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A.J. Muste

A Forerunner of the Revolution

(31 August 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. I No. 36, 31 August 1935, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On a mountain side near Old Fort, N.C., hundreds of men and women gathered last Sunday for the funeral of Larry Hogan, Workers Party member and Southern strike leader. The mountain folks from whom he had sprung, farmers, unemployed, hosiery workers, textile workers whom he had organized and with whom he had fought on a hundred picket lines, union officials, composed that crowd.

Editorials in the capitalist press of North Carolina commented on his death which was the result of an automobile accident, pointing to him as an arch enemy of the employing interests, yet paying grudging praise to his courage, skill and power over the masses. Colorful, dynamic, filled with a passion for social change, were the expressions they used about him.

Less than seven years ago Larry Hogan, a young married man of 24 who had come down out of the hills to work in a cotton mill, was not to be distinguished from tens of thousands of Southern textile workers. When, however, a $11.00 wage for a 70 hour week, plus a merciless speed-up, finally forced the workers of the Marion Mfg. Company to revolt, Larry was one of the leaders of the union and emerged from the long strike, in which six men were killed by drunken deputies on a picket line, as an outstanding figure.

Learning from Life

Larry learned many things during that strike. At its beginning the quartette of which he was the leader was singing “We are building Jacob’s ladder, soldiers of the cross.” Before many days had passed the words were changed to read: “We are building a strong union, workers of the mill.” He had learned, in other words, to use the idealism which had been bred in him in the only realistic way possible under modern conditions, namely, for organizing the workers to cope with the oppression and misery to which they were subjected. He learned the basic fact of the class struggle in modern society and from that time on read men and events in the light of that Marxian truth. He learned, furthermore, that the struggle was not a superficial one but must end with the destruction of the prevailing economic system. He had become a revolutionist. He also learned that within the labor movement itself there are the fighters and the class collaborationists, and decided that his place was with the former. At the close of the strike he could have eased into a secure position as a trade union organizer if he had been willing to trail along with the machine. He felt instead the need of study in order to discover the intellectual justification for the convictions he had reached in the struggle and to equip himself for translating his ideals into reality. Thus he became a student at Brookwood Labor College which had shortly before been placed under the ban of the A.F. of L.

His course at Brookwood was interrupted by an educational period on the chain gang in North Carolina, the state having found “sufficient evidence” in his strike activities to warrant a sentence, though it had not been able to discover “evidence” on which to convict the deputy sheriffs who had killed six strikers.

Plugging Along

Following the completion of his work at Brookwood, Larry went back to North Carolina. It was a period of dullness and slump In the labor movement. He plugged away nevertheless organizing farmers, unemployed, textile workers, building small, secret groups, picking out individuals and patiently teaching them the meaning of the class struggle, helping Pioneer Youth to work with groups of mill and mountain children, etc.

Beginning with the general strike in High Point three years ago a change occurred. In one town after another the workers were ready for revolt and wanted instruction and leadership. In 1933 the Hosiery Workers Union launched large-scale organizing campaigns in the South. Larry was a member of the staff and called upon incessantly for strike organization activity. Characteristically, he was on the way from High Point to Durham for a strike meeting when his car was crowded off the road and the accident which in a few days brought on his death occurred. Characteristically also, during this summer he had backed up his father and other progressive natives around Old Fort in having Negro as well as white children at Pioneer Youth camp in spite of the suspicion and opposition of many of the neighbors. He had plans for putting up in the mountain retreat where he was building his own little house, a couple more buildings to house a training school for organizers.

“Pick out the promising young fellows and girls,” said Larry, “who emerge in a strike, take them to Old Fort for a month and teach them something of what it is all about, send them back into practical activity, bring them back again for further instruction after six months or a year; that is the way we will develop a leadership for the revolutionary movement in the South.”

These words are written not to praise Larry Hogan as an individual; but because he and his experience are typical of hundreds, thousands, in the South and in other sections of the country who can be recruited into the revolutionary army and because it is important that the Workers Party should realize both the assets which it possesses in these American militants and jts responsibility for finding and developing them. With such as these a really “new” South, new America, new world will be won – the workers’ world.

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