Do Bert Harris as archetypal fascist patrimonial
|U of M Labor History Project: excerpts from on-line interviews
|H. KRAUS: He started putting out this wonderful letter that we had four or five issues...half a dozen, I don't remember exactly.
LEIGHTON: I wanted to ask you about that, too, as a matter of fact. And I'm glad you brought that up. The letters, of course, are now famous; I think we've run across some in the files. He apparently had tremendous, even in print...
H. KRAUS: Literary ability.
D. KRAUS: Literary ability. He was a beautiful speaker.
H. KRAUS: He was just fantastic! You know, he had a gift.
LEIGHTON: He could put people so at ease.
H. KRAUS: Oh, he had a gift. He was different from Bob Travis. I always conceived of the thing as just a gathering of...you could almost say genius, you know, organizational genius, and it had to be. But Bob had his own particular thing; Bob was never glib.
D. KRAUS: No.
H. KRAUS: He couldn't speak, you know.
D. KRAUS: And he couldn't write.
H. KRAUS: And I was his writing genius, you know. I'd have to write everything for him. (see Travis, Flint rept with Kraus notation upper right corner) But Mort just had it. Mort was self-taught, you know. He went into the mines very early and I don't think he had more than three or four years of school, you know. And he also taught himself how to play the piano, you know.
LEIGHTON: I was gonna say between music and voice, the Welsh always succeed.
H. KRAUS: He'd probably sit down for us and start picking out and start singing these old songs.
D. KRAUS: Well, he used to type with two fingers.
H. KRAUS: Two fingers.
D. KRAUS: And sure enough, right away the rebel picked 'em out.
H. KRAUS: No, but Mort had read all these people, you know, these old Socialists and Ingersoll.
D. KRAUS: Ingersoll.
H. KRAUS: I'd drive somewhere with him, you know, for hours and hours where he'd start quoting to me Ingersoll. He knew pages and pages.
LEIGHTON: That's a question that has come up with people we have interviewed. Colonel Bob Ingersoll. I know who he was. But I even got a copy of the old book, which now appears rather stilted, you know, to the modern day. But did you find that many of the more active and political people, at that time, now at the time of the strike, had read Ingersoll?
H. KRAUS: No, not too many. It was a little too early for them. These were younger people. You see Mort was already fifty years old when the thing started. And you know, ordinarily, heck, this was the end of a career, you know. If he hadn't been able to get into the work of organizing, I'm sure he couldn't have continued very much longer, you know. It was so exhausting. Of course, with the union came seniority and protection, so that old-timers worked. And old-timers were very important at the White Motors. This was the big thing at White Motors. This is what I learned, you know, there when I attached myself to him, that these were old guys there and Whites had developed that business, you know, that this is our big family. Of course, it didn't mean a damn thing after the Depression.
LEIGHTON: Except that they probably had a good core of skilled workers.
◉ H. KRAUS: Oh! And of course they were loyal to Mort. I was just flabbergasted how loyal they were to Mort, knowing his politics and all that, you know. Still they knew that, because for years he had persisted. And why the company let him stay on, I really don't know.
D. KRAUS: He liked Ingersoll and Debs. And he knew all...
H. KRAUS: There was a couple of other writers, you know, whose books were...even we, who were, after all we were twenty-five years younger; we didn't know some of these Socialist writers, you know. I forget them now, but I have notes of them somewhere. But he was wonderful. He had a gift of gab and funny thing is that the gift of gab has been picked up by his daughter.
D. KRAUS: Yes, Irma. She writes beautiful letters.
H. KRAUS: She writes letters that are just beautiful. We just...
D. KRAUS: I can't believe. We have no influence on her, but we've tried the worst way, that she should write. She should write for others more often, you know. But she won't do it; she's too lazy.
H. KRAUS: We save her letters; we've got all her letters. And her daughter, Jerel, also has the gift. But it's a wonderful gift. Mort, sometimes it was just beautiful to listen to him. And he just had the right thing to say, especially for the workers.
D. KRAUS: They just loved it; they loved him.
H. KRAUS: They were convinced, you know. I would try so hard to get to them. I also was using words.
LEIGHTON: How did he distribute the letters that he wrote to the workers in Flint before the strike when the town was such a diverse place?
H. KRAUS: By mail. After all, there were quite a number, you know. It's like Solidarity in Poland. A lot of people, good decent workers, you know, who had to drop out, or else it would mean their necks. And yet they continued to be interested, you know. Well, he could get five names here and three names there and pretty soon he built up a core that must have been a couple thousand names.
The other thing that we've gotten some information on, but we're a
little more curious about, is the notion that Martin and to some extent
Pieper were kind of jumping the gun, or they were being premature in
some of their actions.
H. KRAUS: Well, it was more than that. This was pure stool-pigeon work, absolutely. We would call Pieper a stool pigeon to his face and he would just giggle. Well, just look. You're planning to fight the most powerful organization in the country. Everything depends on it. So does that mean that you just want to strike here or strike there or any old plant? No, it was figured out. This was the whole business of selection and not spontaneity. It had to be basic, the most important plants, at least two or three of them. And of course, the Fisher plants, the two of them, Cleveland and Fisher 1. That was just glorious that we had those two together. We didn't strike Buick or Chevy. We would have had to if it was going to be a protracted strike and we realized it. That's why Chevy came on the schedule, because we felt that our strike was getting weaker and weaker. But with those two Fisher plants, well, all right, we had chosen them because of circumstances that didn't seem to fit. But, my god, we weren't ready!
MEYER: So the critical thing, as far as the plan went, was that plants get struck in certain order. That had to be the Flint and Cleveland plants.
H. KRAUS: Always at a certain time when they're strong enough to be able to win, as you see. And as it turned out, that's exactly what happened in both of them, especially in Fisher 1. Of course, we weren't as much scared of Cleveland, because there was a wonderful gang of guys there already.
LEIGHTON: We interviewed some.
H. KRAUS: We were sure that they would be able to carry the ball when the time came; and they did. Of course, Mort was always in touch with them, too.
LEIGHTON: That was the Coit Road Fisher Body plant.
H. KRAUS & D. KRAUS: Coit Road.
LEIGHTON: I remember that. I don't remember the strike, but I remember the plant.
H. KRAUS: Of course, we don't know what they've developed since then, what kind of plants they have, because we've lost contact. But so here you're planning this thing. And you know you need three, four months, something like that, you know. And you need other things that pop here and there. And all of a sudden this imbecile, as they said, this Pieper pulls off this strike in Atlanta, a meaningless plant, meaningless. How would you figure it? He was trying to precipitate the thing, because then he came, and of course, Homer Martin taking the lead, "we're gonna strike every goddamn plant in General Motors." They're going to strike at every goddamn plant. They had two members here and five members there, you know. And running around the country and making these statements and poor Frank Winn, our public relations man, having to deny it. The newspaper guys would call up and you would get calls from the New York Times, asking "when is the strike taking place; do you know which ones will come first?" and so on.
MEYER: So, even at that point, the united front in operational terms wasn't really working.
H. KRAUS: Well, that kind of united front, yes, of course. It was the united front, let us say, well, this is of course one of the things that made it so difficult. It was the united front up until the election at South Bend. After that, it was the united front, you know, smiles, but, you know, actually hiding a dagger. With anything that I would do, Martin was always trying to get rid of me, get me fired. Even during the strike, when I was up there doing this crucial work up there. What was more important than the Flint strike at that time? Because I didn't put the international journal out, you know. At that time I was putting out the Flint paper every day or every two days. So he was going to, well, he says to the board, "Well, Henry is too busy; I think we'll put somebody else in there in his place." I mean, that sort of thing. But it wasn't only that, but look what they did with Mort, what he did with Mort, removing him from there when he had gotten the thing started already.
LEIGHTON: Just two months before.
H. KRAUS: Yes. Mort never would have gone if it hadn't been for the fact that he agreed to Bob. Well, they thought Bob was in their corner.
D. KRAUS: Young and naive, you know.
MEYER: So they miscalculated on Travis?
H. KRAUS: Oh yes.
D. KRAUS: Oh sure, definitely.
H. KRAUS: They thought...Pieper, you know, thought, oh, well, I can take care of that...
D. KRAUS: Boy.
H. KRAUS: Young fool, you know.
LEIGHTON: Bob had known Mortimer for two years or three.
H. KRAUS: Listen, Bob came to Cleveland right after. Listen, we were in touch with him during the Toledo strike in April 1935, and Mort went there several times. I went there with a whole group of leaders of the locals. And we'd make speeches and brought money. And then after the strike, I didn't meet Bob at that time. But after the strike he and Kenny Roberts came to Cleveland to meet us. He came to the house on Euclid and had dinner, you know. Wonderful! We all, oh god, because we'd been hearing about him and he'd been hearing about us, so there was no question. Oh, no, no, no, we knew Bob and we knew where he stood. There was no problem about that. That's why when Mort said, "Okay, I'll leave, just to keep peace in the family, but only if Bob Travis takes my place." That was great. Nobody else wanted to be. Yes, Pieper would have liked it.
D. KRAUS: Sure.
H. KRAUS: Then he could have sold the whole thing out.
D. KRAUS: In no time.
H. KRAUS: Without any trouble at all.
MEYER: Was there ever any attempt to pull Pieper...?
H. KRAUS: Well, later on, you see, after the strike, after the victory. That was another thing, and then you had to keep on re-winning the victory. But Pieper was sent up when Bob was removed. Pieper was sent up there to take over, he and a committee, I forget--a couple of others. But Pieper was, I forget what they called him, given sort of a control of the local by Homer Martin.
LEIGHTON: Now both of you mentioned that you went up to Flint several times.
H. KRAUS: Oh, yes.
LEIGHTON: Had you gone up there before Mort went up or was it only after Mort went up?
H. KRAUS: No, no, no.
LEIGHTON: I think he went up in June of '36.
D. KRAUS: Mort was the first.
LEIGHTON: And when you went up there, of course you just paid visits until, you moved up there when, in October, when Bob went?
H. KRAUS: Well, no, we never moved up to Flint until I lost the job, my job as editor of the Auto Worker.
LEIGHTON: Where did you put out the Flint Auto Worker? In Detroit?
H. KRAUS: No, no, in Flint. I would do double duty. See, Bob would have to get the stuff because I had representatives, little editors, little writers, in every local. That's when I had this CPO guy, Glen Shattuck, and he would prepare stuff and others would prepare stuff and so on. Of course, I didn't know. I'd just take it and put it together and I never stayed more than two days, if I stayed that much.
