MIA: History: ETOL: Newspapers & Periodicals: International Socialist Review: Issue 22

International Socialist Review, March–April 2002

Dan Georgakas

Revolutionary struggles of Black workers
in the 1960s

(June 2001)


From International Socialist Review, Issue 22, March–April 2002
Downloaded with thanks from the ISR Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.


There’s no point in repeating all the events chronicled in Detroit: I Do Mind Dying. It’s more useful to expand on some of the issues we raised in terms of ongoing and future organizing. In the 1960s, we used to talk to activists of the 1930s to learn more about how they had operated. Although it turned out that a lot of what they said was useful, conditions had so changed that we could not repeat them in the same format. I think that some of the things we did also will be useful to our successors, and some of them will not be useful at all. This is just a sharing. There is no sense that we did it this way, so you better do it this way or you’re going to do it wrong.

The most obvious question is, How does a Greek American come to write a book about revolutionary Black workers? That has a lot to do with the city of Detroit. I am the child of immigrants, and I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school. When I went to Wayne State University, I met a lot of other people from a similar background. A number of them were African Americans whose parents had come north to work in the car factories.

When I arrived at Wayne State, the last socialist group had just been ousted from campus. The powers that be must have thought they had finally killed the Marxist beast. The United Auto Workers (UAW) had also expelled as many Marxists as possible during its anti-Communist purge. A lot of us asked ourselves what it was about this “ism” that the establishment did not want us to know. We immediately began looking around.

There were three small socialist groups in the city that still held public events on a regular or irregular basis: Raya Dunayevskaya’s News and Letters group, the C.L.R. James group led by Marty Glaberman, and the Friday night socialist forum sponsored by the Socialist Workers Party. I began to attend various events, and over time I met many of the individuals who would eventually create the League of Revolutionary Black Workers.

Numerous political initiatives were undertaken between 1955 and 1967. Almost every single tactic one can think of was employed at one time or another. There were sit-ins, teach-ins, petition drives, work in the Democratic Party, independent electoral campaigns, independent publications, defense committees, study groups, and so forth. By the time the League came into existence, at least a few hundred people had worked together in various projects.

I moved to New York in 1966. I was approached two years later by Marvin Surkin, who wanted to locate a Black author to write an essay on Detroit events for a book he was then editing on urban politics. When we went to Detroit, Marvin felt events there needed an entire book. We spoke with John Watson, Ken Cockrel, and Mike Hamlin, three of the seven League leaders, about the need to get the League story to a national audience. They replied that they were much too busy building their organization to take time off to write. They suggested that we do it.

I was greatly honored that they would trust us with that task. The major reason was that I had worked with them for so many years on different projects and they had confidence in my political judgment. The only request they made was that we use as much of their own words and documents as possible, an orientation that exactly matched our notion of how to write the book.

When I say trust, that means that someone will make available a huge pile of documents and tell you to look through them and take or copy whatever seems useful. That requires a lot of confidence. I don’t say that to indicate anything special about me, but about the nature of political relationships. If you have worked with a group of people for some 10 years, and you have a social as well as a political relationship, then if a moment comes when you must work without real supervision, people are willing to trust you.

A brief history: In May 1968, some 3,000 workers walked out of Dodge Main in Hamtramck in a wildcat strike. At Dodge Main, 85 percent of the workers were Black, but only 2 percent of the foremen and shop stewards were Black, an indication of racist promotion policies shared by the company and the union. In due course, Dodge workers would assert: “UAW means ’You Ain’t White.’” The year before had seen the Great Rebellion [the urban rebellion in Detroit in 1967óed.]. Now, the issues of the Great Rebellion were being expressed on the factory floor.

With one exception, the first Dodge wildcat strike was not reported nationally. The exception was the Wall Street Journal. Its reporter noted that the radical language used and the anger expressed was a reprise of the 1930s. The strikers were calling themselves the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM). They, meaning Marxists, were back. The newspaper was concerned about what was going to transpire in other factories. What, in fact, did transpire was that in the weeks that followed, other factories erupted. A FRUM (Ford Revolutionary Union Movement) and a CADRUM (Cadillac Revolutionary Union Movement) came into existence. Other RUMs would emerge at UPS and the Detroit News. Eventually, a score of workplaces formed RUMs.

Many of the RUMs would collapse before organizers could give them the attention needed. There were simply too few activists to handle all the requests for organization. Nonetheless, the RUMs were eventually fused into a single organization called the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. The aim of the League was to assume power in the city of Detroit.

