WHEN the first Minneapolis truck drivers’ strike came to a close last May, the Trotzkyites made high declarations about the “pre-eminent and unique” character of that strike. They claimed it was a strike “above the general run” with a “new method” and a “new leadership”, etc.
The results of the second strike exploded the Trotzkyite boasts. The actions and deeds of the Trotzkyites during the second truck drivers’ strike show them, not as the “leaven of principled Communists” as they hypocritically claim, but as a group of strikebreakers in the service of the bourgeoisie and its labor bureaucracy. Their duplicity and opportunism surpassed that of the most corrupt and degenerate labor bureaucrats. Every action and move of the Trotzkyites during this great strike bore out the statement of Comrade Stalin that “Trotzkyism is the vanguard of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie”.
The two Minneapolis strikes have in a concentrated and very clear form exposed the Trotzkyite policies on the united front, on the question of social-fascism, on the question of revolution, as well as their reformist conception of strike strategy and tactics. To draw lessons and conclusions, we must note the outcome of the first strike, as well as examine the events and results of the second strike.
At the end of the truck drivers’ strike in May, the Communist Party pointed out to the workers of Minneapolis that the settlement was a betrayal, that victory had been snatched out of their hands by the actions of their cowardly leadership. The first strike settlement made no provision for the thousands of workers who had joined the General Drivers Union during the strike and sent back to work without any gains the taxi drivers as well as others who had participated in sympathy strikes.
The Trotzkyites, oil the other hand, boasted that the first strike was a great victory. If this was the case, why, then, was there a second strike? One of the issues involved was the question of who is to represent the “inside” workers. But this was neither the chief nor the only cause for the July strike. In the call for the second strike, issued by the General Drivers Local No. 574, we read the following:
“The vital questions of wages and hours, which are of life and death concern to our members and their families, have been callously ignored. The right of the union to represent all its members—which was explicitly agreed to in the strike settlement, have been denied. Seniority rules provided for in the agreement have been violated by the majority of the firms.”
This statement by the union, itself, smashes the Trotzkyites’ claim that the first strike was a victory and proves that the analysis of the Communist Party was absolutely correct.
Both strikes have disclosed that the Trotzkyite attitude towards the N.R.A. is similar to that of the A. F. of L. bureaucracy. It is no accident that in both strikes, the most vital questions concerning the workers were left to arbitration and to the N.R.A. labor board. After the first strike, J. P. Cannon, writing in the Militant, claimed that the “Stalinists” were “slandering” the strike leadership—that the Minneapolis outcome was a “singular victory”. He admitted, however, certain “minor” mistakes. He wrote, for example:
“Against these gains must be put down on the other side the fact that the union agreed to submit the wage demands to arbitration and to accept the results.”
We have already seen that these so-called “minor” errors led to the second strike. But let us read what Cannon has to say further on this. In the same article, we read:
“This is a serious [Now it is no longer ‘minor’, but ‘big’ and ‘serious’—M.C.] concession which the union officials felt it necessary to make under the circumstances in order to secure the recognition of the union and consolidate it in the next period. It is a big concession, but by no means a fatal one. It is a concession that has been made by many unions.”
Mr. Cannon’s apologetic tone cannot cover up the essence of the question. It is the same excuse for class collaboration that Mr. Green might give, or any other labor faker, for that matter. It is true that such concessions have been “made by many unions”, but the leadership of such unions, unlike the Trotzkyites, never made a pretense of being “Left revolutionists” who “fight compromise to the death”, etc. The Trotzkyite viewpoint amounts to the recognition of the false conception that the workers secure their gains not through their own strength and class actions, but through collaboration with the employers and with the governmental agencies. Oh! says Mr. Cannon, we had to do this in order to get “recognition” of the union. Perhaps Mr. Cannon has heard of occasions when the government and employers do “recognize” unions, with an understanding, of course, that these unions are in the service of capitalism. There is also another form of recognition which results from the strength of the workers—as to this form, Cannon & Co. pretend ignorance. A few more such actions, Mr. Cannon, and President Roosevelt may consider your candidacy for the labor board and put you in proper strike-breaking company with the Greens, Lewises and the Hillmans.
When Cannon wrote the above-quoted statements, he still talked about the “next period”. The “next period” has come, and the union, under Trotzkyite leadership, has once again surrendered the demands of the workers to the mercy of arbitration and the government. Perhaps Mr. Cannon will once again tell the workers to wait for the “next period”.