D. KRAUS: We didn't dare.
H. KRAUS: Working day and night and put it out and then come back.
LEIGHTON: When you started going up there to Flint, did Mortimer or later Bob or even Bud Simons or any of these people talk to you about the united front, the actual putting together of the united front in Flint? They did do it. They got together and apparently there was a meeting of the various parties, representatives from the various parties.
H. KRAUS: That I never knew about. I don't even know if it took place.
LEIGHTON: Okay, I just wondered. Our information is sketchy on that. As far as we know, it took place at a fellow named John West's house. They sat down and they buried the hatchet.
MEYER: Wasn't it around October?
H. KRAUS: Oh, later, yes. When Bob was there, Mort was no longer there. That may have been. I don't remember it. Obviously I wasn't even involved in that.
LEIGHTON: They kind of buried the hatchet, all but the CPO.
H. KRAUS: All but the CPO.
LEIGHTON: But there were individuals, CPO, who like Shattuck and Tom Klasey and others, who participated very strongly.
H. KRAUS: Well, this is news to me. I didn't know.
LEIGHTON: I just wondered if you did, because we've only got it from one or two sources.
H. KRAUS: See, we were busy, remember. We had the Midland Steel strike and we had the Kelsey-Hayes strike. And I had other things to do, too. Because when these strikes hit, I was there. The paper came...
D. KRAUS: Oh, you worked on the paper!
H. KRAUS: From midnight to eight o'clock in the morning, you know. And it was pretty hard to do it. I had no assistance. I didn't type myself yet and I had no secretary or anything. And believe me, it was tough.
MEYER: Since you were telling about using material in your paper that you got from the plants, do you have any particular impressions now what the Flint workers were like when running the plant, in terms of their political abilities or their organizing sense?
H. KRAUS: I just know that we would meet. Well, Dorothy wouldn't come up because it was too rushed. I did meet people like Bud Simons and what was his name, this guy that died? No, I didn't meet the CPO group at first, but the group from Fisher 1 I did know.
LEIGHTON: Walter Moore and Joe Devitt, Jay Green.
H. KRAUS: And I thought these guys are terrific, you know, marvelous. They knew, you know. All you had to do...they were way ahead, the plans and so on. I sat in on a couple of meetings when they would come after work, you know. And my god, they would start telling about what was taking place and how the workers were beginning to hop. It was really fantastic, you know. It was a just a joy, because I didn't think it was possible that the thing was developing and it was getting so hot. And it did, you know. Of course, without them, it never would have happened.
LEIGHTON: Was that just primarily Fisher 1 or did you find this same type of thing going on in other plants as well?
H. KRAUS & D. KRAUS: Fisher 1.
LEIGHTON: Just Fisher 1.
H. KRAUS: See, this is another thing, you know. Chevy was way behind. Chevy was saddled by a bunch of stool pigeons and it didn't have nearly the...it didn't have anybody like this...no group like this. It had a few people.
KRAUS: But generally I would say politically, even when I came down to
Flint, the people, the women especially, didn't know a thing about what
was going on in the country and what was going on in the world, even
less. They didn't know about Spain. They didn't know anything,
except these few individuals like we just mentioned, you know.
H. KRAUS: Who knew too much. I mean they were way beyond their own.
D. KRAUS: America was their country, the American flag was their flag; they are the best! They didn't know anything about anything else, absolutely.
LEIGHTON: Do you think this was largely due to their isolation?
D. KRAUS: We found one thing. I used to go around to the homes, and I never saw a book in any of these homes, except the Bible.
H. KRAUS: Well, the Bible, the Bible you'd see.
D. KRAUS: All right. I'd see a couple of magazines, children's magazines, you know, these comics of that time already, but never any books. There was no such thing as a bookcase.
H. KRAUS: Listen, I had to argue with the guys about the organization that hired stoolpigeons, Pinkertons. They thought "Pinkertons," gee, these are heroes. I learned that when I'd say, "Well, the guys are Pinkertons." "Well, what's wrong with that?"
LEIGHTON: I wanted to ask you. Earlier you had mentioned this as kind of an aside, but I think it's on the money. At this point in time, when you come to Flint and leading up to the strike even when Bob comes here, one of the problems that strike leaders and politically conscious ran into was, of course, the Black Legion. And you mentioned a fellow named Dayton Dean, who confessed to killing a black.
H. KRAUS: That's all in the record. Oh, you find all of that in the newspaper.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned the story was squelched to some degree. But it helped the strike leadership in Flint.
H. KRAUS: Yes, you see, because there was no doubt that there were Black Legionnaires there, especially in Fisher 1. This is isn't a contradiction. And guys that really had quite a following and it's a wonder that they didn't kill Bob or a couple of his friends. Some had been killed.
LEIGHTON: Was there much of that in Flint, killing?
H. KRAUS: Yes, in the previous period; not during our period, no. Just beatings up and so on. But in the previous period, I'm sure they're on the record and so these guys, especially this one guy...what was he?
LEIGHTON: There was one, as I understand it, who was even put on the strike committee. Is that the one you are thinking of? A fellow named Bert Harris?
H. KRAUS: Bert Harris, yes.
D. KRAUS: Sure.
LEIGHTON: He was on the strike committee at Fisher 1. But they knew who he was. They put him there to keep an eye on him.
H. KRAUS: But when Bud spoke to him, I'm sure Bud put it into his interview. He said, "I want you to be with us, Bert Harris. You've got a real gang here, you know. You've got a lot of support." He said, "Sure, how much is in it for me?" He wanted to be paid. Bud said, "Listen, I'm not getting a penny. I'm risking everything, my whole life." You know, but eventually, he was glad to get on the committee. He was afraid, you know, and besides he undoubtedly got his orders.
D. KRAUS: And he got paid, finally.
H. KRAUS: But we had a number of evidences of Black Legion activity, but you see, we ourselves up in Flint, we didn't have enough time. Because once the union was on the way, well, they just wrote over all of that, you know.
LEIGHTON: I was gonna say, you talked about evidence of the Black Legion, but did you ever come across anything where it was fairly solid, obviously not a signed statement, that the Legion was used by the corporation?
KRAUS: Well, there's this thing. Don't I tell about it in the book where there's some vicious floor lady who...?
LEIGHTON: Nellie Thomas.
D. KRAUS: Nellie, sure.
LEIGHTON: She made the robes, yes.
D. KRAUS: Sure.
H. KRAUS: I think that's a beautiful tie-in. That was certainly true. But otherwise, other than that, no nothing cut and dried.
LEIGHTON: They were used as vigilantes.
H. KRAUS: I'm sure you know you could find, there must be all kinds of that under the Freedom of...
LEIGHTON: Information Act.
H. KRAUS: There must be stuff like that. The thing that was so wonderful is I was able...one of the guys picked it up, you know. They would go around the desk once they sat down or sat in, and they'd find things. And they found this stool pigeon report, you know, that I had written. Well, I appropriated it, I think. He gave it to me and I used it in the book, I think. I should have done a photostat of it in the book.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned the Legion was neutralized. That was largely because the strike just grew?
H. KRAUS: Well, besides that, no. It was neutralized because of what took place beforehand. See, there were several things that took place even before there was a strike, even before there was a union. One of them was this big expose of Dayton Dean, who admitted having killed. Now how the hell it happened that this guy admitted, you know, confessed, it's just one of those miracles. And he confessed that he had killed this Negro and then other stories popped. And this became so notorious. It was really...the press was full and everybody, the whole state and the country; it really was a national issue.
LEIGHTON: He killed this fellow and left him outside of Flint or something like that, wasn't it?
H. KRAUS: He killed...they would get together and I think they said, "You know, I'd like to get me a nigger. I'd like to kill a nigger. Wouldn't you guys like to kill a nigger?" And they were talking it over! They were drinking, you know. And there was this black worker who had a girlfriend. Perfect, you know. It was out of town and so on and so forth and they actually killed him. Well, that broke, and really after that, you know, this created such a havoc that these guys had a tale, you know, and hide. So for several months, you know, it was fine. ✺ It cleared the things for us. Just as the election of Murphy was so important, you know, a number of these things, just as the LaFollette Committee coming into town. And these guys were all hep; they were all, you know, left-wingers themselves and knew the score and they worked with us and we would tell them, you know. Of course, they had such brilliant ideas, you know.
D. KRAUS: Also on the...I've often thought about it; I don't have any proof on it. But, you see, everything was surprise. Actually the union coming in there was a surprise to everybody around there, the political situation and the company especially. And they didn't know who to use first, whether they were to use the stool pigeons only, the KKK or some of their own union members, that is, the company union...
|H. KRAUS: Or whether they could trust them.
D. KRAUS: Or whether they could trust them, you. They really were caught, you know. It was...everything was happening too fast for them to think out. Now if they had thought it out, maybe they would have used KKK, you know.
H. KRAUS: Well, they couldn't; they couldn't anymore. They used this big thing, you know, this big meeting you know. What was it? The Alliance, Flint Alliance.
LEIGHTON: The Flint Alliance had a big rally in the IMA.
H. KRAUS: That's something else. They tried that, but it didn't work. It didn't work, because by that time we were too damn smart for them. Too smart for them and we really knew how to answer, and we did. But I was thinking about, you know, this business of they themselves being overwhelmed. Well, they have no experience, themselves, either. And what was his name, Joseph...
LEIGHTON: Joseph Joseph, the Prosecuting Attorney?
H. KRAUS: Yes, yes. Well, we once were there, Bob and, let's see, Roy and myself. And we were talking to him, and Bob said, "Well, you know, we're just a bunch of workers," you know he's saying to him. "My god, you know, when can we get you out of our hair," you know. So Bob said, "Well, we're just a bunch of workers, poor workers; we don't know anything." He said, "Listen, I wish we had one guy like you on our side!" (All laugh hilariously!)
D. KRAUS: And I don't mean maybe, either.
MEYER: You were referring a moment ago to some of the ideas the LaFollette people brought into the town. Is that what you were talking about?
H. KRAUS: The LaFollette? Well, the ideas how they worked to expose these stool pigeons; and they used everything. They were just so god damned cocky, you know. They would go to these big companies. It didn't mean a thing. They'd go to a Pinkerton, they'd go to the General Motors and they'd just...
D. KRAUS: Took chances.
H. KRAUS: And they had big papers, you know, stamped and all the rest of it, you know: "U.S. Government," which they were, which they were!
MEYER: Like old friends.
KRAUS: And a lot of them were just scared. Well, yes, okay, you
know. This wonderful thing that must have been Charlie Kramer,
Kramer's idea of getting to the phone bills of some of these guys,
these stool pigeons.
