Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 4, 2013

Jim Zarichny on the lives and struggles of the working class

Filed under: revolutionary organizing,workers — louisproyect @ 3:21 pm

Jim Zarichny, who died last week at the age of 89, was a Marxmail subscriber from the late 90s and was still subscribed at the time of his death. Apparently he began to suffer from Alzheimer’s in recent years and was not able to be of much help to younger radicals trying to pull together a collection of his work. Fortunately his papers have been turned over to the University of Colorado but probably not his email messages to Marxmail that are among the jewels that made all the idiotic flame wars worth putting up with over close to 15 years. (The list was launched on May Day, 1998)

Today I am posting Zarichny’s reflections on the lives and struggles of autoworkers in Flint, Michigan and in the Ukraine. Tomorrow I will post about his involvement with the new left of the 1960s. Amazingly enough, this was a man who remained politically active over a 70 year period.

Going to International Workers Order (IWO) picnics in Flint, Michigan in the late 30s

The Coldwater Road Picnic Grounds

Shall we be slaves and work for wages?      It’s outrageous!

Somebody bought the picnic grounds located just outside the city of Flint where Coldwater Road dead-ended about an eighth of a mile from the Flint River. Some people said the grounds belonged to a Hungarian doctor. Others said it was a Macedonian businessman. Jimmy never did find out whose it was.

From Memorial Day until Labor Day, every Sunday would be reserved by some organization for its annual picnic.

A large variety of organizations held picnics there. Mostly, they were foreign language groups, primarily IWO lodges. The International Workers Order (IWO) was a Communist led fraternal society that offered cheap life insurance policies. There were ten or fifteen IWO lodges in Flint. The larger lodges were the Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian lodges. But there were smaller Serbian, Polish, Croatian, and other Slavic lodges. At its high point, the IWO had nine hundred members in Flint. Typically, the picnics lasted all Sunday afternoon and well into the evening. Usually, the picnics drew from fifty to a hundred fifty people.

The picnic grounds were fenced in. Usually, some one was at the gate collecting an admissions fee. It was three or four miles out of town, so one needed an automobile to get there. Near the parking lot was a large roofed open-air dance pavilion. Often, the sponsoring organization would hire an orchestra to play polka music for people to dance to. Nearby was a booth where beer and soda pop were sold. Very rarely did they sell hard liquor because a one day hard liquor license was much more expensive than a beer permit. Food was sold. Sometimes it was ethnic specialties, but more often ordinary foods such as hot dogs.

The picnics were important fundraisers for the organizations, which were always in need of funds, especially to support their newspapers. At that time there were about thirty pro-Communist foreign language newspapers published in America. None of them got enough money from subscriptions. The various IWO lodges were always sending money to the national office of their newspaper to keep it afloat.

Tom (my dad) would take his family to three, four, or five picnics every year. He always went to the Russian IWO picnic, the Macedonian picnic, and the picnic put on by the Flint Communist Party. He avoided the Ukrainian, Polish, and Hungarian picnics. Jimmy looked forward to the picnics. Sometimes he would talk with the other boys of junior high school age. He could not swim. And he didn’t think he wanted to join with them in swimming in the Flint River after he noticed raw sewage floating in it. Instead, Jimmy helped to scrounge the second growth scrub forest for dead logs and wood to keep the campfire burning.

In the evenings, sometimes the campfire would be dominated by the older folk who would sing traditional songs in their native language. But on other occasions, it would be dominated by the younger adults who sang labor songs and songs of Wobbly origin. Songs by Joe Hill were still popular. Probably the most popular song was sung to the tune of Red Wing. Red Wing was still widely known by the general public. The original song was a raunchy, sexist, Chauvinistic song about an Indian maid. But the new words were probably of Wobbly origin. They began

“Shall we be slaves and work for wages?         It’s outrageous!”

The words seemed to hit a deep chord in the hearts of the young autoworkers.

