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October League (M-L)

Revolutionary Union: Opportunism in a “Super-Revolutionary” Disguise

Selected Articles from The Call

Lessons Learned from Dasco Wildcat

On May 1 of this year, the workers at Dasco Inc., a small paper plant in Oakland, Calif, shut down the plant in a militant wildcat strike. The issue which sparked the strike was the firing of a Chicano shop steward but the conditions which lay behind the walkout go back a long way.

The plant is a classical sweatshop known throughout the neighboring Latino community for its discrimination towards women and minorities, low pay, speed-up, and bad safety conditions. For the past year there have been many struggles in the plant, including two successful walkouts, many petitions and grievances, and confrontations with management. Communists from several organizations – Revolutionary Union (RU), August 29th Movement (ATM), I Wor Kuen (IWK), and the October League (OL) – have been influential in these struggles.

Since the end of the recent strike, the RU has been going around the country slandering ATM, IWK and particularly the OL saying that the strike lost because these organizations “united around a reformist and defeatist line that was to make defeat the only possibility;” that we pushed for “relying on the union bureaucrats instead of the rank and file,” and that we pushed a line which reinforced national divisions among the workers. The OL thinks it is important to analyze the strike and to answer these attacks not to simply defend our own organization but to deepen the struggle in the communist movement against RU’s incorrect line so communists can give real leadership to the working class movement and contribute to the development of a correct program, strategy and tactics for the revolution in the U.S.

The strike itself was a tremendous event. For two weeks we kept the plant shut down with mass picketlines of over 100 workers at each shift change. Committees to organize and lead strike activities were formed and broad outreach was done to involve students from local colleges and other workers.

The strikers faced vicious attacks from the police who came down to the lines every day, from the courts who issued an injunction forbidding any picketting at all, and from the company. The company took a very hard line and it cost them tens of thousands of dollars to defeat us. At stake was the future of the workers’ movement at Dasco and especially the contract struggle which comes up in November. The company threatened to fire anyone who honored the picket lines and in fact did fire a total of 87 people in a plant with only 250 workers.

We also received no support at all from our reactionary Teamster Union Local 853 leadership. The union leadership wanted to rid itself of a large group of militant workers who had begun to fight against their sell-out policies.

Besides these external factors the strikers faced many internal weaknesses. The wildcat was completely spontaneous. We had no organization among the workers to lead the strike nor did we have a strike fund. These difficulties played a big role in the defeat of the strike which was called off by the workers at a mass meeting two weeks after it began. The attacks upon us by the ruling class, and our own internal weaknesses had taken their toll. The October League supported the decision to go back to work because we felt that in that situation it was the best way to consolidate the strength we had left and continue the fight for our jobs through other means.

Because of the difficulties we faced, difficulties which made it very hard to win, does this mean that we shouldn’t have struggled? No! Whatever tactical errors we made in carrying out the strike, it was right that we dared to defy all difficulties and fight for our rights.

Besides learning that it’s right to fight back against repression, many other lessons can be summed up from the Dasco wildcat. We learned that multinational unity is key to winning victory and that this unity can only be built by workers of all nationalities being won to take up the fight against every case of discrimination. In the Dasco wildcat, Black, Asian, Chicano and white workers united not only to demand the rehiring of a militant shop steward, but also to support the right of Chicano people to keep a bilingual Chicano shop steward who put special emphasis on fighting for the national demands of Latino people.

However, the Revolutionary Union, in the August issue of its newspaper, Revolution, opposed the struggles of minority workers for equality to the general workers struggle saying that when you raise special demands of the minority workers you are “making a principle of national division.” In this article they criticize ATM, IWK and the OL for saying that the strike was a “Chicano struggle” and that thus we “reinforced divisions and discouraged the role of the strikers of other nationalities.” While none of these three organizations ever said that the strike was just a Chicano struggle, we all felt that an important aspect of the struggle was that it not only was a struggle of all workers to retain a militant shop steward, but it was particularly important also as a struggle of Latino people for their rights. Because of these national aspects, the Chicano movement rallied around the strike and many Chicano workers and students came down to the picket lines. But the RU denied these national aspects and reduced it simply to a “fight back against the firing of a fellow worker” as the RU put it in their Revolution article. What this line comes down to is “leftism” in form – by pointing out this struggle solely as a struggle of all workers and by denying the national aspects of it – but rightism in essence, by refusing to win the white workers to support these national demands. This is out and out white chauvinism.

RU’s refusal to take up the special demands of the minority workers also came out in the plant before the strike. One example of this was around the firing of three Black workers a few weeks before the strike. A petition was written demanding the three workers be rehired but the RU opposed the petition, saying that “they deserved to be fired.”


