Monday, May 29, 2017

Remembering our dead

Memorial Day 'honors' the 1.4 million American military men and women who died in America’s wars. Rather than remind ourselves of the wasted lives and needless spilling of blood or the fact that America spends over $600 billion per year on wars, weapons and designing even more weapons, the World Socialist Movement, instead, takes pride in the accomplishments of our American fellow-workers .  In the spring of 1937 alone, 400,000 workers were involved in sit-down strikes.  For those many tens of thousands of anonymous workers, who faced down the American capitalist class we feel the strongest bond of solidarity. A union button is a badge of honor. Today, SOYMB will recall some of the many victims of the class war.

 On May 30, 1937,  the Chicago Police Department shot and killed ten unarmed demonstrators in Chicago. The incident took place during the "Little Steel Strike" in the United States. After U.S. Steel signed a union contract, smaller steel manufacturers (called 'Little Steel'), refused to do so. The Little Steel companies were only "little" in comparison to U.S. Steel. In fact, they controlled a large bulk of the steel industry. And the Little Steel executives were extremely right-wing and viciously anti-union: they made a principle out of union busting and were prepared to go to great lengths and expense to do it.

In protest, the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) called a strike. On Memorial Day, hundreds of sympathizers gathered at Sam's Place, headquarters of the SWOC. Carrying American flags and singing union songs, the marchers, men, women and children, headed towards the Republic Steel mill but a line of Chicago policemen blocked their path. The foremost protestors argued their right to continue. "Stand fast! Stand fast!" the line leaders cried. "We got our right! We got our legal rights to picket!" The police answered, "You got no rights. You Red bastards, you got no rights."

Memorial to the Massacre
The police fired on the crowd. As the crowd fled, police bullets killed ten people and injured 30. Nine people were permanently disabled and another 28 had serious head injuries from police clubbing.  The Chicago Tribune headline read, "Chicagoans Led in Steel Strike by Outsiders," and failed to even list the names of the dead. Instead, they named leading "outsiders" and "communists." No policemen were ever prosecuted, the newsreel of the event was suppressed for fear of creating, in the words of an official at Paramount News agency, "mass hysteria."  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an account of someone who had seen the suppressed film, describing the police firing on the marchers without warning and beating up the marchers in a "businesslike" way.  A Coroner's Jury declared the killings to be "justifiable homicide" although a congressional investigation later condemned the police for using excessive force. The press defended the police and called the parade a labor or 'red' riot. Labor's 'friend' Roosevelt expressed no sympathy.

Shortly after Memorial Day, the strike ended as workers returned to their jobs in Chicago and elsewhere. Ultimately, however, the union won its contract. The message we learn from the Memorial Day Massacre is that workers cannot place any confidence in the State or its parties or politicians of the ruling class. They must build their own party to fight for the interests of the working class and capture control of the State machine. This means a struggle to put an end to the capitalist system and reorganize economic life on the basis of social needs, not private profit—that is, on a socialist basis.


4 comments:

Peter Bennett said...

According to you America wasted 4000,00 lives in war ww2 ?
Have you ever heard of a just war?

ajohnstone said...

And have you ever heard of a nation that has not justified their wars as being just?

You consider WW2 as just. Yet the war with Japan was a conflict between two expanding powers over economic spheres of interest. Nor did the defeat of Hitler lead to the end of militarism or genocide.

Choose your war and let your prejudices decide which side is the "goodies" (i.e. "morally right")and who are the "baddies". Was it just to go into alliance with Stalin's Russia and support that murderous regime? And is it okay to roast civilians alive in air raids if they're on the "wrong side"?

No matter what the real or alleged atrocities of the "bad" side, however, wars are quarrels over control of territory and resources between different sections of the capitalist class—business rivalry by other means. The working class can have no interest in such matters. The result of a "just" war is the same as a "bad" war — workers are the collateral casualties. The only "worthwhile" war is the class war — the fight against war.
There are no just wars - just war.

The criteria of a just war were outlined by St Augustine in the 5th century and then by St Thomas Aquinas in the 13th.

For a fuller answer, care to read our pamphlet
https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/pamphlets/socialist-party-and-war


Peter Bennett said...


You beg the question. Was ww2 a just war.?Should the UK and USA not have declared war on Germany?

ajohnstone said...

UK and France declared war on Germany for its invasion of Poland. They declined to go to war with the USSR who also invaded Poland.

The USA did not declare war on Germany. It was Germany who issued the declaration of war on the USA.

Neither the dictatorship of Hitler nor his treatment of the Jews was a cause.

I thought i made it clear that the blog does not consider any war as being just, the concept being a meaningless one