But the thing Jimmy enjoyed the most was listening to the conversations of the young auto workers. One conversation that left a particularly deep impression on him was about the attitudes of workers in the factory. The man talking had observed that immediately after the sit-down strikes, the workers had spoken of the union as “we”. But within eight months, after the bargaining procedure had been formalized, the union became “they”. The speaker was concerned about this because he felt it reflected a growing gap between the workers and their union. Over the years, this theme of the bureaucratization of the labor movement was returned to again and again in the concerns of the local Communists. Concerns about this became especially pronounced years later when the Union got a contract saying that the company would collect union dues through a check-off system. Before that, the shop steward had to go around and collect dues from every union member. In the course of doing that, he could hear the complaints of individual members. This was a channel through which communication flowed between the membership and the union leaders. The Communists were troubled by the fact that the dues check-off broke this link and the bureaucratization hardened, but they could not oppose the check-off because they had learned from their study of the IWW experience that one of the reasons for the IWW failure was its refusal to institutionalize itself.

A long running discussion centered on how to develop class awareness among the workers. It was obvious that the American working class lacked class-consciousness. The problem was how to crystallize the working class into an entity that acted in its own behalf. At the time, a big chunk of the Flint working class was newly newly proletarianized. Many of the local youth had taken off for California, and big chunks of the working class in the local General Motors factories were farm boys newly arrived in Flint. The most frequent discussion centered on the theme of how to change the working class from a class in itself to a class for itself. The most popular position was a “stages” theory, which might have originated with the full time Party organizer, Earl Reno. According to this theory, mass awareness would proceed in three stages. The first stage was trade union consciousness. Workers would learn that they needed a labor union, and they could only get it through strike action, an almost spontaneous form of class struggle. In this first stage the workers would learn that they needed their own organization in the factory to defend their interests. According to this theory, they first had to consolidate the union victory. Later, the union would have to take up the interests of the workers that existed outside of the factory. This would require the entry of the union into political activity. From this, the workers would learn that they were in conflict with the capitalist class over a wide range of issues, and from this would grow the second stage, class-consciousness. Over a longer period of time, workers would become aware that their problems could not be solved within the framework of capitalism. This would lead to the third stage, socialist consciousness. This is why the local Communists were so concerned about bureaucratization in the union because if there were a gap between the workers and their union, it would slow down the development of class-consciousness. The opposition to the stages theory ran along the lines that issues such as fascism, women’s rights, Negro liberation, etc. had to be taken up immediately, and could not be made to wait for the appropriate stage. The stages theory was the more popular and it seemed to make sense to Jimmy, who was deeply aware of the lack of class-consciousness among the children of the autoworkers in his junior high school.

The Russian IWO picnics were always well attended. After the strike, the Russian IWO had grown to fifty or sixty members. Not only did its members come, but also people from the general non-political Russian community. They came because they wanted to be among Russian speaking people and to take part in the singing of traditional Russian songs around the campfire. As at all of the picnics, some local Communists and a large number of people from the other ethnic groups came because they wanted a relaxing Sunday afternoon.

But Jimmy gradually became aware that one significant element in the Russian community never came. These were the members of the Russian Progressive Club. From his parents, he learned how this had come about.

Twenty years earlier, the Russian community in Flint warmly welcomed the Russian revolution. Most of them were newly arrived young immigrants. They had left Russia for economic reasons and they believed that the Revolution would improve economic conditions there. Most of them had a limited education and the word democracy was absent from their thinking. One of their greatest concerns was that their children were losing the Russian language and culture. They conceived the idea of building a Russian Cultural Center. This Center would have weekend classes in which their children would learn the Russian alphabet and to read Russian books. There would be music classes where the children would learn to play the bayan and the balalaika. The children would learn traditional Russian folk dances. There would be a meeting hall that could be used as a dance hall for older teen-age children. This vision inspired a large number of fund raising events. By the late twenties, they had a substantial sum of money, almost enough to build a decent building.