A third lesson that we learned was the need to take up the fight against the special oppression of women, to strengthen their role in the struggle. The women workers at Dasco played a leading role, setting an example not only for women but for all workers around the country. Women were the main force behind the two successful walkouts which occurred in the year before the strike. They also came out in force for the picket lines where they stood up to the police, and engaged in all the strike activities from mass meetings to rallying support from workers in other shops. The activism of the women came in spite of the fact that many of their specific demands were not taken up, nor was enough attention paid to helping them resolve their family problems, such as organizing child care during the strike.

The RU often took the position of opposing the special demands of women. An example of this was when a petition was written saying that the company was guilty of discrimination because they made a small woman take a job pushing around 2,000 lb. rolls of paper before she could get a machine job, but often did not require the men to do this. The RU opposed this petition, saying that in fact it was not discrimination against women but “discrimination against small people.” This liquidation of the women’s struggle kept us from winning more women workers into leadership of the strike. More examples of this are found in the Revolution article which hardly even mentions women, let alone the leading role they played in the strike.

From the strike we also learned the need to work in the union around a concrete program to isolate the union bureaucrats and win over the middle forces to our side. A strong core of advanced workers existed at Dasco, willing to go out on a wildcat without any support from the union. These workers were still influenced by the union leadership and they were confused when the union did not sanction the strike and actually told people to go back to work. What we had failed to do in the past year was to rally the middle workers around a concrete program expressing the demands of the rank and file and expose the bureaucrats for not taking up these demands. Instead, what happened was that the RU in particular rested content with abstract attacks on the union leadership and didn’t build up a rank-and-file movement to a position of power in the local. This left us without strong ties to the middle workers, who eventually crossed our picket lines.

A final lesson which became clear through the Dasco wildcat was that by integrating with the workers, communists can play a leading role in their struggles. The steward who was fired was a communist and in spite of all the company and union attempts to red-bait him, the workers at Dasco were willing to risk their jobs and their families to get his job back. This happened because of the generally positive role that the communists played in the plant over the past year. Communists were always in the lead of the shop struggles and the workers were ready to fight to keep them as their leaders.

But again the role of the RU at Dasco almost turned this strength into a weakness. They never took up their task of training a stable core of class conscious workers to lead the struggles in the plant. Instead what they did was to substitute their own activity for that of the workers, setting a militant example but not training workers to lead. The building of a core like this demands that the advanced workers be won to Marxism-Leninism, for only then can they see ahead and really understand how to lead. To win the workers to Marxism-Leninism, as Lenin points out in “What Is To Be Done?” we must bring communist ideas to the workers.

We must not rest content with simply leading the day to day struggles. This is what it means to link party building to shop work. To accomplish this, the OL should have used THE CALL more with the workers before the strike. But since we had only been in the shop for a short while, this was extremely difficult. The major burden of this error must fall on the RU which had been working there for over a year and had several cadre and contacts in the shop. While ATM and the OL have since seen the mistakes of not doing sufficient communist propaganda, the RU refuses to criticize itself for its lack of propaganda work. Instead RU raises this error to the level of principle. They put forth a line which calls for selling only their various “worker newspapers” in the factories. These papers talk only of the need for workers to fight back; they are not designed to teach Marxism. The RU saves its “communist” newspaper, Revolution, for intellectuals and only a few select workers. In the months before the strike, the RU opposed putting out a shop paper to discuss the struggles in the plant, raise the level of education, and provide the basis for a workers’ organization. Again the RU’s line is leftism in form – by putting out their newspaper Revolution which is filled with theoretical articles and polemics – but rightism in essence because they leave the masses of workers with only the trade unionism put forth in the various “workers newspapers.”

In summing up the Dasco strike, it is necessary to evaluate the negative aspects of it-the jobs lost, and the defeats suffered. But at the same time, it is crucial to see the heroic spirit of the workers who were ready to fight, and to analyze the errors made by all the revolutionary forces, for the purpose of giving better leadership to the workers’ struggle in the future. The OL is self-critical of numerous mistakes from our work in the strike. But our attitude towards these mistakes is to study and rectify them.

The RU on the other hand, is busy attacking everyone else who participated in the strike, and clinging to their own incorrect views and the mistakes that flowed from them. In essence it is RU’s economism under their “left”-sounding cover which leads them to oppose training the masses of workers in Marxism, not take up the fight against national chauvinism and male chauvinism, isolate the advanced forces from the middle forces, and liquidate the need for a rank and file movement to gain power in the union in an organized form.

This type of error in political line must be opposed by all revolutionaries, not defended and glorified.

(First published in THE CALL, October, 1974)