D. KRAUS: Oh, you don't know about that?
H. KRAUS: I mentioned it in the book. But because he felt that, you know, they registered the phone numbers that were called and the corporation's auxiliary was stupid. They told the guys they could "call from your home," you know. And call the corporation's auxiliary man in Detroit, unless he was there and get his report hot, you know. And then he would call them and my god, Charlie Kramer went in and said, "I'm...(what do they say when you demand?)
D. KRAUS: Request?
H. KRAUS: Not a request. You did something...
LEIGHTON: Like demand your records or something?
H. KRAUS: No it's an official act.
H. KRAUS: I'm subpoenaing all your" (what do you call it?...he didn't say who it was, you know). He said, "The following numbers." And a lot of them would just fake, you know. So they'd give them. And there, I think, Dick Adland, who was a stool pigeon in a corporation, his name he had a half a dozen places where he had called the corporation's auxiliary.
D. KRAUS: LaDuke, Charlie, not Charlie. What was his name?
H. KRAUS: Not Charlie Dubuc. No, no he was a Pinkerton and Pinkerton was smart.
H. KRAUS: Frenchy Dubuc. No, they were too smart. They had 'em call from the outside, from an outside phone. Well, later on, when we exposed him, you know, Bob did it so brilliantly.
D. KRAUS: Now go ahead, fire the questions.
H. KRAUS: Well, this is the sort of thing you wanted, then.
LEIGHTON: Oh, sure, 'cause this fills in a lot of the gaps that we had.
MEYER: What we might want to do is move ahead of the post-strike, and then pick up.
H. KRAUS: Post-strike, wasn't it?
|LEIGHTON: You mentioned before that the French sit-down was the key to changing the strike leaders' ideas.
H. KRAUS: Our ideas.
D. KRAUS: Our ideas.
H. KRAUS: We were really ahead of the...
LEIGHTON: And that you knew that you had some strength in Flint and the Cleveland Fisher Plant and Mortimer chose Flint and all that. Was there the French, the sit-downs, of course constantly we're interested in, and why the choice of the sit-down? Had it proved so successful in the French thing? And then of course, the year before you had it in Akron.
H. KRAUS: Well, no, that's not the question. Akron was all right. But the French sit-downs also inspired Akron. The whole idea of the sit-down is the fact that you were exposed if you held the usual strike. The strikes were illegal. You couldn't strike in Michigan, you know. So that's one thing. Besides that, there's the question of violence. You strike. You have a picket line. They'll break it up one way or another and arrest the people, and they'll be all kinds of ultimata and this and that and the other, you know, and court actions and so on. So when we saw them having this very successful in 1936, just around the same time, this was brilliant. It was just the answer and something that we had to do. But aside from that we had it tested and that's why Midland Steel and Kelsey were so important.
LEIGHTON: They were tests.
H. KRAUS: They were tests. Because the question is, you know, we knew that we weren't going to have a majority. You know, they always said, "We defy them to have a vote and so on." And we knew damn well that if you have any kind of supposed Democratic vote that we wouldn't have won any kind of election. But we knew that we trusted that we would have at least the silent adhesion of these workers. They wouldn't cooperate, you know. I mean, they wouldn't strike but they would cooperate. At least they wouldn't be negative. And I mentioned in the book an act that is very significant. There was a struggle in the Chevy strike. There was a struggle there for a couple of hours. I was in there and you know you could see them milling around. And these workers couldn't make up their mind. And finally, in the end a number of them went off.
D. KRAUS: Went out.
H. KRAUS: A large number. But they put their lunches into a big (what do you call it?). That's a significant move; we knew this is fine. We didn't get a majority of them, but still we knew that they're with us.
LEIGHTON: The reason I raise this question, though, is because when you finally, on the night of the twenty-ninth and thirtieth and the sit-down comes in Fisher 1. And of course it happened the day before, two days before in Cleveland. Will Weinstone says, "But they're not ready."
H. KRAUS: Oh yes.
LEIGHTON: And he says and he mentioned this to Bob and I don't know who else. But he said, you know, "For god's sake, they're not ready." And he meant politically ready.
D. KRAUS: That's true! That's true, but when would you have a strike with this many?
H. KRAUS: Just like educating people to socialism, you know. I think it's important for them to have socialism; then they might learn about it.
LEIGHTON: Yes. But that was never any consideration.
H. KRAUS: No. When Bob, I remember...I didn't know about this, you know. I never spoke to Will.
LEIGHTON: Well, he mentions it in his pamphlet, you know. The pamphlet that he did after the great Flint strike and he makes the statement: "All roads lead to Flint."
H. KRAUS: Well, I disregarded those pamphlets anyway, because they were Party pamphlets. And, you know, they saw things that, as they wanted to see them, you know, after it was over. But that wasn't going to be very helpful in the telling of the true history. Now the fact is that, I know this did come up. Bob said, in my presence, said, to Bud, "You really think they're ready, Bud." My god! And this is when he made that statement, "They're like a pregnant woman in her tenth month."
To what extent were the organizers in control of the timing of the
strike or to what extent was the timing of the strike something you had
to respond to in terms of certain circumstances?
H. KRAUS: That's, of course, a very key question. And again you have the spontaneity thing. You see, the ridiculousness of that argument is, does spontaneity mean that you say "we're gonna strike at 2:30 in the afternoon or 2:45, and, so-and-so will do..."? Ridiculous! Especially when you have a situation there, where you don't know who's who. How are they gonna react? At Kelsey, I think there were no more than about 35 workers when they started the strike. They didn't know what the hell, you know. And yet, so something happens, you get on the table and you start yelling, you know, or something. You know you never know. But know that you want to push toward it. You want to push toward it. A time comes when you feel it's getting right. Well, Bob was always perpetually talking to these guys, "Well, what do you think, what do you think? How are they coming?" And when they won a couple of these brilliant victories, this is what won the workers, because the workers then felt, well, I can have confidence in these people.
MEYER: In the Flint case, Travis would kind of take their pulse?
H. KRAUS: Yes, all the time. I was with him a number of times.
D. KRAUS: He'd talk with 'em all the time.
H. KRAUS: I was with him a number of times.
MEYER: When it broke out, in Flint, the 29th, 30th, was that felt to be, by the leadership, the right time to do it?
H. KRAUS: Well, it was getting so hot. I think, you know, to tell you the truth, you know, this is off the record.
D. KRAUS: Don't put it in then, if it's off the record.
H. KRAUS: Oh, it doesn't matter. I've said it before. It's questionable about the moving of the dies and so on. But, nevertheless, it was a damn good argument, you know, because by this time we certainly felt that it was proper. This was the time to go. And, boy, if you had been down there the way I was. I happened to be there that night. When they came in, the stewards all came in during the lunchtime, and, honest to god, they were crazy! They knew we had to do it, you know. This is the time. And we talked to them. You know, I tried to keep them, "Calm down, calm down," you know. And don't rush out until the bell rings...
D. KRAUS: Whistle.
H. KRAUS: Whistle. "Get the hell out of here," you know. They just pushed me aside.
MEYER: Fisher 2 had gone down earlier in the day.
H. KRAUS: Well, yeah, that's right.
LEIGHTON: That triggered it even more. You mean it started these guys out?
H. KRAUS: To some extent, but the Fisher 2...we didn't really take that too seriously at first.
LEIGHTON: Oh. You mentioned that these guys were all ready to go. Had you somehow conveyed to them that the 29th was the date you had to do it?
H. KRAUS & D. KRAUS: No, no.
LEIGHTON: They were just ready to go no matter what day it was.
D. KRAUS: Well, however, if you hadn't gone then, you might have lost the enthusiasm, the energy, you know, and everything else. So we pushed with them!
KRAUS: You were just watching every moment. Fisher 2 is, you see,
an insignificant plant, so we weren't going to allow that to
LEIGHTON: Had you, during the Kelsey and Midland strikes, had you also pumped the information about that strike, what was happening, the news of it, into the plants in Flint?
H. KRAUS: Oh, of course, of course, sure. We distributed our paper. We had a big paper about the whole thing. Killinger and his family, all his kids, were his fears(?). Sure, no, they knew about it. They knew. The workers knew that something was happening. These guys were good; they were courageous, you know. And they would stick by us. You know it wasn't because they could see the way Bud and his group were. There were just no more than a dozen of them there, but yet they were able to control that whole damn big department.
MEYER: One of the things that is striking about it from a historical perspective is just to stand back and kind of look at the whole thing. Mortimer comes in in June, starts organizing. Here's a town as you've explained very little consciousness of what was going on elsewhere...
H. KRAUS: If there was any, you didn't know it.
MEYER: One hundred and twenty members; most of them were stoolies. Six months later there's this very effective successful sit-down. How do you explain the turnaround? What contributed to that?
H. KRAUS: Well, mainly because in the first place we believed that the workers were ready. If they hadn't been ready, as I said, this was a big gamble, if you wish. We just happened to be right. We happened to have had credence in the possibility. We believed that the workers were suffering, that they were living and working under terrible conditions. We knew from everything, that our contacts and all the rest of it, we knew that this was so. The question was would they, after all these years of disappointment and being fired and stool pigeons and then the big sellout of 1934 by the AFL, would they still have the oomph to go? This was the question; we didn't know. But when we started seeing that they began going in other places, you know, Dodge in October and then Midland Steel in November, and Kelsey in early December, we knew that something was happening in other places, you know. We knew this. And we had a very good feeling about it. And of course, we knew that in Fisher 1 and Fisher 2, but Fisher 1 especially, everything was hot. And the guys were courageous; that's one thing that occurred to me.
LEIGHTON: Before the strike went on at Fisher 1, you mentioned you were across the street when the strike was taking place.
H. KRAUS: Yes, yes.
LEIGHTON: At that meeting, one of the people that we interviewed talks about they sat down at the lunch break, I think. We're not positive of that. Some guys had in their pockets or something a notebook about plans, what to do in the event of a sit-down. Where did those come from, or am I wrong? They mentioned that they had plans; they weren't detailed plans. It's just they were a list of things, what to do in the event of a sit-down strike.
H. KRAUS: I don't think so.
D. KRAUS: I doubt it.
H. KRAUS: I think it's just like Max Gazan's idea of saving the strike.
LEIGHTON: Once the strike happens, though, inside the plant it appears things have some semblance of organization.
H. KRAUS & D. KRAUS: We went right in; we went right in.
LEIGHTON: Yes. There were committees set up. That's again is what gives the lie to the spontaneity. There was somebody giving some thought of how, what, this thing would be organized.
