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23,000 West Virginia Miners
Are Out in New Strike Wave

Forward to a United Front of the Pennsylvania,
Ohio, Illinois and W.Va. Miners

(July 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 14, 11 July 1931, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On July 6, the miners of the Kanawha, West Virginia, coal fields went on strike against the existing starvation conditions and on the very first day equalled in the splendid manner the solidarity already displayed by the miners in other sections now on strike. A total of 23,000 went out in this field. This strike is called in the name of and under leadership of the independent West Virginia Mine Workers union. The conditions of poverty there are almost indescribable, wages are down to rock bottom, as low as 28c for getting out a ton of coal. It thus follows right upon the heels of the strike in the Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and Northern West Virginia territory under leadership of the National Miners Union and once more independent movements developing from various directions and through various methods and forms of the struggle. But all are genuine in mass character, all are striving in one general direction – toward the building of a miners’ union free from the corrupting and treacherous influence of the old John L. Lewis machine. This is what we have already emphasized as the only way out. Its correctness is being demonstrated in its first steps by the realities of life. It gives the lie to the Right wing Lovestoneites to their proposal to return to the decadent U.M.W., and flings it back into their face. How pitiful was their aim, how clearly it is now being demonstrated that it could mean only going backward, to give up struggle, to submit to the bosses’ agents and to prohibit the miners from finding a militant solution to their problems! Well, the miners gave no heed to such reformist proposals and even if they do not fully succeed at this present stage a tremendous step forward has been taken.

However, these struggles of various bona fide movements developing in one general direction, despite existing defects, present yet one bigger problem pressing for a solution. That is the one of unifying all these fighting miners ranks within one militant union embracing all the coal diggers and resting solidly on a class basis. The proposal made by Foster in the Daily Worker to invite these various sections, or perhaps only some of them, to come to the planned convention of the National Miners Union, while it shows a change from the former reactionary policy of boycott of these movements by the Centrists, brought about by the pressure of events and by the pressure of our correct proposals, is nevertheless false. It does not present the correct method of actually solving this problem. We have emphasized before that the correct method is a genuinely established united front, an amalgamation of all these rebellious miners’ sections with the N.W.U. leading toward complete unification within one such all embracing union. We repeat: these various movements are independent and genuine in their mass content as well as in their revolt against the old corrupt bureaucracy. They must all be treated as such and there must be an honest approach toward them in recognition of this basis. In the process of unifications, the Communists have nothing to fear and everything to gain. Only the office-seeking opportunists and outright traitor need fear the unity of the fighting miners. And it is precisely in such a process that they will stand exposed, while the superiority of the revolutionary policies and leadership will be demonstrated.

The Need for the United Front

The National Miners Union, and more particularly the party leadership, has a great opportunity in this situation to carry out a Leninist policy of the united front. It is absolutely essential, in the interest of the rank and file coal miners, that it heeds this opportunity. Translated into action, into practical steps required by the present situation it means that the party leadership must adopt a policy for the National Miners Union of it becoming instrumental in calling a conference and take all the other necessary steps to bring genuine representatives of these independent sectional movements together to discuss their problems as equals and to find the way and provide the means for united action. When these steps are taken there should be good prospects for unification into one militant miners union.

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