The draft thesis of the Trotzkyites states that:
“It would be a mistake to fall a prey to the fraudulent ideas advanced by the Stalinists’ Party that the new deal program is a fascist program. In the U.S. today, the potentialities of fascism exist primarily outside of the political state.”
This is an ignorant and stupid defense of the class collaboration policies of the Trotzkyites, and exposes their servile attitude to the New Deal. In the face of the greatest terror unleashed against the working class of the U.S., the Trotzkyites spread illusions among the masses about the graciousness of the New Deal, thus disarming the working class in the face of the growing elements of fascism—yes, generating out of the State apparatus. For the Trotzkyites, compulsory arbitration, government mediators, raids on workers’ headquarters exist primarily “outside the political State”—and General Johnson’s fascist ravings are “unofficial”. We wonder if “Marxists” like Cannon ever heard of a “non-political State”? (Shades of Lassalle and DeLeon.) We will refer these strike-breakers to Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin.
It is this thesis, this line, that is put into daily practice by the Dunnes and Skoglunds, the Trotzkyite leaders of Local 574. In the Organizer of August 10, the official paper of Local 574, we read:
“Section 7-a of the National Industrial Recovery Act guarantees the right of independent labor organization.”
If there is such an explicit “guarantee” in Section 7-a, why then all the strikes and struggles for the right to organize—not only in Minneapolis, but everywhere in the U.S.?
At a mass meeting in Minneapolis, attended by thousands of workers, Miles Dunne, one of the Trotzkyite leaders of Local 574, made a declaration that “President Roosevelt abolished the antitrust laws for the benefit of labor, in order to permit combination of unions, to give a freer hand to industrial unions”. This is a very original idea! Some other A. F. of L. bureaucrat could not gather the courage to make such an ingenious statement. Under the cover of “Left” phrases, the foulest traitorous deeds are carried out.
The second truck drivers’ strike did not result in victory for the drivers, as the Trotzkyites claim. The drivers carried on a heroic struggle, lasting five weeks; but in the end were compelled to go back to work with no increase in wages and without union recognition. The most vital problems were once again left to arbitration and the Labor Board. Even the union is not secure because one clause in the settlement provides that a vote shall be taken among the drivers of 166 of the largest firms in Minneapolis to decide whether they want to be represented by Local 574 or by other representatives, which means the company union. The right of the workers to determine their own organization is surrendered in section 7 of the agreement which turns over the conduct of the election to the employers and the regional labor board. The result of the election (the workers in more than half the firms rejected Local 574) confirms the statement of the Communist Party, District 9, that:
“Such elections are used to drive out the workers’ trade unions and to introduce company unionism with the direct help of the N.R.A. machinery. This is not union recognition for which the strikers have been fighting.”
Section 5 of the settlement specifically states that the inside workers shall return to work “but they shall not be eligible to vote in the election as called for in paragraph 7 hereof”. This is a desertion of the inside workers. Recognition is allowed to them in only 22 firms. The young workers and temporary workers were also deserted by the statement in paragraph 8:
“It is understood that the minimum wages herein specified do not apply to boys temporarily employed on small package delivery trucks, and they shall not be submitted to arbitration.”
This hits the young workers employed by the biggest department stores. The question of rehiring is subject to a preferential list. This list is to be compiled by the employers. Already discrimination is taking place through the claim of the bosses that there is “no employment for all,” at the present time.
It would be wrong to deny that the Minneapolis truck drivers, as well as the workers generally in that city, put up a militant struggle or that there were moments when the strike reached a high stage which could have developed into a general strike but for the leadership which set itself up as a wall to head off the militancy of the masses.
But the Minneapolis strike never reached the height of the San Francisco strike. The difference was caused by the fact that in San Francisco there were leaders like Bridges, who struggled militantly against the labor bureaucracy and against the capitalists, while in Minneapolis, the Trotzkyites surrendered completely to the Farmer-Labor Party and the A. F. of L. bureaucracy.
The Trotzkyites mock at the Communist conception of social-fascism. This position of the Trotzkyites naturally leads to their belief in the theory of the “lesser evil”. This outlook is responsible for what took place in Minneapolis. If the theory that social-democracy develops into social-fascism is wrong, then it is justifiable to form a united front with Governor Olson and the Farmer-Labor Party, as well as the labor bureaucrats. This the Trotzkyites did. In both strikes they became an appendage to the politics and actions of the Farmer-Laborites and the bureaucrats of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union.
During the first strike, the Communist Party pointed out in official statements and in a series of articles by Bill Dunne, that if the strikers are to be victorious and win their demands, the role of Governor Olson must be exposed. But the Trotzkyites united with Olson. They resorted to the vilest distortions to cover up their alliance with Olson. They said that the Stalinists claim:
“The essential object should have been the overthrow of the state government.”
