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B.J. Widick

Akron General Strike Planned
Against Nat’l Guard Tactics

(December 1937)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 1 No. 17, 4 December 1937, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

AKRON, Ohio. – Behind the press reports 01 the “settlement” of the Goodyear sit-down by the acceptance of a betrayal compromise, are some facts which deserve and need wide-spread publication.

The hope of Goodyear and of the official union leadership that the difficulties in the plants over lay-offs and other grievances were settled by the eight-point agreement received a rude shattering last week.

A group of unionists circulated petitions in the plants calling on the executive board of Goodyear Local Union to hold a special union meeting to take a strike vote. The response to the petitions was good and indicated that the rank and file won’t take any more blows from Goodyear without striking back.

The petitions were a “feeler” of the mood of the rank and file and were hailed as such by genuine progressive militants and revolutionary socialists, who pointed out, however, that a strike over lay-offs already consummated would be incorrect and bring defeat. New issues will arise shortly that can pose the question of strike action.

Role of Stalinists

The Daily Worker is striving to paint the betrayal in glowing terms of victory: “They (the rubber workers) went back grinning as the company had been forced to compromise on the union’s demands protesting last Thursday’s lay-offs of 1,600 workers.” (D.W., Nov. 23)

Unfortunately, 1,600 workers didn’t go back grinning. They didn’t go back to work at all. The betrayal agreement sent them into the army of unemployed.

And the circumstances under which the other workers returned to the shop were without precedent here. Although the entire city knew that the sit-down was called off, the city police force and Goodyear’s thugs made a show of force that rankled in the heart of every worker punching his clock card that morning.

Over 150 cops, armed with tear gas and riot guns, stood lined up as the Goodyear workers marched into the plant. It was the most flagrant attempt to terrorize and intimidate the workers Akron has ever seen.

And the rubber workers were boiling mad at this insolence and contempt with which they were being treated. Convicts in a state prison never went to work with such a huge armed force watching them.

To top the insults, the bourgeois press carried pictures of the armed cops with the headline over the photos saying. “They were not needed!” But the implication was clear. Brute force is the only language which the rubber barons are going to speak.

Neither the bourgeois press nor the Daily Worker printed the very significant action of the CIO industrial union council during the Sunday when the National Guards were preparing to march into Akron.

Under progressive leadership, a general strike was planned against the use of the National Guard or any armed force in the Goodyear sit-down. The C.I.O. council met to plan this action.

Workers throughout the city anxiously awaited the decision of Goodyear Local at the Sunday meeting when they were voting on the proposals sponsored by the federal conciliator and the union leadership. The signal for beginning the general strike would have been the announcement of Goodyear Local’s vote to strike.

The National Guard would not be facing inexperienced and leaderless workers as they did in the “Little Steel” strike last spring.

Three years of militant strike struggle, three years of developing class-consciousness; three years of a growing militant and progressive leadership among the rank and file would have made Akron quite a different story than Youngstown.

Machinery and plans for a general strike have been developed by a permanent committee elected in the Central Labor Union. Although the labor split has ended this committee formally, its members are still active in the CIO council and the CLU.

A new chapter in labor history appears in the offing as company plans to announce more layoffs will again pose the question of a strike, the use of the National Guard, and the workers’ defense against military terror.

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