Editorial Notes

The End of the Lawrence Strike

(November 1931)

Written: November 1931.
Source: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 32 (Whole No. 91), 21 November 1931, p. 4.
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The general strike of the Lawrence textile workers – the second strike at Lawrence within the year – which started on October 5, has ended in a defeat for the workers. The 10 percent wage cut, the immediate cause of the strike, remains in force, and in all other respects the victory of the employers in this important struggle, is indisputable. Such is the immediate outcome. As to how long they will hold the present advantage or how soon the workers will be able to recuperate from their defeat and undertake a fresh struggle – these are questions to be answered in the future.

To our regret the Militant was not in a position to receive authentic information regarding the strike from responsible comrades on the ground. For that reason we were not able to comment on its development or to offer opinions about the tactics from week to week. For the same reason we refrain now from an analysis of the defeat.

Attention is drawn here to only one point, a very important one for the future of the Left wing labor movement. The statement of the United Rank and File Strike Committee (a pseudonym for the National Textile Workers Union) says in its statement of November 11th, printed in the Daily Worker of November 16th:

“The splendid general strike of the Lawrence textile workers ... was broken on November 11th, 1931 in the Arlington and American Woolen Co. mills by the United Textile Workers Union”. (Our emphasis)

We are quite ready to believe that statement, even without detailed information to substantiate it. The McMahon organization has been a strike-breaking organization for decades. Everybody who has followed the struggles in the textile industry knows that. As far back as 1911 the same union under John Golden entered into a deliberate conspiracy with the mill owners to break the strike conducted by the I.W.W. The attempt however, was frustrated. In 1913 the same thing was tried at Paterson. Numerous other instances could be cited, running from that time to the present day. The U.T.W. was long ago discredited in the eyes of the textile workers. That is why, after the decline of the I.W.W., the revolts of the textile workers were expressed through independent organizations – first through the Amalgamated Textile Workers and later at Passaic and other points through the organization led by the Communists. There has been no lack of experience with the treacherous gang which leads the U.T.W. in the interests of the bosses.

The question which logically arises is this: How was it possible, after all this experience – and in Lawrence, the very citadel of the militant tradition, of all places – for another strike to be “broken by the United Textile Workers Union”? The I.W.W. was able to prevent it at Lawrence in 1911. The Communists prevented it at Passaic in 1926. The experience of the past and the radicalism of the times were two powerful elements of support for a Left wing victory. How then did the reactionaries get the upper hand and thereby deliver the workers to the bosses?

The statement of the United Rank and File Strike Committee contains no answer to this question. And it can be assumed in advance that the impending flood of “self criticism” regarding the strike in the Party press will also pass it by. But the question will remain a pressing one for the Communist and Left wing workers. They will find the answer in the policy and methods of the Stalinist, leadership. There is the real source of the Left wing defeats and the reactionary victories under circumstances which are most favorable the opposite.

Last updated on: 11.2.2013