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.