Larry Jones Interview notes

Larry Jones

Labor History 27 (Spring 1986): 165-87
Rebirth of the United Automobile Workers: the General Motors Too and Diemakers' Strike of 1939 John Barnard

TAPE 1, SIDE 1

on left factionalism--today same hostiity between these two people
the sSPers genereally then went into cp or swp
sp not up to it !
agrees with Bully on SP!
SP had theory, highest motivations, most highly principled, word as good as their bond, but just didnt seem to have what was essential and what was necessary to do the organizing around here
PF: ref to Martov (135)
LJ: Proletarians had quite a large group here.  Good strong active union people.  Did not develop any leadership, but supplied strong grass roots suppport.
quite small, maybe 25 is top number, 20-25 I guess
LJ: not many native mich people 1925-35; chevy buick recruited a great number from south, Mo, Ark; also Minn
Chevy highest concetration of southerners, bigget turnover of southerners
members of PP here that I knew were not natives of Mich; farms of minn, mo, anglo saxoms
"almost invariably, the ones here) WASP  (300)
LJ: talkiing about the guiding lights of political parties
PPs: white angllo saxon prots, some from the south--include some of the part played by old IWW as well.  the more intelligent of the lot (the PPs) 8th to 12th grade ed at most; but very likely they had a head start in intellectual capacity; that is the only way I can describe the quick turn of being the liberal and being the progress as opposed to the others who came up here who were still living in the past century (528) so far as progress was concerned.  they recognized the boss and felt it was proper and right that they should obey the boss.


PF how may PP southerers
LJ probably split 50 - 50
LJ  almost invariably the PP from south very inteligent people . .  this was their trademark, being well-read . . . no question they were superior intellectually of most of the people who came up with them.
LJ  they were recruited by some Yankee
PF on Leo's influence literate discussions re freemasons, desire to grasp the best of civilization
LJ  I've asked a number of them in recent years as I run into many of these retirees, why how come, what possessed them to join the PP--answer was just had to be some better way to make the system work.  As they got into the club it did turn into a study club--one of the motivatons, a study club to find out what was the matter with the economy, the system, and how could they apply (784) that to this terrible working condition that they had here.
LJ started work 1928, doesnt know what came before 1928 re PP; after depression started groups like the PP became quite popular around here.
LJ re 2 PP brothers, both sitdowners in chevy 37.  both of em all through the years active in union, but here this is exactly what I've been trying to describe about them not being aggressive to the point of taking leadersip, both sitdowners, active all through the years, neither neve held or wanted to hold an office
PF  members of PP more oriented toweard the study group kind of thing than the ativistrs role that people like Simons and Devitt and Moore--these are 3 prominent CP that I know
LJ  I would (928) that descrives them here.
PF Emil Mazey was PP member
LJ  Emile Mazey and W. Reuther PP and SP at one time, but that didn't color his philosophy or his activities, in other words it was not a staying quality with him
PF  evidence WR closely involvd with CP for couple of years 174
LJ  Of course they all were closely involved with them to one degree or another at some stage.  If you became active in 1935 it was almost impossible to fail to be  to cooperate with them at some stage(?) of the game, because they were a very active group of people, and came up with some very very good ideas, and they were very energetic, and got outside leadership which any thinking person at the Flint level or the Detroit level would have to say these were good ideas and we'll adopt them, we'll suport them.  and in that sense a lot of the SPs, PPs and CPs  worked together very harmoniously on some things (1028)
PF did PPs continue s a group through early years of the union and into the early years of the forties?
LJ  I would say that they had died and withered away before WWII . . . WWII spelled their doom, because they were no longer an active group after 1940.