J. P. Cannon, writing in the July New International, argues that such ideas:
“. . . have a logical meaning only to one who construed the situation as revolutionary and aimed at insurrection. We, of course, are for the revolution. But not today, in a single city.”
It is very difficult to meet every silly argument of people who, artists at the game of distortion. The Communists never put forward the program of revolutionary insurrection during the Minneapolis strike. These nightmares originate in the heads of the Trotzkyites and in the capitalist press. The capitalist press went the Trotzkyites one better; they even predicted the day of the Communist uprising for August 16. It must have been very disappointing to the gutter press, as well as to the Trotzkyites, that the uprising did not take place at 10:00 a.m. on the day “set”. But it served its. purpose. Governor Olson utilized this material, furnished by agents provocateur, as evidence before the Federal Court, in order to retain martial law in Minneapolis.
During the first strike, Governor Olson mobilized the National Guard, holding it in readiness in case of necessity. The working class of Minneapolis became suspicious of this action. But the labor fakers and the Trotzkyites assured the workers that they had nothing to fear from the National Guard, that Governor Olson had mobilized the troops “for the protection of the workers”. This deception was in part responsible for allowing Olson to break the backbone of the second strike.
Despite the brutality of the Minneapolis police, the workers were on the offensive, and the mass picket lines succeeded in tying up all truck transportation. Only after Governor Olson had sent in the National Guard, did trucks begin to run as of normal, and picketing stopped. Governor Olson inaugurated a military permit system, so that before the strike was over, 15,000 trucks were running under protection of troops. The militia dispersed all picketing. Hundreds of the most militant strikers were thrown into the stockade. Did the Trotzkyite leadership mobilize the labor movement to fight for the most elementary rights of the workers? Absolutely not! When Governor Olson raided the union headquarters and the Central Labor Union offices, the rank and file was aroused and demanded action, there was a cry for spreading the strike, for a general strike. The Trotzkyites were compelled to react to the mood of the masses and give lip service to the general strike. But their lip service, too, did not last very long. The leaders of the Central Labor Union, Cramer, Weir and others, ordered the Trotzkyites to keep quiet about Governor Olson or they would have nothing to do with the strike. The labor fakers demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the Trotzkyites’ “forgetfulness” by refusing to appear at a big mass rally at the Parade Grounds. The Trotzkyites were very quick in apologizing and in proving once again their loyalty to Olson and the labor bureaucracy. In return for their promise, the labor fakers agreed to serve on the so-called union advisory committee.
Albert Goldman, a renegade from Communism, expelled by the Chicago District, acted as “labor” attorney for the truck drivers during the strike. He appeared before a mass meeting on August 6 and made the statement that he believed Governor Olson was not aware of the raid on the union headquarters. These words astonished the thousands of listeners who only a few days before had read statements issued by Governor Olson himself, justifying the raid on the union headquarters. The labor bureaucracy also justified the raid by claiming that Olson wanted to demonstrate that “the workers kept no store of arms, but were law abiding citizens”. Olson’s pre-arranged gesture in raiding the Citizens Alliance office allowed the fakers and the Trotzkyites to continue to spread lies about the “impartiality” of the governor. The Trotzkyites even went further than the A. F. of L. leaders. They openly stated that this was a move of Olson to the “Left” and that as long as he continued to move in this direction, they would support him 100 per cent. This statement was made by Goldman before 20,000 workers on August 6—at the time when hundreds of rank-and-file pickets were being held in the stockade, sentenced to hard labor, and when picketing was completely prohibited.
The Trotzkyites and the union leadership of Local 574 did cooperate 100 per cent with Olson. During the last two weeks of the strike there was absolutely no picketing, by order of the union leadership. They instilled into the minds of the workers the belief that Olson would help them win the strike. Every time Olson executed a new maneuver with his military juggling, the Dunnes and Skoglunds created new illusions. It was not enough to urge the workers to depend on Governor Olson (the strikers were beginning to see things in their proper light. They, therefore, resorted to telling the workers that “it is impossible to picket in the face of the weapons of the militia”. This is very familiar talk. We meet with it every time we run up against traitors who want to disarm the working class. Social-democracy uses similar arguments in order to prevent the working class from revolutionary action. We might remind the “new militants” that the workers of Toledo fought bravely even against the militia and we may add that the workers of Kohler, Wisconsin, continued their mass picketing in the face of militia. The workers in those places were probably fortunate in not having a “revolutionary leadership” of the Trotzkyite variety.