This was the period when the American Communist Party was trying to organize independent Communist led labor unions. At that time there was a substantial number of coal mines in Pennsylvania that had a predominantly immigrant work force. A Communist led union, the National Miners Union, tried to oust John L. Lewis’s union, the United Mine Workers of America. The National Miners Union called a strike, which turned out to be long and bitter. Many mines were closed for half a year by the strike. But strike funds ran out. Loyal strikers were on the verge of starvation. In desperation, the Communist leadership searched for every possible source of money. They appealed to the Russian Cultural Center of Flint to turn over its entire building fund to the strike support committee. This led to a long and bitter debate. The Communists organized and brought every possible supporter to the meeting. By a narrow margin, the organization voted to donate. In bitterness, the others left to form the Russian Progressive Club, an anarchist oriented organization. They were convinced the Communists had behaved in an unethical fashion and had betrayed the trust of the many people who had worked so hard as fundraisers. The victors evolved into the Russian IWO. It was not until World War II, when both groups supported Russian War Relief, that they ever talked to each other again.

Jimmy never thought about why his dad chose to go to the Macedonian picnics. Perhaps it was because Tom’s friend, Sidor Milnechuk, always went to them. Sidor was a Russian who worked along side him in Plant # 40 at the Buick. Sidor’s daughter was married to a Macedonian restaurant owner. Nor was it clear to Jimmy whether the Macedonians were an IWO lodge or some other organization. But the thing that Jimmy long remembered was the Macedonians bringing a butchered lamb to be skewered over the bon fire. After they roasted it, they cut it into pieces, put sauces on it, and sold it calling it “Shashlik.” Most of the Americans loved it, but Jimmy never tried it because it appeared unappetizing.

Over a long period of time, Jimmy pieced together a great deal of information about the Macedonian community in Flint. One of their key figures was Mrs. Evanoff. In the early years of the twentieth century, she still lived in the Balkans. Her father was an important figure in the Macedonian Orthodox Church. The region she lived in was still ruled by Turkey. Most of the Macedonian people wanted independence for their country and there were almost hopeless uprisings against the Turks. The extreme nationalists believed that everyone who was not an active supporter of their organization was a traitor. They assassinated Mrs. Evanoff’s father because he remained silent on the question of nationalism.

Shortly after World War I, many of the Macedonian nationalists as well as Mrs. Evanoff came to live in Flint. There, some Macedonians developed a uniquely Flint type of hot dog restaurant called the coney island. Before World War II, they were the most popular fast food places in the city. When Flint people asked the owners, “What country did you come from?” most of them replied “Greece.” That is how the mistaken notion developed that the coney islands were Greek restaurants.

Turkey was defeated in World War I, but Macedonia did not become independent. Earlier, it had been divided between Turkey and Greece. After the war, it was divided between Greece, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia. In the twenties, the Communist International declared its support for an independent Macedonia. It declared its support for taking the Macedonian lands from Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Greece and uniting them into an independent nation. The Flint Macedonians were impressed. The Macedonian business community became an important source of funds for the Flint Communist Party. Mrs. Evanoff joined the CP where she became a key leader, a post she held for a number of years in the late twenties.

At one of the picnics late in the summer of 1938, one of the older IWO people asked Jimmy, “Why don’t you join the Twentieth Century Youth Club? You’re starting senior high school this fall, and there’s a lot of high school kids there. They meet every Friday evening above McKeighan’s Drug Store on North Saginaw Street.” This was the first that Jimmy had ever heard of the Twentieth Century Youth Club.

Sorry about not replying to M.N. Ryutin earlier. But I was off list for a couple of days to do some more urgent things such as house cleaning and going to Denver for the demo. I regard the Denver march as successful. People were eight abreast for several blocks. As we walked thru the crowded shopping district, I saw no hostility from the people watching us and I believe they were impressed by the size of the demo..

