Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)

Labor movement needs revolutionary leadership

First Published: The Call, Vol. 7, No. 17, May 1, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The class struggle against capitalism has come a long way since the beginning of May Day back in 1886. That period was marked by the rise of the industrial union movement in the U.S., a movement which today has become fully consolidated. The U.S. working class has matured through more than 100 years of trade union battles and has developed a long tradition of class struggle.

But, as in the early days of the labor movement, attacks by the capitalists are still a part of the workers’ daily lives. They continue now in an even sharper and more sophisticated way. Today the workers’ struggle is more complex and more than ever in need of revolutionary leadership in the spirit of the martyred heroes of Haymarket Square.


Today the bosses have mastered the use of revisionists and corrupt labor aristocrats to go along with the police and fascist terror used against the workers on the first May Day. They have created this aristocracy by buying off the upper stratum of the working class, using the vast superprofits derived from the colonial plunder of other countries.

Today, as much as any time in history, the U.S. labor movement is under the sway of a handful of these “labor lieutenants” of capitalism–from the standard reactionary labor hacks like George Meany to the new prototype reformists like Sadlowski and Miller. It is through these agents within the workers’ movement that the bosses keep it divided, corrupted and chained to the capitalist ideology of reformist “trade-unionism.”

The capitalists have also come to rely more and more on their other “Trojan horse” inside the labor movement, the modern revisionists. In this country, the revisionist Communist Party U.S.A. nestles in the union hierarchy, and uses its position to steer the workers down the road of betrayal. In the context of the workers’ growing political activity today, the revisionists pose a special danger because of their “socialist” disguise.

May Day 1978 finds the U.S. workers’ movement in a period of slow but steady advance. This advance reflects the severe economic crisis which has rocked industrial production in this country.

The deep recession which began in 1973-74 brought with it a marked increase in the number of strikes. Nearly 48 million work days were lost on account of strikes in 1974.

The last four years have seen many twists and turns as a temporary upturn in production has taken place and as the bureaucrats have tried to pull the rug out from any effort to forge a real working class fightback.

But with the economic picture still bleak (even in this period of relative upswing), with inflation and unemployment still weighing heavily on the backs of the people, struggle continues to grow, slowly but surely. The recent miners’ strike, for example, was the longest in the history of the UMW-110 days.


The importance of this strike can be seen, not only by looking at the gains won by the miners themselves, but by understanding its role in holding back the capitalist offensive against all workers. Instinctively realizing this, workers from every major union rallied to give aid and support to the striking miners.

This reactionary offensive, aimed at creating a stable labor situation in the face of a worsening economy, energy crisis and inevitable war with the USSR, directed its spearhead at the miners. Despite the betrayal by the Miller leadership, the rank and file was able to hang tough and stuff the Taft-Hartley Law into Carter’s ear.

The effects of this struggle are only now beginning to be seen throughout the rest of the labor movement. In nearly every strike struggle, workers are talking about the miners’ militant stand and drawing inspiration from it.

The increase in strike activity, even in the face of tremendous pressures from the ruling class and their “labor lieutenants” in the unions, shows the vitality of the workers’ movement. But the character of these strikes and their length are even more important than their increasing number.

The miners’ strike, followed by the protracted strike of the McDonnell Douglas workers and several others, shows that increasingly the strike movement is hitting at the sellout bureaucrats as well as the capitalists.

A mass movement has developed to dump Arnold Miller from the leadership of the UMW after his disgraceful performance at the negotiations. This spontaneous dump-Miller movement coincides with the wave of wildcat strikes that has spread throughout the coalfields in recent years.

During the McDonnell Douglas negotiations, top UAW officials were hooted down from the speakers’ platform as they tried to push their sellout contract on the aerospace workers.

In San Francisco, the 17,000 members of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union threw long-time union boss Joseph Belardi out of office after a long struggle by rank-and-file forces.

In the Butchers Union in Los Angeles, a militant rank-and-file movement threatens the corrupt class-collaborationist leadership of J.J. Rodriguez and would have dumped his clique if he hadn’t tampered with the election results.

