Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

August 29th Movement

Western Yarn Strike Ends

Class Struggle Continues

First Published: Revolutionary Cause, Vol. 1, No. 9, October 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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(Editor’s note: Last month’s issue of the RC contained a report on the textile workers strike at Western Yarns factory in Los Angeles. After roughly 23 days of struggle, the strike was lost. We present here our preliminary summation of that strike; future articles will further elaborate our views.)

On September 13, 160 workers went out on strike at Western Yarns. (We incorrectly reported 200 in RC #8.) The remainder of the 200 workers at the plant did not come out because of lack of union sanction of the strike. For 23 days the strikers struggled to win their demands despite the lack of support from the Teamster bureaucrats and economic difficulties for the workers. The workers had demanded equality of languages, an end to the abuse of women, the right to strike as well as improved wages and benefits. Due in part to the errors made by the August 29th Movement (M-L), the strike was not effective in winning the immediate demands. However, as a result of our work as open communists, the workers made political advances during the strike.

During this struggle both the capitalists of Western Yarn and the Teamster leadership collaborated to smash the strike by refusing to negotiate the demands of the workers. The capitalists fired all the strikers, hired scabs to fill their jobs, and the Teamster leadership approved of these maneuvers. The capitalists hired Richardson’s Security Service, infamous as strike breakers throughout California, to protect the scabs and the capitalists “private property”, The Teamsters approved and went so far as to bring their own goons down one night to intimidate the strikers. ATM doesn’t mention these facts in order to make excuses. We know that the capitalists will use any means necessary to break strikes. We know that the Teamster bureaucrats will always collaborate with the capitalist class. It is our task as communists to lead the workers in overcoming these obstacles in the course of the struggle. In this case we were not successful and lost the economic battle.


During a meeting at the end of the strike, one woman striker said: “Economically we lost this strike, but I feel we won politically.” Despite the immediate economic setbacks, some workers became class conscious during this struggle and the vast majority were willing to follow communist leadership. Carrying our communist duty in this section of the working class, ATM (M-L) began the work of fusing the working class movement with socialism. From the beginning we brought an open communist presence to this strike although we did not have a single cadre working at Western Yarn First, we consolidated the advanced workers: those who actively studied Marxism-Leninism, were recognized leaders in the plant, were class conscious and totally dedicated to proletarian struggle. An open ATM cadre assigned to the strike and these advanced workers were able to assist the mass of workers in formulating their demands, the writing of leaflets, organizing the pickets, etc. In the process, of the strike some militant trade unionists became open to socialist ideas and we are now attempting to continue work with them.

ATM(M-L) carried out independent political exposures of the capitalist class and their lackies the Teamster leadership. In one ATM propaganda leaflet, for example, we explained that imperialism creates super-profits which are partly used to bribe a section of the working class. It is not a question of a “few bad leaders”, we explained, but that of a large labor bureaucracy which usually emerges from this bribed labor aristocracy. We wrote: “These trade union bureaucrats receive fat salaries, Tim Williams (Teamster Business Representative – ed.) gets $26,000 per year, and have no interest in making changes. They simply want to protect their fat paycheck and therefore have as much interest in preserving capitalism as the capitalist does. These bureaucrats not only get fat salaries, but also political privileges. Teamster President Frank Fitzsimmons gladly sat on Nixon’s wage control board and had all his expenses paid while he helped Nixon hold down our wages.” We then further explained what socialism means for the working class. We put forward the need for a new communist party and why the class conscious workers must take part in the building of such a party.

We stress that political education did not remain on paper. At every opportunity we carried out political exposures and in particular we stressed that this strike was part of a world wide class struggle against imperialism. We took politically active workers to two events commemorating the life of Mao Tse tung. At one event the strike committee presented a speech expressing solidarity between the strikers and the people of China. They linked the immediate struggles in their strike to the world wide struggle against imperialism. At plant gate rallies, community meetings and benefits, ATM and advanced workers presented communist agitation in support of the strike. ATM and worker contacts distributed the Revolutionary Cause and particularly issue number 8 with articles on the strike and Mao’s death were widely read among the strikers. This communist work soon began to have its effect among the more politically active workers. We developed the respect of the workers and they began to see that this strike was only one form of struggle in the larger context of the class struggle.


We made errors in the course of this struggle, some of them quite serious. Our errors were both of a political and organizational nature.

First, we had an incorrect analysis of the objective conditions prior to the strike. We underestimated the influence of the union bureaucrats on the masses of workers. We did not take into account that the Teamsters had only recently been voted in by the workers and therefore had some legitimacy among a large section of the workers. The majority of workers expected Teamster support when they decided to strike. This illusion reflects a weakness in ATM’s exposure of the Teamsters prior to the strike. The practical results were that many workers soon became demoralized when we were unsuccessful in forcing the Teamsters to sanction the strike. We did not take into account fully the workers history at Western Yarns – i.e., the fact that they had not taken part in prior mass struggles of any type. This history reflected itself in a certain amount of passivity on the strike line. Our failure to train the workers in mass forms of struggle was at the root of this failure to take on the scabs. If a majority of the workers had been convinced that they could only rely on themselves and not on the Teamster bureaucrats and were convinced that mass struggle could lead to victory, the only conclusion they would have drawn was to physically stop the scabs.