Recollections of the Flint Sit-Down Strikes challenged by Jack Lieberman, a young Trotskyist

M.N. Rvutin says “The Democrat party was never a labor party.”

I had hoped from the context that I was making it clear that I was talking only about Michigan and not the national party. People first heard about Stanley Nowak when he was a UAW organizer at the Ford factory. He used his enormous popularity to run for the Michigan Senate. By 1947, he was the floor leader of the Democratic Party in the State Senate. His record leaves no doubt that he was following the agenda of the CIO and not of the business interests. As I said in the prior post, it was a de facto labor party. They were hampered by the ancient state constitution which gave rural areas more votes than urban areas and were forced to be the minority party. Eventually the U.S. Supreme Court in its one man-one vote decision declared the clause in the state constitution unconstitutional. But in 1948, the decision of some of the leading Democrats to leave the Democratic Party to support Henry Wallace undercut all of this. But vestiges of it appeared when Coleman Young, who I first met when he was a militant in the Civil Rights Congress, was elected Mayor of Detroit. I should also point out That George Crockett, who was later elected to the U.S. Congress was one of the people who worked on the brief in my appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

M.N. Rvutin goes on to say:

“The book by Art Preis, _Labor’s Giant Step_, is very, very clear on this. Preis details the measures taken by Democrats from Frances Perkins, the Roosevelt Secretary of Labor, on down, against the Flint sit-down strikers.”

Preis may know this, but I wonder why is it that none of the sit-down strikers that I talked to knew about it.

This reminds me of an incident that happened while I was working in Tallahassee about 40 years ago.

Some of the SDS kids asked me to give a talk on the sit-down strikes because I had attended many of the pep rallies in the Pengelly building auditorium during the strike. I was a junior high school student then. In the summer of 1937, I was the president of the Junior Union. In senior high school, I was treasurer of the CIO youth Club.

After I had been talking a while, a young YSA’er by the name of Jack Leiberman got up very angry.

“What you are saying is a lot of bull shit! I know the real facts and people who want to learn should follow me to the next room where I will explain what really happened!” He walked out followed by 4 or 5 others.

I had started my speech by describing Governor Frank Murphy as a deeply conflicted individual. At a gut level, his sympathies were with the underdog. After all, his grandfather had been an Irish revolutionary who was captured by the British and executed.

After one of the big battles in Flint between the local cops and strikers in which more than 20 people were hospitalized, Murphy was obliged to act. He sent the national guards. At first it was not clear what the guards were sent for. John L. Lewis made his dramatic speech.

In the end, Murphy opted for the position of “no violence”. The guards would form a physical barrier and not allow the conflicting forces to fight each other. The most decisive question was food. Murphy finally agreed to let food reach the strikers inside the Chevrolet factory. The Chevrolet factory was surrounded by the troops. Once the strikers had food, they could hold the plant forever. So Genera Motors capitulated. The anger of the G.M. stockholders was intense. On election eve in 1938, HUAC brought in Witnesses to swear that they knew Murphy was a Communist. This was the main headline in the Detroit Free Press on the morning of election day. Murphy lost.

One of the top officials in the Buick local was a pall bearer at my Dad’s funeral. When I visited the official at his office, I noticed that he had a wall labeled LABOR’S HEROES. Among the photos was one of Frank Murphy.

My brother, who was a skilled tradesman in Chevrolet was in local 659 which was heir to the sit -down strike ,gave me a copy of their 50th anniversary calendar. The caption underneath one photo reads”

“Sit-down strikers at Plant #4 receive food supplies under the supervision and protection of the Michigan National Guard.

Incidentally, as regards Radical Jack, many years later we met at a demo at the bicentennial celebrations in Philly, and the hard feelings evaporated.

