Mining and Textile Strikes
in Danger

Stalinist Failure to Apply United Front Threatens Strike

(August 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 18, 8 August 1931, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Every day of the prolongation of the struggles rentiers more acute the dangers that threaten the two big strike movements that have swept thousands of workers into action – the strikes of the coal miners and of the textile workers. The dangers arise out of the disunity, the separatism, the isolation of the strikes – even when considered from the standpoint of each industry separately. From the very beginning this has been pointed out by the Militant, and the warning sounded that unless swift and resolute measures were taken to overcome the prevailing disunity, the strikes would be threatened with the poison of slow disintegration and defeat.

Our warning was addressed primarily to the Left wing and to the official Communist party which leads it – no initiative in the direction of unity can be expected from the reformist labor leaders who thrive and prosper on the basis of division in the ranks of the working class. Yet, although each day has brought new confirmation of the need of putting into practise the policy we put forward, the party has been compelled to mark time on one spot by a leadership more concerned about maintaining its prestige and the “infallibility” of its policies than in adjusting them to suit the needs of the class struggle and the interests of the movement.

The Party on the Mine Strike

Now, driven to speak out by the serious state in which the Pennsylvania mine strike has developed, the Political Bureau of the Communist party have issued a long declaration in the Daily Worker, which describes more openly than ever before the gravity of the situation. The strike is still isolated; men have gone back by the thousands, under the pressure of terror or lacking faith in the strike’s possibilities; the endeavors to spread the strike have thus far produced the most meager results. What do the party leaders propose as a remedy? Not a single serious step that has not been advocated up to now; spread the strike, intensify relief, fight the Musteites.

All this is very good, except that the militants in the mine fields are not told how this is to be done to secure different results from those obtained with the methods pursued up to now. One small “concession”, which remains a pure phrase when taken with the whole party policy, is made in the correct direction by the belated proposal to “organize our opposition and fight for our program inside the U.M.W.A. locals no matter if controlled by the open Lewis machine or by the various Musteite elements”. But this is far from enough.

While one of the criticisms made is that of “Insufficient reliance in the united front”, the statement does not give one other word to this immensely important problem. The strike of the independent West Virginia Miners Union is not even mentioned. The semi-independent Kentucky strike is not referred to. Yet they are in some respects the key to the situation. To give new courage, new heart, new vigor and militancy to the miners strike it is necessary to unite all the autonomous movements – Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia (north and south) Illinois, etc. – in a single front. Not one of these movements can carry on successfully by itself. The prime necessity, therefore, is for the N.M.U. to take the initiative to address the organizations conducting the other strikes and rebel movements with the proposals for a joint conference to unify them all. This, together with agitation in the ranks everywhere to have the workers exorcize pressure upon their leaders, is the first real step towards a genuine united front, desperately needed by the miners.

When the Stalinist leaders fail to take this step, as they have up to now in spite of the fact that it does not diverge for an instant from the policies recommended by the early congresses of the Comintern, they are sacrificing the living interests of the movement for the sake of the dead letter of their dogmatic formulae.

The Paterson Strike

With little change, the same holds true for the textile strikes, particularly in Paterson, where we have the saddening picture of two strikes, under two organizations, with two separate systems of activity. The stubborn stupidity of Stalinist policy in this case has created the anomalous situation where the whole crew of Right wing and reformist leaders of the A.F. of L. – from Matthews to Norman Thomas to Muste to Mr. Ben Gitlow – have been able to make the central issue of the strike the – splitting activities of the Communists and the National Textile Workers Union. By the narrow policy of the party, these gentlemen have boon able to cover up their own splitting policies, and, in all likelihood, under the same covering the A.F. of L. leaders will be able to conclude the strike with the usual disgraceful settlement. Hero is a tragic instance of what happens when the Left wing throws away the banner of unity. Here too a rapid turn is demanded, of the Left wing. The Daily Worker last week reported that J. Rubin, of the N.T.W. demanded one strike and one committee at a meeting of the A.F. of L. union. What is this to mean? Does it mean that Rubin demanded that all the others join the Rank and File Unity Committee of the N.T.W.? If this is the policy, and everything leads to such a belief, than it is a poor and unfruitful substitute for what is imperatively required. The N.T.W. must propose to the A.F. of L. unions a joint committee to direct the strike! On the joint field of strike battle, the Left wing will be able to demonstrate to all the strikers whose policy and leadership best suits their interests. It will be able to spike any attempts of the A.F. of L. leaders to get another “Marion settlement”.

The Left wing must snatch the banner of unity away from the Mustes and Gitlows, the anti-Communist baiters who use the banner as a cover for their own splitting actions. The danger confronting the two big strike movements must be overcome immediately. The discredited theories and practises of Stalinism have become an obstacle in the path of development. The obstacle must be kicked aside so that the movement can proceed further on its road.

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