KRAUS: You had these guys like Bud and Walter and the rest of
them. And you had the experience of the strikes in Midland and
all these others. They knew about them. They had read them.
They had read the papers, you know. They knew all about
that. They knew what they had to do. They were very good
organizers, not only natural organizers. Part of their political
training was organizational. You do these things; you have
to. Communists are that way, you know. You got to do this
and that. You have to have a committee to do this and a committee
to do that. It's almost innate when anything happens like
that. You have to eat. You have to take care of
protection. You have to do this. Before you could say the
word "go," they had everything on the way. You have a meeting,
you call a meeting, you elect committees, you know.
LEIGHTON: This is the whole essence of the notion of discipline.
H. KRAUS & D. KRAUS: That's right; that's it. So when they talked about spontaneity again, you know, it's ridiculous. Sure, you had this group there; that's part of the spontaneity, part of the preparation, I should say. And besides, we went in there. We helped them; we went in, you know. And even so, there were a lot of things that were not anticipated.
H. KRAUS: A lot of things.
D. KRAUS: Things that were...
H. KRAUS: In fact, to leave these cops in there. This is the worst thing over the Christmas holidays or the New Year's holiday. It was terrible! Their bringing in whiskey and all the rest of it. And then, of course, also...
D. KRAUS: And bringing in women.
H. KRAUS: And women. And also not controlling the out-goers, you know.
D. KRAUS: That permitted them to go home.
H. KRAUS: This is where we had the trouble at Fisher 2, you know, when the fight came with the troops, you know, or with the police.
LEIGHTON: When they came into the basement, not the basement, but the ground floor.
H. KRAUS: No, they were ready; they could have taken over there because our guys just left. Boy, this is great, you know; have a great Saturday. No, no, this knack, and besides, a lot of talk with that, yes. There weren't any papers prepared. But undoubtedly, yes, I'm sure we talked to them, you know. When the time comes, when you take over, you know, you set up the committees. It was automatic. They knew how to set up strikes. They had all been in strikes. All of them had, you know. Like Bud and all the rest, had belonged to this industrial union, you know, the TUUL Communist Union. They had all belonged; they'd had strikes. They knew how you organize a strike.
|LEIGHTON: A question directly for Dorothy. In the Midland Steel strike, well, that was in October, wasn't it?
D. KRAUS: November.
LEIGHTON: You started the practice of meeting with wives of strikers. Well, we gather you did, and of men who were sitting down if the men happened to be in the strike. But I believe in Midland there were also women, were there not?
D. KRAUS: Not in the sit-in. They wouldn't permit that.
LEIGHTON: They had to go...just like Flint. Was this something you innovated in the visiting of the wives, or was that something that you picked up from somewhere?
H. KRAUS: It was just brilliant bit of...
D. KRAUS: You talk about what you just asked about having experience and how you organize or the attitude of organizing. I had never seen a strike. I had never been near a strike. Absolutely not, you know! I never worked in a shop, personally. So and what I heard was just the hearsay, you know. Well, Midland Steel broke out. Henry disappeared, you know. I didn't know where he was going to be.
H. KRAUS: No, I left you in the morning. "I may not be back for supper."
D. KRAUS: You may not be back for several days. So I didn't even know where the Midland Steel was located. We had just been in Detroit no more than about a month.
H. KRAUS: Oh, no, no, no.
D. KRAUS: Longer?
H. KRAUS: Oh, sure, since November.
D. KRAUS: Not very long! Anyway I decided I was going to go out there, and I did. I found my way out there and I found my way there, and I see a bunch of women outside, you know, talking. And I see men looking out of the window; they were already sitting in, you see. And a little basket was being put down and some cigarettes was being sent up to them. And so I joined the women without telling them who I was, and they accepted me as being one of the workers or one of the wives, anyway. And I started talking and I suddenly heard all sorts of things. They were very mad because they weren't permitted to sit in, you know. And there was discrimination and what are they going to do if they're going to be outside? After all, they can't stick around just being outside the windows. So what are they going to do? Well, instantly I thought, well, I'm gonna make these women busy. You've gotta do something with them. Otherwise they're gonna go away, you know. So I said, "Well, where is this hall they're talking about, this union hall? Let's go in there." "Well, no, we weren't invited. I don't think we want to go in there. Let them come out and ask us to come in." I said, "Look, let's not be that touchy about it. Let's go in and find out. If you're so much against not being included, why don't we go in and ask them why they haven't included you?" you know, something like that. Well, this is the first they saw Henry, you see. I see him on the table there, you know, taking notes and...
H. KRAUS: No, no, I appeared, but we came out through the door and I came toward you and I was gonna greet you and you said...
D. KRAUS: You said, "What are you doin' here?" Of course, I said, "Shush!" I didn't want to be singled out, you know. Well, we went into the hall and there Jack Anderson...Jack, isn't that his name?
H. KRAUS: John Anderson.
D. KRAUS: John Anderson, you know, was there, and John, I must admit, was a chauvinist, a male chauvinist. And he thought the woman's place was, well, you know, in the home, in the kitchen and so on and so forth. Well, we marched in. There must have been about 30 of us.
H. KRAUS: Yes, you had a good gang.
D. KRAUS: We marched in and we sat down. First thing, we sat down.
H. KRAUS: Sat down in the back.
D. KRAUS: And I said, "Oh, come on, let's not sit in the back; we won't be able to hear them." Remember, we didn't have mikes; they didn't have mikes. They just talked and if you didn't hear them, you didn't hear them, that's all. So little by little they trickled, you know, and we sat down in the front, you know. And John looked at me and just looked at us and fortunately had sense enough. He was a very smart guy not to say anything. "Look, you women should be outside" or something like that.
H. KRAUS: Oh, no, he wouldn't do that; he wasn't like that.
KRAUS: Well, maybe he wouldn't. Okay, I take it back. And
he had a big smile on his face and I said to the women before, as we
were sitting before the meeting started, I said, "You know, if the guys
are gonna be there, the best thing we can do is to help them with some
food." So we made some sandwiches for them. And there was
no question of a kitchen yet, you know. It didn't even occur to
any of us that they would be in there for such a long time, you
know. "So all right, would you be willing to do it?" "Sure,
why not?" "How about you?" "Well, I've got to go home
first," you know, or something like that.
H. KRAUS: Who was it that got up and announced it? One of you women announced it.
D. KRAUS: Yeah, I asked one of the women; I don't remember her name.
H. KRAUS: I know you didn't.
D. KRAUS: You know I wouldn't do it. And I said, "Now look, when the meeting starts or at the moment, why don't you get up and say that we, the women here, are willing to help with making sandwiches for the men," you know.
H. KRAUS: Oh boy, big cheers!
D. KRAUS: Big cheers, you know. We were in, you know. And that's the way it happened.
LEIGHTON: So with that experience, you took that to Flint.
D. KRAUS: Oh, well, honey, that was just the beginning.
H. KRAUS: They organized the kitchen.
D. KRAUS: Then we really organized the kitchen and really, they really worked. All those women were marvelous.
LEIGHTON: You mean at Kelsey or Flint?
D. KRAUS: At Midland. But remember, there was no money. Everything we fed was chiseling.
H. KRAUS: They called it the chisel variety.
D. KRAUS: "Chisel Committee." And first only the women went out chiseling and then you know that. And later on we said, "Look, you men have to join in too." And so we asked a few of the guys and they were very willing.
H. KRAUS: There was one shift that wasn't striking, you know. Everything was so rigid. We hadn't made all the rules yet of a sit-down strike. So the guys had to stay in. They weren't allowed out, even if their wife was dying. They'd have to get special permission, I suppose. So they all stayed and the other shift, they didn't come, you know. They weren't allowed to join to relieve them or anything like that.
D. KRAUS: Well, they came around to the union hall.
H. KRAUS: Yes, that's it.
D. KRAUS: The guys came to help, you see, and we had quite a few of those to help us. How marvelous! And I must admit, they were absolutely wonderful and so was John Anderson. He appreciated us. Oh boy, did he appreciate us!
H. KRAUS: He actually thanked Dorothy, you know, for this great conception.
LEIGHTON: Did you work out the notion of rotation then, of allowing, you mentioned once you got the...in a way I guess Midland is really kind of the prototype, isn't it, for Flint?
D. KRAUS: Yes, it was. It was.
H. KRAUS: You mean later on? Yes.
LEIGHTON: Well, I mean you got the idea then at Midland as well, that the guys in the plant might get some time off to go home and then bring some others in.
H. KRAUS: In Kelsey, that was how it was worked out.
LEIGHTON: So each one of these was an improvement on the next one. So that by the time you get to Flint, you got a lot of these ideas.
H. KRAUS: Kelsey was also a big kitchen. It was a fine kitchen.
D. KRAUS: Kelsey was wonderful, you know. Here we didn't have anything.
H. KRAUS: This is where what's his name came in, too, Max Gazan came in. So that he got his training, too, working with Dorothy.
|MEYER: Did you use a sound car at either Midland or Kelsey both?
H. KRAUS: Sure, oh, sure.
MEYER: The sound car had been a pretty accepted standard item?
H. KRAUS: And you had also at Kelsey, my god, you had all these experienced Socialists, kids, you know, like Vic Reuther and George Edwards, and, my god, were they good, you know. Real----what do you call 'em----soapbox kids, you know.
MEYER: Any other tactical things that you remember learning from the Kelsey Midland experience?
H. KRAUS: Well, of course I know that in the case of Midland it was a very stiff sort of thing. There were blacks, of course, there. There was no question. And you see, John Anderson was a known Communist. He run for governor of the state and he got no help at all there. And they all, you know, you could see the office, you know. No help. Well, let him break his neck there and so on and so forth. The only guy that really helped was Dick Frankensteen. This is when I began to see that this Dick Frankensteen was a realist. He was head of the organizational committee of Detroit. And, by gosh, he wanted a victory. And he was very good in this respect. And otherwise, you know, they were chary about it. So many of them didn't even go down to see what it was like. Imagine, you know, you're founding a union and a number of the officers never even came around.
D.KRAUS: They really wanted it to fail, because of John Anderson.
H. KRAUS: Probably did. Well, anyway, but the thing is, the women, the thing about the women which was so important, you see, it was typical, it was real male chauvinism in this case. There was a stool pigeon involved. You know about it. What's his name, Hill or something?
|LEIGHTON: Now this is where?