Unemployment in Flint in the early 50s

In 1950 or 1951, a lot of people were laid off from the factories in Flint because the factories were being reconverted to war production for the Korean War. We got the UAW to sponsor unemployed organizing. We passed out leaflets at the unemployment compensation office. All the unemployed had to go there to register every week. The older workers still worked but the younger workers were laid off. Each UAW local had its own unemployed organization with a total of over 300 activists. But just before the lay-offs ended, the local morning newspaper began an intense red baiting campaign against me.

The Flint City Council was considering a resolution asking the State legislature to increase the inadequate weekly unemployment compensation. I came to City Hall late. It was jammed with unemployed. All standing room and seats were taken. I could not get inside, but the doors were open and I sat on the stairs outside where, because of the microphone, I could hear everything. I did not say a word.

The next morning, the headline in the morning newspaper, the Flint News-Advertiser screamed ZARICHNY AT CITY HALL LAST NIGHT. The whole story was a rehash of the events three years earlier at my trial by the State Senate Committee on Un-American Activities. We were called back to work the next week. Some of the former unemployed would no longer talk to me.

I realize that red baiting is now diminished, but I suspect that if needed, the media will find its equivalent.

McCarthyism at Michigan State

When I got out of the army after World War II, I went to Michigan State University. One day I passed out handbills on campus for an organization called American Youth for Democracy (AYD) that had originally formed under the inspiration of Earl Browder. Michigan State University reacted sharply. They charged me with unauthorized distribution of literature on campus and put me on disciplinary probation. (Actually, I was unaware of their rule against literature distribution.) The probation basically said I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t join anything; I couldn’t attend meetings. Somewhat later, the State Senate of the State of Michigan formed a Committee on Un-American Activities and I was subpoenaed as their first witness. I wound up with a 17 hour suspended sentence for contempt of the Senate of the State of Michigan. This resulted in my name in the banner headline of the front page of the Detroit Free Press as well as my photo being there. (The Detroit Free Press is the primary newspaper in Michigan.)

Still later, I attended a meeting off campus at which Carl Winter spoke. Carl Winter was the State Secretary of the CP in Michigan and he had been indicted under the Smith Act. The meeting was in the conference room of People’s Church across the street from campus and about 50 people attended . The local newspaper ran a story about the meeting and featured prominently the fact that I had been there. Michigan State University reacted sharply and expelled me for violating probation. Actually, when I had been placed on probation, I thought the probation meant I could not attend meetings on campus. I did not realize that it meant I could not attend meetings anyplace in the world.

The Civil Rights Congress took up my case, and it was appealed all the ways up to the US Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case. The Civil Rights Congress also formed a defense support committee on my behalf. As I look at their literature, I am impressed by the names listed. Among the signers are Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Dubois and Congressman Vito Marcantonio.

Eventually, I went to work in the Chevrolet factory in Flint, Michigan. In 1956, the level of political demoralization in Flint was so intense that nothing could be done there. I realized a totally fresh start was needed. I moved to New York to be able to start over again politically. A year later I decided that there was no future unless I returned to a university. So I enrolled in the school of General Studies at Columbia University so that I could study part time while I worked. I had to do this because the Veterans Administration had sent me a letter canceling my right to attend a university under the GI Bill. That is how I wound up among students a lot younger than myself.

Reflections on Genora Dollinger, Flint autoworkers, and the Democratic Party

In the pamphlet, STRIKING FLINT, on page 27, Genora Dollinger wrote:

“What else changed? Workers felt that they had the right to run for political office if they wanted to and they did. Many of the later legislative people in the state of Michigan and other political posts were either strikers themselves, if they were young enough , or the sons of former strikers. But the whole nature of the city changed.”

From reading the items submitted to this thread, it is clear that the majority disagree with Genora. They would say that she should not praise people who ran for office as Democratic Party people because in fact they were strengthening illusions in the Democratic Party.

But I agree with Genora. It was a period when, as the old song goes:

“When the union’ inspiration through the worker’s blood shall run,

There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun.”

