Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

August 29th Movement

The Wildcat at DASCO and its Lessons for the Communist Movement in the U.S.

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First Published: n.d. [1974].
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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(All references to the written positions of the Revolutionary Union come from the August 1974 issue of Revolution. We offer our thanks to the I WOR KUEN for the comradely and positive role they played in the Dasco strike.)

On May 1, 1974, forty-one dayshift workers walked out of the Dasco plant, a paper finishing plant in Oakland, California, to demand the rehiring of a fired Chicano shop steward. Thus began a wildcat strike which within two days successfully shut down operations at the plant. The 16 day wildcat, which failed in its immediate aims, taught many important political lessons, particularly to the political organisations involved in the strike: the October League, the Revolutionary Union, and the East Bay Labor Collective which is now part of the August Twenty-Ninth Movement, The August Twenty-Ninth Movement agrees with the statement made by the RU in their analysis of the strike; ...this is a period of sharp struggle, between contending political and ideological lines in the communist movement, and these differences led to sharp conflict over specific ; decisions that had to be made in the course of the strike.” This is in fact the case and it will be clear to all that the RU, in particular, insists on leading the working class movement down the path of reformism. We point to the RU in particular, because they represent a significant danger to the party building movement – both because e of their revisionism, which is their primary aspect, and their “left” sectarianism.

At Dasco the workforce was composed of approximately 85% immigrant workers – a majority being women. The workforce was multinational with the largest percentage being Chinese and Mexican workers. There were also Portuguese, Chicano, Cuban, Black and a few young white workers (some of whom were either Independent “radicals” or affiliated with the RU or OL).

The RU incorrectly assesses the role of the communists in relationship to the outbreak of the strike. From their analysis, one would draw the incorrect conclusion that the political work of the RU had been the catalyst which sparked the walkout. They ignore the various different factors – the deteriorating working conditions, an active bilingual shop steward, etc. – which together laid the basis for the walkout. The most significant factor involved was the previous struggles against company speed-ups and miserable working conditions which had been led (in a strictly trade-unionist sense) by the political forces inside the plant. These struggles taught the workers the value of unity, militancy and organization. The confidence and lessons learned in these successful attacks on the company lay at the heart of the decision by the workers to wildcat on May Day. Unfortunately, it was the political failure of these same political forces in the time preceding the strike that led to the later defeat of the wildcat.

The only “political” work done by the RU and the former EBLC consisted of agitation around the Farah and Farmworker struggles. This, agitation only advanced the movement at Dasco quantitatively because the essence of it was ECONOMIST. For example, the Farah strike materials passed to the workers mentioned the need for workers unity, the importance of unionising the Southwest, the fight against runaway shops, etc. Comrades – the workers do not need communists to tell them these things. It is our duty to expose to the working class why there is national oppression of Chicanos (and other nationalities), why workers are exploited, why shops runaway in the Southwest, We must explain concretely to them that these things happen because we live under a system whose essence is a frenzied battle for profit which by its very nature is exploitive and oppressive. We must explain to the workers the whys and wherefores of capitalism and the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie – showing them why its overthrow and replacement by proletarian dictatorship is INEVITABLE.

Because of our amateurishness and theoretical underdevelopment, the majority of the most advanced workers at the Dasco plant did not make the qualitative leap to communist consciousness. We did not do this work – political exposures, propaganda, etc. – because we failed to grasp the central task of all communists, the building of a new Marxist-Leninist party. Furthermore we did not understand at the time, the essential nature of building factory nuclei – as the means of building political leadership at Dasco, We did not understand concretely how to take Marxism-Leninism to the advanced workers. We did not understand the necessity to combine legal trade union work and the illegal preparation and training of the workers as revolutionaries, how to bring workers into Marxist-Leninist study and to bring forth propaganda to the most advanced. We did not understand that we had to unite the advanced around ourselves (on a political basis) in order to reach and win over the intermediate and the backward. We did not understand that the nuclei (small groups of communist-workers who guide the political and economic struggle in a factory), is our link to the masses, the vehicle for carrying our line to the class.

WHAT WE SHOULD HAVE DONE

We should have begun with a comprehensive analysis of Dasco – its history, the history of the workers struggle, the unions history, the financial situation of Dasco, a breakdown of the workforce itself – by pay, sex, nationality, etc to determine their particular situations – in short, a concrete analysis of concrete conditions. Then we should have begun to seek out the advanced using the tool of political exposures – exposures which explain the capitalist system to the workers, and the role of the proletariat in bringing about socialist revolution. It is exactly the advanced – that is, the most politically conscious – workers who will most readily understand and respond to these political exposures – if they are concrete and related to the actual conditions facing the workers. These political exposures are done on a daily basis but most especially in the course of the various plant and union struggles we are involved in. As the advanced come forward it is our duty to clarify for them our central task through propaganda and to train them – theoretically through the study of Marxism-Leninism, politically showing them how to do political work in struggle, how to combat and expose opportunism, etc. Organizationally we must train them how to best mobilize the workers, how to judge the balance of forces, how to plan a course of struggle, how to build nuclei (its purpose, method of operation), etc. Only thus can we truly equip the advanced workers to carry out the role of vanguard.

