!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> James P. Cannon: Silk Revolt Growing (August 1931)

James P. Cannon

Silk Revolt Growing

Policies of All Elements under Test of the Struggle in Paterson

(August 1931)

Written: August 1931.
First Published: The Militant, New York, Vol. 4, No. 17, 1 August 1931.
Source: Microfilm collection and original bound volumes for The Militant provided by the Holt Labor Library, San Francisco, California. Additioanl bound volumes from Earl Gilman’s collection, San Francisco, California
Transcription\HTML Markup: D. Walters
Proofread: Einde (January 2013).
Public Domain: This work is in the under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Trotskism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

Events are developing rapidly in Paterson, center of the silk industry and scene of historical labor revolts. In the glare of the developing class struggle the various contending groups in the labor movement are being shown up in their true character, and all policies are being put to the test of life.

Last week we reported the strike called by the National Textile Workers Union and urged upon the Communists who direct this organization the adoption of a united-front policy in order to consolidate the workers and disarm the reformists. On Tuesday, the Associated and the United Textile Workers called their strike, having advanced the date from August 1 under pressure of the strike action of the NTW.

The relation of forces at present appears to favor the reformists. They have an established organization, have made rather extensive preparations, and are assured of a fairly strong support among certain sections of the silk workers. The unity effected between the Associated and the United Textile Workers has had a consolidating effect in their favor.

All the developments are taking place under the compulsion of a powerful movement from below. The silk workers, oppressed to the limit of endurance, are determined to strike. No one could herd them back. The question of strike has already been settled in the minds of the workers. The only problem that could arise under the circumstances is: Who will lead the strike, and how will it be conducted?

In this dynamic situation how do the various contending elements and groups reveal themselves?

  1. The Communists. The National Textile Workers Union, which is under the leadership of the Communist Party, showed the poorest preparation for the events, and was prevented from the necessary preliminary growth by incorrect tactics and leader ship. They had tried to compensate for these defects and weaknesses by an arbitrary precipitation of the strike before the date set by the reformists. By a militant and aggressive campaign they quickly demonstrated that the National Textile Workers Union represents a real force in the situation, if not at present the strongest force. But their hopes to take the field away from the reformists by this coup met with failure, as could easily have been foreseen. The organization of the Associated and United Textile Workers remained intact, and the grip of the reformists upon the members was strengthened by the irresponsible, putschist tactics of the Communists.
  2. The Musteites. The leadership of the combined Associated and United Textile Workers rests for the most part in the hands of adherents of the CPLA. The timidity, vacillation, and fear of struggle which are bred in the very marrow of these come-ons for McMahon have shown themselves in the Passaic situation in full bloom. Their hesitation and delay with the strike are only an advance notice of the speed with which they will endeavor to end it and the terms they will be prepared to accept for its termination. They are jumping now because they are afraid of the Communist union. The fear of the Communists is the principal motivating factor in every step they take which gives the appearance of militancy and aggressiveness.
  3. The Lovestoneites. The Paterson struggle shows these people up in their true colors more vividly than a thousand arguments. This thoroughly opportunist faction – only yesterday the official leadership of the Communist Party, supported by the Comintern – has flatly turned its back on communism at Paterson. Gitlow appears there as the cover for the Musteites in their fight against the National Textile Workers Union, as the Musteites are the cover for McMahon. The Lovestoneites took part in the negotiations to unite the two reformist organizations and are exerting all their efforts now to make it an effective unity against the National Textile Workers Union. In the real test of the class struggle at Paterson, where deeds take the place of words, the Lovestoneites have already found their place in the camp of anticommunism.

The National Textile Workers Union is undoubtedly a force in the situation. Its strength is the strength of The Militant spirit of the workers, of their profound and justified hatred of the UTW officials who have sold them to the bosses more than once, and their distrust of the field men of these notorious reactionaries and betrayers – the Musteites. The weaknesses of the NTW are the incompetence and the false policy of its leadership – that is to say, the leadership of the Communist Party. They shout against the reformists, but they do not know how to fight them. They speak of a united front of the workers, but by their tactics they defeat it. This is the heart of their mistake in Paterson. And by it they are entrenching the position of the CPLA elements and through them the treacherous bureaucracy of the UTW – and through them the bosses.

In last week’s Militant we warned the Communists at Paterson that they could not ignore the reformist organization, which has a larger membership and a better organizational base. Here we wish to repeat again the most solemn warning to the National Textile Workers Union: You must go to the workers with a genuine united-front policy. Make a direct proposal to the Associated and United Textile Workers to form a joint strike committee, to unite all the striking workers under a single directing body.

Show the workers that you are willing to give them an opportunity to test the contending policies, leaders, and organizations for themselves in a united strike movement. Let the reformists refuse such a proposal at their own risk. The workers want unity, make no mistake about that. Trust the workers to understand what a real unity proposal is when they see it.

On this road the NTW will become the leading force for the consolidation and victory of the workers, and its strength will increase with the intensification of the struggle and the bankruptcy of reformist policies which will be revealed in this test of action. The present suicidal course of the NTW is leading to a certain defeat for the workers and the Communists, and consequently to a victory for the bosses and their lieutenants.

Issues of great import for the whole future of the left-wing movement are at stake in Paterson, as is the case also in the mine strikes. The trade union question, which is a life-and-death question for the American Communist movement, is being transferred from the field of abstract polemics into the field of action, and all views are being tested there. Nothing that happens will be concealed. No mistakes will go unpunished. The communist workers throughout the entire country are duty bound to watch these developing strike struggles with the greatest attentiveness. Paterson is a rehearsal of greater battles yet to come. The movement will judge everyone by his performance there.

Last updated on: 14.1.2013