My dad’s wages went up from 50 cents an hour to 75, cents, a fifty percent increase. In the new 40-hour workweek, he was making as much as in the old 60-hour workweek. The workers who had been doubters became believers. They trusted the union. When the Political Action Committee of the UAW endorsed Roger Townsend, an African American foundry worker at the Buick, he was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in a constituency that was 90 per cent white.

This was the period when Michigan elected McNamara, an official in the plumbers union, to the U.S. Senate. How often do we hear of a senator who is a union leader?

About two years after World War II, I was subpoenaed By the Callahan Committee, formally known as the Michigan State Senate Committee on un-American Activities. Of course, I refused to cooperate with the Committee because I believed it was not proper for the state to inquire about a person’s political beliefs. Senator Matthew Callahan demanded that I be cited for contempt. This was when Michigan was under the old state constitution, which organized the state Senate along geographical lines, and the urban areas were a permanent minority, so most of the state senators were Republicans. The floor leader of the Democratic Party was Stanley Nowak. He believed I was in the right and except for one man who abstained, all of the Democrats voted against citing me for contempt.

At the time of my trial for contempt of the State Senate, there was a tremendous outpouring of fellow students from Michigan State University. Half an hour before the trial, the fire marshal blocked off the entrance to the state capitol because the huge crowds were a fire hazard. At a time when the Hollywood 10 were serving a year in prison, I wound up with a 17 hour suspended sentence after I was convicted.

That fall, Stanley Nowak and two others of my key supporters left the Democratic Party to campaign as Progressive Party candidates and lost

The conclusion I drew from these experiences is that the sit down strikes were crucial. They created a situation where locally, the Democratic Party became a de facto Labor party. We don’t know if this can happen again on larger scale. But at the moment, it does not seem to be an area that we should worry about. At the moment, the places where our forces can be built are outside the framework of the two party system, such as for example, the peace movement.

I want to close with the statement that we should aim at building a broad movement. To do this, we will have to engage in more respectful debate. Instead of attacking individuals who we believe to be wrong, we should try to win them over by presenting a better view, and by explaining the shortcomings of the other view.

My brother was a skilled tradesman in a General Motors factory in Flint, Michigan.  About two decades ago, he told me about his local union’s negotiations for a supplemental contract covering the skilled trades. The union used the points given to veterans as a precedent for the demand to give extra points to historically deprived groups such as women and racial minorities. The company agreed. Before, there had been no Black women in the skilled trades. As a result of accumulating points as veterans, as women, and as African Americans, a number of Black women entered the skilled trades in the plant. There is the old saying about making lemonade out of lemons.

Retirement in the Ukraine, workers under socialism

Can workers be exploited in government run factories? Obviously. it is possible. The question is, did the workers in Soviet factories perceive themselves as exploited?

Before I comment, let me introduce myself.

I decided to retire when I reached the age of 65. At first, I moved to Western Massachusetts and enrolled in a couple of classes per semester in economics at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. I wanted to understand what bourgeois economists believed, and how the left critiqued those beliefs.

But in 1992, a friend pointed out that I could go to live in Ukraine. I had a minimal Ukrainian vocabulary from my childhood growing up in a Ukrainian speaking household in Michigan. It was perhaps no more than 3000 words. I did not even know the Ukrainian alphabet. So I began by enrolling in the intensive Ukrainian language program at Shevchenko University in Kiev for a year. Then I bought a condo in the city of Khmelnitsky in western Ukraine. I lived there from 1993 to the year 2000. My objective was to learn how ordinary people interpreted and reacted to Soviet rule. If at all possible, I wanted to put myself in their shoes and see things through their eyes.