Another error in our analysis was that we underestimated the effects of the fact that a large percentage of the workers were undocumented. Many undocumented workers did not take active part in the strike nor were they willing to stop scabs for fear of arrest and deportation. Instead of carrying out political education among the undocumented workers and making necessary preparations to protect their physical safety, we objectively approached the strike as if all the strikers were citizens.

The picket line reflected the overall weakness of the strike. The line was badly organized. It lacked discipline and militancy and thus failed to keep out the scabs. Worse still, not all of the approximately 160 strikers actively took part in picketing or other strike activities. At the height, the strike involved 55-60 workers with an even smaller number on the picket line. This reflected a lack of proper organization of the strike. It also reflected a failure to consolidate the strikers around the political issues involved in the strike. There was an overestimation on our part as to how much the masses of workers understood the political demands – i.e., equality of languages and equal rights for women.

The lesson we’ve drawn from the strike is it before taking an action of this type where complete reliance on one’s own strength is the key to victory we must do a deep going investigation of the level of political and organizational preparedness of the rank and file. (Remember in this strike there was no strike fund, no sanction from the Teamster truck drivers local, nothing – but the power of the striking workers.) Looking back, we should have urged the workers to delay their strike in order to consolidate the masses of workers politically and organizationally around the need for a strike. We stress that The question of an official Teamster strike sanction doesn’t have any bearing on choosing whether to strike or not. For us the decisive question was whether the workers were prepared.

Despite the fact that one of our major demands was equal rights for women, we did not correctly carry out ATM’s line on the woman question. We failed to consistently link the partial demands for equal wages and an end to company harrassment with the basic demand for ful1 equality. We did not consistently show that woman’s oppression stems from imperialism and that under socialism women will gain true equality. In our day-to-day work we did not see the importance of child care for all meetings, nor did we consistently combat the male supremacist attitudes of some men strikers. For example, we said nothing when men whistled at a woman strike leader during the elections for the strike committee. We did take some steps to correct these errors; ATM agitational and propaganda did begin to regularly raise the woman question and by the end of the strike we helped promote women to leadership in the strike committee.


Midway through the strike, the weaknesses became apparent to everyone. All attempts to turn the situation around were unsuccessful. We then developed a plan for an orderly retreat. The political objectives of the retreat were to have all the workers return to the plant with discipline and unity. We hoped to have as few workers fired as possible. We hoped to rebuild the momentum once again, and continue the class struggle in other forms. At this writing it is unclear how successful the retreat was. The company is gradually laying off the scabs and rehiring the strikers – although many strike activists will never get their jobs back. In a future article we will return to this question of retreat and deepen our analysis.


It is easy to talk like a communist, it is another thing to act like one. We will examine the stands of the Workers Congress (M-L) in this strike and we urge comrades to draw their own conclusions as to whether the WC deserves the title communist.

First, they voted against the strike because it was “illegal”, i.e., not sanctioned by the Teamsters. In fact, the workers were without a contract for three months and therefore not tied down by any legally binding contract clauses. The strike was not a wildcat. The WC, however, raised this question as a smokescreen to cover up the fact that they wanted workers to rely on the Teamster bureaucrats for leadership. The WC will hotly deny this in print and scream that we are distorting their position, but facts are facts. Besides there were 50 workers in the meeting where they voted against the strike on the grounds that it was an illegal strike.

Secondly, one would expect that a communist once losing in a democratic vote, would unite with the majority and go all out to win the strike. In fact, from the first day, the WC attempted to demoralize the strikers and lead a back-to-work movement. They gave no hint to the workers that they were communists – they did no communist agitation or propaganda. They consistently put forward the view that only the trade union bureaucrats could help us win the strike. This position demoralized a number of workers even further since they saw no union support.

Thirdly, one of their more outrageous positions was that the police can “be tactically used” in the interest of strikers!! This position came out when Richardson’s Security guards assaulted a woman worker. Some workers called the police and the cops promptly arrested the woman’s husband for threatening the life of the security guard. We pointed out that the police sided with the interest of the capitalists by defending their private goons. To our amazement WC consistently tailed behind the views of a number of workers who out of naiveness believed the police were “their friends”. The WC went so far as to openly say they would call the police if the workers continued to get harassed. In these situations communists must struggle to expose the police and advocate self-defense, not reliance on the state.

Finally, we must repeat that WC as an organization did not lift a finger to help this strike towards victory. They carried out no independent agitation or propaganda, organized no support for the picket lines, did no out-side support work, etc. By their actions, the WC was politically isolated by the end of the strike. They were never able to win a majority for their positions at any mass meeting. The WC seeks to build a M-L party of the new type. We must ask: just what kind of party will this be based on the opportunist practice of WC?


Class struggle takes many forms. The Western Yarns workers are laying plans now to continue work inside the plant, continue the struggles to get food stamps and unemployment denied them during the strike.

During the strike the advanced workers developed as agitators and propagandists; in turn they are attempting to bring forward new workers to the study and practice of Marxism-Leninism. We have all learned important lessons in the struggle for socialism and to build a new communist party. The development of political line as the key link in this period takes place not only on paper, but in the heat of giving communist leadership to mass struggles. For instance, ATM(M-L) consciously applied its political line in this struggle, i.e., working with the advanced, fighting for democratic demands, linking these demands to socialism and party building. By testing our line in practice, we saw its strengths and weaknesses. Without communist participation in the struggles of the working class there can be no verification of the strengths and weaknesses of our political and organizational work. For that reason, the lessons of Western Yarns must be clearly grasped by all.