"Red Seas: Ferdinand Smith and Radical Black Sailors in the United States and Jamaica"

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syndicalist
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Jan 30 2012 04:41
"Red Seas: Ferdinand Smith and Radical Black Sailors in the United States and Jamaica"

"Red Seas: Ferdinand Smith and Radical Black Sailors in the United States and Jamaica" by Gerald Horne. Anyone ever read this book? I know that Horne has generally taken a sympathetic view towards the CPUSA or those sort of politics, at least.

I read this unflattering review a by the official historiographer of the Sailors Union of the Pacific (SUP):
Citation: Stephen Schwartz. Review of Horne, Gerald, Red Seas: Ferdinand Smith and Radical Black Sailors in the United States and Jamaica. H-HOAC, H-Net Reviews. January, 2008.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=14068

The SUP has generally been portayed as being "syndicalist" in orientation. Meaning direct actionist in orientation.
A number of Wobs have been dual carders and folks like the late Sam Dolgoff have viewed the SUP in a genarl favorable light.

Over the years I have heard criticism of the SUP as being craft oriented and racist. So my curiousity peaked, I started thumbing through a few books of mine, such as "Workers on the Waterfront: Seamen, Longshoremen, and Unionism in the 1930s" by Bruce Nelson and "Waterfront workers: new perspectives on race and class" Ed. by Calvin Winslow, but haven't come up with anything. That is, no dicussion of race and the SUP.

So, the search, in that regard, continues.

syndicalist
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May 10 2016 19:06

bump

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OliverTwister
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May 10 2016 19:59

I forget who, but at one point I read someone referring to them as the "Aryan Brotherhood of the Sea." The received wisdom that I've seen is that during the '30s and '40s, the National Maritime Union fought for integration on crews, but was less "wildcat" prone, while the SUP didn't touch integration and the members were more likely to wildcat.

Maybe there's an interesting parallel to Glaberman's observation in "Wartime Strikes" that black workers in the auto plants were busy creating their own forms of organization but weren't necessarily the first to start a walkout, while recently arrived white southerners were in fact quite militant on an individual basis.

I'm currently reading "Which Side Were You On", a history of the CP during WW2, and the author documents some instances where a majority of a white crew represented by the NMU were opposed to integration and the NMU forced them to accept it.

syndicalist
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May 10 2016 21:10

Seems like a "hackish" sympthetic CP perspective. Tho his stretch about a certain form of unionism leading to racism doesn't sit right with me. But the SUP really was out of an old K of L mold, not necc. an IWW one.

"The situation in the Sailors International Union/Sailors Union of the Pacific was arguably worse. Local democracy, job control, and anti-bureaucracy for the top leadership and numerous activists, steeped in the IWW tradition, meant in both theory and practice (and, of course, there were undoubtedly exceptions) the exclusion of African-American seamen from union ships. I am often amazed at reading accounts by older anti-Stalinists -- who participated in and supported this union -- who extol its greater militancy than the CP-led interracial National Maritime Union (with its many Black and Latino leaders), without mentioning the SIU's racism, viewing it as a minor glitch, or only raising it in passing. In the United States, as in South Africa (which under apartheid also had some very militant, democratic, white exclusionary unions), racial exclusion always trumps everything else."

“Union Democracy and the U.S. Labor Bureaucracy” -- Michael Goldfield
[from New Politics, vol. 7, no. 4 (new series), whole no. 28, Winter 2000]
http://nova.wpunj.edu/newpolitics/issue28/goldfi28.htm

syndicalist
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May 10 2016 21:18
OliverTwister wrote:
, I'm currently reading "Which Side Were You On", a history of the CP during WW2, and the author documents some instances where a majority of a white crew represented by the NMU were opposed to integration and the NMU forced them to accept it.

That's one book I'd eventually like to read. Partly becauise it also sets up the post-war narrative as to why many decent enough unionist bit the rait-baiting bait.

Yeah, I'bve heard that NMU story a few times as well. Also read it, but can't remember where, but it was from a CP-symp.... "The Kid from Hoboken"?

Stan Weir wrote about trying to organizer coastal tanker crews for the SUP in Richmond, CA. I recall him writing that the SUP guys assisnged to organize were on the segregationist side. Don't remember much more that that though, other then some stuff I'll prolly jumble up, so best leave it there.

Edit: In "War Time Strikes" Glaberman also notes that a number of wildcat strikes were racist wildcats against black workers.

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May 10 2016 21:56
syndicalist wrote:
Edit: In "War Time Strikes" Glaberman also notes that a number of wildcat strikes were racist wildcats against black workers.

Is that right? Admittedly it's been some years since I read it, but I do not recall that

edited to add: just skimmed over it again and can't see anything like at all

That said, the stuff about the maritime unions sounds really interesting. Would be great if anyone has any good articles/books they could post our history section

syndicalist
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May 10 2016 23:08
Steven. wrote:
syndicalist wrote:
Edit: In "War Time Strikes" Glaberman also notes that a number of wildcat strikes were racist wildcats against black workers.

Is that right? Admittedly it's been some years since I read it, but I do not recall that

edited to add: just skimmed over it again and can't see anything like at all

That said, the stuff about the maritime unions sounds really interesting. Would be great if anyone has any good articles/books they could post our history section

This is what I recall from reading it when it first came out. I'll have to look it over, but I distinctly recall it was i9n that book. But I could be wrong, no doubt.

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May 11 2016 08:18

Well in case it helps, here it is in our library: https://libcom.org/library/struggle-against-no-strike-pledge-uaw-during-...

