Depressions, mental and economic

glevy at glevy at
Mon Jul 3 08:56:27 MDT 1995

Concerning the relationship between mental and physical depressions topic
that Scott picked-up on, there is an *excellent* movie (whose name
escapes me) produced by people from the Institute for Labor Education and
Research concerning the relationship between stress and plant closings.
The movie, which interviews workers across New York State who worked in
many different kinds of occupations and regions of NYS and presents a
number of summaries of statistical studies, has the simple message that
stress caused by unemployment KILLS.  I recommend this movie (does
anybody remember the name?) highly.  It is highly suitable for classroom
presentation or presentation to meetings of union locals.

Since Scott has told his anti-communism autoworker story, I'll also tell
mine.  It may prove interesting.  From 1979-1984 I worked "on the line"
at the GM assembly plant in Linden, NJ. UAW Local 595 had a tradition as
a "maverick" and militant GM local that went back to the 1930's (although
there was a period of anti-communism in the 50's where CP members were
literally thrown out of the plant and on the railroad tracks behind the
plant! -- this was a common occurrence in UAW locals in the 50's that was
inspired and orchestrated by the Reuther leadership).  Anyway, in
February, 1980 the following incident occurred.  It is important to
remember that it occurred during the middle of the right-wing nationalist
hysteria that followed the taking of the hostages in Teheran.  The RCP
had a small faction at the plant and they occasionally sold copies of the
"Revolutionary Worker" in front of the plant.  One day the RCPers, who
were probably too aggressive in their sales tactics, were physically
assaulted by workers and a mini-riot ensued.  Many workers attacked the
RCPers chanting "Kill the Commies!"  The assault on the RCP was
tremendously popular with other workers in the plant and both major
caucuses, including a so-called reform caucus (the Linden Auto Workers)
in the local union supported the attack.  The hysteria continued for a
few days.  During that time, so-called "progressive" local trade union
leaders attended rallies in front of the plant gates with scores of
American flags waving and placards that read "God Bless America" and "Get
the Commies!."  In the plant, the RCPers were physically assaulted while
working (supervisors turned the other way) and anyone who didn't support
the attack on them was threatened.  A friend of mine had a knife pulled
on her.  I took a "civil libertarian" line arguing that even if you didn't
agree with the RCP that didn't mean that you should kick the s--- out of
them.  Several workers told me that they would meet me after work! and
others threatened to slice the tires of my car!  It's hard to be a "civil
libertarian" in the midst of anti-communist hysteria.  Within a few days,
the whole thing died down and I could talk again to my co-workers about
political and union issues. Ironically, many of the same local union
leaders who supported the anti-communist assault in a cowardly manner
(including some who called themselves socialists and Marxists) then went
on in 1982 to lead the fight nationally against the concessionary
agreement proposed by the International Union (an agreement which was
ratified with a suspicious 51% of the votes cast).

It was a very sobering experience.  It taught me that workers' solidarity can
be a two-edged sword.  It can be a means for progressive change or a
means for reaction.  It gave me a taste for what socialists and
communists must have experienced during the McCarthy period in many union
locals.  It *could* happen again.


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