In the camp of the capitalist class, there was divergence of opinion about the best methods to use in breaking the strike. There was also the political situation in the State. The Republicans and a section of the employers’ group did everything possible to embarrass Olson, to create the impression that he was not fighting hard enough against the strikers. The Citizens’ Alliance (the organization of the employers) believed that it was possible to break the strike with the local police forces and appealed to the federal court for an injunction to lift martial law.
Because of this situation the Trotzkyites tried to create the impression that a blow at the Farmer-Labor Party and Olson is a blow at the workers. They linked the fate of the strikers with that of Olson. This conception covers up the fact that the chief class forces were the workers on one side and the bourgeoisie including Olson on the other. To place the problem differently would mean that the employers were more interested in fighting Olson than delivering a blow against the working class. This is a gross distortion of class relationships.
Every worker in Minneapolis knew that martial law was breaking the strike. What should have been the attitude of the strike leaders on this question? They should have fought most militantly for the lifting of martial law, not through the process of injunction, but by mass pressure and mass action. The motive of the bosses in trying to secure an injunction should have been explained, but the role of Olson should also have been exposed. The Trotzkyite leadership of Local 574 had a different view. At first they claimed in the Organizer of August 10:
“We are not primarily concerned with this argument between the governor and the bosses. The bosses, of course, prefer the tactics of bloody Mike.”
This means that martial law does not “concern” the union, although martial law was breaking the strike. Secondly, the union leadership indicated that they had a preference for bayonets of Olson’s troops to that of bloody Mike (chief of police Johannes). More than that, the Organizer continues the defense of Olson and martial law in the following words:
“A few hours after Olson, succumbing to the pressure of the aroused masses in Minneapolis and the whole State, interfered with scab trucking operations by the simple expedient of withdrawing military protection from them, the bosses hired themselves a brigade of high-powered attorneys and applied for an injunction.”
This statement contains a downright lie when it claims that Olson “withdrew military protection from the scab trucks”. At the time that this statement was written, there were 11,000 trucks in operation—and a few days later, there were 15,000.
It takes the Trotzkyites, however, to put this question on a “higher plane”. Albert Goldman once again gave advice to Olson. In the same speech where he defended Olson’s raid on the union, he told Olson that he should follow the footsteps of Debs (!!), who, “when an injunction was served upon him defied the injunction”. What a mockery of history! Debs went to jail defying an injunction against the workers; Mr. Goldman urges his friend, Governor Olson, to retain martial law even though it breaks the strike!
The court sustained the rule of martial law. What was the reaction of the labor leaders to this? The Minneapolis Journal on August 11 stated:
“Union leaders throughout the city expressed themselves without reservation as highly pleased with the decision.”
Another labor leader, the head of the milk drivers’ union, Pat Corcoran, a member of the union advisory committee, said:
“The decision insures law and order in the city and prevents violence as the negotiators continue their deliberations.”
The president of Local 574 is a man by the name of William Brown. He is a recently found “leader” of the Trotzkyites. He is the example of the “new militants”, say the Cannons and Schachtmans. Let us listen to this new Trotzkyite recruit:
“We are naturally pleased to see the governor’s hand upheld in his declaration of martial law and I believe that the decision contributes to the development of conditions likely to end this strike.”
This statement explodes even the fake paper opposition that the Trotzkyites offered to martial law. The fruit of the Trotzkyite policy, their collaboration with the Farmer-Laborites, is shown in the statement by another labor leader, Clifford Hall, who said:
“I am glad the strikers will not have to resume picketing.”
This is the result of the Trotzkyite argument that the militia is in Minneapolis to help the strikers and that they therefore “do not have to resort to picketing”.
To cover up such crude strike-breaking, the Trotzkyites must find some theoretical defense. In such case, it is advisable to spout some phrases about “class relationships” in order to justify their attachment to Governor Olson. “Theoreticians” of the Trotzky camp, therefore, have come to the following conclusion:
“The Farmer-Labor governor of Minnesota is pressed between two warring camps—between the workers and the capitalists, represented by Local 574 and by the Citizens’ Alliance. Whoever exerts the greatest pressure will force this radical petty bourgeois to alter his course.”