That the League was built around workers and not students or street people or welfare mothers or other sectors of society was not accidental. The people who created the League were Marxists. They believed that you organized workers, not because of some mythical notion of workers’ nobility, but because workers have real power. Workers are the nexus of the means of production. When they take action, everyone is affected. If workers exert political power, anything is possible. It does not follow that students are not important, that welfare mothers should not be organized, that some street people may not indeed become more than fickle lumpen proletarians. The League simply pointed out that no other class formation was strong enough to lead a mass movement. Moreover, workers have families. Thus, you automatically plug into education, health, and housing issues.

At that time, Detroit was the most industrialized city in the United States, and one out of six American jobs were linked, directly or indirectly, to the auto industry. The League soon received calls, telegrams, and visitors from all over the country wanting to create similar groups. There was contact with an ongoing movement at the Ford plant in Mahwah, New Jersey, and with a GMC plant in Fremont, California. Other queries came from steelworkers in Birmingham, Alabama, and autoworkers in Baltimore, Maryland. The League realized that these and similar groups could be fused into a Black Workers Congress (BWC) that would operate nationally to unite workers.

So, the Wall Street Journal was right to be worried.

A crucial difference from the past and from the present is that these were organizations whose membership was limited to nonwhites. This, however, did not reflect a separatist ideology. The concept of Black Power had arisen in the course of the civil rights movement when white funders tried to shape its agenda and tactics. Many Black activists felt it was essential at that point to limit organizational membership to nonwhites so that it would be clear to everyone who was in charge of the struggle in terms of ultimate and short-term goals. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and numerous other organizations undertook this change.

Such a process took place in Detroit, as well. I had belonged to a group called the Negro Action Committee. The name tells you something about the time frame. In due course, the group, which contained two future leaders of the League, Luke Tripp and John Watson, dissolved. In its stead came UHURU, an all-Black group. A theater group in Detroit called The UnStabled lost some of its nonwhite personnel to a new all-Black group called Concept East. These developments were not traumatic. They seemed appropriate to the political times.

What, then, should the non-Blacks do for the struggle? Well, there was a long list of support or parallel activities available, and there was the suggestion that whites could organize their own communities. In any case, the relationships were not broken. They simply evolved into a new phase. The League would always have a lot of white supporters in these new roles.

But the all-Black nature of the RUMs was not without its problems. To be sure, Black nationalists and separatists were attracted to the RUMS, and they often opposed working with other groups in the plants or outside that were not limited to Blacks only.

The kind of organizational form that was appropriate for the period of Black Power is not the kind of thing that needs to be repeated. What does need to be retained, however, is that nonwhites in workers’ organizations must continue to feel that they are in control of their destiny in terms of tactics and priorities.

The Black Workers Congress, while never very viable, finally came into existence in l971. Its membership had been defined in a manner that accepted Hispanic, Asian, and Native American affiliates and clearly was compatible with other workers’ groups that might arise. The following paragraph from the BWC manifesto is unambiguous about making class status its key concern. The Black Workers Congress was proposing to lead not simply the Black revolution, but the American revolution:

Our objective: workers’ control of their place of work, the factories, fields, offices, transportation services, and communications facilities, so that the exploitation of labor will cease and no person or corporation will get rich off the labor of another person. All people will work for the collective benefit of humanity.

I would like to look at some of the things the League did very well. One of them was framing issues. The best example is the League’s defense of James Johnson, a worker who one day walked into a factory and shot to death two foremen and a fellow worker. One foreman was white and the other was Black. The third worker was white.

Some years ago, William Kunstler proposed the idea of Black rage as a defense for a Black man who had killed white commuters on a train. The retort to that, of course, is that it could be countered by the concept of white rage. In Detroit, it was suggested that one could investigate to see if some of the white workers killed were rabid racists. Perhaps they belonged to an Aryan brotherhood of some kind. Ken Cockrel, the League counsel, rejected all such options.

The League’s defense of Johnson was that “Chrysler pulled the trigger.” Whether the foremen were good guys or bad guys did not matter. Chrysler, the League charged, had created a system in which such carnage is inevitable. Chrysler was the true killer. Chrysler was on trial. Chrysler had to show that the charges against the corporation were not true. Lo and behold, the case was won, and Chrysler had to pay workers’ compensation to James Johnson for driving him crazy.

