Martin Harvey

Workers Party Again Initiates Smith Picketing in Detroit

(8 October 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 9 No. 41, 8 October 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

DETROIT, Sept. 28With only two days’ advance notice, the Detroit Local of the Workers Party mobilized all its forces to support the effective picket line against Fascist Gerald L.K. Smith through a public call for a picket line and an appeal to labor and liberal organizations to support the anti-Smith demonstration.

News of the Smith meeting at Northern High School in Detroit reached the Workers Party late on the night of Monday, September 24. Realizing the importance of preventing Smith’s meeting from going off unhindered and of warning Detroit workers of the danger of this fascist invasion, the party immediately went into action.

Over 20,000 leaflets issued by the Workers Party, calling on the workers of Detroit to picket the fascist meeting and pointing out Smith’s threat against labor, Negroes and Jews, were distributed at plants and in workers’ neighborhoods throughout the city. Everywhere they were received enthusiastically.

Role of Other Parties

At the same time all interested organizations that could be contacted were asked to lend their support to this action. All of the left-wing political parties at first refused to participate. The Socialist Party of Norman Thomas replied through their Detroit organizer that they weren’t interested in any action against Smith at this time, and in particular they were not interested in joint activity with the Workers Party.

The Socialist Workers Party refused to cooperate on the ground that the call for the anti-fascist action must first come from the union movement and until the unions were prepared to issue such a call the SWP would wait. The following day, however (the day before Smith’s meeting), when it was apparent that there would be a large picket line, the SWP issued its own leaflet supporting the picket line called “by the Wayne County CIO Council.”

The Stalinist-controlled Wayne County Industrial Union Council had made some sort of plans plans for a picket line but was keeping whatever plans they had a secret even from their member unions. Therefore, it was necessary to organize against Smith by going straight to the Detroit workers. The initiative taken by the Workers Party bore some fruit in that the Wayne County Council let it he known belatedly that it had some plans for a picket line.

The Socialist Labor Party also turned down the appeal for joint action against Smith.

Also approached by the Workers Party to support the picket line were the NAACP and the Urban League, influential Negro organizations. The Urban League was prevented from taking any action by restrictions placed on it by the Community Chest from which it draws its financial support. The NAACP, through its executive secretary, Gloster Current, held that they did not favor actions of this kind against Smith since it would give Smith publicity and that all their efforts at this time were being expended on other issues.

Support of the picket line was also rejected by several Jewish organizations, a notable exception being the Hashomer Hatzair, a Zionist youth organization, which responded to the Workers Party call by joining the picket line.

A number of UAW locals also responded favorably. However, none of them had the time to issue official calls to their membership and they were represented by as many of their members as could be reached personally.

After the party mobilization had gotten under way it was learned that the People’s Institute of Applied Religion, a Communist Party-dominated outfit, had secretly planned a quiet and small picket line to “make the record.” The kind of protest that was planned by these CP stooges is indicated by the fact that advance notice of their action was made public only because the news leaked out into the papers. They issued orders to all the picketers to leave right after the cops brutally attacked the picket line. They openly sided with the pro-fascist police by spreading the slanderous report that the violence was caused by “provocateurs” and “trouble-makers.”

Every member of the Workers Party in Detroit and numbers of friends and sympathizers gave unstintingly of their time and money to make this action possible. Leaflet distributors were out all day Wednesday and Thursday, the day of the meeting. Over $60 was contributed by members and others to make the leaflets, picket signs and other activities possible. At the demonstration itself over 300 copies of the Workers Party pamphlet, The Truth About Gerald Smith, were sold.

After the picket line had terminated many of the picketers met at the Workers Party headquarters at 3773 Gratiot Avenue to discuss the lessons of the demonstration and to refresh themselves with sandwiches and coffee.

Last updated on 29 January 2018