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This website was created on occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Chrisler Wildcat Strike

July 8, 1968


 

Chrysler Wildcat Strike

1968 - 2018

50 Years Ago

 

Trump tweeted:

"After many decades of losing your jobs to other countries, you have waited long enough."

Workers, be vigilant ! Do not be fooled.

If the class enemy talks about "big news coming" then this means just the opposite, namely in practice nothing else than more exploitation, smaller wages, more unemployment, prolonged working hours, intensified working conditions and worsening social security.
It is exactly that what the auto workers actually experience:
"Freeze pension, wages, health care - They take everything our fathers fought for."


Workers, do not let demagogues set you against each other.
The auto workers around the world stick together and take actions of solidarity commonly.

Trump is a fascist demagogue who follows the traces of Hitler and Goebbels.

Never forget, what has become of the promises that Hitler once made to the workers?

Destruction of all that the working class has built up, a world sunk in the blood of the working masses. Deceiving the workers to make the rich even richer - first through the destruction of the world and then through the reconstruction of the world.
This massive further splitting of the world proletariat which is forced to compete its working force on the global labor market serves not the interests of the workers but the maximization of profit of the capitalists. This tactics of desolidarization of the auto workers all over the world is a declaration of war against proletarian internationalism.
Trump's chauvinistic lie is directed against the workers of the whole international auto industry !
Whoever attacks the autoworkers of other countries and those of the entire world, is not a friend of the auto workers in one's own country, but their enemy.

Trump represents the interests of the monopoly bourgeoisie of the USA in particular, and that of the world bourgeoisie, in general.
Trump is one of the worst enemies of the proletariat in the USA, in particular, and that of the whole world proletariat, in general.
This concerns especially to the automobile workers in the USA and to the automobile workers all over the world.

However, it is not only the capitalists of the auto industry against which the auto workers lead their class-struggle.
The owners of the auto industry, the financial and industrial capitalists, are backed by the imperialist States of America which is in the hands of the monopoly bourgeoisie led by Donald Trump.
The third class enemy of the auto workers that is the pro-capitalist UAW whose leaders have sworn allegiance to Trump:

UAW President Dennis Williams said the union favors (!) President Trump's plan for a 25% tariff on foreign cars. "The United Auto Workers Union is fully prepared to support" President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade policies .

“American Jobs for American Workers.”

This position can be called not other than a social-imperialist position. He is a criminal and must get what he deserves - fired !

Since when are the car workers better off if car capitalists are better off? The richer the rich - all the poorer the poor. That is another truth!
Are the car workers at fault for having transformed their Detroit from the richest city in the world into an American poorhouse?
The truth was wage dumping by outsourcing of auto plants in countries with cheaper wage slaveries. The capitalist motivation of making more money that was the true reason for leaving the Detroit car workers in the lurch and driving Detroit into ruin ! Not enough that the workers lost their job. Not only do you have to starve but also die of thirst after the waterworks have been privatized - now owned by profit makers.

These are facts, Mr. President. You are one of these profit makers and not a Samaritan of the workers, for whom you consider yourself.

Mr. President ! The imperialist American State, itself, the auto capitalists, themselves, and their lackeys of the UAW, they all together are in first line responsible that the workers lost their job for decades - and not the "evil car workers of other countries" ! You, of all people, as president, play the role as a "savior" of automobile workers. However, it is you who represent the brutal capitalist regime that has driven the auto workers to ruin.

Today there are about half a million trade unionists in the US auto industry. After all, a considerable potential force of the revolutionary class struggle. And the union members will give the right answer to the demagogy of a Trump. The only force Trump has to fear that is the working class. And rightly so!

And it was the fat bosses of the auto union who no longer led the workers into the fight, but instead made deals with the auto capitalists against the interests of the workers.

Corruption became a global desease. So Fiat bribed the bosses of the UAW. The union bosses have a luxurious life at the expense of their members.

Betrayal at American auto workers has also been practiced by the yellow reactionary international trade union federations. Instead of exercising the collective power of workers' solidarity, the International Federation of Automobile Workers functioned as a global strikebreaker and refused to help the American auto workers.