Ken Cockrel took that kind of League strategy into every case he could. After a jury had been selected, he would inform the jurors that he had wanted every one of them to serve. Of course, there would be a few white jurors who thought that was just empty rhetoric. But Cockrel would then wave a piece of paper and announce that he still possessed the right to deny one more juror for any reason he wanted. He would proceed to say he had accepted all of them because the Constitution guaranteed a trial by one’s peers and what made them all peers was that they lived in a city dominated by the auto industry. He asked them to just bear in mind the environment that industry had created as they considered the case at hand.

On another occasion, Cockrel came out of the courthouse fuming. There was a horrible judge who put huge bails and fines on some workers. Cockrel told reporters that the judge was “a racist monkey, a honky-dog fool, and a thieving pirate.” Now that is not typical lawyerly discourse. His opponents immediately set out to disbar him, assuming that the least they would get was a humiliating public apology. Cockrel astounded them by stating a disbarment proceeding was fine, as it would be an opportunity for him to prove that the judge was “a racist monkey, a honky-dog fool, and a thieving pirate.” The judge, not he, was the true defendant.

Cockrel asserted that as an officer of the court, he was obliged to report on legal irregularities to the public in a language that the public could comprehend. He summoned semanticists and experts on mass communications. He explained that his public statements were not aimed at other lawyers or college students. He was communicating with a mass audience in Detroit. He had to speak in the language they spoke. He brought records, newspapers, and tapes of radio programs to demonstrate how people spoke and what certain words meant to Detroiters. He clinched his case by saying that he would present a statistical comparison of the judge’s handling of white and Black defendants that would indicate clear racial bias. The disbarment proceeding was dropped.

I give these examples to demonstrate how the League framed issues to its advantage. One reason the Democrats drive me crazy is that they accept the framework of the other side. They talk about saving Social Security. I would talk about allowing people to retire even earlier, not pushing it back. I would talk about increasing the payments of the rich. I would suggest the payroll tax could be cut or even eliminated by simply charging a few cents tax for every share traded in the stock market. None of that requires a revolution, only a different class analysis.

It’s worth noting that the League operated under a multiple leadership. They were very careful about not having one person stand out as the major leader because they were afraid of attempts at decapitation. They did the same thing in the individual RUMs. They tried to avoid building personalities. Of course, certain personalities became better known than others, but their policy was to minimize this phenomenon.

One of the League’s most sensational successes was the takeover of the South End, Wayne State University’s daily newspaper. I think that experience can be repeated today, and not necessarily just with newspapers, but other resources. The Wayne paper had never had a Black editor. The paper itself was one of those dullish things not many people read, and few students thought about how its editors were elected. The League studied the selection process and, following the established rules, elected John Watson as editor. Watson promptly transformed the South End into a Marxist daily.

An early change was to place two black panthers astride the newspaper’s name and add the subtitle: “One class conscious worker is worth a hundred students.” You don’t see such a masthead on many college newspapers, not even in the l960s.

What is critical about that masthead is that it was not a put-down of students. It was an elevation of workers. They were not saying students were useless. They were saying workers had far more potential power. The South End had a daily print run of some 10,000 copies. During the Watson regime, it was not unusual for half the papers to be given away on campus and the other half at factories. When a big action was due at Dodge Main or elsewhere, only a handful of papers might be distributed on campus.

The Wayne administration was furious. They insisted the newspaper was for the students. Watson’s group replied that the paper was like other college institutions. Student teachers were sent to public schools. Student nurses were sent to hospitals. They were journalists, and their product should also serve the general public.

Ïatson was also favored with some good luck. The newspaper had attacked the main public hospital for its poor service and facilities. Detroiters waiting in the lobby while a loved one was having an operation would be able to read in the South End about the hospital’s inadequate performance. The mass media attacked the story as sensationalism, and a city councilman called a meeting at the hospital to respond to the charges. In the middle of his presentation, there was a partial collapse of the ceiling.

The South End provided paying jobs. Some of these went to people who happened to be organizing in the factories. Thus, a situation had been created in which the state of Michigan was paying militants, some of whom were factory organizers, to put out 10,000 copies of a newspaper dedicated to a working-class analysis of local, national, and world issues. This state of affairs had been cleverly conceived and executed with aplomb.