People must be either blind to believe this or, as in this case, must be willful traitor’s in order to spread the illusion among the workers that it is possible to utilize the bourgeois State apparatus for the benefit of the working class. Do the Trotzkyites mean to imply that what we have in Minnesota is a “petty bourgeois State”—not a capitalist State? Here they are using the same arguments as the social-democrats who claim that fascism is a petty bourgeois movement, not a weapon of monopoly capital. They point to the social base of this movement and confuse it with its content. The Trotzkyites tried to do the same thing in relation to Minneapolis. That the Farmer-Labor Party receives its support from workers and farmers does not alter the fact that in essence the Farmer-Labor Party is a capitalist party; that, in modern society, the petty bourgeoisie does not play an independent role and the State apparatus is not a weapon of the petty bourgeoisie, but of the big capitalists to whom the petty bourgeoisie is attached. It makes little difference to the workers whether a petty bourgeois individual executes the orders of the capitalist class or a member of the big bourgeoisie. The results of the strike-breaking acts of the State are the same. The Trotzkyites, however, to the very last moment, tried to save the face of Governor Olson as an “individual”. Hugo Oehler, writing in the August 11 Militant, still sheds tears about “the most honest and sincere” man who “desires to help the working class”. He would like to save Governor Olson from himself. He pities the poor petty bourgeois radical who, irrespective of his “good intentions”, is compelled to do things he does not want to do. The Trotzkyites will not state that some “supernatural” forces urged Governor Olson to commit his strike-breaking actions. Perhaps there is a “Marxian” argument for this? Messrs Cannon and Schachtman, if you lack “philosophical” terminology, ask Max Eastman or Sidney Hook—they will give you a hand.
All of this Trotzkyite strike-breaking activity has for its purpose the dependence of the workers, not upon their own forces and strength, but upon the good will of this or that bourgeois politician. This is class collaboration.
How does it happen that the Trotzkyites were able to assume leadership of the truck drivers’ union and of the strike? If we were to believe Cannon, everything was “planned and organized”. However, a closer examination of the problem reveals that the Trotzkyites were able to share the leadership because they surrendered to the labor bureaucrats of the A. F. of L. and by organizing the workers, not on the basis of struggle for their demands and against capitalism, but by appealing to the most backward ideology of the workers. The Trotzkyites did not hesitate to praise the New Deal, to wave the flag and to open each meeting with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. In the Militant of August 25, we read:
“In Frisco, the cry of Communist tore a deep hole in the strike front. In Minneapolis, it was a complete dud. The leaders faced the issue squarely. They did not rush into print denying their accusations. Nor did they shout their opinions to the wide world.”
Yes, they “did not shout their opinions to the wide world”. They did everything possible to organize an anti-Red hysteria. Groups of misled workers and henchmen of Dunne and Skoglund were organized to beat Communists, to tear Communist leaflets out of the hands of workers.
But they did everything possible to hide their identity. The greatest calamity that could have happened to them would have been for some one outside of the employers to accuse them of being Communists. In their paper, the Organizer, they tried to laugh the Communist issue away.
Here is a sample of the way the Trotzkyites dealt with the Red issue. In a leaflet issued by Locals 574 and 120 to the petroleum workers, we find the following statement:
“Don’t allow the Red Scare to keep you from coming to this meeting. If we were ‘Reds’ and ‘Communists’, why haven’t we pulled the petroleum industry out on strike where a large part of our organization is? For the reason that the oil companies have seen fit to negotiate wages and conditions for you.”
We must agree with the Trotzkyites that they are not Communists, for if Communists were at the head of Local 574, they would not send their own members to scab while a part of their membership was out on strike. J. W. Lawson, secretary of the Minnesota State Federation of Labor, delivered a speech over the radio, in which he told the employers that if they would point out any Communists in the A. F. of L. or in Local 574, these would be immediately expelled from the union. Did the Trotzkyites raise any objection to this statement? On the contrary, they printed a praising summary of Lawson’s speech in the Organizer and conveniently omitted this portion.
At the Minnesota State Federation of Labor Convention, held at International Falls on August 22, the Communist Party distributed a leaflet exposing the strike-breaking role of Olson. This leaflet aroused the fury of the labor bureaucracy. Mr. Lawson again issued a statement which was printed in the Minneapolis press. He foamed at the mouth and cried:
“I want to put this organization on record as having no responsibility whatever for distribution of incendiary literature and I want to call on the leaders of the legitimate labor movement to drive this element out of the halls in which they hold their meetings.”
No fascist could make a better statement than this lackey of Governor Olson who is disguised as a labor leader. Local 574 sent a delegation to this convention. What did they have to say about this proposal of Lawson? William Brown, president of Local 574, got up and seconded the motion of Lawson and then tried to pass the thing over by reducing it to an absurdity. He said:
“If they [the Communists] knew that their names were even so much as mentioned here, they would hold a rally of their whole 70 members in Minneapolis and hail a victory. Let us ignore them.”