H. KRAUS: At Midland Steel. And I tell about it in the book. But he was my boy. Of course, he ran out before the thing was over. But he had tremendous pull. He was a rather stupid guy, but he was in a big department and he had brought into the union, this stool pigeon, a couple of hundred workers. He had signed them up himself. Just think of it, the tactics. And, but he also had tremendous power, as a result, and he was just too dumb. If he had been smarter, he would have really become the leader there and would have been dangerous. But he is the one that said, "We don't want anything to do with women," you know. And he had this typical crack, "Women are good for two things, frying fish and fucking." And so, as a result, really, women weren't even approached. I know John Anderson did try hard, you know, made some effort. But they were really out of the whole thing and it was really Dorothy that brought them in the first time.
LEIGHTON: Now, I want to transfer that to Flint, because all of these are happening one right after another. When you get up to Flint, is that one of the first things, yourself now, that you set up the kitchen. I mean, you organize the kitchen.
D. KRAUS: We got the women.
LEIGHTON: And you got the women involved in it.
D. KRAUS: Right away.
LEIGHTON: And you got Max Gazan there within a few days.
D. KRAUS: That's right.
LEIGHTON: And did you start going out to the women's homes then?
D. KRAUS: Well, not right away. We started going out to the women's homes a little later when there were problems. They didn't have any food, or they didn't have any coal, you see. And they were writing letters to the husbands who were sitting in. And all kinds of...and then sick. Some of the children were sick, and so on. And that's when we had a committee of women to go to visit them, you see, and talk to them, you know.
LEIGHTON: Do you recall any of the women on that committee that were involved? The reason I ask that is we sometimes follow up and you'd be surprised some of them are still around.
H. KRAUS: Was there a Lottie Cronk? Was that her name?
D. KRAUS: She's a maid; she was Lottie Cronk. Do you know her?
H. KRAUS: She was a heavy-set woman, a wonderful woman.
D. KRAUS: A heavy woman, yes. I really couldn't tell you, but I have notes, you know. I have loads of notes of all of that.
H. KRAUS: See, Dorothy also used the interview, the oral history.
D. KRAUS: And I have them. This is off the record. Secretly I was gonna write a book, too, on the women's role after the strike. But things didn't develop into a book. But I have all the notes. I'm sure that I had those names, some of those names. Anyway, I can't remember.
LEIGHTON: The reason I ask that, and it comes up. Bill and I were talking about this last night. What comes up is this question about the Women's Auxiliary. And in the previous interview, you mention, no you didn't have time to start a women's auxiliary. There was the Emergency Brigade. But there was no Women's Auxiliary. Well, there are others who say there was a Women's Auxiliary.
D. KRAUS: Much later, my dear. Yes, I helped in the Women's Auxiliary. And actually we had a women organizer, sent from Detroit, from the international office.
H. KRAUS: Oh, that was later.
D. KRAUS: Much later, you see.
H. KRAUS: After the strike.
D. KRAUS: After the strike. There was no auxiliary during the strike.
H. KRAUS: There was the Emergency Brigade. Well, there was an attempt to get the women together.
D. KRAUS: We always had meetings, the women's meetings. But there was no official, because there was never any time. Look, the whole thing lasted just what?
LEIGHTON: Forty-four days.
D. KRAUS: Two months, 42 days, you know.
H. KRAUS: Well, yes. And besides, for the first three, four weeks, you know, or even more, you really didn't know what the heck was happening. There was the possibility of a settlement and so on and so forth, which finally was broken.
D. KRAUS: And also, worried...fear. Remember we were always concerned with doing something dramatic. And really, that was part of the thoughts that we had----anyway, I did, you know----of doing something dramatic in front of the plants. Whether we had a dance, whether we had a musical entertainment, whether we had singers, whether we had, just walking back. You had to keep the women.
H. KRAUS: Remember, Fisher Body was the only basic plant. Well, Fisher 1 took the accolade for a long time. It was by all odds the most important thing going. Of course, then you had Fisher 2, the big battle which put them on. But we didn't kid ourselves. This, you know, this wasn't an important plant to hold or even to have struck, you know. And it was a lot of trouble for us. But we did know that we couldn't afford to lose the battle there. That's why we put up all our forces into it, whatever we could. And fortunately we didn't lose it.
LEIGHTON: It was certainly a dramatic event.
H. KRAUS: You know, well, people didn't realize what the elements involved were. But it's true that we realize, that was why when we got over this craze, this insanity, you know. Let's announce to the world that we're leaving voluntarily, you know. It was ridiculous, you know, because it would have been a terrible defeat. But then you see, when Chevy, when we realized that something had to happen somewhere else and Chevy began to shift onto the horizon. And that's only about two weeks before the end of the strike. You see, you're well along into the strike. And we had all these attacks that took place. And that's when really, the Brigade, the Emergency Brigade begins to be established.
KRAUS: No, but Henry, let me just come back to something. All
right, you used a certain number of women for the kitchen or for food
for chiseling. But there were a great number of them and they
used to come around to the Pengelly Building and just sit there like
that. What were you going to do with them? You
couldn't have meetings with them. First of all we didn't have
time to be social with them. Secondly, what are you gonna talk
with them about? The fact that the men are sitting in or their
brothers or something like that? You have to make them active,
that's the thing. Now what do you do with a group of people, you
know, from 50 to 100 sometimes, 75, you know, women that used to come
around off and on, you know. All right, so you talked to them as
much as you can. "Let's get out to the picket line." "Let's
go in front of the plant." That was the most interesting thing,
the plant, you see. All right, so in front of the plant it was
raining, it was snowing, it was horrible weather and everything else,
you know, cold you know. But you had to do something. So
you'd build a little bonfire at one time, you know, and...
H. KRAUS: Sing songs.
D. KRAUS: Sing songs. And we had Maurice Sugar there teaching us his songs, you know, and we'd join in with him.
H. KRAUS: And the acting group.
D. KRAUS: And we had acting groups from Detroit, putting on skits in front and the women would either participate or else at least be watchers, onlookers you know. They knew something that they were part of it. That was the main thing, is to keep them part of it.
H. KRAUS: Most of them made visits to other women and families.
D. KRAUS: Well, yeah, that helped but the visits to their families usually helped to result in either helping them, you know, financially or with something like that. Or taking and seeing that their children are being taken care of. Most of these women that we visited did not come out. They were, for some reason or another they were either slower or else older, many of them.
LEIGHTON: Well, if they were tired or if there were sick children or something like that.
D. KRAUS: Yeah, something like that.
H. KRAUS: There was nothing really known about it. You know, there were all these thousands of workers, men mainly, but you didn't know about their wives.
D. KRAUS: You never saw them before. You never met them.
H. KRAUS: How do you meet them? They were very untrustworthy. They didn't like the union.
D. KRAUS: No, they were very much against it.
LEIGHTON: Were most of them what you would classify as Southern white?
H. KRAUS: Yes, I'd say so.
D. KRAUS: I would say so. I would say so.
LEIGHTON: The reason I ask that is there must have been a much smaller group of European, eastern European, and men.
H. KRAUS: They were very class-conscious.
LEIGHTON: They were different.
H. KRAUS: Oh yeah. And they were around, too. They came around. Listen, at Midland I remember, a man brings his wife and says, "My woman she's good, she's a good cook, she's good this," you know.
D. KRAUS: Yes. There were many foreigners, many Yugoslavs...
H. KRAUS: And Polish. Oh, just it was a sweep. You know, you really didn't anticipate...
D. KRAUS: And Dick was sorry. We always worried, what are we gonna do with the women, you know? You can only, as I said, keep them in the kitchen, just so many. You can't do it.
LEIGHTON: Would you say you had more success in, at least with the women who showed up there, than you did with probably a larger group, which would have been the men who were not sitting in, who might have come by the union hall?
H. KRAUS: Whose women might have...
LEIGHTON: No, no, no. Just the men, the men who were out of the plants, who weren't sitting in. And yet...
D. KRAUS: Didn't come around.
LEIGHTON: Well, or they came around once a day or something like that. But were they...
H. KRAUS: What helped with them was we had a meeting every evening. It was a lot of fun, you know. They filled Pengelly all the time. We would tell them what was happening and we'd explain so and so, make it dramatic, you know. And Roy was a great speaker, you know. And Bob also spoke, you know, but he wasn't as good a speaker. You know, we had things. We had reports.
D. KRAUS: Bob was a good speaker in his way.
H. KRAUS: Oh, yes, when it came down to the facts, you know, and so on. And others, we had a number of different people there. The CIO sent in different people, organizers.
D. KRAUS: Different people, you know, from the outside. Some women used to come to that, but not very many. We used to ask them, "Why don't you come to the meetings?" you know. "No, no, no." First of all, it was at night, you see and many of them didn't have cars. There was no transportation for most of them and it was a problem, you see.
H. KRAUS: Then of course we had games. They played games there. We set up games...cards and checkers and stuff like that. It was hit and miss, really, for a long time, because our concentration was on the plant. It was on the Sit-Down. It was on defense, you know, and all of this and that. It was so damned difficult. And also keeping contact with Detroit, with the leaders of Detroit, with whom we weren't always in agreement.
LEIGHTON: There really wasn't any time, then, to do anything in the way of political education.
D. KRAUS & H. KRAUS: No, no.
LEIGHTON: Other than just keeping them busy and trying to get them involved in a practical way, which was quite an education, I would think.
H. KRAUS: Well, there was Gene Fay, who was educational director or something of the local. I think he was on the payroll or partially, anyway, a very nice guy. Well, he had classes. He conducted some classes, I suppose.
D. KRAUS: The classes, they always slayed me, these classes. "How to Conduct a Meeting."
H. KRAUS: Parliamentary procedure. Oh, I'll tell you!
D. KRAUS: I used to go like this every time I'd hear them, you know. I didn't dare say, "Look, stop it!"
H. KRAUS: But he tried other things, you know, economics and so on and so forth.
D. KRAUS: Yes, he tried...
H. KRAUS: He was responsible to me of gathering up, I think one of the most precious bits of collections of data that has come out of the strike. And that was these letters, after the Chevy strike had broke. And he had these letters to and from the strikers, you know, to their homes, to their wives.
D. KRAUS: Home to their wives.
H. KRAUS: And the strikers had agreed that they would let us read these letters because we were afraid of stool pigeons, you know. A guy writes a letter to his wife. He's a stool pigeon and it's given to the press, you know. This is being done and so on and so forth to the workers. And believe me, we had that sort of thing that the workers were sick and they were dying, and all that sort of thing. We had to bring in some doctors to prove that this wasn't so. And pneumonia is flagrant and so on. Well, so he would read these. This was his assignment. And all of a sudden he starts laughing, you know. I was typing something up. By this time I was learning how to type. And I said, "What's the matter, what's happening?" He says, "These letters are really the dickens, wonderful." So he reads it to me, you know and then says, "This is marvelous." I said, "Gene, for god's sake, we've got to have copies of those. We've got to have copies of all those letters." And that's what happened.