Thus, although many League people were impressed by what they thought the Cultural Revolution was accomplishing in China, when they achieved control of the South End, the pages usually dedicated to sports, fraternities, sororities, and the like were left untouched. The explanation for this was that other students had rights regarding the paper, and if their news was retained, they might read the rest of the paper, as well. Later, when the authorities made an all-out effort to close the paper, there was as no preexisting dissent from these sectors of the student population.

The South End was even able to come out in support of the Palestinian cause, arguing first that there was a huge Arab population in Detroit that was rarely heard from and, more importantly, that the Palestinian cause had considerable merit. The entire state government responded in a rage. The governor, state senators, and some congressmen were sure that now the Black editor had gone too far. To question Israel was surely to be anti-Semitic. Again, due to how the League operated, the onslaught was withstood. The paper had been careful to be anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic. Although that difference can be and often is blurred, the South End did not do so. There were also a number of Jews who wrote for the paper. Most of them were League supporters and anti-Zionist themselves, but they were not anti-Semitic. In addition, the newspaper also published some columns that were supportive of Israel. Thus, the attack was weathered, not because of the greater latitude allowed Black militants but because the policies in place regarding the issue were defensible on their own merits.

The faculty adviser to the newspaper, whose views were largely ignored, could not comprehend what was happening. He observed, “This new one, this Watson, walked in with a look of cool hatred in his eyes.” Perhaps the adviser had not read Watson’s first editorial in which he stated, “Our only enemies will be those who would further impoverish the poor, exploit the exploited, and take advantage of the powerless.” Or perhaps he had.

During the period when Watson was editor of the South End, the League obtained considerable funding from religious groups. Part of this money was spent on buying a printing press. The League established Black Star Publishers to print books and its own newspaper. This concern about owning a press flowed from the experience that several of the League founders had in publishing the Inner-City Voice (ICV)in the year before the eruption at Dodge Main.

The ICV activists discovered that every time they published an issue, the FBI or the police department would visit the printer and explain that if the printer produced another paper, various government agencies would be back to look into every detail of the printing operation. Over the course of a year, the ICV exhausted every printer in the city that was willing to deal with them. The publishers finally had to have the paper printed in Chicago by, of all people, the Nation of Islam. The paper then had to be trucked back to Detroit.

With their own printing press in hand, the League was less concerned about retaining direct control of the South End. This proved to be an error when mechanical trouble with the presses developed and the League came under a financial crunch.

The League’s concentration on publishing a newspaper was not happenstance. In the mid-1960s, several future League leaders had taken part in a study group led by Marty Glaberman. Their study included important works by Lenin. Among these was “Where to Begin?” in which Lenin theorized about the importance of having a popular press.

In addition to having a publishing arm, the League understood the importance of culture. A worker is not simply a person who labors; a worker sings, dances, reads, goes fishing. The League thought it would be useful to have a book club where people could meet and discuss a book. A call was issued to determine how much interest a book club would generate. The organizers were prepared to go forward if about 50 people expressed interest. The response was in the hundreds. Many of the respondents were white and many lived in the suburbs. Rather than rejecting this constituency, the organizers determined the book club could be a valuable de facto support group of the League.

The format for the book club was much like the situation I have observed at this Summer School. People would read a book and then come to hear an author discuss it and answer questions. Readers would be gathered at tables to discuss the book among themselves and, if possible, the author would come around to participate. The organizers very wisely did not think of the book club as a recruiting front. It was to help create a climate of opinion favorable to the objectives of the League. The book club was not a League project; it was run by an allied organization that had both Black and white members.

The situation at the book club contrasts with problems that arose in some factories when individual white workers came forward to work with the League. Sometimes they were turned away rudely, and other times it was difficult to find an appropriate means for forming a coalition. This was a predictable problem with the Black Power approach of the League, and the lack of a plan to deal with friendly white workers was uncharacteristically shortsighted in terms of League strategy.

The League commitment to cultural activism and its ability to work with sympathetic whites is demonstrated by the making of the film Finally Got The News. [1] To my knowledge, no other Black organization of the l960s made a movie about itself. There were many movies about the Black Panthers but none made by the Black Panthers.

The League film began as a project of three white filmmakers associated with New York Newsreel. In a series of events we discuss in Detroit: I Do Mind Dying, the League decided to take direct control of the filmmaking. The League did not replace the filmmakers. Instead, League personnel took on the role of producers. They explained in general terms the points they wanted emphasized and the points they wanted minimized or omitted. Although there was give-and-take, the League had the final say. Just as critical to the film’s success, the filmmakers were free to implement the agreed-on approach in whatever artistic manner they thought would be effective.