This is “facing the issue squarely”, says the Militant.
Servile lackeys are never secure in their position. The more they cringe before their masters, the greater the danger of losing favor with their masters. The Trotzkyites played their role in the strike. They helped to protect Governor Olson. It seems, however, that the labor bureaucracy feels that they no longer need the Trotzkyites. They have therefore begun a campaign to give the Trotzkyites the boot.
William Green sent in a representative of the Executive Council of the A. F. of L., Paul Smith, to begin this “purging” process. The first thing Mr. Smith did was to separate the gasoline station employees from Local 574 and organize them into a separate local with a charter direct from the Executive Council. The Trotzkyites have been shouting about the fact that they have built an industrial union in Minneapolis, that they take no orders from Green or Olson. But no one ever saw a more whipped bunch of traitors than the Trotzkyites when this act was committed. They allowed this to pass by without a word of protest.
At the Minnesota State Federation of Labor Convention, Wm. Shoenberg, one of the leaders, dropped a significant phrase. He said that the settlement of the general drivers’ strike would be followed “by an aftermath within the organization”. In other words, the ground is being prepared to oust the Dunnes and the Skoglunds, whose services are no longer required. Let Mr. Cannon shout himself hoarse about the “liberal construction” of the A. F. of L. unions and its “compensated advantages”, etc. The Trotzkyites by their anti-Communist activity sowed the wind and they are reaping a whirlwind. We might add here that the militant workers, too, have accounts to settle with them, but for different reasons than those of the A. F. of L. bureaucracy.
The Trotzkyites wish to make the labor movement believe that the tactics and strategy pursued by them in the Minneapolis strikes deserve to be duplicated elsewhere. Cannon, in the July number of the New International, says:
“Policy, method, leadership—these were the determining factors at Minneapolis which the aspiring workers everywhere ought to study and follow.”
Those that aspire to defeat the working class surely will utilize the Trotzkyites’ method as an example, but the revolutionary workers will reject their example. The Minneapolis strike did not reach the high phase that was reached by the Toledo, San Francisco, or Milwaukee strikes. In San Francisco, because of the militant Left wing, it was possible for a long period of time to fight off the reactionary A. F. of L. bureaucracy and the employers, and to realize the general strike. The strike was broken because of the direct treachery of the A. F. of L. bureaucracy. In Toledo, the A. F. of L. leaders had to maneuver for many days before they could betray the sentiment for general strike which was endorsed by nearly 90 locals. In Milwaukee, too, the Federated Trades Council was compelled to vote for a 48-hour general strike just before the carmen’s strike was called off. In Minneapolis, however, the Trotzkyites, in alliance with the labor bureaucracy and Governor Olson, never allowed the sentiment for a general strike to develop to a point where it could be realized. First of all, they prevented their own members from joining the truck drivers’ strike; secondly, even two weeks before the strike settlement, they sent the taxi drivers back to work without any gains. Only a weak attempt was made to pull the St. Paul drivers out on strike. The A. F. of L. bureaucrats, through parliamentary trickery, prevented the strike. The Trotzkyites, in this case too, gave up for fear of displeasing the fakers or going over their heads.
The Communist Party, District 9, saw that the strike was in danger of being broken, that the only thing that would save the strike would be a renewal of mass picketing and a spreading of the strike. The Party put forward the following proposals to the union membership:
“All members of 574 shall be called off the jobs they have been sent to, and picketing on a mass scale must be renewed.
“Committees of from 20 to 50 drivers must be organized to visit all local unions, shops, factories, car barns, unemployed organizations and all workers’ organizations to ask those workers to lay down tools and join us in the fight, which is the fight of the whole labor movement against the Citizens’ Alliance.
“In order to unite the whole labor movement behind the drivers, let us call immediately a united labor conference, with representatives from all labor unions, shops, factories and all other working class organizations, unemployed and employed. This Conference shall decide the question of a general strike, with the object to fight for the rights of the workers to join unions of their own choice, for the right to picket, for freedom of speech and assemblage, the release of our brothers in the stockade and for the lifting of all military regulations, which threaten to break the strike. We can learn from the experience of San Francisco, that under the leadership of militant workers, such as Bridges, this can be done. The success of such a movement is unquestionable if the Committee of 100 acts decisively, breaks all connections with the agents of Olson.”