D. KRAUS: We typed them.
H. KRAUS: We started typing them.
D. KRAUS: See there were no machines, then.
H. KRAUS: He turned over a couple of hundred of those letters to us.
D. KRAUS: Yes, they were marvelous!
LEIGHTON: Now, did you put them all in the Archives?
H. KRAUS: They're in the Archives.
LEIGHTON: Okay, we haven't got to that yet, boxes and boxes.
D. KRAUS: They're terrific, those letters.
H. KRAUS: Marvelous, marvelous letters. I tell about them; I spend a couple of pages on them because they really show the heart of that strike. And women, the women! We were concerned about the women, largely.
Well, the one thing I was going to ask, while the strike was going on,
you talk about before the strike how the Homer Martin faction was
giving you some trouble. What about during the strike, while the
actual strike was going on, what were the relations with Detroit?
H. KRAUS: Well, that's what I say, there were difficulties. But the difficulties were because they were running the strike, after all, you know. They were negotiating, you know, or trying to. For instance, when they reached this agreement to leave the plants, we were absolutely opposed to it, absolutely opposed. The workers...we had to argue because we accepted; we didn't want to have a fight. See, we had to accept this whole idea. We didn't feel that there was enough guarantee about the whole thing. And what the hell is this business? I think ten days or something like that. My god, they knew that the place was closed. All they had to do is wait another ten days and then the thing is open and, boy, they'd just march in. We hated it; we hated it. Bob and Roy, myself, we all, really, we were opposed to it. But the whole gang, Mortimer and all the others had agreed. So and when it was finally, we caught this crookedness on the part of the company, you know, through the Flint Alliance. What was this man's name you know, that they had agreed to meeting?
H. KRAUS: Boysen. They had agreed to a meeting. We were just delighted, you know. We rushed in. We said, "It's all off, it's all off," you know. And these guys said, "Well, we wouldn't have gone out anyway." They just told us and I'm sure they wouldn't have. Anyway, this is what took place as far as the relationship.
MEYER: Do you attribute the agreement on the union's part to again explicit kind of conscious sabotage?
H. KRAUS: No, no, no. That was part of the CIO. The CIO had their representatives up too. It's just that they had a different view, a more, what shall I say, a more conservative...
MEYER: Less militant.
H. KRAUS: Less militant, you know, we just didn't believe in it. We had no trust in this company because we hadn't really beaten them, you know. We hadn't beaten them. So, but since they had agreed to it, we just felt that we were going to have to accept it. Now Martin was out of it. He knew he was out of it. And so he started acting up, you know. He was a nut besides; he was really hair-brained. So that this is when it was decided that Ed Hall would take him out on a speaking tour of the country and that was it, you know. So he was out of our hair. He didn't want to come up. Listen, these guys were scared. They wouldn't come up to Flint. They were so scared they would hide, you know. They would disguise themselves, you know. They were scared. Well, I suppose there was plenty to be scared of, but we just didn't think about it, you know.
LEIGHTON: You did not have, at that time of the strike, any feeling that the representatives from the CIO were going to sell you out or anything politically wrong. Whatever they did it was...
H. KRAUS: No, no more. We had very good relations, and not only that, even John L. Lewis called Bob a couple of times and spoke to him.
LEIGHTON: Right. Who were the reps that came up?
H. KRAUS: The man that was really the one we trusted was John Brophy. He was really a great guy. As far as Adolph Germer, I can tell you he was nothing! You know, this is really one of the ridiculous things about, I must say about our good friend, Sidney Fine, that when you go into his papers, you know, and see what he attributes. And he quotes and re-quotes and over-quotes this Adolph Germer. Germer knew from nothing. We never told him anything. Because what he knew, he just came to the office late, slept...he had to sleep his nine hours, you know. He slept for all of us, you know. I'll never forget, he had invited Dorothy to...he loved the soup and he said, "Come on to the...what the hell is the name of the big hotel there?"
H. KRAUS: "Come on and have a bowl of soup; it's wonderful here." And Dorothy said, "I can't; I don't have time," you know. But she found out and I found out later from her that he was writing a letter every day to his wife, a big, long letter. Now this is in the collection, you know. And not only long letters, but letters to Washington, to John L., and I said, "How the hell did the guy ever have the time?" Well, I said, well, of course we didn't really have him do anything, because, you see, if you brought him into any discussion, this is honest, you brought him into a discussion, he was negative. He was an old man; he was scared. He was, I don't know, everything had to be legal, you know. And everything we did was illegal! And we knew.
D. KRAUS: Who was that?
H. KRAUS: Adolph Germer. And it was later on, especially that we got into trouble with him, you know, during the Chrysler strike and so on and so forth. But here, he just was there. He didn't do anything. He wrote these letters.
LEIGHTON: What about Powers Hapgood? He wrote a lot of letters, too.
H. KRAUS: Powers was good! Powers was very, very good. Powers was a great guy.
D. KRAUS: Powers was swell! Excellent!
H. KRAUS: Well, he drank. He was a drinker. No, Powers was a great guy. John Brophy was the man, of course he wasn't with us all the time. He was down there. And then they had...what's his name? The lawyer, but he was a negotiator. He didn't know anything about the organization.
D. KRAUS: Yes, he was a CIO lawyer.
H. KRAUS: Lee Pressman. But he was the negotiator, to see to it that...and we were a pain in the ass to him, because he, at the final end, he had it all agreed...you know how a lawyer is. All agreed with the lawyers from the company, you know, and the du Pont man and so on and so forth. They hadn't even consulted us, you know, what plans and so on and so forth. So Bob found out this was going on. And he called and he said, "What the hell's going on there? You're gonna tell us when to go back to work now, without even showing us, telling us what the hell you're agreeing to?" Well, anyway, they said, "Well, we're gonna get in touch with you," and so on and so forth. Of course, they were, there was no doubt about it. But nevertheless, it was a question of what plants would be included. And Bob was always more delicate, more careful in discussing things. He would say, "Now look, we have to have (I forget what plant it was, I think it was Anderson); that's key to Indiana. We've got to have that." And he said, "Okay, okay, what else?" He was impatient, you know. Let's get it over with, you know. Well, nevertheless, this was included among the plants that would be recognized as sole collective bargaining agents, you know, which was what the strike was about. But no, we didn't have any truck with them; they didn't want to come up there. Really I think they were a little scared. They were really perturbed.
D. KRAUS: And also, they never thought it would come through exactly like that. They really didn't. They thought, well, how could it happen?
H. KRAUS: I'll never forget once all these guys had left, you know. There was a meeting and they came up. And they all left, including Homer Martin, too. And they all left, disappeared. And we see Mort all by himself, you know. And I said, "Mort, for god's sake, aren't you going back to Detroit?" He said, "Oh yeah, I'll get around to it." I said, "Well, who are you with?" "I got my car." I said, "You're going by yourself?" You know, this is a time when cars would be waylaid, and they'd beat 'em up, kill 'em. "Oh," he laughed and said, "I'm too old to worry about those things." He was very foolish. But I remember that night.
D. KRAUS: Very foolish and I don't know why we let him go alone. We shouldn't have, you know.
H. KRAUS: But this was true. We saw them very little. Now on the other hand, the lower orders, and that included Walter Reuther and so on and so forth, they were there.
D. KRAUS: No, Walter didn't come up to Flint.
H. KRAUS: Well, when we needed them.
D. KRAUS: Oh yes, oh yes, that's true.
H. KRAUS: Starting with the Chevy, boy, he was there, because we got them all. We wanted everybody there. We knew we were weak. See we got 'em, all. They came from as far as Toledo, even Cleveland, some guys came.
|LEIGHTON: Jimmy Rollins and Joe...
H. KRAUS: Yeah.
LEIGHTON: Joe Devitt
H. KRAUS: They come every year. But that was something else. And so of course, the West Side local, George Edwards was there during that period. They were really very active when the plant was taken and in defending the plant. Boy, I understand it took days and days for them to get all these things apart to clear up the plant, you know.
LEIGHTON: You went into Chevy 4 when they were taking it?
H. KRAUS: Yes...no, afterwards. The role that both Bob and I were playing, he was on one phone and I was on another.
LEIGHTON: And you were on the phone.
H. KRAUS: Outside in a pay phone with a bunch of nickels. No, so we would get these calls, you see.
D. KRAUS: Hurley, Hurley, Hurley, Hurley Drug Store. Was it a drug store?
LEIGHTON: Herrlich's Drug Store.
D. KRAUS: Well, he was a friend of mine, you know. He wouldn't let anybody touch the phones except me. I would have to run out and see what was going on. He wouldn't let anybody touch the phones. He was wonderful.
H. KRAUS: Then there was Ralph Dale. He was another one.
D. KRAUS: Yes, he was another one on the phone.
H. KRAUS: And oh, there were several. And there was another guy from Wisconsin, maybe another plant. But we had about eight or ten people like that and they would call in to us and we would give them orders. "Rush back and tell them to do such and such. When Chevy 9 caved in, which we expected anyway, because we hadn't told everybody about it, because we didn't even tell Walter about it.
D. KRAUS: Listen, I didn't even know about it. But Genora...
H. KRAUS: Genora knew it.
D. KRAUS: Genora knew it, 'cause she told me, see.
H. KRAUS: Well, you know why she knew it, because her husband told, and he never should have told her. He should have told nobody. This is the sort of thing that just made me so god damn mad.
LEIGHTON: Plus he didn't show up.
H. KRAUS: And I just think the guy got scared. How else can you account for that?
LEIGHTON: He got cold feet.
H. KRAUS: Because once he was there, he joined up with the Chevy 6 guys, you know, this wonderful Ed Cronk and the whole gang there, you know. And the guys with their big hooks, you know. I forget what you call 'em, you know. They used the hooks to pull...
LEIGHTON: Like you use a stevedore.
H. KRAUS: Yes, exactly, for handling stuff, you know. And, boy, they were terrific. Well, boy, when he can get them! But meanwhile, he lost all his people. If he had been on the job, he would have been able to hold some dozens. Everybody on the day shift left. If they didn't leave, they were like people who were independent. Howard Foster...well, no, Howard was a night man. But there were others, you know. Clyde Maley, but it wasn't because of what's his name. This is what got us so frightened, so scared, you know. But there were these levels. It wasn't because it was factionalism. It was just these levels of activity. Those who really did the things and were on the firing line were entirely different. You can't imagine how. Soldiers had the same feelings. You know, generals, what the hell do they know? They do the fighting. It's the lieutenant, maybe, the sergeant, the lieutenant who's with the GI's. And this is the way we felt. We were very contemptuous of these people, you know, because we realized that we were doing the fighting and decision-making and the important work.