John Watson was the League leader most committed to film. He thought films would be very useful in national organizing, being much cheaper to send about than personnel. He also envisioned making fiction films that would explore League perspectives. He and others visited in Hollywood to confer with filmmakers such as Jane Fonda to explore how that proposition might become a reality.

Another important outreach was to autoworkers in Turino, the automobile center in Italy that resembled Detroit in many ways. Individuals traveled back and forth between the two countries to discuss common problems and tactics. In those moments, when a lot of wine had been consumed, people would speculate on the impact of a joint strike in which auto-workers in Turino and autoworkers in Detroit wildcatted against their unions and their companies at the same time. These speculations revolved around groups such as Potere Operaia (Workers’ Power) and Lotta Continua (Continuous Struggle), extraparliamentary groups that were then very active in Italy, with units in automobile factories as well as universities.

More practically, of course, the League had to deal with the Detroit police. It felt strongly that the military battle, if necessary, was the last option, not the first. The police were going to be marshaled against them in any case, so to provoke the police rhetorically did not make sense. The League had a very, very sophisticated defense apparatus that was rarely heard or seen. None of the League leaders were ever killed or wounded in shooting incidents. Nor were there many confrontations with the police of the kind the Black Panthers frequently got into.

›he League mainly took on the police at the legislative and political level. A campaign led by Ken Cockrel would succeed in the disbanding of the so-called STRESS squads of the Detroit police, heavily armed units that had been the center of numerous conflicts in Black communities. The League was even able to have some Black sympathizers within the department who provided useful tips from time to time. The League believed this kind of approach was far more useful than posing in military garb with raised rifles to chant “Off the Pig.”

In that context, I am reminded of experiences that Wilbur Haddock has related about organizing at the Ford plant in Mahwah, New Jersey. He said that after initial successes, they had put on black leather jackets and decked themselves out in pins and badges. Their support seemed to fade rather than develop. One day, he pulled aside an older worker he trusted and asked what the problem was. He was told that the workers were now scared of the organizers. They were not talking and walking as they had when the organizing had begun. The man said, “Now you’re some kind of commando, but I’m just a Ford worker like I always was.” Haddock hastened to add that it was not the political perspective that was upsetting workers, but the costuming, which suggested some kind of action more designed for mass media consumption than for defeating the company.

Sexism was a problem in the League, as it was in other organizations. League veterans have been candid about that. But General Baker has spoken eloquently about the DRUM slate that was formed for union offices at Dodge Main. One of the candidates was a woman. Years later, when she was dying of cancer, he visited her. She had the DRUM campaign poster up and told him, “That was the best moment of my life, when I was with people working to change our lives.” Well, that doesn’t mean sexism was not a problem in the League, but it says something.

Regarding the movement against the war in Vietnam, the League was adamantly opposed to the war. John Watson created a huge fuss when he was called by the draft board. He threatened to bring thousands of workers to protest. They had dozens of squad cars ready when he showed up. He only had about five people with him. It was just a bluff. They ran him through quickly and rejected him on political grounds. Luke Tripp spent considerable time in Montreal when his number was due.

That response was typical of League activists. There was no vacillation whatsoever about opposing the war. The whole notion that African Americans were not part of that antiwar movement is nonsense. Just one attorney, Conrad Lynn, who had offices in Harlem, had 200 or 300 Black resisters as clients at any given time during the war.

The question of electoral politics always was contentious in the League. One of the issues that was part of the split was that time given to conventional politics meant less time and personnel for the factories. The Ken Cockrel faction was committed to conventional politics. They ran Cockrel’s law partner as a candidate for judge in the criminal court and won. In a matter of years, they were able to reform the criminal justice system at the local level from the inside. Later, Cockrel ran for the city council and won. If he had not died prematurely, he would likely have succeeded Coleman Young as mayor of Detroit. All these elections were nonpartisan, and the Cockrel group was always open about its political ideology. Others in the League thought electoral politics were a diversion from the work needed to be done in factories.

Given all I have said about how well the League was conceived and operated, it is logical to ask why it fell apart so quickly. The first response, of course, is that it collapsed for all the reasons all the organizations of that period ultimately failed. These included the inevitable personality problems, financial pressures, sheer fatigue, and the counter-thrust from the other side. Again, our book goes into that in some detail, so I will just elaborate on something Mike Hamlin has written for the new edition. He observes that sometimes groups fall apart because of their strengths.

