Vince Copeland Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

V. Grey

Shop Talks on Socialism

(28 April 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 17, 28 April 1945, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Pop was putting his crane cables away. The welders were winding up their lines. Tony put his chisels where the next shift wouldn’t find them, and stacked the chipping gun and the air line neatly in the corner. A couple of big presses at the other end were still thumping away. But you could almost hear them getting ready to stop. It was just before quitting time when some of the fellows are telling stories, and some just horsing around with each other.

Somebody started talking about the war in Germany. Somebody else tried to get up a pool on when it would be over. And they were talking about the latest newspaper stories and wondering whether you could believe them all or not. Slim said don’t forget, the stories are always worse when a bond drive is due.

Then Breezy piped up, “Hey, Dutchie, you’re from over there. What are those Germans like anyhow?”

(Dutchie is really Fred Schultz. He’s been working in the shop about thirteen years. He’s a good workman and a sort of jack of all trades – good at them all, too.)

“Well,” said Dutchie, not knowing whether to get mad or not. And not being a fast talker like Breezy he said it again after a minute – “Well – I’m a German, ain’t I? What am I like?”

That floored Breezy. Everybody likes Dutchie and figures he’s a pretty good guy. And Breezy being Breezy he changed his argument.

“What the hell do they still want to fight for? Our boys are going through there like grease through a tin horn.” (This was a couple of weeks ago when the Yanks were going through Thuringer.)

“Maybe they don’t,” observed Dutchie, as though he was pretty sure they didnt. “And maybe the leaders are afraid to surrender before the Americans get to Berlin.”

Slim was curious. “What do you mean by that?” he asked.

“Just you wait. It will be like the last war. You will see.”

“Say, you must have been there after the last war, Dutchie?” Shorty was interested now too. And a little knot of six or seven fellows gathered around Dutchie, sensing an “inside” story.

The German Workers in 1917 and 1918

Dutchie was embarrassed. He doesn’t talk very much. “I was, just a farm boy in Thuringer,” he said. “But I had an uncle in Berlin. I went to visit him in April 1916. I was there for May Day. You should have seen the people pouring out on the streets protesting against the war.”

His voice dropped very low – mainly from shyness from telling a long story. But everybody listened quietly. And Slim helped out by asking, “Did you get in the parade too?”

“Yes. My uncle was a socialist. I didn’t know anything about that – politics and that. But I knew my people back home hated the war. He gave me – my uncle gave me a little red flag to carry in the parade.” Dutchie’s eyes were shining with the remembrance of it.

“There was a man there who made a wonderful speech. He spoke about the working people all over the world. He spoke against the war.”

“I bet they gave him the business,” said Breezy.

“Yes, the Kaiser put him in jail. His name was Liebknecht.”

“Well, there you are,” Breezy exclaimed, as though this proved that the German workers were hopeless. And the fellows almost started to drift to the locker room.

“But wait!” Dutchie was excited himself now. And he was determined to tell his story. “Two years later there was a big revolu­tion. It started just before the Armistice. It was all over. Every­where. Even in Thuringer where I lived. The soldiers came back home and told us about it. Even some of the farmers became reds.”

“And the big shots don’t want that to happen again, eh?” said Slim.

“I know they don’t want it to. I think Hitler wants the Allies to take Berlin before the workers take it. – I guess the Allies will, too. – But,” he added, with another burst of enthusiasm, “You should know those German workers.”

The fellows drifted apart. And Breezy said to Slim on the way to the washroom, “Say, can you imagine that? Dutchie comes from Thuringer. Gee, our boys were bombing hell out of Thuringer yesterday.”

Vince Copeland Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 5 November 2018