Search America's historic newspaper pages from 1789-1943 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the
National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. external link Learn more
Image provided by: Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, OH
Newspaper Page Text
SATURDAY, OCT. 30 th 1920
John Spargo On Trade Unions in Russia
By H. Garner.
We have no doubt all heard quite a lot of talk
about cooperation, at least I think all members of
craft unions have heard of cooperation between
the workers and the bosses. But it seems to me
the newest thing in the way of cooperation has
developed between John Spargo and the Pennsyl
vania Railroad Company.
For the benefit of those who do not know who
John Spargo is, I might say he was at one time
a "shining light" in the Socialist Party. He under
took to commit that party to the war program
of big business when America first entered the
universal slaughter, but the rank and file of the
organization, which was then composed of revolu
tionary workers, would not stand for it and they
kicked him out.
But now it seems he has found other work to
do. At any rate, we workers in the Pennsylvania
shops here in Logansport, Indiana were somewhat
surprised to be handed a pamphlet with John
Spargo's name to it. Yes, it was handed out by the
clerks right from the office.
The pamphlet is entitled "The Status of Trade
Unions in Soviet Russia, By John Spargo." In
this pamphlet John tells of the iron dictatorship
of the Communist Party, which is composed of the
most aggressive and intelligent workers, and how
the unions are made to do this and that and are
completely controlled by the "Militant Minor
ity" which makes up the party. He also tells how
membership in the unions is compulsory and that
the unions are required to furnish regular quotas
of soldiers to fight the counter-revolutionary at
tacks made on the Soviet Government and to repel
the foreign bandits who undertake to invade Rus
sia at the instigation of the Allies.
Two Kinds Of Compulsion.
This, according to Spargo, is a terrible infringe
ment on the liberties of the workers. He is opposed
to the theory of conscription unless it is applied in
the interests of the capitalist class which he now
upholds. For a worker to be shot to pieces for the
benefit of blood-sucking parasites, such as those
who engineered and profited by the great war, ii
"patriotism"; but when they are called out to
defend their own government it is "despotism",
according to Spargo, and makes of the unions
"police agencies and economic bureaus of the
Let us consider the change that has come over
Russia where the workers have take over the in
dustries and the state. There are men who have
never done any work, but who have lived by ex
ploiting the workers. These men must now become
workers. Naturally they oppose compulsory labor.
There are others who have always been workers,
but through ignorance oppose the new system.
Naturally, under such conditions, there must be
some kind of compulsion to take care of these
until such time as they become educated and con
vinced to the point where they are willing to do
their part of their own will. Now, if this compul
sion was ordered by one man, like a kaiser or a
czar, or by a small group of men like the American
capitalist class, I would call it all wrong". But in a
cuountry where the workers own the industries
and make their own laws, I, as a worker, think it
is 0. K.
Unions Now Use Compulsion.
1 think I can give a pretty good example of this
compulsion in the union shops in this country. For
instance, if the workers in a shop organize and
force a closed shop it means that any one working
in that shop must carry a union card. Along comes
a fellow who isn't class conscious and who
doesn't understand the necessity of the union. He
is compelled to join the union just the same or he
is not allowed to work. He joins the union and,
after being convinced that is the right thing, he
becomes just as determined to enforce that com
pulsion on the next fellow who comes along as any
of the other workers in the shop.
I don't think the pamphlet of Spargo's which
they handed to us had the desired effect, for most
of the workers who read it are too wise to fall for
any propaganda put out by the company, and they
merely laughed about it. But the joke of it was
that the real yellows got the idea that the Pennsyl
vaonio Railroad Company had turned Bolshevik
and was trying to convert them, too. So they re
fused to read it at all.