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Illinois Conference Opens

Miners Are Militant but Right Wing Forces Are Organized

(October 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 41, 8 October 1932, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. – Over 200 delegates, representing at least 22,000 miners of all sections of the state, from the terror-ridden southern counties (Franklin, Williamson and Saline) to the far northern Peoria-Wilmington fields, assembled in constitutional convention to decide upon the form and aims of the organization of coal miners to replace the shell of an organization left by the Lewis-Walker-Coal operators’ combine.

The opening of the convention on Monday, October 3 was marked by a parade of 3,000 coal miners and their women folk. The demand for clean fighting unionism has reached into elements hitherto dormant or nearly dormant. The spirit of the well-organized women’s auxiliary is distinguished by its militancy.

The convention heard the secretary of the West Virginia Miners’ Union with great attention and evinced their solidarity with that movement there. The applause left no doubt of the position of the Illinois miners on the question of national unity when Shearer, the secretary of the W.Va. Miners Union, raised this point in his speech.

The convention was very jealous of the rights of the membership. As a reaction to the mandatory fashion of the Lewis bureaucracy, this swing to rank and file-ism goes to nearly ridiculous extremes. The spirit, however, is very healthy and very vigorous in its extreme care for democracy.

As yet no Left wing has appeared in the convention. The proposal to hear a speaker from the N.W.U. was turned down. The first day was only taken up with routine business.

The spirit of the delegates can be shown by the fact that many were forced to sleep on the floor of the city hall. All sorts of vehicles were pressed into service to bring these striking miners into Gillespie. The heroism of the underground, illegal Progressive Miner’s of America groups in Franklin County was unconsciously and unwittingly expressed by the delegates from there. To belong to the P.M.A. means the loss of the job, and relief is automatically stopped. To be active is only possible by threat of life.

The president, Pearce, in his opening address gave a review of the month’s activity since the provisional convention. The problem of Franklin County and the absorption of the miners therein into the state-wide strike will be a most important topic.

The Right wing, however, is active and seems organized. Their refusal to allow a speaker of the N.W.U. to speak was marked by demagogy, illogic and the conspicuous waving of the red herring.

The Left Opposition is proposing to the C.P. joint Left wing action.

The above is a brief summary of the first day’s important news items. More later.

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