Questionable footnote in ‘The Communist Party and the Auto Workers Unions’ by Roger Keeran


Came across a questionable footnote in The Communist Party and the Auto Workers Unions that says some stuff about the IWW. The section in the book is about the Briggs Motor strike in 1933, which was self-organized at first, but then heavily pushed by the Auto Workers Union of the CP’s TUUL.

Here’s the quote:

The second source of anti-Communist sentiment was the variety of radical and labor groups involved in the strike. Socialists, Wobblies, and others criticized the Communists for involving the unemployed in the picket lines, and for raising the issues of black and white unity and unemployment insurance. According to one strike participant, “In their endeavors to prove that the C.P. members have no race prejudice, they [the Communists] lean over backwards at times.” The same participant noted that unemployment insurance “was not a demand of the Briggs’ strikers.”

The footnote cited is the following:

“I.W.W. Leadership is Strikebreaker in Auto Struggles’…” in Joe Brown Papers (WSU); “Briggs Strike” in Joe Brown Papers (WSU); Interview of Frank Cedervall, Madison, Wisconsin, November 1, 1971; Oral history Interview of John W. Anderson (WSU), pp. 6-18

The contents of the Joe Brown Papers can be found here. With the first article, it doesn’t seem to be listed or maybe the title listed and the title cited are different or one of them is incorrect. The second article could be any number in the Papers, which include article from the Industrial Worker, mainstream Detroit press and Communist Party press.

The interviews cited are with two people. The first is Frank Cedervall, part of the Murray Body drive, as well as apparently being a part of the Cleveland IWW metal workers who left in the 1950s over the union’s refusal to sign the anti-Communist pledge required by Taft-Hartley. He was also on the strike committee of the Highland Park plant during the Briggs strike. John W. Anderson was also a Wobbly and on the same strike committee. He eventually left the IWW for the UAW, and was a founding member of the Socialist Workers Party.

Anyway, without reading the primary sources it’s hard to know anything for sure, it just seems a bit weird that IWWs would publicly criticize the Communist Party for involving the unemployed, when the IWW itself was heavily involved in the same work. Paul Mattick and a small circle of council communists in Chicago were involved in this during the same period. The race thing also seems weird if that’s something the IWW said, since during the period it was pretty advanced on this subject. But I also realize that many members of the IWW had an intense hatred for the CP that could be distracting and, in the case of people like Ralph Chaplin, nearly all consuming…


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