Editorial Notes

Learn from the Workers

(February 1932)

Written: February 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 8 (Whole No. 104), 20 February 1932, p. 4.
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The sound impulse of the militant workers to maintain solidarity with persecuted members of their class under all conditions has again been demonstrated by the latest actions of Local 2090 of the carpenters’ union in regard to the marine workers’ defense. At the same time it has been shown again how far upstart bureaucrats, holding office by appointment and freed from accountability to the ranks, can depart from the principles they claim to espouse, and even to monopolize.

Local 2090 contains quite a few progressive and militant unionists, including a number of sympathizers, of the official Communist Party. The I.L.D. has had a strong support there and the carpenters have responded every time to its appeals for class war prisoners: They took the idea of non-partisan labor defense more seriously, apparently, than the officials of the I.L.D. who had talked to them so much about it. Consequently when an appeal was made to them for the marine workers they responded just as loyally as they had done in other cases. The principle had taken root in the union, and the few members, inspired by the Party and I.L.D. bureaucrats, who tried to sabotage the action succeeded only in damaging their own prestige.

It might be thought that this warning would have been sufficient to put a stop to such trifling, at least in this union. But the Stalinist generals and field marshals have hard heads, very little shame and absolutely no respect for the intelligence of the workers. They thought there must be some mistake, and they undertook to correct it. Hacker, the district organizer of the I.L.D., took an evening off from his arduous labors for the principle of non-partisan support of class war prisoners to go to the union and explain that it did not apply in this case. Having learned by the previous experience that the carpenters could not be turned against the prisoners, he switched the attack to their defense committee and proposed that the union should withdraw its support from that body.

The ruse did not work. Without showing any prejudice one way or the other, the carpenters decided to hear both sides before coming to their final decision. They invited the defense committee to send a speaker to the next meeting. After hearing him they voted to continue their support of the marine defense committee until the end, without slackening any of their help to the cases defended by the I.L.D.

In this action the workers gave two lessons to the bureaucrats. On the one hand they showed that what they are really concerned about is workingmen in jail and not the auspices of their defense. On the other hand, rejecting the sabotaging tricks of the Hackers, they maintained their solidarity with the prisoners defended by the I.L.D., in spite of the Hackers. In both cases we believe they were right. Their actions show a line of principle, and that is what is needed to find the right answers to questions of the class struggle.

The lesson will be lost on the bureaucrats of Stalinism because these people think only of instructing the workers, never of learning from them. But we have no doubt it will have its effect on the Communists in the carpenters’ union who were made ridiculous before their organization by their attempts to carry out false instructions.

Last updated on: 24.4.2013