Introduction to UAW Articles
I had a very interesting discussion with an autoworker active in Soldiers Of Solidarity (SOS). He told me to check out a Vietnam veterans website, MilitaryProject.org, that he thought was very interesting and provided evidence of the state of workers’ consciousness today.
The website included the poem printed below. The poet was a retired autoworker, who I guess, is active in SOS.
It is useful to contrast a bird’s eye picture of mass consciousness in the 1930s and early ’40s to the picture we see today, because the comparison helps to counter the widespread, but only temporary, state of working class demobilization, demoralization, and sense of powerlessness. As I see it, however, in many ways today’s radicalization is deeper than it was in the 1930s. At the same time, mass union consciousness today is much closer to the mood of workers from 1929 until early-1933. But before the end of that year, the first victorious strike took place among hotel workers in New York City. This strike is described in The History of American Trotskyism, by James P. Cannon, one of the early founders of the American Communist movement.
Then, a few months later, starting at the very beginning of 1934, came the three big strikes that detonated the greatest labor upsurge in U.S. history. And although the patriotism of U.S. workers, egged on by the super-patriotism of the labor bureaucracy and their “no-strike” pledge, was considerable, it was up-ended by three national coalminers’ strikes in 1943, at a time when an allied imperialist victory was far from certain.
In my opinion, there isn’t much time before action in the streets and factories in America and the world becomes evident. Prediction based on the evidence of experience is what the scientific method is all about. And, successful prediction confirms the viability of the scientific method.
I think that already mass consciousness is, in many ways, greater than it was in the past. How else explain the tendency to take to the streets in mass antiwar demonstrations by the hundreds of thousands, and even millions, in an unending rank and file war against capitalism’s wars beginning in earnest in the 1960s against the Vietnam war, and in every war since then? That, I believe, strongly suggests that large sections of the working class will come to the conclusion that they will soon have nothing to lose by fighting to protect what is left of what they once had. And since every important victory in defense of what they have has tended to go as far as their momentum and their still greater demands will take them. The subjective factor remains one of revolutionary working-class leadership, which is also determined by the changes in mass worker consciousness.
The working class vanguard part of which is represented in the following articles by Soldiers of Solidarity leader, Gregg Shotwell, finds a way to express these thoughts clearly and circulate them as best they can. They maintain close contact with those of our class who take action in small ways, as well as in the big ways that become possible. The Socialist Viewpoint editors believe that the articles that follow represent such vanguard thinking.
By the end of the greatest upsurge in U.S. history, from 1934 until the end of 1946, the American working class was tired and exhausted and anxious to enjoy the fruits of its great victories. The hardest thing for workers to learn is that whatever they are strong enough to take, they take. But they forget that whatever capitalists are strong enough to take, they also take back. And with the help of the labor bureaucracy, the American ruling class laid the foundation for a take-back movement that began in 1947 with the enactment of the “slave-labor” Taft-Hartley Act and continues, and has accelerated, to this day.
“In the twelve months following VJ day more than 5,000,000 workers engaged in strikes. For the number of strikers, their weight in industry and the duration of the struggle, the 1945-46 strike wave in the US surpassed anything of its kind in any capitalist country including the British General Strike of 1926. Before its ebb it was to include the whole coal, railroad, maritime and communications industries, although not simultaneously.” —Labor’s Giant Step, by Art Preis.
Small Soldiers Small People
Small People Small Soldiers, don’t you know that you look just like ants, according to Presidents, Prime Ministers and Kings who use your lives in their evil games.
Small Soldiers, when you die you can be replaced by another Small Soldier, stepped on by their government, by Big People Leaders, who cover their small people’s caskets with their flags.
You say it’s just a saying but America never knew, all they know is that they are Small People, Small Soldiers. Like they were told on TV who let it slip out.
But Small Soldiers, you have all the weapons that you need to bring down the Big People and make a Government for all the Small People.
One that is fair and ends joblessness, hunger, racism. Go For The Works, as the Wobblies say.
Jobs run by the Workers and not CEO’s who presently look at Small People from their Lear Jets with Congressmen and Senators along for the ride.
Dennis Serdel, Military Resistance 2010; Vietnam 1967-68 (one tour) Light Infantry, Americal Div. 11th Brigade; United Auto Workers GM Retiree.
Check out the website on which this song in tribute to the Small People of the World, first appeared—MilitaryProject.org