaning of their slogan of "organic unity," and of their break-up, in August 1951, of the United Labor Policy Committee of the A.F. of L., C.I.O. and independents.21 The real head of the C.I.O., Walter Reuther, who aspires to be grand chief of the whole labor movement, and who wants a broader field than the C.I.O, would not hesitate to scuttle that organization if he saw the chance of coming to terms with the A.F. of L. leaders on the basis of their phony "organic unity" proposals.

In the present great international crisis, with American imperialism making a ruthless fascist-war drive for world domination, it is the imperative task of the trade union movement, particularly in the absence of a mass workers' political party, to take an active lead in fighting this imperialist program. It needs to make a resolute struggle to protect the workers' living standards, to preserve democratic rights, and to save the world from another terrible war. But the reactionary leaders of the A.F. of L., C.I.O. and conservative independent unions, themselves rabid imperialists, have completely betrayed this responsibility and have identified the labor movement with the aggressive aspirations of Wall Street. Such a betrayal cannot take place without most serious consequences to the labor movement, and if uncorrected by the mass of workers, it will lead eventually to a major disaster.

Never was the gap so great between the policies of the trade union leaders and the interests of the rank-and-file membership. The leaders are following a course which leads toward worsened living conditions for the workers, a drastic curtailment of their democratic rights, and the precipitation of an aggressive imperialist war; .whereas the workers, although in many cases confused by Wall Street's tricky war propaganda, are opposed to all of these things. A sharpening collision between the war-bound top labor leaders and the militant masses of workers is clearly on the political agenda in the U.S.
In the face of this situation Communist policy is essentially that of the united front from below, with the rebellious masses of the workers. The party is alert, however, to work freely with such honest officials, low or high, who want to conduct a real struggle to protect the economic and political rights of the workers and the Negro people.


The progressive independent unions, expelled by the C.I.O., and numbering some 600,000 members, have a heavy responsibility in continuing and developing outside of the C.I.O. the role they played inside of that body—that of the standard bearers of the whole trade union movement. Under the combined pressures of the employers, the government, the A.F. of L., and the C.I.O., and in the face of the current war hysteria, they have no small task in doing their progressive work. At present writing, they are all being viciously attacked by the McCarran Internal Security Committee of the Senate, the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the Humphrey subcommittee of the Senate Labor Committee. All of these committees are arbitrarily interfering in the internal affairs of the independent unions, presumably to purge them and the industries of progressive leaders and members—"reds," they call them— but in reality to break up these unions. All this constitutes an attack upon the trade union movement as a whole.

The expelled independent unions have performed a historic service in their opposition to the Marshall Plan and the rest of the war program of the Truman Administration. Above all, this fight for peace must be intensified, and all tendencies rejected which would reduce the present-day union struggles simply to questions of "pork chops." It is to the great credit of these unions that they have never allowed themselves to fall victims to the wild redbaiting and warmongering which are having such destructive effects upon A.F. of L. and C.I.O. unions. The defense by these unions of the interests of the workers and of the Negro people generally is also of great importance. And so is their fight against the Murray-Reuther-Green-supported treacheries of wage freezes, high taxes, increasing prices, and no-strike policies. Experience has already shown (and it has been voiced even by leaders like McGowan, head of the Boilermakers, and Potofsky, head of the men's clothing workers), that Wall Street's war program has been a great detriment to European as well as American wrorkers. And Truman's "friendship" for labor, upon which Murray based his treason to a progressive labor policy, has now worn utterly threadbare.

The top trade union leaders' assumption that mass production of war materials is the way for the workers to keep their jobs is a monstrous illusion that could lead organized labor to disaster. Against this deadly folly the independent unions must militantly counterpose their practical program of maintaining worker employment through greatly increased wages and shortened hours, wide extension of social insurance, broad development of many-sided public works, systematic cultivation of trade with the U.S.S.R., China, Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc. To fight for this alternative program is a task of the greatest importance.