Had a more detailed look through and still couldn't see anything like that. In the central section there is an itemised list of wildcat strikes, and none of them were for racist reasons (that said it is possible I missed something, or misremembered)

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May 11 2016 12:08

Don't know if Glaberman mentions it, but there were for sure a series of hate strikes in Detroit during WW2

http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2012/06/this-day-in-labor-history-ju...

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OliverTwister
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May 11 2016 12:16

There was a race riot in 1943 that ended with 34 people dead.

There is a history of hate strikes bleeding into race riots in the US, such as the 1905 Chicago Teamster strike or the 1919 St Louis strike.

ETA: Yeah, it looks like the 1943 race riots did start with a wildcat hate strike.

wikipedia wrote:
In June 1943, Packard Motor Car Company finally promoted three blacks to work next to whites in the assembly lines. In response, 25,000 whites walked off the job in a "hate" or wildcat strike at Packard, effectively slowing down the critical war production. Although whites had long worked with blacks in the same plant, many wanted control of certain jobs, and did not want to work right next to blacks. There was a physical confrontation at Edgewood Park. In this period, riots also broke out in Los Angeles, Mobile, Alabama and Beaumont, Texas, mostly at defense shipyard facilities.

The riot began on June 20, right after that strike.

syndicalist
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May 11 2016 12:47

Thanks Steve for the link. I'll take a look, but if you have, I respect you enough to take your word
Like I said, going from memory of a book I read more than 30 years ago
I stand corrected as need be

As others have written, hate wildcats did occur in auto (and elsewhere).
Now, going from memory again, I believe Glaberman mentions wildcats against woman going into "men's work". If not, for sure that occurred as well.

Again, thanks for the link Steve and clarifying remarks relative to the Glaberman work

syndicalist
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May 11 2016 12:49

Syndicalistcat and I were having a convo about the SUP and charges of racism
It would be interesting for someone to do (if one doesn't already exist) a study in West Coast maritime unionism and racism

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May 11 2016 22:13

Thanks for the additional info, guys.

That is absolutely awful…

Anyway back to the topic of the OP. Apologies for the derail

fnbrilll
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May 12 2016 11:09

Syndicalist:
iirc Weir goes into how Bridges/ILWU purged a great deal of the Black membership in the move to A and B cards in the 1950s.

I would also highly recommend "Which Side were You On" - Great stories. One that comes to mind is some NYC clothing factory, mostly jewish workers, day after Stalin-Hitler was announced, walking past the CPUSA paper sellers giving them the Heil Hitler as they passed.

syndicalist
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May 11 2016 23:40
fnbrilll wrote:
some NYC clothing factory, mostly jewish workers, day after Stalin-Hitler was announced, walking past the CPUSA paper sellers giving them the Heil Hitler as they passed.

Ja, i"ve heard or read about this before.

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May 11 2016 23:50

Peter Cole's book on the MTWIU in Philadelphia does talk about the racism of the AFL International Sailor's Union. SUP was their west coast affiliate. At that time there was an independent Spanish sailors union on the east coast shipping with about 5,000 members. IWW was trying to recruit this union, and did for awhile it seems. Cole describes an on-board debate between Jack Walsh and Manuel Rey (Rey was an anarcho-syndicalist with the independent union, later IWW) and an organizer for ISU. The ISU organizer uses racist language & basically says he wants only whites, and also is denigrating towards immigrants.

Schwartz says SUP never had a whites only rule & blames segregation of the crafts on the employers. That may be true, but did the SUP do anything about it? Probably not. Craft unionism would make this harder. Non-whites tended to be hired in as cooks & stewards & they had a separate craft union which was under CP influence in '30s-40s.

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OliverTwister
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May 12 2016 12:06
syndicalist wrote:
fnbrilll wrote:
some NYC clothing factory, mostly jewish workers, day after Stalin-Hitler was announced, walking past the CPUSA paper sellers giving them the Heil Hitler as they passed.

Ja, i"ve heard or read about this before.

I don't think it's in that book though. I'm reading it right now, I'm currently at 1944, and haven't seen any story like that.

syndicalist
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May 13 2016 15:08

Ok, I had a chance to locate the source where I read the Heil Hitler quote
The ex American CPer Melech Epstein wrote in "The Jew and Communism, 1919-1941"
I'll find the exact page and quote later. Epstein was a CP functionary deeply engaged with "Jewish work". ME may have been quoted in other books as well. But that's where I saw the actual written word. Tho have heard this from so old timers as well

EDIT: Although he went from leninism to right wing social democracy, Melech Epstein is an interesting character. A short autobio sketch can be found:

"PAGES FROM MY STORMY LIFE - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.. ......MELECHE PSTEIN P 129
Melech Epstein, onetime editor of the Communist-sponsored Freiheit, is not alone in having become convinced of "the complete ideological and moral bankruptcy of Communism," but, unlike many of those who underwent similar experiences, he has taken it upon himself to chart the course of his wandering into and out of Communist sympathies. ....His memories constitute, as he says, "the story of a generation." "

http://americanjewisharchives.org/publications/journal/PDF/1962_14_02_00...

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May 12 2016 19:26

the last hate strike to occur in USA that I know of was in 1968 in New York City. Plumbers of George Meany's home local wildcatted against a federal ruling that required them to accept as members five black plumbers. This was the only strike carried out by that union in the entire 20th century.

fnbrilll
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May 13 2016 03:39

Oliver: Page 35. 1993 edition.

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May 14 2016 05:31
fnbrilll wrote:
Oliver: Page 35. 1993 edition.

I stand corrected.