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Miners on the March!

Thousands on Strike Against Wage Cuts in Western Pennsylvania

(June 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 12, 15 June 1931, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The miners’ strike against inhuman starvation conditions, from its inception which began two weeks ago in Western Pennsylvania has been spreading rapidly and is now extending to Ohio. At the moment of writing there are nearly 20,000 miners out. They are fighting with a militancy equal to the most glorious examples of American labor history. This holds bright prospects for further extention as the miners elsewhere begin to learn that this is their battle as well.

In another article in this issue we give some figures of slashing of the miners’ wages. These are taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics compilation. We notice that during the period March 1930 to March 1931 213,000 Bituminous coal miners have suffered a 16.2 percent reduction. Recently the U.S. Department of Labor conciliator, Emmaline Pitt, expressed herself as “horrified” at the starvation and wretched living conditions of the miners and the “terrible brutality” of the coal and iron police as well as the state Cossacks. Miners have been existing on the starvation level. The most ruthless methods have been used to smash their organization.

In western Pennsylvania the National Miners Union has assumed the leading role. With a genuine mass basis being accepted and a genuine union democracy applied there are prospects for success for the N.M.U. But for this it will be necessary to avoid the mistakes of policy and the bureaucratic administration which have stifled the N.M.U. up till now.

The miners are on the march. A movement of real vitality has commenced, expressing itself in different forms in different parts of the country. In Harlan, Kentucky, 18,000 miners already struck early in May against starvation conditions. In Illinois there is a revolt against the treason of the Lewis-Fishwick-Walker reactionaries. This movement found reverberations in the southern part of West Virginia and Ohio where sections of a new union are being organized in opposition to the old Lewis union. It found reverberations also in Indiana and in the southwestern states where also new union formation is taking place.

The U.M.W. is definitely discredited in the eyes of the rank and file miners who have learned the lesson from the treasonable career of its officialdom. The capitalist forces, particularly in Pennsylvania, are now crying out for re-establishment of the Lewis union. The bosses prefer no union at all, but they will always be ready to accept the union of the A.F. of L. brand of leadership and policies when they are threatened with the alternative of the rank and file taking matters into their own hands and forming a militant union.

In western Pennsylvania the jails are being filled with militant miners. In Harlan Kentucky, 50 of them are in prison, 20 charged with murder in the first degree. All of these class war victims need defense and deserve all possible working class effort on their behalf. Relief is needed for the striking miners who already for a long time have existed on the starvation level. Workers should send such support to the Miners Relief Committee at 611 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa.

In this situation of growing strike, growing militancy of the miners and increasing revolt against the old U.M.W. machine there are real possibilities for a movement which may assume titanic proportions. There are real possibilities for a union built on a class basis, functioning under the banner of militancy and able to embrace all the coal miners. The slightest concession to the outfit of John L. Lewis will be wrong. To the miners it should remain clear that now is the time to bend all effort to direct the various movements of revolt against the old bureaucracy, of struggle against the inhuman conditions and of efforts to organize in various sections into one mighty stream for the building of an all-embracing class union. It is necessary to particularly emphasize once again the need of amalgamation of the various sectional unions being organized together with the National Miners Union into one such organization. It is incumbent upon all Communist miners to unite for the achievement of this goal as a part of the fight to a finish against capitalism.

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