[Marxism] Why the Red Army Faction Matters
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Mar 4 15:53:19 MST 2009
> Of course, some people's politics seems based on the assumption that the
> time never will be ripe. Oh well...
Given the economic crisis, it is entirely possible that a militant
working class mobilization will provoke violent attacks from the
ultraright. In those events, workers will have to defend themselves. But
I don't see what that has to do with bank robberies, etc.
Here's how the American Trotskyists dealt with violent ultrarightists in
The United States in the 1930s became a battleground between industrial
workers and the capitalist class over whether workers would be able to
form industrial unions. There had been craft unions for decades, but
only industrial unions could fight for all of the workers in a given
plant or industry. This fight had powerful revolutionary implications
since the captains of heavy industry required a poorly paid, docile
work-force in order to maximize profits in the shattered capitalist
economy. There were demonstrations, sit-down strikes and even gun-fights
led by the Communist Party and other left groups to establish this basic
Within this political context, fascist groups began to emerge. They drew
their inspiration from Mussolini's fascists or Hitler's brown- shirts.
In a time of severe social crisis, groups of petty-bourgeois and lumpen
elements begin to coalesce around demagogic leaders. They employ
"radical" sounding rhetoric but in practice seek out working- class
organizations to intimidate and destroy. One such fascist group was the
Silver Shirts of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In chapter eleven of "Teamster Politics", SWP leader Farrell Dobbs
recounts "How the Silver Shirts Lost Their Shrine in Minneapolis". It is
the story of how Local 544 of the Teamsters union, led by Trotskyists,
defended itself successfully from a fascist expedition into the city.
Elements of the Twin Cities ruling-class, alarmed over the growth of
industrial unionism in the city, called in Silver Shirt organizer Roy
Zachary. Zachary hosted two closed door meetings on July 29 and August 2
of 1938. Teamster "moles" discovered that Zachary intended to launch a
vigilante attack against Local 544 headquarters. They also discovered
that Zachary planned to work with one F.L. Taylor to set up an
"Associated Council of Independent Unions", a union-busting operation.
Taylor had ties to a vigilante outfit called the "Minnesota Minute Men".
Local 544 took serious measures to defend itself. It formed a union
defense guard in August 1938 open to any active union member. Many of
the people who joined had military experience, including Ray Rainbolt
the elected commander of the guard. Rank-and-filers were former
sharpshooters, machine gunners and tank operators in the US Army. The
guard also included one former German officer with WWI experience. While
the guard itself did not purchase arms except for target practice,
nearly every member had hunting rifles at home that they could use in
the circumstance of a Silver Shirt attack.
Events reached a climax when Pelley came to speak at a rally in the
wealthy section of Minneapolis.
Ray Rainbolt organized a large contingent of defense guard members to
pay a visit to Calhoun Hall where Pelley was to make his appearance. The
powerful sight of disciplined but determined unionists persuaded the
audience to go home and Pelley to cancel his speech.
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