Prior to going to Ukraine, I had met a Jewish student whose family had emigrated to Massachusetts from Kiev. His mother had an advanced degree in mathematics. In Kiev, she had worked in the price setting office. This was separate from the planning office. This office gathered information from every factory in the region: What quantity of goods was produced? How many hours of labor? How much did the various inputs such as raw materials, electricity, etc cost? From this information, they calculated a price that should be attached to the commodity. Prices were calculated by a small group of mathematicians. The market had no impact on prices. It took them about seven years to go thru all the factories in the Kiev region. At that point, they would start the process over again, recalculating prices.

After I got to Khmelnitsky, I visited the nearby village my mother left before the revolution. I was told that the late collective farm manager had been a relative. The village itself had been designated a model collective farm for the area. During the Breshnev period, the people were well paid. But the problem was the lack of commodities. Things that people wanted were not being produced in sufficient quantities. Nearly everyone had enough rubles to pay cash for a new automobile. But new automobiles did not exist in sufficient quantities. When you went to buy a car, you were placed on a waiting list and told it would take about seven years. But it actually took longer because people with a higher priority were inserted ahead of you. The same was true of telephones. Almost everybody that I talked to had had 8000 or 10000 rubles in a bank or hid under a mattress.

During my first year in Ukraine, I lived in Kiev in the graduate student dorm with the graduate students, the aspirante. I did not meet any graduate students that considered themselves Marxists. The only western Marxist that was ever mentioned was Alex Nove, the theoretician of market socialism. I was told that after Gorbachov came to power, he began to talk about market socialism, that the market should be given a role in setting prices. But the basic problem was that there was too much money chasing after too few goods, and inflation began under Gorbachov. After Ukraine became independent, the inflation galloped into hyperinflation. By the time I got to my mothers’ village, the inflationary process had wiped out everybodys savings. All of the villagers that I talked with believed that Gorbachov had set off the inflationary process and wiped out their life savings. They hated Gorbachov with a passion.

It was not only collective farmers that had huge savings, it was also factory workers in the cities. Based on the enormous savings that people had, I suspect that they did not feel exploited under Breshnev. But people were unhappy because they were denied access to certain stores. To enter certain stores they had to have documents that they were part of a group authorized to shop in the store. People without the documents could not enter certain stores that either had cheaper or higher quality goods.

At the other extreme, some poorly run collective farms paid part of their wages in fiat money issued by the collective farm. With the fiat money, they could only shop in the store owned by the collective farm. They could only use the fiat money in that store and nowhere else. I brought some fiat money back to America to show people.

After I had lived in Khmelnitsky for a while, people began telling me what had happened just before I arrived. There had been a major strike wave in Khmelnitsky. They told me that the strikes were to protest Communist exploitation. They claimed that surplus value was drained from the workers to support a parasite caste. As an example, they pointed to libraries in the factories, which had a librarian, and one or two assistant librarians. Since the libraries featured such books as the collected writings of Lenin or the collected writings of Breshnev, nobody actually used them. Another example was the Communist labor union, which was financed by deductions from the workers paycheck. Many people had cushy well paid jobs where they did no useful work. It was claimed that a full 25% of the work force consisted of such parasites and the demand was that they be fired. The strikers won.

Lenin had written favorably about the consumer cooperatives that had developed in Ukraine prior to the revolution. They had survived the entire Soviet period. When I arrived, they were on their last legs. All of them in the Khmelnitsky region were collapsing. With the hyperinflation, they had sold the goods for less than the price of replacements. None of the co-ops survived.

Among the older people, one could find a hatred for Hitler and fascism. But most younger people felt that Hitler and fascism were from a different era and had nothing to do with them.

2 Comments »

  1. You mention some young people putting together a collection of Jim Zarichny’s writings. I would like to know more. I had been helping him with his archive material.

    Comment by Dave Anderson — February 6, 2013 @ 2:43 am

  2. […] state senate, allowing the Democrats to function as a “de facto labor party” in the words of socialist Jim Zarichny. When Nowak left the Democrats after winning five elections to run as a […]

    Pingback by Dare to Win, Dare to Govern — August 21, 2013 @ 7:48 pm


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