This statement correctly pointed out that under the leadership oŁ Communists, and not fakers like the Dunne brothers, these steps would have been taken a long time ago, and the strike would have been won.
These proposals met with great response from the union membership—so much so, that the Trotzkyite leadership was compelled to begin once again to give lip service to the general strike. They adopted a very weak resolution, appealing to the labor movement for a 24-hour general strike and also issued a very weak statement to the Minnesota State Federation of Labor, knowing well enough that the labor bureaucracy, the friends of Olson, would not endorse such a move. Even during the last week of the strike, it was still possible to organize a movement for general strike, but this could have been accomplished only over the heads of the leaders of the Central Labor Union, which, of course, the Trotzkyites also would not dare to do. This is how they stated the problem:
“In view of the concerted attack on Local 574 by all the forces of capital, is labor ready to bring its own reserves into action? That is the question. The answer rests, first, with the leaders of organized labor in Minneapolis, and second, with the rank and file of the individual unions with whom the power of decision rests.” (Organizer, August 18, 1934.
Here again the Trotzkyites showed their true colors. If the answer rests “first with the leaders”, there never could be a general strike; the Trotzkyites knew this as well as anyone else. However, they purposely stated the question in this manner because they, too, were not interested in realizing a general strike as was proposed by the Communist Party.
There were many local unions that were interested in initiating such action. They were only waiting for a call from Local 574. In fact, rank-and-file A. F. of L. groups in some locals did propose such a motion. Naturally, this was very difficult because the membership of the locals would say, you ask us to join in a sympathetic and general strike, but the local most seriously involved refuses to initiate such action. More than that, we are asked to join in a sympathetic strike while their own membership is kept at work-scabbing upon their own brothers. This argument was hard to meet; only the most conscious of workers could answer satisfactorily why such action must be taken in spite of the leadership of 574. But the responsibility for such reaction was upon the shoulders of the Trotzkyite leadership.
We notice that the Trotzkyites spout phrases about “reserves”. The Cannons and the Schachtmans, as well as the Dunne brothers, in this case, show complete ignorance of the most elementary principles of strike strategy and tactics. At the time they shouted about the necessity to call out “reserves”, the strike was already in its fifth week, with the backbone broken. We may ask: was it not somewhat late to begin calling for reserves at such a time? Why did you refuse and stand in the way of calling out the reserves when it was possible to do so, when it was possible to realize even the general strike and bring victory, not only to the drivers of Local 574, but to the labor movement of Minneapolis? Because you Trotzkyites were not interested in mobilizing such action.
The Trotzkyites want to make the workers believe that they are the incarnation of “modern” strike strategy and tactics. We believe that any honest worker who has been a member of a trade union for a period of time could teach these “new militants” a thing or two about strike strategy and tactics. Every worker knows that when you bargain with a boss, you must be careful not to surrender your demands in the first discussion, that you have to stick by the demands, that a concession is given only in the last resort, when there is no other way out. What did the Trotzkyite leadership of Local 574 do? In the very beginning of the strike, they surrendered all the original demands, including the point on wages, and endorsed the Haas-Dunnigan proposals. The employers, naturally, took advantage of this situation. The Trotzkyites hung on the coat-tails of Haas, even when this priest, acting as a government mediator, had already himself repudiated his own proposals. The mediators, too, knew that the union leadership was weak-kneed. They therefore threw overboard the original Haas-Dunnigan proposals and proposed a new set of proposals which won the endorsement of the employers. These proposals, of course, were a little too crude; they demanded that the strike cease, that all be taken back to work, except strikers who had participated in “violence” during the strike. This meant black-listing the most active workers. Had the Trotzkyites accepted this proposal, they would have been doomed and crushed by the rank and file. They, therefore, began to maneuver to modify this proposal, and the agreement which they finally accepted was only a modification of the original plan proposed by the Citizens’ Alliance.
Cannon, in dealing with the problem of strike settlement, says:
“There is little to go by in the way of previous experience to aid the modern militants in determining how and when to settle strikes. Their predecessors did not settle any.”
The world began with the birth of Mr. Cannon; and there were no strikes “settled” until the Trotzkyites appeared upon the scene.
We shall not waste any time to convince these traitors that there were strikes before they became famous as strike-breakers, and that there were settlements before they “settled” Minneapolis.
In dealing with the role of the Communist Party during the strikes, we cannot help but state that the Party was trailing behind events. The Party did not prepare for the second strike. One gets the impression that the Party depended too much upon spontaneity, waiting for things to happen. Comrade Stalin points out that the theory of spontaneity is opportunism, that it is a denial of the role of the Party as the leader of the working class, that it means taking the line of least resistance.
