Left Wing Victory
in the I.L.G.W.U.

(January 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 1, 7 January 1933, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The thorough victory of the Left wing in the elections for officers of Local 9, International Ladies Garment, Workers Union (New York), is of tremendous significance for the movement. The victory was gained not only against the slate of the reactionary Right wing, but also against the joint slate of the anarchist clique and the Lovestone group. Local 9 is the second largest local of the union in the country, and the triumph of the Left wing gains additional significance from the fact that two weeks previously, it swept the ruling clique out of office in the largest local, Local 1, and secured the election of its own slate. The impending elections in Dressmakers’ Local 22. where the Left wing is also presenting its slate, will most likely show similar, if not such decisive, results.

The gratifying results in these elections reveal a number of important points to consider. But its persistent blunders of the “third period” stripe, the Stalinist leadership of the Left wing gave signal assistance from the Left to the process of restoring the Right wing union to a considerable extent, a process which was furthered from the Right by the combined efforts of the police and the bosses. The Industrial Union, which started out with such great promise, was reduced by the erroneous course of its leadership, to a sect embracing little more than the Communist elements. The advent of this new situation, this new relationship of forces, was first ignored entirely by the official Left wing. Then it was ignored, despite the fact that we of the Left Opposition did not cease to call attention to the need of orienting the Left wing’s policy on the basis of it. When it was finally given a grudging half-recognition, the Stalinists advocated that infantile “radical” course of boycotting the Right wing union and isolating themselves from the workers by a categoric refusal to participate in what they called the “company union”. At one time, this sectarian madness reached the point where the Left wing workers were kept from going out on strike after a call for one had been issued by the Right wing union. This surrender of the workers to the mercies of the Right wing Forwards skates, afforded the Lovestoneites their opportunity to act for a time as a sort of rallying ground for those militants in the Right wing union who would not reconcile themselves to the policies and leadership of their organization.

Defeat For Lovestoneites

The Lovestone liquidators, however, in whose direction the Stalinist policy drove scores of workers, did not require very much time in which to discredit themselves. Their panic-mongering, their demands for a disorganized, every-man-for-himself dissolution of the Left wing, alienated from them the more advanced Left wingers. Others who supported them for a longer period of time, dropped away after the collapse of the notorious united front with Levy and Co. whom the Lovestoneites lifted into the saddle of Local 1, only to be kicked in the face (as should have been foreseen) the minute these petty bourgeois Labor politicians arrived in power. At the first serious test, as the Lovestoneites later lamented, Mr. Levy joined hands with the reactionary union priesthood against the progressive and Left wing forces. The discreditment of the Lovestoneites, an inevitable product of their whole course, is revealed in their crushing defeat at the recent elections, for the party to reduce them to impotence, it was enough to borrow a little from the Lovestone platform, and more from the Left Opposition, and make a half-turn away from yesterday’s sectarianism. The fact that the Lovestoneites supported the reactionary Right wing as against the Left in such a key question as the choosing of the Election Objections committee, did not help raise their prestige in the eyes of the serious progressive and Left wing forces. Unprincipledness and the opportunist game of hide-and-seek between the Right wing and the Left which the Lovestone group has played, has received a well-merited punishment. It. should now be clear to all that the Left wing will progress in the needle trades, as in every other field, only in the process of liquidating the liquidators, of relentlessly combatting the Lovestone group and nullifying its influence.

The majority of the workers in the Right wing union voted for the Left slate in spite of the fact that the Left wing presented no concrete program, unless one can dignify with that designation the general phrases concerning a “fight to improve conditions”. This fact speaks eloquently for the tremendous resources available to the Left wing in the reactionary unions, resources which it has only begun to tap. That it is an annihilating refutation of all the marble-headed theories and practises of “social Fascism”, goes without saying. The workers in the Right wing union, suffering bitterly in the present crisis without their leaders taking a single step to improve their conditions have turned, and rightly so, to the Left wing movement for guidance and leadership.

But it is precisely on this score that the Left wing is defective. To retire on its laurels, to become intoxicated with its victories, would mean that the Left wing has learned nothing from the instructive experience of the last four years or more. What will the Left wing propose to do in those locals of the ILGWU which have entrusted them with the leadership? It is essential to put the official Left wing either has no clear the point squarely, for it is plain that perspective, or else has a false perspective about which it keeps quiet now and which it plans to unfold in a series of accomplished facts.

What Will Left Wing Do Now?

Does it intend to utilize its leading positions in the Right wing union for the purpose of breaking away little splinters to be added to the Left wing Industrial Union? Such a course would not only restore the Left wing to yesterday’s isolation and gain for it the resentment and disillusionment of the workers, but would make the future progress of the movement increasingly difficult. The masses will tolerate a blunder here and a blunder there; they will forget or overlook a great deal; but they will not stand for a policy of permanent blundering.

Or will the Left wing utilize its victories for the purpose of carrying ou a genuine fight for the unity of the needle trades workers in one union, an aim which corresponds to the needs and aspirations of the harshly exploited, bedevilled and split-up workers? If it carries on a petty sectarian game of victories behind the backs of the masses, if it does not carry on the fight for unity us the Left Opposition has outlined it, then the recent triumphs will fade away like a plucked flower at night. The new leaders of Locals 1 and 9 must immediately make use of their advantageous positions to demand the unification of all the organized needle trades workers. That is now the key question, directly connected with the problem of organizing the resistance of the needle trades workers to the violent encroachments that have been made on their standards of living. It is to this question that we shall return in an early issue.

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