To combat all the trends leading toward the development of a police state in the United States is also a major responsibility of the independent unions. Not the smallest part of this danger is the increased role of the generals in shaping national policy and the tendency of the president to assume more and more arbitrary powers. This bipartisan trend reflects the fascist-like war program of the big capitalists, who would be only too glad to establish a military dictatorship in this country.

The independent unions, however, manifestly need strengthening in various respects. They should sharpen their fight against the white chauvinism which still operates in their ranks (although it is in no way as serious as the situation in the A.F. of L. and C.I.O. unions) and serves to prejudice the working conditions and union status of Negro workers. The unions, too, must beware of all tendencies toward a "nonpartisan" political stand, which could smack of "economism" and Gom-persism. They need to make a positive fight for a broad, independent coalition of labor and its allies to fight reaction and its two-party system. There should also be revived the propagation of socialism among the members, something which, since the days of Browder, has been almost completely abandoned. The fight for peace is now the heart of any progressive trade union policy, and it should involve close co-operation with such progressive international labor movements as the Latin American Confederation of Labor and the World Federation of Trade Unions.

The progressive unions have need also to pay attention to the important task of winning the huge numbers of proletarian war veterans to a progressive program and organization. It was one of the worst treasons of the conservative union leadership in the post-war period to surrender the demobilized veterans to such reactionary organizations as the American Legion and the Veterans Of Foreign Wars. It was an error that the left in the C.I.O. and A.F. of L., after the end of the war, did not fight for the creation of a broad organization of labor's war veterans, which could have easily been achieved at the time.

There is a great need, too, for the independent unions to lead the fight for a general unity of the whole labor movement. The only unity that Green and Murray could have in mind is one whereby the workers would be controlled in the interest of the warmongers and the domination of the conservative labor bureaucrats assured. Real trade union unity, however, must be based upon a fundamental labor program for neace and the workers' well-being and must rest upon a genuine trade union democracy.

Along with the fighting for general trade union unity, there is an obvious need, likewise, for closer co-operation among the independent unions, as they now stand pretty much apart from each other. The same holds true for a fraternal collaboration on urgent issues between the independent unions and the progressive minorities in the right-led C.I.O., A.F. of L., Miners, and Railroad unions. An expression of this co-operation of the left trade union and progressive forces throughout the labor movement was the appearance in August 1950 of March of Labor, a monthly progressive trade union organ, edited by John Steuben. The workers look to the independent progressive unions to give a strong lead to the whole trade union movement.

The foregoing criticisms and evaluations of the policies of the independent unions are, in the main, valid also for the unions of the A.F. of L., C.I.O., United Mine Workers, Railroad Brotherhoods, etc. They represent the general course which organized labor as a whole should take, in order to develop to the utmost the tremendous progressive power of the great labor movement.

1 William Green at the A.F. of L. Convention, New Orleans, Nov. 1940.
2 Philip Murray in American Magazine, June 1948.
3 These salaries are double to 15 times what the officials could earn as workers, G.M. Harrison of the A.F. of L. Railway Clerks getting as high as $76,000 per year.
4 John Steuben, Strike Strategy, N. Y., 1950.
5 New York Times, May 4, 1950.
6 Cited by John Williamson in Political Affairs, Jan. 1919.
7 John Williamson in The Worker, Sept. 25, 1949.
8 George Morris in Political Affairs, June 1950.
9 George Morris in The Worker, Feb. 4, 1951.
10 Robert F. Hall in Political Affairs, June 1951.
11 News, Moscow, Aug. 31, 1951.
12  World Trade Union Movement, Paris, Oct. 5, 1950.
13 Report of the C.I.O. Delegation to the Soviet Union, pp. 24-25, N. Y., 1945.
14 Cited by George Morris in Daily Worker, Jan. 24, 1949-
15 Cited in March of Labor, Sept. 1951.
16 New York Times, Feb. 2, 1952.
17 New York Times, Sept. 5, 1951.
18 The editors of Fortune, U.S.A.: The Permanent Revolution, N. Y., 1951.
19 Collier's, Sept. 1, 1951.
20 New York Times, Dec. 23, 1951.
21 Organized in Dec. 1950, to bind the workers more effectively to the war program.

Chapter 35

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