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Joseph Keller

The Red Label

(21 June 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 25, 21 June 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

There’s a refrain in an old union song which goes:

“When I ply my needle, trowel or pick,
I’m a decent sheeny, wop or mick.
But when I strike, I’m a bolshevik –
I’m Labor!”

These words come to mind when we reflect on the ironic aftermath of the recently defeated Wall Street strike led by the AFL United Financial Employees.

The leaders of the strike worked in collaboration with the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, the priest-ridden power machine which is trying to spearhead the “anti-communist” campaign inside the unions. The ACTU flooded the picket lines with leaflets announcing that “Catholic Organizations Back Wall Street Strikers” and that the ACTU “has been blessed by Pope Pius XII.”

The AFL Seafarers International Union likewise supported the strike, but with more substantial and militant help. Many of the seamen were badly beaten up and arrested by the police of that eminent Catholic, Mayor O’Dwyer. One SIU member, John Flynn, was dragged out of ail automobile while delivering food to the strikers and hauled to jail.

After the strike, Flynn was handed a three-year suspended jail sentence by New York Special Sessions Justice Frederick L. Hackenburg, who took the occasion to orate as follows: “I am shocked to the depth of my soul when I realize that this compulsion (for the SIU to assist the UFE strike) was dictated by a foreign government which under the guise of ideology tries to start trouble so that they can publish in Moscow ‘Riots In Wall Street’.”

The irony does not lie in the fact that a capitalist-minded judge yells “Moscow” at the militant action of an American union, but in the fact that the leaders of this particular union are practiced red-baiters who boast far and wide of their opposition to “communism.” Moreover, they worked in conjunction with that outside agency, the ACTU, whose main plank is “anti-communism.” The theory is that priests’ robes or flag-waving will “take the curse” off a strike.

The June 11 Seafarers Log, organ of the AFL Seafarers Union, yells to high heaven about Judge Hackenburg’s “irresponsible statement” and “smear.”

They ought to know by now that any striker or any union that fights for the workers is a “bolshevik” in the eyes of the capitalists. And echoing the capitalist red-baiters or playing footsie with the ACTU won’t save any militant worker or union from that label.

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