Our failure (and the failure of the RU) to do this work lay at the heart of the failure of the Dasco wildcat. This strike lacked LEADERSHIP – it was not guided politically and organizationally – by a strong core of class conscious leaders with strong political ties to all the workers. Lacking this nuclei apparatus of centralized leadership, the wildcat began behind the eight ball. While EBLC attempted to carry out political work during the strike (distributing and discussing Lenin’s ON STRIKES with several workers, and passing out one propaganda leaflet) it was sporadic and unsystematic. In addition, since no prior training has taken place (of a systematic planned nature), very few workers were involved in the actual organization of the strike itself – most of this work falling onto the shoulders of the EBLC and RU cadre. The task of communists when this strike broke out was to analyze the entire situation, assess who were the most advanced workers and work out a political and organizational strategy – that is, how the strike was to be organized for the maximum political and economic effect. It should have been determined IMMEDIATELY how this strike was going to be used to bring propaganda to the advanced, and to raise the political level of all the workers; what political slogans were to be raised and how. This should have then been discussed with the advanced along with all the important organisational aspects of the strike. In this way, we would have trained the advanced in struggle – theoretically, politically and organizationally. Guided by our overall political line, we could have used every tactical battle (such as the union meeting, where we could have exposed the labor aristocrat union hacks – showing the workers the labor aristocracy in action and explaining to them here it comes from, why it is created and why they act as agents of the capitalist class, (not just one particular boss) raise political questions, to do political exposures.

This would have been true communist strategy and tactics and would have guaranteed the political success of the strike – while at the same time raising our chances for organizational victory also. To substitute for this, as the RU did (and does), chanting on a picket line, police taunting, economist sloganeering and distribution of the Bay Area variety of one of their “workers” (i.e., non-communist, or more specifically, trade-unionist) newspapers only guarantees that workers will not become communists, will not be brought into the party and that we will not link scientific socialism to the working class movement. We failed because we did not understand (or, in the case of the RU, did not want to understand) how to link Dasco work to party building. The results of our failure are only too obvious no nuclei were built, few workers were taken propaganda, many were fired and the work was set back to the beginning.

THE STRIKE ENDS

By May 16, the number of participating workers in the strike had declined from a high of about 200 to approximately 20. The majority of workers had either returned to work (RU called these workers who were responding to the lack of leadership scabs – lumping them together with those workers who worked throughout the strike). A number of workers were voicing their opinion that the strike was over, including some advanced workers. At the meeting which formally brought the strike to an end, the subjective factor (or lack of leadership and Preparation) and the objective situation which found the workers weakened and on the defensive, caused the EBLC cadre to vote along with the majority of the workers to end the strike. The RU, still not recognizing its own lack of leadership, or the lack of leadership overall – and completely ignoring the objective situation, pushed the voluntarist, subjective line of keeping the strike going to the bitter end. Of course, since they did not, and could not show the workers the advantages of such a brilliant plan or how it was to be carried out successfully, it was overwhelmingly rejected. The workers had recognized the weakness in the leadership much sooner than this meeting, and this was the reason many were already back to work by May 16.

WHAT WE MUST LEARN

We must learn from these lessons – we must shed our amateurish, economist “traditions” and struggle to understand how communists must carry out our central task in the factories in order to make them all our “fortresses”. We must not, as does the RU, glorify our amateurishness and raise it to an economist principle. We BETRAY the working class if we refuse as doss the RU, to bring Marxism-Leninism to the advanced. The RU compounds their error by even failing to see that political consciousness is the essential element of an advanced worker. They would rather have a good trade unionist (they say he can even be ANTI-communist) who is less likely to respond positively to communist propaganda and political exposures. We BETRAY the working class if we fail to train workers theoretically, politically and organizationally and content ourselves with getting them to chose one picket line after another. We BETRAY the working class if we fail to give the spontaneous struggles of the working class (like the Dasco strike) a planned, conscious character by making them part of the struggle for socialism (in this pre-party period by educating the advanced workers in the course of struggle and through our work with them about capitalism, socialism, the Party and Marxism-Leninism in general).

SUMMARY

Comrades, we direct this polemic at the RU, telling them to match their deeds with their words. In summarizing the Dasco strike they defined their political aims as “.. .in the course of (the strike), drawing out the maximum number of revolutionary lessons about the capitalist system and the class struggle – winning workers to the understanding that while struggles such as Dasco wildcats are Important and necessary and can be won, that in the final analysis, revolutionary struggles against the capitalist class led by the working class and its revolutionary Communist Party, is what is needed to wipe out oppression and exploitation.” Fine words! But what actually happened – let the RU speak for themselves as to their political work and strategy: “For this reason, the RU put forward that the way to build the strike was to stand strong on the picket line and to go out and link up as much as possible with other workers and people in other struggles.” Somehow capitalism, class struggle and the party get lost in the shuffle to build the picket line – leadership is not developed and we fail – if we refuse to learn – to arm the proletariat with its general staff.

We of the August Twenty-Ninth Movement believe that Marxist-Leninists can be evaluated by their attitude towards their errors – the proletarian stand being to openly admit them, understand what gave rise to them and to struggle to correct our mistakes. As a result of our failure to do correct political work at Dasco (and because of our trade unionist errors also) 37 workers lost their Job and no nuclei were developed at Dasco. ATM has struggled, since its very beginning, to learn from our errors and the errors and successes of others. We have attempted to systematically study the science of Marxism-Leninism, and to learn how to apply it to concrete conditions in the U.S. We are beginning to build communist nuclei in other factories where we work. We are organizing Marxism-Leninist study groups for advanced workers {where they both study and do political work, and distributing genuine communist propaganda and agitation. We offer this analysis, even though the events themselves are dated, in the humble spirit that other comrades may also learn from our work and go on to carry out our historic task and to build our party which will end exploitation once and for all In the U.S. through socialist revolution.