During the first strike, the Party was able to link itself up with the strikers, to participate actively in picketing and even to lead in the battle of the Market, which has since become famous. However, even in the first strike, the Party worked chiefly from the outside. There was no organized Party fraction or rank-and-file opposition group within General Drivers Local 574. In the period between the first and second strikes, the chief tasks of the Party should have been the building up of a strong Communist fraction and rank-and-file group. But this was not done. Thus, the Party during the second strike again found itself as an outside force.
The slogans and demands put forward by the Party were generally correct and helped to mobilize the masses in support of the truck drivers; but the Party could have been much more effective if it had carried on work inside the local union. This gave the Trotzkyite leadership the opportunity to raise the cry of “outsiders”. The Party was the only organization that came forward openly and clearly in exposing the role of Olson and the relation of the Trotzkyites to the Farmer-Labor Party. Yet we must state that there was a tendency to hesitate in exposing the Trotzkyite local leadership more sharply. The Minneapolis membership is a new membership. Its ideological background is still low; it can be said that this accounted for a certain slump in activity during the latter part of the strike. It was brought out in many units that many Party members did not understand the political differences between the Communists and the counter-revolutionary Trotzkyites. Because of this, there was a tolerant attitude on the part of even some Party members inside Local 574 towards the Trotzkyites. These comrades, instead of putting forward a clear Communist position, allowed themselves to be swept along by mass sentiment.
A serious strike situation demands more from the Party than during so-called normal times. However, the Party was not prepared for such a situation. Precisely when the functionaries and the lower Party organizations should have utilized the utmost initiative, they failed to respond. True, it was difficult to work in the face of martial law and in the face of the anti-Communist drive carried on by the Trotzkyites, but Communists must find ways and means of carrying through their tasks. There was even hesitation when it came to the distribution of leaflets, so that the District was compelled to utilize extraordinary measures in this respect. Technical matters were also badly neglected. The responsibility for such a situation rests squarely upon the shoulders of the leadership of District 9. There was too much of a tendency to surrender in the face of martial law. It was only towards the end of the strike that attempts were made to hold demonstrations with Communist slogans, despite the National Guard.
Another weakness disclosed in the strike was the failure to mobilize and involve the unemployed. It is true that the unemployed at the beginning of the second strike did come to offer their assistance and solidarity and were turned down by the Trotzkyite leadership. But the unemployed should have been involved despite the Trotzkyites. This was done in the first strike, and could have been repeated during the second strike.
Here, however, we must note that even in the first strike the participation of the unemployed was not utilized to infuse the strikers with the slogans of the Party. We may even place the question whether the unemployed, although mobilized by the Party, did not become a mere adjunct under A. F. of L. and Trotzkyite leadership, by giving up its identity on the picket line.
District 9, as will as the Party generally, must draw some conclusions from this last strike. The first and immediate task is the building of a Communist fraction among the truck drivers; then, by all means, a rank-and-file opposition group must be organized in Local 574. There is sentiment for such a movement after this latest betrayal. The workers are beginning to learn through their own experiences of the traitorous deeds of the Dunne brothers. Secondly, the Party apparatus must be educated and organized to act more decisively during extraordinary situations, both technically and ideologically.
Discussions should be organized in the units and classes set up to educate the membership in elementary principles of Marxism-Leninism. We must make our position on the Farmer-Labor Party clear. Governor Olson and the Farmer-Labor Party have lately increased their demagogy about establishing the “cooperative commonwealth”. It is necessary that we expose this fraud. This can be done by placing in opposition to the fake “corporate commonwealth” our slogan of a real revolutionary workers’ and farmers’ government-the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the literature issued by our comrades during the strike, this was neglected. Even the statement issued by the District Committee analyzing the strike betrayal, while being generally correct, fails to bring out these political conclusions. This problem is important in every district; but in Minnesota, where the Farmer-Labor Party is in power, this is especially important.
The Minneapolis strike should further make us realize that when the Party as a conscious force is missing, even the best intentions and policies remain scraps of paper. Finally, District 9 must build its base in the Twin Cities, and must not lean too much on the agrarian outside sections. It is this failure to crystallize a base in the Twin Cities that is responsible for the failure of the Party membership to respond more decisively during the strike. This will be clear to us when we understand what Lenin taught us about the hegemony of the proletariat. If the Party would derive its strength from the proletariat in the Twin Cities, the District as a whole will be stronger and will be able to give leadership to the toiling farmers as well.