D. KRAUS: And remember, we were young.
H. KRAUS: We had the guts!
D. KRAUS: We were young.
H. KRAUS: We had the guts. You know when '68 occurred here, we wondered about that, you know. You know, all these young kids and they were so courageous in fighting the police and so on and so forth. Just like us, we said, you know. How old were we? We were their age, you know, twenties.
LEIGHTON: I wanted to ask you. There were two things during the strike that I wanted to clear up. During the strike and before, you mentioned of course we talked about this the other night over dinner, that there were blacks working in the plants, mostly in Buick, but a few in sanitation and so on in the other buildings and that some of them came out to the picket lines. Do you remember a fellow, a black man, who had been an active unionist even back in the old AFL days, a fellow named Jim Spotts? Does that ring any bell?
H. KRAUS: No, no.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember any of the black workers? You're right, of course, that the idea was that they should not be too visible and to stay out of sight.
H. KRAUS: No, you see Roscoe VanZandt, he was a worker in the plant. And he was a union man and was deeply religious, too. Two things impelled him, you know. He thought he was doing the work of God, and he kept this diary, you know. And he prayed all the time. He had a special quiet place where he prayed, you know. And he was a beautiful, beautiful character, well, just like the early Christians, you know. It doesn't matter, danger or whatever, he was with this movement. This was really a Christian.
LEIGHTON: Now, did he just end up...now he was in Chevrolet.
H. KRAUS: Chevy, yes.
LEIGHTON: Did it just happen to be his shift when this all came about and he ended up there?
H. KRAUS: Well, I think we had contact with him. Oh, I'm sure, yes, he was a member of the union.
D. KRAUS: I don't have any memory of him.
H. KRAUS: Yes, I knew him before. I knew him myself.
LEIGHTON: But there were no others that were really visible other than maybe Henry Clark?
H. KRAUS: Henry Clark we knew because he was a contact with Mort, you know, from way back. And he was actually a part-time organizer. I think Mort paid him $10 a week, which was a considerable amount.
LEIGHTON: Another figure or character, and I don't mean that in a disparaging way, is Lorne Herrlich, the druggist.
D. KRAUS: Yes.
LEIGHTON: And when we started exploring into the... I wrote an article about Lorne Herrlich for a local alternative newspaper in Flint. Fascinating character, but I still know not that much. I talked to, interviewed his son Jack, who was not all that au courant with his father.
H. KRAUS: Is he dead?
LEIGHTON: Lorne is dead.
D. KRAUS: Oh, he is dead?
LEIGHTON: I think for quite some time now.
H. KRAUS: I didn't know him too much. Did you know him?
D. KRAUS: No, I didn't know him.
H. KRAUS: He was a beautiful guy to talk to.
D. KRAUS: Wonderful. You know, one of the difficult...very difficult problems, you wanted to get to know a person closer, but you didn't have time, because you were always doing other things of absolutely immediate necessity. Immediate necessity, you see. So you didn't have time. But he was a wonderful guy and that's the only time I had contact with him, is when occasionally I'd run in to buy something there, chewing gum or something like that, or have a soda or something like that. But I never had time, really to talk to him. You know, he'd ask me a question or two. But that night I remember distinctly. He said, "Don't worry, the phone is yours." And he wouldn't let anybody use it, because I'd have to run out and stay a few minutes whatever it is, in order to see what was going on so that I could report to them, you know. And very often I couldn't break through. There were only two phones in Pengelly, so you had to wait and wait. But that was just beautiful, and I just loved him for that.
LEIGHTON: At his home, he hosted several of the meetings, apparently, between Bob and Mort and Bud. And some of the organizers would come up and stay with him, and things like that.
KRAUS: Oh I'm sure of that. But you see, I wouldn't know
that. Often I would only come up for the night, you know, and I'd
work all night and then leave the next morning.
LEIGHTON: He donated, apparently, quite a bit in the way of drugs to the medical supplies for the strike.
H. KRAUS: Yes, yes.
D. KRAUS: He was a real progressive. There's no question.
LEIGHTON: He was an old Socialist from way, way back. From 1909, when he founded his drugstore on the corner of Court and Fifth, he was already an active supporter, I'm told.
H. KRAUS: I know this has always surprised me. Later on, I started reading at Ann Arbor there about...at the...what was that collection?
LEIGHTON: The Labadie.
H. KRAUS: And I found out that, my god, that Flint was a Socialist city. They had a Socialist mayor.
LEIGHTON: John Menton I think his name was.
H. KRAUS: Yes, I almost fell over, you know.
D. KRAUS: When was that?
LEIGHTON: He was elected in 1909. From 1910 or 1911, you know who beat him? Charles Stewart Mott.
H. KRAUS: You have a lot of stuff. But you haven't talked about the Emergency Brigade, but you have so much of that.
D. KRAUS: Well, but they have enough of that.
MEYER: Well, the post-strike period is interesting, because for the historian, kind of looking back on it or trying to study it, it's such a tangle. It gets very complex and a lot of it was special.
H. KRAUS: A lot of it was voluntary.
LEIGHTON: Right at the end of the strike...and the reason I've raised this off the tape the other day, I think, or over the phone. And you mentioned, just before when we were talking about Lee Pressman and the negotiation of the strike itself, and you mentioned the Dupont lawyers. And of course, they were in fact, they were the lawyers for the corporation.
H. KRAUS: Yes.
LEIGHTON: It was John Brown, who was a du Pont lawyer.
H. KRAUS: Yes, I remember him very well.
LEIGHTON: Yes. And yet what really has impressed us at this stage, at the end of the strike and going on, is that people were not aware of this massive corporation, which really General Motors, although it was the biggest corporation, was almost a wholly owned subsidiary of the du Pont Corporation. That just did not...wasn't any part of the consciousness of the organizers.
H. KRAUS: Well, we knew...I knew this. Especially later on when I got down to Detroit there, during the final negotiations there. I knew. As a matter of fact, I put it into the book; somehow or other I described it.
LEIGHTON: Right. And John L. Lewis gives a talk, over radio, NBC, during the strike.
H. KRAUS: Oh, he did?
LEIGHTON: About these people do what du Pont says. And that's in your...no, it may be in the Powers Hapgood Collection thing that's...
H. KRAUS: No, I didn't know that.
LEIGHTON: But it didn't figure in any of the organizing of the political education.
D. KRAUS: No, it wasn't even mentioned.
LEIGHTON: During or before the strike?
D. KRAUS: We never knew anything about it.
LEIGHTON: Mortimer never said anything much about it?
H. KRAUS: No, we didn't, really. It's funny, but we didn't. And we knew it. We knew it.
D. KRAUS: No, but I don't think they put much stock into it.
H. KRAUS: Oh, that was not true, Dorothy. We knew how the capitalist system operated. My goodness, Dorothy. And we knew what du Pont was. We knew you could see the way these guys acted. You could see. What's his name was there.
H. KRAUS: Sloan and Brown and also Knudsen. And Knudsen was a servant. He was just a...
D. KRAUS: You mean of the corporation?
H. KRAUS: Well, yes. He was just a nothing. See, this important guy, he was our figure, you know. To us, you know, he was it! But we know that was quite apparent.
LEIGHTON: It's something we've had so much difficulty in trying to place because when it all boils down, the directions on the other side were coming pretty much from du Pont. It was du Pont who lays the money out for the riot equipment and the tear gas and the paying of the company police and all, right from du Pont, in the year preceding the strike and probably well before that. They paid pretty much of the salary for these things.
H. KRAUS: By the way, you said that John L. spoke about these things.
LEIGHTON: He spoke about it. It wasn't a whole speech devoted to this, but it was in there.
H. KRAUS: Well, he knew, he knew what the score was. And so did political people. Sure, the Communist Party knew, or the Socialist Party.
LEIGHTON: But they, too, don't make anything of it.
D. KRAUS: They never brought it up.
H. KRAUS: Except, you find John L. ...I don't know. I described him at the end. He's sick, you know, and he's in bed there and he's very confident. And they won't...they say, "no, no, no." So he said, "Oh, send them in to me." Now they sent in I think it was Brown. Yes, they sent Brown in.
LEIGHTON: That's who you mentioned earlier.
H. KRAUS: And all he said to him, "You want those plants to operate?" "Well, sure we want them to operate." "Okay, then it's so and so," whatever it was, six months or nine months. Now, he knew where the power was because John L. was that kind of a character.
D. KRAUS: But it didn't trickle down to anybody else, that is, the smaller stuff.
H. KRAUS: Well, the strikers themselves, the workers, they were fighting against the plant manager, hated the superintendent. When the strike was won, they threw the superintendent out of the window, you know.
D. KRAUS: They didn't know.
H. KRAUS: This was the reality of it, really.
D. KRAUS: That's still the case, here too.
H. KRAUS: You've asked that several times. But really that's the way it was. I myself didn't know anything about the organization at that time. I'd read a little bit about it. But as I told you, I wasn't going to waste any time writing about it. Because I didn't feel that that's a kind of book I wanted to write. I started writing that kind of a book. And I finished six chapters which I never touched. They're still hidden away in the vault or something. But then I realized all of a sudden that that's not the kind of book I'd write. I said, "To hell with that, I'm gonna write a book about each strike." Because after I finished those six chapters, I started, by this time I was really typing, up on Beaver Island. And I typed three hundred pages which was supposed be one chapter on the Flint strike, you know, or two chapters at most. And that's all it was. And so I said, "Oh, boy, this is it. We'll forget all about the rest and we'll write it some other day." And this, I think, is revealing also of the general attitude of the workers, the strikers and so on.
D. KRAUS: Especially, more so with them.
H. KRAUS: Yes.
|MEYER: Let's talk about the factions in the strike.
H. KRAUS: Yes, factions.
MEYER: What seems to be identifiable as Martin faction quickly, rather rapidly...
H. KRAUS: Well, I'll tell you what happened. It was very simple and it was something we didn't calculate with. And that is that the advertising and the publicity and so on and so forth. We had sent...not we...the group of leaders who didn't want to be bothered and had been making all kinds of statements, you know that we'd have to come to...so they sent him off on this trip. Well, Martin became the guy that got all of the publicity. He became famous and he knew it.
