Jose Perez's nostalgic reunion with the SWP

Sol Dollinger soldoll at
Tue Aug 31 13:06:29 MDT 1999

In the recent past, you have written about your long tour with the SWP.  All
of this is interesting about the conversion of a political movement into a
sect.  Like Jehovah's Witnesses the party members credit their existence to
the sale of the Militant or books published by the SWP.  You have been in
error when you stray to a review of the Socialist Union of America led by
Bert Cochran, George Clarke and Harry Braverman.  The fault is not yours.
You were misled by your mentors who created a new history to explain their
participation in the destruction of the most significant union fraction
created since the 1934 Teamsters  strike in Minneapolis.  These party
leaders, Frank Lovell. George Novak, and George Breitman were part of the
Cannon clique who could not find fault with the leader of American
Trotskyism; who voted against  Cannon repeatedly on the most important
political questions facing the party since the death of Trotsky but agreed
to expel our faction to appease their leader.  This is an example of
unprincipled politics that they never learned in the school of Trotsky.

What were the issues that they voted for?  They agreed with us in the
National Committee that the auto fraction members were correct in supporting
Reuther at the 1946 UAW Atlantic City convention which elected him president
by 123 votes out of 4000 cast.  Our delegates had the margin  that
determined the  election of  Reuther. They further agreed that we were
correct to break with the Reuther slate the following day when Reuther in a
caucus meeting declared war on the left which meant Trotskyists and
Stalinists.  The result was Reuther's losing the executive board and the
other top officers.  Cannon left the convention in a pout and took his
entourage back to New York City.  He could not envisage the participation of
Stalinists and Trotskyist in the broad coalition  made up of the followers
of R.J. Thomas and Addes.

Until Reuther's leadership of the 1946-47 four months General Motors strike,
our auto fraction maintained an independent stance in the union refusing to
support either of the two power caucuses.  We gave Reuther critical support
because of his leadership in the GM strike for the first time although we
had major differences with him on its conduct.  Cannon agreed to our first
vote but on the second he had the same position as  the Shachtmanites who
become uncritical camp followers of Reuther and for which they received
staff positions with his administration.

During the next seven years we made the party face up to the changes
emerging in the post war period.  Our leaders compelled a review of our
position on Yugoslavia and Tito.  We had to overcome Cannon's Stalinophobia.
The Breitman's. Lovell's and Novak's voted with us after prolonged
discussions in the national committee. We had to go through the same process
with a review of the events in Eastern Europe and by the time of the Chinese
revolution we had reeducated the party.  During the last two years our group
grew to incorporate one third of the party.  Cannon became fearful of the
trend and moved to expel us before we became the majority of the party.  His
two year several attempts to boot us out were resisted by Vincent Dunne and
Carl Skoglund of Minneapolis  who spent some time with us in Detroit and
approved of our work in auto.  The real tragedy is that Cannon who had a
feel for working in mass movements went off the tracks consumed by a fear
that his opposition would not accept his Stalinophobic fears.

Farrell Dobbs came West on a speaking tour.  In Detroit, he met privately
with the members of the national committee.  Dobbs took me aside in Erwin
Baur's home and confided to me that the problems in the party were all due
to Cannon and he must step down.  I agreed with him.  Much to my
astonishment Dobbs struck a deal with Cannon, on his return to NYC that
provided for Cannon to retire to California and the replacement of Cannon as
National Secretary by Farrell Dobbs.  Cannon's quid pro quo was an agreement
by Minneapolis comrades to vote for our expulsion.  This unprincipled action
laid the goundwork for other expulsions in the future.  The Lovells,
Breitmans, and Novaks have contributed their share to the further
disintegration of Trotskyism in America.  The pattern was set in 1953 by
Cannon and endorsed by his clique followers.

I understand young comrades being taught a fallacious version of party
history by Lovell. You have to ask how they could agree to  the expulsion
of the most significant union fraction the party ever created since the 1934
Teamsters  strike in Minneapolis after supporting us on all major political

In 1946 the party had a summer camp in Michigan.  The auto comrades still
met with resistance from the Cannon camp. One of the more vocal was Felix
Morrow.  We challenged Morrow to come to Detroit and debate the issues
before the auto worker comrades.  The debate took place between Morrow and
George Clarke before more than 110 auto comrades in Briggs. Hudson Motor
Company , Ford Locals 600 and 400; Budd Wheel, Fleetwood Cadillac, Chrysler
and Flint Chevrolet. Not a single auto worker supported Morrow.  In Buffalo
our auto fraction in Bell aircraft led by Frank St. George broke with Sam
Marcy to support us in the fight with Cannon.  Frank St. George was one of
the unique militants in the Buffalo labor movement.

The year of our expulsion or just after our expulsion, Cannon sent in Lovell
and several others to reconstitute a group in auto.  These cosmetic measures
could not make up for the loss of sitdown strike veterans like John Anderson
In Fleetwood who had been a past president of the Fleetwood local, Genora
Dollinger and Kermit Johnson leaders of the Flint sitdown strikes, Erwin
Baur a president of Budd Wheel or on the shop committee until his
retirement.  Nor could they have had a better example of militancy than in
Ernest Mazey, brother of Emil financial secretary of the UAW.  Ernie and
John Anderson  led the fight against Taft-Hartley that resulted in 250,000
auto workers quitting work and marching into Cadillac Square.  Anderson was
penalized for his actions by General Motors and Reuther gave him a take it
or leave it offer.

In 1948, the five Flint UAW presidents adopted our proposal for a sliding
scale of wages.  Two of the five were members of the party.  Jack Palmer and
Bill Connoly were joined by a former member, Bob Carter, in taking a plank
out of the transitional demands of Trotsky.  This the first time such a
plank was tranlated into the real life struggle of workers on a national
scale. Walter Reuther attacked the five presidents as Communists even though
he knew their politics.  These attacks lasted for several months.  By a
strange quirk of history General Motors with few changes adopted the
proposed program of the five Flint UAW presidents and renamed it Cost of
Lliving  Adjustment or COLA.  Victor Reuther in his book THE BROTHERS
Reuther claimed that the yearly salaries of auto workers increased in
several years by $20.000.

Fifty years of Trotskyist history in auto has been represented by Genora
Dollinger who was called by the French newspapers the Joan of Arc of labor
for her actions in the 1937 sitdown strikes in Flint. Victor Reuther said
that Genora was to the auto workers what Mother Jones was to the miners.
Frank Fried called her the conscience of the UAW.  Genora's 50th anniversary
speech given at the Flint celebration of the sitdown strike in 1937
represents our history in auto. (

Jose, your retrospective visit to your past in the SWP tells me how far we
have departed from our mission to build a party in the United States.  Our
links to the union movement are not what they should be and it may take
years and even  decades to reestablish our link to a vibrant union movement.
It took 100 years for the CIO to explode into the industrial union movement.
It can happen again in circumstances that we do not foresee at present but
there are, for example, 400,000 auto workers who are not organized in just
one industry.  A rebirth of the union movement in whatever circumstances it
occurs, will again allow us to play the role  to which we devoted our lives.

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