Even the reactionary unions do not come by themselves from the mess in which they have maneuvered themselves into it. It is not the workers who have the say in the leadership of the UAW. Instead, it is the labor aristocracy.

Auto workers can neither save nor reform their corrupted unions. They must be smashed and replaced by class-struggle unions of the RILU.

The auto capitalists want to smash the unions if they are leading the workers into the fight. More and more companies are forbidding workers to join the union - like at TESLA).
But workers must not only smash those unions that have betrayed their interests, but instead, at the same time build revolutionary unions that fight for workers' interests. That's the difference which the Union bosses deny when they attack vehemently the idea of upbuilding revolutionary unions.

Those who do not fight, have already lost their struggle. And that's for the imperialist unions in the US take full responsibility for the disaster. They are guilty of crimes against the workers. They betrayed the car workers, they did nothing when one after another had lost the job, and one factory after another was shut down with the help of the corrupted leaders of the UAW.

After capitalists worked for a century to create almost a quarter million manufacturing jobs in the Detroit area, government and unions were able to destroy 90% of those.

A certain part of the bourgeoisie of the USA propagates the "great achievements" of former "capitalist free market economy" [so called "Free Zone"]. By the way, these golden times where only produced by means of wage slavery in the auto plants!

Capitalism can not be reformed, can not pull itself out of the swamp into which it has sunk by its own guilty. These bourgeois dreamers forget that today's monopoly capitalism arose from "capitalist free market economy", and will come - according to its law of imperialist development - always up in the same situation like now. Only by working without under conditions of capitalism anymore, the car workers will have justified hope for coming better times.

The collapse of the globalized mode of production of auto-monopolies, the worldwide auto trade, the loss of millions of jobs, all this will not be stopped by "protective tariffs" and protectionism. On the contrary. This causes all the more the worsening of the living of the automobile workers all over the world and finally also in the USA.

The global competition in the auto industry is carried out on the backs of automobile workers. The competition has expanded today to the trade war. The punitive tariffs not only mean that the contradictions between capital and labor are deepened worldwide, but also that a car purchase is becoming more and more expensive for motorists everywhere. Overall, the auto capitalists weaken each other by their ruinous competition on the world market. And it is known that weakened auto capitalists are easier to fight than strong ones.
In today's era of globalization, one can not maintain the national viewpoint of the automotive industry in the US. Car workers, who put their national interests above the interests of car workers all over the world, have already lost their fight for their own interests. The automobile workers of all countries must start from their international situation, because the automobile industry, as well as the car workers, in individual countries depend on the world system of car production and car trade. The national automotive industry is no more a self-sufficient unit as in passed time. Today, the automobile worker must not only fight against the auto capitalists in his own country, but against the car capitalists around the world.
Therefore, the automobile worker can only change his miserable situation by his joining the battle front of all automotive workers around the world, namely commonly against all auto-capitalists of the world. The class enemy has become a global enemy, and therefore can only be beaten by globalized class struggle. Wage slavery can only be abolished in the globalized class struggle.

The globalized productive forces of the auto industry will lawfully free themselves from the shackles of the production relations.

The auto industry in the US is ripe for expropriation. The whole car industry in the world is ripe for expropriation.

The only way out is taking over the ownership of the whole auto production of the world and to put it into the hands of the united car workers around the world.

A proletarian revolution is necessary to rip the productive wealth of society from the capitalists and build a collectivized, planned economy where production is based on social need, not profit.

This is the reason why you have to fight for the world socialist revolution, for the dictatorship of the world proletariat.

 

 

July 8, 1968

Revolutionary Union Movement

In the 1960s, the unemployment rate for black people and youth in Detroit was sky-high. Working conditions in decrepit auto plants were horrendous. Tens of thousands of black workers in the plants were excluded from the skilled trades and trapped in the dirtiest, hottest, most backbreaking and dangerous jobs. The largely white UAW bureaucracy was hostile to its black membership. Racist foremen, speedup and industrial injuries were common.

Black workers felt most intensely the exploitation and alienation of autoworkers, and they led the way in newer struggles.

The Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) was an organization of African-American workers formed in May 1968 in the Chrysler Corporation's Dodge Main assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan. This new organization drew notice for its militancy and willingness to challenge the UAW hierarchy.
The "Revolutionary Union Movement" form of organization spread to other Detroit plants: including FRUM (Ford Revolutionary Union Movement) at the Ford River Rouge Plant, and ELRUM (Eldon Avenue Revolutionary Union Movement) at the Chrysler Eldon Avenue plant. These organizations were brought together in the League of Revolutionary Black Workers which formed in June 1969.

A May 1968 wildcat strike over speedup that involved both black and white workers resulted in racist disciplinary actions. In response, DRUM initiated a boycott of nearby racist bars, another three-day wildcat and a rally of 3,000 workers in the plant parking lot. During the initial picketing, the company sent out photographers who photographed some of the pickets. The pictures were used as evidence against some of the pickets and were instruments in the discharge and disciplining of certain workers who took part In the walkout and picketing.

The first issue of the DRUM newsletter dealt with the May 2nd wildcat strike. The second Issue carried an "expose" on several Blacks In the plant whom DRUM considered to be "uncle toms." The Issue also outlined the DRUM program.


DRUM is an organization of oppressed and exploited Black workers. It realizes that Black workers are the victims of inhumane slavery at the expense of white racist plant managers. It also realize that Black workers comprise 60% and upwards of the entire work force at Hamtramck Assembly Plant, and therefore hold exclusive power. We members of DRUM had no other alternative but to form an organization and to present a platform. The Union has consistently and systematically failed us time and time again. We have attempted to address our grievances to the U.A.W.'s procedures, but to no avail; Its hands are just as bloody as the white racist management of this corporation. We Black workers feel that if skilled trades can negotiate directly with the company and hold a separate contract, then Black workers have more justification for moving independently of the U.A.W.

The third Issue of DRUM dealt with charges and documentations of racist conditions in the plant and also attacked the UAW for endorsing the annual Detroit Police field day. It also listed a number of deaths attributed to the police department. After the third week Black workers in the plant began to ask how to go about joining DRUM. Members of DRUM working in the plant proselytized and recruited Black workers on the job. The strength and influence of DRUM grew tremendously.
Around the sixth week the more militant workers wanted to go for some concrete action against Chrysler and the UAW. At this point the editors of DRUM decided to test their strength. They called for a one-week boycott of two bare outside the gate that were patronized by a large number of brothers. The ban didn't hire Blacks and practiced racism in other subtle ways. DRUM received about 95% cooperation. This was achieved without the use of pickets or picket signs. As a further test of strength DRUM called for an extension of the boycott. Again DRUM received solid support so they decided to get down.

Seeing that the boycott was a success, DRUM decided to test its strength by showing Chrysler and the UAW it could shut down the plant. The ninth issue of the DRUM newsletter carried a list of 15 demands. The newsletter prepared the workers for the proposed strike.


DRUM demands:
1. DRUM demands 50 Black foremen.
2. DRUM demands 10 Black general foremen immediately.
3. DRUM demands 3 Black superintendents.
4. DRUM demands a Black plant manager.
5. DRUM demands that the majority of the employment office personnel be Black.
6. DRUM demands all Black doctors and 50% Black nurses In the medical centers at this plant.
7. DRUM demands that the medical policy at this plant be changed entirely.
8. DRUM demands that 50% of all plant protection guards be Black, and that every time a Black worker is removed from plant premises that he be led by a Black brother.
9. DRUM demands that all Black workers immediately stop paying union dues.
10. DRUM demands that two hours pay that goes into union dues be levied to the Black community to aid in self-determination for Black people.
11. DRUM demands that the double standard be eliminated and that a committee of the Black rank and file be set up to investigate all grievances against the corp., to find out what type of discipline is to be taken against Chrysler Corp. employees.
12. DRUM demands that all Black workers who have been fired an trumped up racist charges be brought back with all lost pay.
13. DRUM demands that our fellow Black brothers In South Africa working for Chrysler Corp. and its subsidiaries be paid at an equal scale as white racist co-workers.
14. DRUM also demands that a Black brother be appointed as head of the board of directors of Chrysler Corp.

