Vince Copeland Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

V. Grey

Shop Talks on Socialism

(16 June 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 24, 16 June 1945, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

How are the workers of the world ever going to get together?

Sometimes you ask yourself that question when you see the workers split up because of race, religion, nationality and many other things. You see it even within the same country. And how much tougher, you think, it will be to unite the workers of all countries. In every nation the people are taught from childhood that the country they live in is the best in the world, and that they are superior beings. How are all the peoples going to unite under conditions like that?

Well, it isn’t going to be easy to organize the whole world behind the Fourth International. We’ve a big job ahead of us. But the main job of uniting the working people is being done by our enemy, the capitalist class. Yes, even though they encourage race provocations and attack the unions, they are uniting us.

They are uniting us by subjecting us to the same conditions. They are uniting us by making us work together on the same material and with the same machinery. They are uniting us by giving us all the same lousy wages and squeezing us into a common mold.

Unity Forged in Strike Action

Into the shop have come farmers from nearby, Negroes from way down south, former mine workers from Pennsylvania (one from West Virginia). A dozen or so of the welders were shipyard workers just last year. Some of the girls used to be waitresses; others, housewives. And now a scattering of laid-off aircraft workers have been hired, too.

Some of the people had militant traditions and some didn’t. Nearly all of them would talk about their former occupations and think of themselves as they used to be. They knew in the backs of their minds that they all got the same lousy Bethelehem Steel wages and took the same Bethlehem Steel crap. It was like all being in the same prison.

Then we had the strike. And they all, every single one, realized they were all STEELWORKERS. And their common enemy was the STEEL BOSSES. The company’s own capitalist organization and methods united the workers' against it.

And that’s not just here in our own shop. It’s all over. Take Hitler – the worst anti-labor dictator and Jew-baiter in history. In spite of himself, he united Jew and Gentile, Pole and German. And do you know how? BY THROWING THEM INTO THE SAME PRISONS AND CONCENTRATION CAMPS!

In Buchenwald, one of the worst of the prison camps, workers of all nations and races lived, suffered and died. (Among them many German revolutionary heroes.) Before they left that prison they all sang the world song of the socialist working class, The Internationale. And language was no bar to their harmony.

The Prison of Capitalist Slavery

And not only in the stone prisons where the chains were made of metal. For the German steel plants are like the American steel plants. And the German capitalist system is like the American capitalist system: a huge prison that Hitler made even more of a prison. But in making a prison of Germany and all of Europe, Hitler subjected the working people to the same misery, the same hunger and the same death. Thus he began to UNITE them against himself.

Now the Allied capitalist leaders are doing the exact same thing, step by step. The people all over the world are suffering the same united misery under their capitalist masters, regardless of what capitalist flag these masters fly.

Capitalist war is uniting the working peoples in its prison, too. And not just those of the “Allied” nations. Capitalist war has brought the worker youth of all nations into compact masses. It has transported them to all parts of the earth. And though it spews out its poison, it opens the eyes of the youth even while it turns their stomachs.

Japanese maidens, American girls, German frauleins are united in a common anxiety for their sweethearts. Many – too many – will be united by a common grief. The soldiers of all nations are becoming united by a common hatred of the war. And millions of their youthful corpses have been united in the same graves.

The whole capitalist world is a prison for the working class. And we working people are. beginning to see it. The jailer keeps making it tougher for us all, and we can’t help but see it. As we see it more and more, unity in the straggle will be forged. For we are shackled with a common chain. And the same key fits all the locks.

Vince Copeland Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 5 November 2018