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V. Grey

Shop Talks on Socialism

(9 June 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 23, 9 June 1945, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Maybe you think it’s going to be a long, long time before the working people take power and create abundance for all in a warless world. You explain the ideas of the Militant to your neighbor and he often doesn’t seem to get the idea. You see people keep right on with the same old prejudices that are against their own interests. And you wonder how and when all these workers will overthrow their rulers.

“How are you ever going to get the working people together?” It isn’t only Scissorbill Sam that asks that question. It’s a natural question for millions of us to ask, because we see the workers divided by religion, race, nationality, sex and “classes of work.” And the worst of it is that you don’t see any big changes taking place from day to day.

People still go on talking the capitalists’ crap. The colored and white don’t seem any closer together. The ignorant don’t seem to be any smarter.

But do you remember how it was before the big strikes? Remember how Harry Johnson and Louie the stump jumper were taken off welding and given day-work jobs because they were getting too old to keep up with the new guys? Remember how Johnny Dylek used to listen to Stebbs yell at him, and never say a word? Remember how they fired a new fellow for coming in late a few times? That was before the big strike.

A lot of things happened before the big strike that went into our minds and stayed there without us realizing it. The foreman would pick on us and we wouldn’t say anything – or not very much. Of course Stebbs was hit so bad he went to the hospital once. But poor Tony got a week off and we all considered him lucky not to get fired. But mainly we took it. We took all their crap. Everybody’s – from Hawkshaw in the front office right down to Pile-it-high Patterson, the stooge.

And we had plenty of prejudice, too. The Poles couldn’t get along with the Italians, and vice-versa. And it happened there was a couple of families of Swedes related to the boss. So we figured they were no good, too. Three or four colored fellows had the worst jobs of all – and somehow we figured that was what they deserved.

Labor Unity Seemed Impossible

How could you ever get a bunch of people like us into a union? You could talk to us day after day – but it wasn’t any use. No sir! We were too superior in our ignorance and prejudice. No union was going to make trouble with us. We had enough troubles as it was!

Only Slim and Shorty and old Pop Philiber would join. They were the only members for the longest time. And everybody thought they were crazy. Especially Slim, because he did so much talking he was taking his job in his hands. Times were tough. And that was like taking your life in your hands.

Well, Slim kept on talking. The bosses kept on being tough. We kept on taking it. And it seemed like it was going on like that forever. Then one day Slim got fired.

BANG! The whole shop went out the gate. Everybody. Italians, Swedes, Poles, Negroes. Louie the stump jumper – and even Scissor- bill Sam. And all the shops at the other end came out too. They had the same experiences we had. And they felt the same way. Thousands and thousands of us poured out on the highway. We felt our power. The union had come to stay.

It was so sudden and complete, it seemed like magic. But it wasn’t. It was the final sum of all we learned and all we went through. We had never begun to add it up when it was happening. But it was all there waiting for us to add it up. And it added up to one thing – STRIKE.

The whole working class is like the fellows in our plant. All that they have gone through, and have got to go through, is adding up. They may not know it, any more than we did, before the strike, but it’s there. It’s growing. And it’s going to add up to one thing. THE SOCIALIST REVOLUTION.

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Last updated: 5 November 2018