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Vol. 77/No. 18      May 13, 2013

25, 50, and 75 Years Ago

May 13, 1988

Thousands of workers at the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, went on strike May 2. They are demanding wage increases, restoration of the banned Solidarity union, and the rehiring of all workers who were dismissed under martial law. About 25 Solidarity leaders have been arrested since the end of last month. Members of the union’s national executive commission have gone into hiding.

The Solidarity union was banned and martial law declared in Poland following widespread strikes, factory occupations, and protests by workers in 1982.

An estimated 3,000 of the 12,000 workers at the Lenin shipyard have occupied the grounds. The strike comes on the heels of other work stoppages throughout the country.

May 13, 1963

One of humanity’s great battles is taking place in Birmingham, Ala. Five weeks ago, for the first time in the history of the South’s steel city, Negroes there began exercising the right of peaceful protest against segregation by means of picket lines, sit-ins and marches. For five weeks the city officials of Birmingham — utilizing mass arrests, fire hoses and dogs — have shown the world that the elementary civil liberties such as free speech and assembly do not exist for Negroes in Birmingham.

Meanwhile the Kennedy administration persists in the ridiculous claim that the federal government doesn’t have the right to intervene in Birmingham because no federal court order is being violated.

May 14, 1938

The economic crisis, plunging deeper and without prospects of alleviation, automatically endangers the position of the trade unions and sternly imposes upon them a policy of preparedness for coming storms. [O]rganized and determined assaults of the employers to batter down wages and destroy the unions are on the order of the day.

In the newly formed organization in the big industries the problems are complicated by the inexperience of the workers and by the concentrated power of big capital arrayed against them.

Trade union democracy alone can provide the arena for the responsible discussion of these differences and the disciplined execution of majority decisions.  
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