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Labor Shows Militancy in Los Angeles Conflicts

(August 1933)

From the Militants, The Militant, Vol. VI No. 39, 12 August 1933, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Los Angeles. – The seventh week of the strike at the Golden Bros. Millinery Shop finds the workers with spirit high and ranks intact. Picket lines have been maintained in the face of the “Red” squad, which probably is the most degenerate collection of strikebreakers in the country.

Eight women have been arrested. The picket line has been subject to most brutal attacks, in which pickets, women as well as men have been slugged and beaten. The events of Friday, July 24, will give an idea of the activities of the “Red” Squad as well as the courage and valor of the strikers.

At 5 o’clock as the picket line was forming, Pfeifer, lieutenant of the “Red” Squad began donning a pair of gloves. Every picketer knows what that means. The gloves cover brass knuckles. Unflinchingly the strikers maintained their ranks. Squad cars rolled up. Police unloaded from these cars. With face pale the picketers continue.

“Clear the Streets”

“Clear the street, officers!” commands Pfeifer. The street are “cleared”. Fighting every inch of the way the picketers are forced down the street. On the corner of Eighth Street, the picketers resistance increases. Pfeffer becomes panic-stricken. “Take your saps out officers – and use them,” he shouts. No picketer is intimidated.

The chairman of the strike committee is punched. The picketers demonstrate. Brass knuckled fists strike and blackjacks fly. Comrade C. Curtiss is knocked to the ground. He recovers his feet and is whisked off to a doctor where a number of stitches are taken into his scalp.

The picket line stands its ground. The next day all the picketers are there again, early in the morning, Spanish and English speaking, young and old, in a display of solidarity that is making working class tradition on the west coast. Old time western rebels pay a tribute as the most militant strike in Los Angeles since the McNamara trial. In the heart of reaction, in Los Angeles the “white spot” of Harry Chandler’s Los Angeles Times to maintain a picket line is a heroic deed. The tribute is well earned.

General Strike Needed

Every militant in the entire needle trades is watching this strike. One thing becomes obvious and that is, that in order to firmly establish union conditions it is necessary to project the idea of a general strike into the millinery industry. Faced with the highly organized association it is absolutely necessary to organize all workers in the entire industry. In the millinery trade the New Deal is a joke. The minimum the bosses agreed to in their code is $2 lower than the minimum for women in California. The idea of a general strike will undoubtedly find a fertile field awaiting it in the underpaid, speed-up millinery workers. Agricultural Workers Strike

The. recent strike of the 5,000 agricultural workers has been ended with a “victory” for the strikers and the recognition of a union formed under the aegis of the Mexican Consul. Wage rates had been increased to a minimum of $1.50 for a nine hour day, with all overtime and part time paid at the rate of 20 cents an hour. Before the ink was dry on the agreement the ranchers began breaking the contract.

The situation is still ripe for an aggressive strike. The workers demands have not been satisfied yet – not by far.

T.U.U.L. Outwitted

The TUUL Agricultural Workers Union was completely outwitted by the Mexican Consul. The leadership of the TUUL while courageous in action was very weak in strategy. Now it is necessary to make a quick shift in the orientation of the Agricultural Workers Union.

The former status of complete un-organization has been changed to a condition where there is a semi-company, nationalist union in the field with a large membership of agricultural workers.

In this case the tactics of the T.U.U.L. must be to function within the class collaborationist union as a Left wing, and from within transform this union into a genuine class struggle union. Will the leadership of the TUUL be able to execute this maneuver or will the dualism and sectarianism that is embedded in the ideology and practice of the TUUL and the party keep the union upon the futile path of ultra-Leftism?

Hollywood Film Strike

Hollywood’s famed industry, the movies, has been the latest to he drawn into the wave of strikes. On Saturday, July 22, 650 sound technicians, a highly specialized and trained group of workers struck against a wage rate of as low as $38 per week for work that often lasted until midnight or later.

When the studios advertized for scabs to take the place of the men who had struck, a strike was called by four other unions bringing the total strikers up to nearly 5,000. Despite the solidarity shown by these unionists the sad truth is that under the influence of craft unionist ideology many unions are still working for producers whose shops have been struck. More will be heard of this strike later.

The Strikes and the Left wing

Strikes increasing in number involving all sections of the working class from unskilled farm hands to highly educated sound technicians and camera men – the question of aggressive action and leadership of future strikes becomes of paramount importance to the Left wing.

The training of cadres of militants capable of participating in and leading these struggles and the drawing of lessons from these strikes, from the successes and even more from the failures – this is the present task of the TUUL and the party as well as the entire revolutionary movement.

Is the TUUL seriously undertaking this work? Judging by the farcical bureaucratic manner in which conventions of the TUUL are called the answer is, NO. A few days ago the Los Angeles TUUL held a general pre-convention discussion membership meeting. Few letters were sent out. The rank and file of the furriers and milliners – the majority of the TUUL – were in ignorance of the meeting. The strikers were meagerly represented.

While this highly important and poorly attended meeting was in session the Friends of the Soviet Union were holding a mass meeting for Soviet recognition. 2,000 people packed the house. This is party policy! Two thousand people listen to lawyers, doctors, rabbis, preachers spread opportunism among the workers and an infinitesmal part of that at a meeting of the TUUL in the midst of a series of intense strikes!

Slowly, but surely, the ideas of the Left Opposition are gaining hearing and response. Our activity on the picket line, in the union, in the Unemployed organization has gained us the respect of the workers generally and especially the thinking Communists. Above all amongst the youth our literature is being avidly read as the facts that our correctness in action in the everyday struggles of the workers is based upon Bolshevik clarity and theory is recognized.

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