In the ninth week of its existence, DRUM moved. On Thursday, July 7, 1968, DRUM held a rally in the parking lot across from the factory which attracted over 300 workers, After speeches from DRUM leaders, Black workers, along with a number of Black community groups and a conga band, formed a line and marched to the UAW Local 3 headquarters, two blocks away. DRUM had carefully planned the picketing to coincide with the union executive board meeting. When the workers arrived at the local, they proceeded into the building. The panic-stricken executive board immediately canceled their meeting and opened the union auditorium to listen to criticism aimed at the company and the union. DRUM leaders ran down how the union worked hand in-glove with the corporation, the union's failure to address itself to the workers' grievances, and DRUM's demands. Unsatisfied with the defense of the union's pro-capitalist line by Ed Liska, president of UAW Local 3, and Vice President Charles Brooks, DRUM stated it would close Dodge Main in defiance of the union contract.
On Friday, July 8, 1968, DRUM and supporting groups arrived at the plant gates at 5 a.m.. In order to be there when workers began arriving for the 6 a.m. shift.
Picket lines were set up and manned entirely by students, intellectuals, and community people. Workers were excluded. White workers were allowed to enter the factory without interference but all Blacks were stopped. No force was applied but verbal persuasion was sufficient to keep an estimated 70 percent of the Black workers out of the plant.

While the majority of white workers entered the factory, many honored the picket line and went home. Some 3,000 Black workers stood outside the factory gates as production came almost to a halt. About noon, six DRUM members went to Local 3 and met with Liska and other union officials. DRUM presented their grievances again.
About this time the police arrived, massing across the street from the workers. They began putting on tear gas masks and got into riot formation. A detective then came forward and ordered the workers to disperse. DRUM dispersed most of the strikers after organizing at least 250 workers into car pools. The car pool drove five miles to Chrysler headquarters in Highland Park. DRUM held another demonstration In front of Chrysler headquarters. The Highland Park police arrived with gas warfare gear. Many of the demonstrators had gas masks. A group of DRUM representatives went into the Chrysler building and demanded to see the policy makers. They refused to meet with DRUM. The DRUM representatives returned to the demonstration and said the company had refused to meet. Satisfied with having achieved its immediate objectives, DRUM transported the demonstrators back to their homes.

On Monday, the following day, DRUM again demonstrated at the plant. The Hamtramck police served John Doe injunctions on the demonstrators. The police proceeded to break up the demonstration. DRUM activists, feeling they had been successful, tore up their injunctions and either went to work or went home.
,blockquote>The wildcat lasted for three days and Chrysler lost the production of approximately 1900 cars. No one was fired as a result of this action and DRUM leadership considered the strike in overwhelming success.

Word of DRUM’s audacity spread. DRUM correctly called for rehiring fired workers and opening the skilled trades to blacks, opposed speedup and unsafe conditions and denounced the betrayals of the UAW tops.

“U.A.W. is scum/OUR THING IS DRUM!!!!”

It was the black workers, the most exploited workers, who stimulated some white workers to participate in job actions and oppose the official union leadership. The influence of the labor aristocracy was further advanced among the white workers than among the black workers. The black workers owned a higher class-consciousness than the white workers who were disappointed because of the poison of the reformist and revisionist ideology which was spread among them for decades. DRUM defended socialist positions and advocated the unified battle front of white and black workers.

Detroit in July 1967 was witness to one of the last, and bloodiest, of a series of ghetto rebellions sparked by racist police as well as job and housing discrimination. National Guardsmen and federal troops poured into Detroit as the inner city was turned into a war zone with tanks rumbling down the streets.
In 1968, when the wildcat strike began, about one-third of the UAW board was backed by Kennedy and another third supported by Johnson who sent his army not only to Vietnam but also for shooting down the striking black workers.

43 black people had been killed, hundreds injured and over 7,000 arrested.