The revisionist CPUSA is also increasingly being exposed for its efforts to undermine the rank-and-file movement. Its outright support of Miller’s betrayal as well as its defense of Belardi, Sadlowski and a host of other sellout leaders showed many that the revisionists’ program, calling for a “’left’-center coalition,” is a program for sure defeat. They are a fake “left,” and their friends in the union bureaucracy are a fake “center.”

In many other cases, the growing resistance and determination to transform the unions into organizations of class struggle rather than class collaboration is being felt. In increasing numbers, militants from the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (CPML) have come to play leading or influential roles in these struggles.

But this movement hasn’t yet found the best form to express itself. It is largely without leadership, and the links between the young communist movement and the rank-and-file struggle are only now beginning to be forged.

In the meantime, the U.S. labor movement is fighting for survival and is primarily in a defensive position, trying to maintain even the basic gains won nearly 100 years ago. The 8-hour day, for example, is not yet a reality for most of the industrial workers. The bureaucrats and revisionist leaders have shackled the rank-and-file struggle against rising forced overtime, even while nearly 10 million workers are officially unemployed and while the major steel and auto plants are not operating nearly up to their productive capacity.

Nearly 100 years after Haymarket Square, 77% of our class remains unorganized as the reactionary misleaders sabotage any real campaign to organize the unorganized, especially in the heavily minority areas of the South and Southwest.

The right to strike, which is the most fundamental weapon of the workers, is now being threatened, and Carter’s invocation of Taft-Hartley against the miners was only the early shots in this war on the unions. The union bureaucrats’ cooperation with the anti-strike offensive can be seen by the signing of the Experimental Negotiating Agreement (ENA) in steel and the recent no-strike pledge between the construction trades and the nuclear contractors.


The city and municipal workers are the most immediate target of this anti-strike attack. The upcoming postal workers’ contract fight will be a bell-weather for the struggle ahead in this regard.

Finally, just as in 1886, the bosses and the union misleaders continue to use racism and national oppression to keep the class struggle divided. The oppression of Afro-American and other minority workers continues to be the heaviest weight around the necks of the working class movement.

The massive unemployment figures for minority workers, even at a time when white unemployment has taken a slight downturn, is a strong indictment of the racist, capitalist system and the racist labor bureaucrats who make it run. As long as white supremacy is able to ideologically tie thousands of white workers to their bosses, as long as the leaders of the trade unions are able to perpetuate their “white only” monopoly on the skilled trades and best paying jobs while minority workers are left “last hired and first fired,” the workers’ movement cannot move out of its defensive position.

But despite this attack by the bosses on one side and the bureaucrats and revisionist misleaders on the other, the struggle is advancing slowly and the prospects ahead are bright.

The present campaign, initiated by the CPML, to defend Detroit auto worker Robert “Smitty” Smith, is one example. “Smitty,” a Black worker, was driven to shoot his foreman by the extreme racist oppression which is common in the auto plants. The struggle which last week resulted in a victory for “Smitty” won the backing of many workers because it has linked the struggle against racism with that of class oppression.

Within the UAW and other unions, a movement is also growing against the speedup and forced overtime which have created murderous conditions for all workers. Along with efforts to defend the 8-hour day, workers are also demanding a shorter work week with no cut in pay.

Moreover, the important victory of the miners has sparked new rank-and-file organization in the coalfields, and this trend is being repeated in shops and mills across the country.

Finally, the growing fightback movement for jobs or income is getting underway, as seen by the recent mass jobs demonstration in Washington, D.C. This-May Day, the fight for jobs is the number-one demand on the part of the working class, with the main focus being on the growing joblessness of minority youth.

But the brightest part of the picture of the modern-day workers’ movement is the fact that, for the first time in more than two decades, May Day is being celebrated along with the birth of a Marxist-Leninist party. The Communist Party (M-L), with its strong emphasis on industrial concentration and its revolutionary line, is giving greater encouragement than ever before to the class conscious workers. The CPML, with its program of building class struggle unions, with its fighting stance against all national oppression and for self-determination of the oppressed nations, is pointing the way forward for class unity and the defeat of the labor misleaders.

While there is still a long struggle ahead, May Day 1978 has brought us much closer to the day when capitalist exploitation and oppression will end. The working class is learning through its own painful experiences the need to fight for control of the society that it is building.