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Paterson Strike Ties Up
Silk and Dye Industries

The Militant Workers Recognize
Fallacy of the Stalinist Paper Unions

(September 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 43, 16 September 1933, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Paterson, N.J. – The strongest sector of the nationwide strike of silk workers, its Paterson division of more than 25,000 men holds firm. The tie-up in this city has closed every shop, the looms are idle and the workers have responded 100 percent solid to the strike call.

Striking against the intolerable conditions forced upon them by the vicious wage-slashing of the four years of the crisis the producers of silk are determined to take no promises from the NRA and by struggle to jack up their wages from the miserable $13 average to a $36 minimum, to bring down the hours from the slave working day of 11 and 12 hours prior to the strike to a 30 hour week.

Paterson is in the grip of the strike. Men and women, of all nationalities, young and old, those who have never known the meaning of union organizations and veterans of class struggle, are banding side by side on the picket lines, in huge, enthusiastic strike meetings displaying a spirit of militancy equalled only by the heroic battle of 1913.

The great virility of this struggle is vividly demonstrated by the pouring out of the mills of more than 15,000 dye workers who for the first time in 20 years have taken their stand on the picket line ready to see the fight to the end. Bursting the shackles of long oppression and exploitation they are braving the police clubs, and tear gas, flocking into the union halls – a testimony to the great power that lies latent in the unorganized mass of workers in this country.

Meanwhile in Washington, negotiations are in progress between the union officials, the manufacturers, and the false friends of labor of the Roosevelt administration. A code for the silk workers is also under consideration. But the workers are watchful. They will not be tricked into any fake agreement, they will not be content with any conditions merely because it bears the insignia of the NRA. Already they have turned down a code that perpetuated the wretched conditions that have plagued the silk trade for years.

The real leader of the strike in Paterson is the Associated Silk Workers, an autonomous local of the United Textile Workers which is affiliated to the A.F. of L.

The decisive section of the industry, the 10,000 broad silk workers, are striking under the aegis of the Associated. It is marvelous to see the spirit of these workers. They are not newcomers to the picket line. This is by no means the first strike they have participated in. On the contrary, they have written a tradition in letters of red in the history of American labor. The workers in this union are wary of the betrayers of the American Federation of Labor. Years of sellouts have brought this lesson home to them. The name of MacMahon, the president of the U.T.W. is anathema to the members of the Associated Silk Workers.

The rank and file of the Associated have thrown new leaders to the fore. The strike committee is controlled by genuine progressives – Left wingers who have been repelled by the horrible mismanagement, the crimes and the fearful bureaucracy of the Stalinists.

But for the dye workers, the ranks of the strikers are united. Here the forces are divided between the Associated and the Stalinist-controlled National Textile Workers Union.

The dye workers are green to the struggle. They came by accident to the paper union of the Stalinists. They were ready to accept any union that reached them first. But it is the universal opinion in Paterson among the more mature workers in the industry that the N.T.W. will be unable to hold the dyers permanently. There is more than one fact that can be produced in proof of this.

The criminal (after listening to the stories of good, reliable fighters one is tempted to say, insane) policy of the Stalinists and their paper N.T.W. has driven many of the best militants into the Associated, made them bitter against the N.T.W. Prior to the strike, the N.T.W. had practically no influence among the weavers, and the weavers, the more conscious group in the silk industry, passed them by when the strike started and made common cause with the Associated. So discredited, impotent and uninfluential was the N.T.W. at the outbreak of the strike that – this is common knowledge in Paterson – the N.T.W. tried frantically to postpone the date of the strike in order to make “preparations”. Further, so great was the stigma of rotten internal life in the N.T.W. and its adventurist tactics, that Stalinists themselves were instrumental in forming a craft union of the warpers, independent of their paper union! One more fact. A member of the N.T.W. organized 3,000 workers – throwsters – hitherto unorganized and brought them not in to the N.T.W., but into the Associated. Can there be any doubt now whether the Stalinist outfit will hold the dyers?

The advanced, experienced workers in Paterson will have nothing to do with the N.T.W. The inexperienced dyers will not be long in finding out the justice of their decision.

In Paterson as elsewhere the workers are streaming into the real unions. They are paying no attention to the paper outfits run by the Stalinists. There is no place for the Left wingers in Paterson but in the Associated which they can transform into a powerful weapon for the militants nationally – a starting wedge in the struggle against the bosses and’ the reactionaries.

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