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One Road for Miners!

Lay A Firm Class Foundation at the Gillespie Convention

(October 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 40, 1 October 1932, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Progressive Miners’ constitutional convention, which meets at Gillespie, Ill., Oct. 3, has a mighty job in hand and a great duty to perform. Its actions will undoubtedly have far reaching consequences for the future working class movement.

First on the agenda, if not in numerical order, then at least in importance, is the task of solidifying the union foundation in a working class sense, to secure its progressive direction and clinch the objective which establishes its militant character. Translated into the language of its practical problems that means to defeat the corrupting influence of the reactionary Lewis-Walker clique and to strengthen the fight against the operators’ wage-cut drive.

Your way to victory is the one of militant struggle. That is your one main weapon and a powerful one. Of this the past has furnished ample proof to you. It is therefore logical that you should draw the conclusion of first of all securing the class basis for your union by a recognition of the class struggle and the initiation of the practical program of action which flows from this recognition.

Rank and File Unity and Conscious Leadership

It is the class struggle that you are now engaged in. Only the blind could fail to see this. It is the bitter realities of the class struggle which determine every step you are taking and upon which your future is conditioned. Hence the necessity of its bold recognition. But the realization of the program of action demands the completest possible unity of all the forces within the union, supplemented by the widest working class democracy and freedom of expression of minority opinion. Given such unity the first steps are secured. Others will follow from them, which demand that this unity be extended to a national scale embracing the other miners’ rebel sections, the National Miners Union, the West Virginia Miner’s Union and similar groups. First, in the form of unity of action in ways and means to obtain better wages and working conditions and to smash the Lewis machine. Secondly, in ways and means toward complete unification in one national militant union. The road to its accomplishment is through rank and file control plus a leadership conscious of its tasks.

Who Raise the Bogey of the “Reds”

The bogey of the “Red” issue is raised in order to swerve the miners from their progressive path. “Stay clear of the ‘red’,” says the operators’ propaganda designed to catch the weak-kneed fellows who fall subject to this propaganda in the delusive hope of gaining favors by appearing as “good boys” to the operators. But a serious struggle cannot be won that way. The Lewises, the Walkers and their henchmen are much better boys to the operators and a thousand times preferred by them. Your road to victory is the radical road, the road of the “Reds” which is forged through the power of your class forces in militant array. That is the road which the Communist Left Opposition proposes.

We do not forget the fact that the many blunders and false policies of the official Communist party Stalinist leadership has helped to make it possible for such propaganda to appear. But beware of those in your own ranks who use it. We are not unmindful of the fact that these blundering mistakes have temporarily served to turn the miners away from the Communist party in disgust. But it should be remembered that it was the party of Lenin and Trotsky which secured the first serious working class victory – the establishment of the Soviet Republic. Under the Stalin regime the party has departed from the basis of Lenin. But that gives us only so much more cause to strive to restore it to its rightful position.

Which Is the Political Party of Labor?

In your deliberations at the convention and in your future course, you will likely meet the sleek office seeking careerist. You know how ta deal with him. You will meet the kind of “labor” politician who tells you to cater to the capitalist party in power in order to gain favors; or to support the democrats, in order to realize its “opportunities”. It is an election year, and some of you will perhaps think your path should be toward a labor party, while others may lend an ear to the plea for support from the Socialist party. But it is well to remember that the parties in power, whether Republican or Democrat, have always been the bosses’ tools willing to call out police and the military forces on the side of the operators. Remember that the Socialist party has not only failed to support your struggle, but some of their leading spokesmen like John Hindmarsh, Richard Glover, Jack Reed and Adolph Germer are right in the midst of the Lewis camp working hand in glove with these traitors. The path of the miners is not through the labor party but through the revolutionary party, that is the Communist party. Its mistaken policies today we must correct. And it is because of these mistakes that the Left Opposition assumes the duty of pointing the revolutionary road.

When given the prerequisites of militant unionism, resting on a class foundation, your best guarantee for victory in this present strike struggle is at hand. Even in the Southern part of the state the terror will be forced to relinquish its hold. The present added oppression is now so much more surely preparing the rank and file revolt there. It is your tusk to send in there your best organizers to perform their quiet function in preparation for another mass picket line. Stand fast for the basic $6.10 wage scale and division of work. Continue your fight for the six-hour day and for tolerable working conditions. In that you will be sure to have the full and unstinted support of the rank and file everywhere. Militant unionism accepts compromise only when it is weak and will never trade off the mere favor of union recognition as a substitute for these essential conditions because without them the mere recognition would be an empty victory.

Progressive Miners of America Can Show the Way

Your future tasks are enormous and there are great difficulties in your way. But given a class foundation, a rank and file membership imbued with the will to win, the spirit to fight to the last and the readiness to sacrifice for the cause; given a courageous leadership, conscious of its class position, you will be able to overcome the greatest obstacles.

The constitutional convention of the Progressive Miners of America has a great duty to perform to the Illinois miners, to the miners of the United States and to the American working class. It is coming about as a serious revolt against the murderous employers’ wage cutting offensive. It has the opportunity of taking the first steps toward leading the working class forward to a serious resistance against this offensive and to support the forces charting the road toward working class freedom from capitalist oppression.

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