It was a direct, shop-floor organization that was willing and able to call strikes in its own name and fight against both the union and the management in a struggle to assert the power of the working class in production. Chrysler labeled the strike extralegal instead of illegal. And the UAW bureaucracy was utterly hostile to DRUM. Union president Walter Reuther called DRUM "racist". Another UAW bureaucrat denounced them as "Black fascists."
In one incident, the UAW brought in gun-toting goons to intimidate the radicals, and repeatedly refused to defend the militants who were disciplined or fired by the company.

Thus the UAW was and still is a social-fascist organization: social in words and fascist in deeds.

In words the UAW was for the cival rights of the black people, but in deeds the UAW itself was the rascists who did not fight for equal rights among the members and at the working place.

And the Trotskyites?
They parroted the UAW and condemned DRUM as "nationalist". The Trotskyites built up a Chinese wall between the struggle against rascism and class- struggle. In their "purity" of class struggle of the workers, they denied the deep dialectical relationship with the anti-rascist struggle which is nothing but an important lever of class-struggle, namely to win allies of the working class from other layers and classes. Without allies of the working class the bourgeoisie and her apparatus of exploitation and oppression cannot be smashed. Herein lies the treachorous role of the Trotskyites - splitting the revolutionary front instead of uniting it. The relationship between the anti-rascist fight and the class-struggle is this: the class-struggle determines the anti-rascist struggle. The anti-rascist fight has to be subordinated to the class-struggle of the workers which is the decisive driving force towards the socialist revolution.

Rascism can not be abolished in the capitalist society. Rascism can only be abolished in the socialist scociety as the first stage of communism.

In a similar way as the Trotskyites, the Maoists carried their harmful pseudo-revolutionary influence into the whole black movement, starting especially in the end of the 60s and beginning 70's.

DRUM draw a demarcation line to the Black Panther Party which was not organized in the plants like DRUM was it.

In order to retain the focus on shop-floor organizing, several League members launched a Detroit branch of the Black Panther Party. This was an attempt to pre-empt the Panthers.
Where the Panthers saw themselves as a revolutionary elite that "served the people," the League cadre argued that it was the economic and social power of the Black workers themselves that would be decisive in the struggle for Black liberation. The Panthers looked to the alienated "boys on the block" as the revolutionary vanguard; the League made the traditional socialist case that a revolutionary party had to be rooted in the basic industries essential to modern capitalist production. Any wildcat strike supported by the majority of the plant's Black workforce could choke off production at Chrysler's assembly plants. If such actions were sustained and generalized, the entire U.S. economy would be affected.

While the League was getting more involved in the community and becoming recognized across the country as a Black revolutionary workers' organization, it was beginning to lose its base among Black workers within the plants.

Marxist-Leninist education among the black workers of the plants was missing.

A revolutionary movement which loses its basis of the workers in the plants is doomed to degenerate and fail. This happened also with DRUM.

The league itself split in 1971. Many members had been fired, and those who stayed often joined other currents in the union reform movement.
DRUM's main weakness was not being led by a Marxist-Leninist party. The DRUM organization was influenced by petty-bourgeois and bourgeois ideas that did not match with the ideas of the working class.
Some former leaders even ended up in leading positions of the UAW bureaucracy, while others ended up directly in the bourgeois camp.
Nevertheless, DRUM was one of the tremendous events for revolutionary developments in the United States.

The B (olshevik) group (Cockrel, Hamlin, Watson and Forman) felt the League should be turned into a Black Marxist-Leninist party. Essentially they viewed Black people as an oppressed minority exploited on both a race and a class basis. Their essential world view was that the Black worker was the most significant element In bringing about a revolution In this country. They felt that national oppression (race) would be eliminated through a socialist revolution. They believed in an integrated society after a socialist revolution.

Unfortunately, no revolutionary lessons have been drawn from the wildcat strike to date. On the contrary. The UAW is today more degenerated than ever in its history. One more reason to propagate red unions in the United States and initiate their creation through wildcat strikes and other union opposition activities.

 

Forward with the founding of a Section of RILU in the USA !

This is the most important lesson after 50 years of wildcat struggles in the auto industry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strike breakers get what they deserve !