One of the largest strikes in U.S. history, the ‘Uprising of ’34’ in the textile industry, particularly in the South, was met with (not so) extraordinary violence and repression. Here, Labor Defender gives he details for the first three weeks of the strikes, including at least 14 murders of strikers, and the mobilization of nearly 100,000 National Guard troops to suppress the pickets.
‘Record of Terror in the Textile Strike’ from Labor Defender. Vol. 10 No. 9. October, 1934.
These Are the Facts as We Go to Press. Governor Green of Rhode Island, one of the richest mill owners in the state, doesn’t waste time or mince words. The strike is ruining his business and threatening his authority. He doesn’t go in for beating around the bush like the governors of the eight other states where the National Guard Is on the march against the picket lines.
Governor Green is a man of action. And he reads the papers, too. He saw how the red scare helped the bosses on the West Coast break the General Strike and he is following in the footsteps of Governor Merriam. The textile strike, now entering its third week, is marked by the greatest violence and terror. Below is a list of the brutal facts. At the very outset of the strike the International Labor Defense, nationally and in all the strike localities, issued statements to the strike committees offering defense to all arrested strikers.
In addition the I. L. D. has issued leaflets and pamphlets explaining the work of the I. L. D. to the strikers and giving advice on what to do when under arrest. So far all offers for complete or joint defense have been refused by U. T. W. officials. The I. L. D. however means to carry through its offer and everywhere throws all its forces and energies into defense of the textile strikers.
THESE ARE THE FACTS
GEORGIA: J.V. Blalock at Trion, Leon Carroll at Augusta, an unidentified picket at Augusta, Nat Brown at Goldsborough.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Lee Crawford, Thomas Yarborough, Ira Davis, Bill Knight, John Black (riddled by six bullets after he refused to budge from the picket lines), Claude Cannon, and two others at Honea Path.
RHODE ISLAND : Jude Courtemanche, age 19 , at Woonsocket, Charles Gorcynski at Central Falls.
GEORGIA: 20 at Trion, 3 at Augusta, 1 at Rome.
SOUTH CAROLINA: 50 at Honea Path, 20 at Greenville.
NORTH CAROLINA: 5 at Charlotte, several at Burlington, mother of five children struck with bayonets.
PENNSYLVANIA: 5 at Ephrata, 20 at Philadelphia, 7 at Lancaster.
CONNECTICUT: 15 at Danielson.
RHODE ISLAND: 5 at Saylesville seriously wounded·, 4 believed dying, 58 at Woonsocket, 1 strikers’ skull fractured by tear gas bomb, 1 woman, 73 years old , wounded in leg by tear gas bomb.
ALABAMA: 10 at Russellville, including Ike Robinson, A.F. of L. organizer, who was fired upon and warned to leave the state.
GEORGIA: 20 at Augusta, 2 in Atlanta, 4 in Macon, including J. Ralph Gay, U.T.W. organizer.
PENNSYLVANIA : 1 at Easton, for distributing leaflets on the picket line, released on pressure of workers, 9 at Philadelphia, 7 at Lancaster, 4 at Allentown.
MASSACHUSETTS: 3 at Lowell, 4 at Fall River, 3 of them girls on suspicion of being Communists.
OREGON: 12 at Portland.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: 1 at Nashua.
CONNECTICUT: 2 at West Haven, 2 Danielson, 7 at Bridgeport.
NORTH CAROLINA: 30 at High Point, 11 at Burlington, by military on charges of “forcible trespass”, 1 at Kannapolis, strike leader on charge of “inciting to riot.” 150 in rest of state.
RHODE ISLAND: 45 at Saylesville, 40 at Woonsocket,40 at Providence, on suspicion of being Communists, indefinite number in Blackstone Valley, on orders from the governor as suspected communists.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Entire National Guard on duty, 21 companies of infantry and cavalry under orders, 17 active, 4 idle. Governor issued proclamation ordering “all persons engaged in unlawful assemblage (meaning picketing) to retire peaceable” within 24 hours. 1,700 troops dispersed at strategic points throughout the state.
MASSACHUSETTS: Tear gas, pistols used by police at Fall River to disperse mass picketing of 10,000 strikers and sympathizers. Fire hose apparatus manned by scabs at South Barre used against pickets. Pickets at Dighton Mill met by 150 armed guards imported from New York and New Jersey. Picket lines smashed by police at Lawrence and Fitchburg. Entire National Guard mobilized; 13 companies of the 5th, 13th and 65th infantry regiments held in readiness at Fort Devens, with complete field equipments in addition to tear gas, masks, riot guns.
NORTH CAROLINA: Vigilante committee organized at Marion. 15 companies of infantry and cavalry under orders in Marlon and Concord. 500 armed deputies and 2 companies of state militia called out at Spindale. Entire National Guard mobilized. Governor summons 4,000 troops to Gastonia and additional troops to Albemarle, Shelby, Burlington.
RHODE ISLAND: Entire National Guard out. Governor reads riot act. Martial law declared in Saylesvllle and Woonsocket district. All Communists in state ordered arrested. American Legion at Central Falls sworn in as special officers. Nausea gas, hand grenades; guns used against strikers throughout state.
MAINE: Entire National Guard mobilized.
CONNECTICUT: Entire National Guard out. 1,500 soldiers under arms at Putnam, Danielson.
National Guard out in ALABAMA, MISSISSIPPI, GEORGIA. 10,000 troops on duty in strike zone. 15,000 armed deputies scattered through 500 Southern mill towns. Threat of Federal Troops used to break s trike imminent as we go to press.
Labor Defender was published monthly from 1926 until 1937 by the International Labor Defense (ILD), a Workers Party of America, and later Communist Party-led, non-partisan defense organization founded by James Cannon and William Haywood while in Moscow, 1925 to support prisoners of the class war, victims of racism and imperialism, and the struggle against fascism. It included, poetry, letters from prisoners, and was heavily illustrated with photos, images, and cartoons. Labor Defender was the central organ of the Scottsboro and Sacco and Vanzetti defense campaigns. Editors included T. J. O’ Flaherty, Max Shactman, Karl Reeve, J. Louis Engdahl, William L. Patterson, Sasha Small, and Sender Garlin.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/labordefender/1934/v10n09-oct-1934-orig-LD.pdf