PF  in a way the union supplanted their function?
LJ  maybe that could have been, or maybe having such a smal group to begin with the natural decline of any group if you didn't supply it with new blood eventually it dies and that's what may have happened to them.  I would say the PPs that I know never did change their philospopy any, although they no longer belonged to an active group.
PF  it sound in a way that they were bypassed by the current of history
LJ  I think that's it, they were just not gung ho enough
PF  . . .
LJ one of the leading SPers here was the Johnson family old Carl Johnson.  The SPers were afflicted with somewhat the same disease that bothered the PPers here.  They were a very active group, they had a lot of good theory, they kept a steady group in the SP, they never did grow, as some of the other political parties did, maybe some of the other political parties would blossom and bloom . . . (?)
PF  you mean they supply good secondary leadeship but no primary leadership?
LJ  that was the story here, except from the SP came one of the most active women in the sitdown era, she was the leader of the womens' brigade, and she was married to the chairman of the strike strategy committee in Chevy plant 4 which went down .  At that time they were SPs, they later became SWPS.  her father in law Carl Johnson was an SPer for years and years until the day he died--he might have been the last SPer in Flint.(chuckles)  A fine fine man, had excellent ideas, I often thought the SP here in Flint certainly could be a twin for the PPs. 
PF  how many SPs ..
LJ  there wre more SPers than PPers.  It was always my impression that there were more PPers in Chevy manufacturing than was in any other plant.  But there were some SPs in every plant. (1292)
Some in Buick, some in AC, some in Fisher, some in Chevy.  The PP had their main strength in Fisher #1 and Cheverolet.  I doubt if there was single on in Buick, and at that time Buick was the biggest plant in Flint.  If we're talking about the thirties and forties Buick was the biggest one.  From Buick came fewer progressive union leaders.
PFthat's what Norm told me the leaders from Buick were generally conservative Catholics.
LJ  Right
PF so that every plant has itw own personality


LJ  Right.  This was always my impression too.  I think you'll get a straight a real clear picture, as Norm sees it, he'll tell you like it was.
PF  Norm is from Buick, you're from Chevy, Genske is from Fisher 1, in each plant
LJ  most solid info will come from  people in their own plant, because during ths period you want to recall that during the early middle thirties Norm as was I as was Bill Genski were in the plant.  Norm was not a staff member at this time, he was in the plant, so his knowldge as was mine too wil be mainly about his particular plant.  In later years when we got out circulated around you go different impression and learned different things.
PF  do you think there were maybe twice as namy SPs as PPs?
LJ  yes I would definitely say I had always been led to believe--one way or another--that there must be 35 - 50 SPers at one time  I'm talking about active.  PPs between 35-40
PF so the PPs manged to grow during the upsurge of the union?
LJ  at least they managed to maintain the membership that they had before.  The SPs did some organizing work around here as a result of the depression and there was any number of people I'm told, even business people in some cases, who supported the SP without being members, they agreed with their philosophy and they were disenchanted with the economy the way things were going, so they did support em without being actually members.
PF on ethnic composition of SP?
LJ  again, I would say it was the same thing.  they were white anglo saxoms. (1582)
PF  yankee vs southerner PP SP?
LJ  l thought the SPers I knew personally were from the north.  I really dont recall any active SPers who took the front and advocated socialism who was not a northerner.
LJ  the active SPers were the yankees.  for example, Carl Johnson came from South Dakota, Genora Dollinger ws born in Flint and she was recruited into SP by her father in law carl johnson (who was of norwegian backgroud) Carl Johnson could write very well and he liked to do it, and he was an honest and sincere guy who was a regular contributor to the local  [1750]


