[Marxism] Reply to Carl Davidson

James Zarichny zarichny at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 21 01:23:32 MST 2005

Sorry about not replying to M.N. Ryutin earlier. But I was off list for a couple of days to do some more urgent things such as house cleaning and going to Denver for the demo. I regard the Denver march as successful. People were eight abreast for several blocks. As we walked thru the crowded shopping district, I saw no hostility from the people watching us and I believe they were impressed by the size of the demo..

M.N. Rvutin says “The Democrat party was never a labor party.”

I had hoped from the context that I was making it clear that I was talking only about Michigan and not the national party. People first heard about Stanley Nowak when he was a UAW organizer at the Ford factory. He used his enormous popularity to run for the Michigan Senate. By 1947, he was the floor leader of the Democratic Party in the State Senate. His record leaves no doubt that he was following the agenda of the CIO and not of the business interests. As I said in the prior post, it was a de facto labor party. They were hampered by the ancient state constitution which gave rural areas more votes than urban areas and were forced to be the minority party. Eventually the U.S. Supreme Court in its one man-one vote decision declared the clause in the state constitution unconstitutional. But in 1948, the decision of some of the leading Democrats to leave the Democratic Party to support Henry Wallace undercut all of this. But vestiges of it appeared when Coleman Young, who I first met
 when he was a militant in the Civil Rights Congress, was elected Mayor of Detroit. I should also point out That George Crockett, who was later elected to the U.S. Congress was one of the people who worked on the brief in my appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

M.N. Rvutin goes on to say:

“The book by Art Preis, _Labor's Giant Step_, is very, very clear on this. Preis details the measures taken by Democrats from Frances Perkins, the Roosevelt Secretary of Labor, on down, against the Flint sit-down strikers.”

Preis may know this, but I wonder why is it that none of the sit-down strikers that I talked to knew about it

This reminds me of an incident that happened while I was working in Tallahassee about 40 years ago.

Some of the SDS kids asked me to give a talk on the sit-down strikes because I had attended many of the pep rallies in the Pengelly building auditorium during the strike. I was a junior high school student then. In the summer of 1937, I was the president of the Junior Union. In senior high school, I was treasurer of the CIO youth Club.

After I had been talking a while, a young YSA’er by the name of Jack Leiberman got up very angry.

“What you are saying is a lot of bull shit! I know the real facts and people who want to learn should follow me to the next room where I will explain what really happened!” He walked out followed by 4 or 5 others.

I had started my speech by describing Governor Frank Murphy as a deeply conflicted individual. At a gut level, his sympathies were with the underdog. After all, his grandfather had been an Irish revolutionary who was captured by the British and executed. 

After one of the big battles in Flint between the local cops and strikers in which more than 20 people were hospitalized, Murphy was obliged to act. He sent the national guards . At first it was not clear what the guards were sent for. John L. Lewis made his dramatic speech .

In the end , Murphy opted for the position of “no violence”. The guards would form a physical barrier and not allow the conflicting forces to fight each other. The most decisive question was food. Murphy finally agreed to let food reach the strikers inside the Chevrolet factory. The Chevrolet factory was surrounded by the troops. Once the strikers had food, they could hold the plant forever. So Genera Motors capitulated. The anger of the G.M. stockholders was intense. On election eve in 1938, HUAC brought in Witnesses to swear that they knew Murphy was a Communist. This was the main headline in the Detroit Free Press on the morning of election day. Murphy lost.

One of the top officials in the Buick local was a pall bearer at my Dad’s funeral. When I visited the official at his office, I noticed that he had a wall labeled LABOR’S HEROES. Among the photos was one of Frank Murphy.

My brother, who was a skilled tradesman in Chevrolet was in local 659 which was heir to the sit -down strike ,gave me a copy of their 50th anniversary calendar. The caption underneath one photo reads”

“Sit-down strikers at Plant #4 receive food supplies under the supervision and protection of the Michigan National Guard.

Incidentally, as regards Radical Jack, many years later we met at a demo at the bicentennial celebrations in Philly, and the hard feelings. Evaporated


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