One of the characteristics of the people most central to the League was that they had more than a decade of experience working together. With the emergence of DRUM, their efforts seemed to have finally paid off. There were more phone calls than could be answered by the available forces, yet somehow enough had been addressed to make the League possible. Now the communications were at a national level, and the number of people that could handle them had not increased substantially. Expansion nationally was extremely dangerous. In Detroit, the League had never been infiltrated. Even when the League leaders fought with one another, there were no defections.

A section of the League, identified with General Baker, felt it was necessary to concentrate all efforts locally to strengthen the units already in existence. Others thought the local strength could only be preserved by bringing in more militants and creating a national shield. When SNCC collapsed, a group of League leaders allied with James Foreman and brought him to Detroit. Other militants were brought in from the Northeast.

Significant sectors of the League were wary of these developments. The situation arose that one group wanted to continue in the manner that had brought success in the past, with an emphasis on local resources, while the other wanted to continue in the manner that had brought success in the past but with activists that included politically tested non-Detroiters. Each essentially was relying on a strategy that had previously succeeded without paying sufficient attention to the new details of the developing political dynamic.

This repeating of a strategy that has been successful in the past is similar to the crisis the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) faced in 1917. When the government decided to decimate the IWW by indicting 101 of its leaders, the IWW leadership had to decide how to respond. Should they put up 101 individual resistance efforts, with most going underground and perhaps a few accepting a show trial? Or should they all accept the indictment process and trust in the judicial system?

Bill Haywood, the leader of the IWW, previously had faced major trials of this kind. Each time, he had won and the organizations that had been involved had grown. He concluded it would be best if the indicted opted for a mass trial. He expected explosive growth in the IWW would follow the anticipated mass acquittal of the IWW leadership. The trial, however, was lost, and the IWW would never again be a powerful force.

What is relevant here is that Haywood’s strategy was based on past strengths. Whatever the other IWW weaknesses might have been, a crucial error had been made by relying on past strengths in a new context in which the old strategy was inappropriate.

I want to conclude with a few comments about organizing strategies extolled by the League.

The League believed even the most minor battle must produce some kind of victory. I have been very pleased to hear people in other Summer School meetings here expressing the same view. The League was not favorably disposed to actions whose purpose was largely symbolic, a witnessing as it were. Their view was that workers get beat up all the time. Workers already know they are getting beat up. They usually know who is responsible. Every day they work, the cycle resumes. So, if one is proposing action, there is not a great need to show the system is lousy. What is needed is a victory over those forces, any damn victory, however small, even five minutes more of paid wash time. Each victory is a stepping-stone in the trust process. The victories elicit continuing support.

Just as critical is that the organizer needs to emphasize that the victory is part of a longer process. Unlike the social demo-crats, who consider the reforms a worthy end in and of themselves, the League, like the IWW before them, considered each battle to be a training exercise. The reform was just a temporary payoff while you prepared for the next confrontation. In practical terms, that meant making demands that could be won. The idea of posing demands that could not be met so that workers would be further infuriated was not considered sound. Defeats lowered confidence in the leadership, while tactical victories fed the will to act again for an ever higher stake.

In that sense, picking targets cannot be haphazard. Eldon Avenue Gear and Axle is not a household name, but in the late l960s, it was the only axle plant in the Chrysler empire. If an organization could close Eldon at will, Chrysler would soon be closed. The League had a unit at Eldon that could have done for the League what the closing of a key Chevy plant in Flint had done for the UAW in l938. So, if you are the League and you get 10 phone calls asking for help, and one of them is from Eldon, you respond there first. But, of course, that means that you have to have studied the industry to know just what Eldon Avenue Gear and Axle is.

The essence of the strategy of winning is to pick targets carefully and to achieve small victories. Capitalism is not going to be replaced with any single action. That may be the larger context of the demand, but workers are not going to respond if the program you propose does not offer some immediate relief.

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1. Those interested in obtaining the documentary Finally Got The News on video should contact The Cinema Guild, 130 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-7038, phone: 212-685-6242.

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Dan Georgakas is coauthor with Marvin Surkin of Detroit: I Do Mind Dying (South End Press, 1998, revised edition). He is also a professor and lecturer, longtime editor of Cineaste film quarterly, and coeditor of The Encyclopedia of the American Left. This article is adapted from a presentation given at Socialist Summer School in Chicago in June 2001.

Last updated on 11 August 2022