TAPE 1, SIDE 2

PF  genora dollinger, what was her ethnic religius bcg
LJ  I believe it was english, her maiden name was . . . probably english originally.  With repsepct to carl he used to have an article in the bimonthly local union paper, and he would deal very frankly with socialism.  Socialism is the cure for our aliments, whatever the ailment might have been.  And he was very frank.  He was a very good writer.  he has as a heading of his article . . . only more democracy will save deomicracy, and the way you get more democracy is by adoptng socialism. . . .  he did this in all his articles until he retired (1958) and he no doubt ws the last dues paying socalist party member in flint.
PF  could you go down a list of people with their backgrounds?  I dont care about their names, i'm interested in doing a study of the cultural roots of socialist movement here in flint.
LJ  Kermit married genora.  they were very proud of being socalists.  There was a doctor here in flint who never did say he was a socalist, but from all of his activities etc he was if not a dues payin member of the SP he certainly supported the socialists in practically everything.  He as a matter of fact treated strikers without pay and he was a good frind of a druggist here in flint, and when thse people who required medical attention couldnt pay for it and needed medicine also he worked with his friend the druggist and supplied medical supplies to these people.  These two were the only ones that I knew from the professsional area here that displayed any sympathy atl all. [184] They didnt try to hide the fact that they wre helping these peole.  I never heard them say that they were socialists or pp or anything, they wre just humanitarans.  but I drew my own conclusions of course.
PF  more on bcg of SP?  how many came from wisc and minn and dakotas

. . . .

488

488
IWW from south, very open, would quote big bill Haywood, were very proud of fact they were wobblies.  Ken Malone, a sitdowner, he came from southeast missouri--a man who had little formal education but a tremendously intelligent man, well-read, and he was a shop committeman and an exec bd member of local 659 for many years, and he contributed articles to the local union paper, and in his articles he would extoll the virtues  of the IWW.
PF even though the uaw was obviously here to stay and the wobblies were a thing of the past . . .
LJ  well he would try to show that if the uaw would adopt some of the philosophy of the iww then the uaw would be even better than it was.
PF  what was it that he suggested that the uaw adopt, what was his criticism?
LJ  one of the very first things that he propsed from the iww was the continuation--this when we started into 2 or 3 year contracts--the contnuation of one year contracts, all all the officers should be elected by rank and file vote, not convention delegates.  he advocated, long before the uaw started the drive for a pension,  he advocated the setting uup of pension fund for emplyees. [629]
One in which they drew a lot of flack ws the propsal that the uaw have members sitting the bd of directors of all the auto plants.  who ws not an intl officer! . . . .
. . . . .
PF  it sounds like they (IWW) wanted the uaw to remain as it was in its infancy, in 1937
LJ  Exactly!  that's it exctly.  (Ken Moll)  "the best contract which the uaw ever negotiated was the first one, which ws one page.  All suceeding contracts were enlarged, but they mostly told you what you couldnt do rather than what you could do"  That's too much of a simplification, becuse each suceeding contract did provide some improvements for the workers, but it was quite accurate to say that  [777] there were added things in their, corpiration priviledges you could say, that told you what you could not do too. . . . . .
LJ re number of IWW  " knew about at least five in chevy" who spoke quite openly about their affection for the IWW  They were independently, no queston about it.  showed by challenging the leadership many times on certain things.  the wobblies in chevy were vociferous in their fight against the no strike pledge just prior to WWII.  The no-strike pledge ws under discussion as early as 1940 in the UAW, and the wobblies and other groups as well, were probably the most vociferous ones at Chevrolet in denouncing the nos strike pledge . . .  then following the no strike pledge was this brainchild of phil murray's, equality of sacrifice, --part of it ws the no strike pledge.  Phil murray of course made a beliver out of walter reuther on this particular thing.  In the uaw convention at which this was first presented, which would have been the 1941 convention I believe, reuther had --although not pres of uaw at this time, he ws dir of gm dept, a vp of uaw, and he suggested, and r j thomas couldnt refuse [973] briinging in murray who ws pres of cio, and murray ws talking about equality of sacrifice and the no-strike pledge which was finally adopted by the uaw.  but the wobblies were very loud in their denuciaton of this.
PF  how well did you know these five guys?
LJ  very well.
. . . . . .
. . . . . .      IWW, SP, PP, SWP  
[1723]
END TAPE 1, SIDE 2