D. KRAUS: Good speaker.
H. KRAUS: And he knew it. And here he came out, you know, and there was this tremendous victory, this tremendous union and they were flooding in by the hundreds of thousands. And not only into the UAW but all the other unions, you know. Pretty soon there were a couple of million that had joined. And by gosh, all these people we didn't know. We knew just the strikers, you know. The less militant elements, the elements that really resented the other boys and gals, you know. And they came in, and they tended to side with Martin, because he was more or less conservative. He was their kind of man. And our people were militants, the politicals. And so, even in the shops and in the unions, in the locals there was terrific animosity that developed. Remember, take Fisher 1, well, that was the best-organized plant. But even so, out of seven, eight thousand workers, maybe they had a thousand in the union that participated in the sit-down strike. That's about it. And all the others were, oh boy, they broke their necks to join! They wanted, you know, maybe we won't get all the benefits. And so a new leadership began to spring up. And, of course, the boys didn't know what's his name, Bud was lacking and wasn't tactful or anything like that. And pretty soon he was booted out. And not only he, but a lot of others.
LEIGHTON: Yes. We wondered why the leadership changed so quickly in Fisher 1. You know, for someone who had received quite a bit of publicity.
H. KRAUS: Publicity, yes, but it wasn't enough because you see, publicity, nationwide publicity is one thing. But not this, because these are the boys; they're the ones that are going to vote. They came in, you know, these eight thousand or however many there were. They're the ones that could control that local thereafter. It was no question.
LEIGHTON: Let me ask you, at this point; maybe this is the time to put that in there. And you might be the one really to ask this. Do you feel that at this point, the conclusion of the strike and the beginning of this split, of these splits, and probably the first basic one, as you say, is between those who were politically aware. They had some awareness, anyway, and they had been through this kind of crucible, this strike, which had given them an awareness which the vast majority hadn't. At that point, do you feel that the political parties, perhaps the Communist and Socialist parties, abdicated the responsibility that they should have had to, at that point, come in and begin to carry on?
H. KRAUS: No, "abdicate" is the wrong term there. What you're failing to recognize is the fact of the tremendous attack that took place against us.
LEIGHTON: Aha. Right immediately.
H. KRAUS: Right away. Because you have the, what do you call it, the Chrysler strike comes up. Very quickly.
LEIGHTON: Yes, the next month.
H. KRAUS: The next month, March. A matter of weeks; you're still negotiating, you know. You haven't been able to organize the plants and get the steward system and also you know there were strike after strike after strike. We had these terrible wildcat strikes that you couldn't control. There was no way of controlling them.
LEIGHTON: Were they fomented or were they just largely the result of pent-up workers' discontent?
H. KRAUS: That's all, discontent. By god, we won, and we're gonna have it. And we're not gonna take anything from any of these bastards. And they actually beat them up, and as I say, threw one superintendent out of the window. Anyway that was one thing. Now we never wanted to tell them that they were wrong, you know. We felt, you know, we sort of sympathized with them. It was hard to say. But then, pretty soon, the attack was so massive against the union and we found some nasty things taking place, like guys who had been out from the New York Times and other newspapers. We had given them so much attention and they had written such nice, pretty stories about how interesting the strike was and how spectacular and so on and so forth. All of a sudden they started attacking the union, you know. I forget some of the names, but really nasty. And there was one guy that even wrote a...
D. KRAUS: Novel.
H. KRAUS: Novel about a very...within several months. And he just makes...he just tears me to pieces. He makes me into a fool.
LEIGHTON: What was the name of the novel?
H. KRAUS: I forget; it appeared in one of the big magazines. Not with my name or anything like that. And Bob was a very, you know, he was naive, you know, just a sweet guy. And of course, there's a girl there, you know, a woman there. And I'm supposed to be the wooly haired, you know, glaring-eyed, piercing-eyed you know, that had the whole thing all organized. And poor Bob was just under my thumb, you know. Well, this is the sort of approach. It was sort of shocking. We never paid any attention to that sort of thing. We were fighting the company. I had a very bad disregard for the press. That's why what's-his-name was brought in to Flint at my request, from the federated press, Carl Haessler. He did a beautiful job with them. He knew them all, you know, all his life and he got along well. It was great. But I never really, I didn't care for them and I just neglected them.
LEIGHTON: Now he was brought in during the strike to handle kind of the PR, the news release.
H. KRAUS: Yes.
LEIGHTON: Right after the strike, though, do you feel you were kind of blind-sighted? You didn't know that this attack was going to hit you the way it did?
H. KRAUS: No, we didn't know; we had no idea.
D. KRAUS: It was being prepared while we were busy.
H. KRAUS: You see, no doubt that this was when Martin and Jay Lovestone had said that this is the time that we really have to do something against these guys, so that I don't remember when exactly Vic and I were fired, but it must have been around about March.
MEYER: What's the role of the CIO and Lewis, in particular?
LEIGHTON: Did they defend you, or?
H. KRAUS: In the immediate part, they weren't involved, except we made terrible mistakes, terrible mistakes. During the, what do you call it, strike?
H. KRAUS: The Chrysler strike. I wasn't involved in it, you know. I was just coming down to Detroit and I put out a paper, of course, and was catching up with some things. But I know that there was opposition to the way the strike was handled. They didn't want to evacuate the plant. They were opposed to that, the Communists, I mean, the Left, and the Socialists as well. And they just defied the international. And John L. was involved as the leading negotiator. And this is a bad, bad, mistake, you know, to do this you know and not differentiate between the leadership. And you had, also, Dick Frankensteen, who was the Chrysler man. After all, he was from Dodge. And all the rest; and we didn't know the Chrysler crowd. That was another reason why we had to choose General Motors, if you talk again about why we chose General Motors. Chrysler had been in the other organization, in Coughlin's organization.
|LEIGHTON: Oh, Father Coughlin.
H. KRAUS: Father Coughlin's, that union. Oh, I forget the letters of it.
LEIGHTON: Not the AC, not the Associated Catholic Church?
H. KRAUS: No, no, that's much later, no, this Coughlin union, which Dick Frankensteen broke with. He did that brilliant job of really developing it into a real union, which all the left-wingers opposed and made fun of and so on. And I said, "You're crazy", you know, "this is a great move and he's gonna make a union of it." And he did. And that's why we became close friends. Dick and Mickey and Dorothy and I were close friends for a long time. When the split came, at this time, it was terrible, because, you know, he was a friend. Really horrible. And he said...I saw him when I was fired and I said, "Dick, did you vote for this?" And the decision was on the part of the top...Homer Martin, you know. It wasn't even taken up before the board. And he said, "Yes, I did, Henry." And I said, "Well, what was the matter? How come? I thought we were friends and that we were fighting together." And he said, "Well, I just don't like your friends." But anyway, all these things, there were some foolish things. For instance, I'll just give you an example. During this big business that was planned, this big demonstration, what was it...in front of the city hall and something? Cadillac Square. And they didn't want it, you know. They were scared of it, as usual. And Adolph Germer was there. And I'll never forget. Under my nose he said, "Henry, you're setting this thing up for a Haymarket Massacre." And I said, "Oh, you're crazy, Adolph, you're just crazy! It's not 1886 or whatever it was. Forget about that; you're way back in the Middle Ages." We're powerful here and we've got to have something like that, because these guys, you know, they were really beginning to attack and break up unions and picket lines and so on and so forth. You see they had abandoned the plants in the sit-down. But nevertheless, despite the fact that there was no agreement on this big Cadillac Square demonstration, neverthless, the Communist, Socialist pushed it across, forced it across. And I'll never forget; I was in the office there. I don't know what I was doing. But some guy comes up with a big batch of leaflets calling for this big demonstration in Cadillac Square. And I said, "Oh, so it was approved." "Who the hell told you it was approved? We approved it!" I think it was George Edwards. So they put it on. And whether they liked it or not, they had it. Of course, it was a tremendous success, huge success. And it was what really won the damn strike. It set it back on its feet.
LEIGHTON: There were hundreds of thousands of people.
H. KRAUS: Oh, fabulous, wonderful. But even though, the fact that you've won it, you've again won it because you were militant and you were smart. And they hated you for it.
D. KRAUS: They wanted to get rid of you; they didn't like you.
H. KRAUS: So that right soon after that I remember I put out a one-sheet, two-sheet thing on it. And that was the last one I did, that is for the international, before I was fired.
D. KRAUS: All right, now what time is it? Six o'clock?
H. KRAUS: Almost six.
LEIGHTON: Before we get to the...I had just a couple of things I wanted to get out of the way. On the very tail end of the strike, one of the things that's really fascinated us and we haven't had any luck really, Bob had mentioned that there wasn't time to carry through the plans and that was the idea that the strike leaders had of creating a city-wide, not only organizing all the workers in Flint, but were there plans, one to organize all the workers in Flint, no matter what? Not just autoworkers, but others. And in addition to that, to really set up not only to take over city hall, but to set up kind of a shadow ward system, you know, ward leaders. And obviously there were plans. There were obviously plans to, because you did run a slate for school board, within the short period of time. Dr. Probert and I think, either Jay Green ran.
MEYER: A woman teacher.
LEIGHTON: Caroline Stearns.
D. KRAUS: That's right, Caroline Stearns.
LEIGHTON: And whatever happened to that, to those plans?
H. KRAUS: The factional fight which was fostered, pushed and...
D. KRAUS: Developed.
H. KRAUS: No, there was little talk about those things, of course. We...you know how you get away sometime, relaxing. Maybe something good happened and you're feeling good and you go to a restaurant for a cup of coffee and you're talking. Boy, you know, I remember Roy and Dorothy and I were once sitting and we were talking about, "Can you imagine, you know, when this city will be organized?" And Roy was always interested in that too, you know. We'll be able to run people and take over the city hall, you know, so called. And everything would just be fine and be wonderful, you know. There's no doubt that we did talk about that.
LEIGHTON: Well, you had some successes in that regard, didn't you? You got rid of the city manager.
H. KRAUS: Well, that was after...sure, after the strike. But I mean we talked, even during the strike, we were talking about it, you know once in a while. We had a little leisure sometime. Sure, we were thinking of it in those terms. With us, our interest in the union was in a total union. It wasn't just merely wages and so on and so forth. You know, this was, of course, a big consideration. It differed in different places. For instance, I told you at White Motors in Cleveland, it was seniority, because these guys were older. The average age was maybe forty-five, and they would be booted out. And they were booted out, so they needed seniority rights. But everywhere else there was this, that, or the other, depending. The speed-up, of course, that's what, as I've said over and over in the book and elsewhere. It was the speed, the speed-up that really organized these autoworkers in Michigan. But we also, we also thought about it in those terms. And besides, so much of the leadership were politicalized people who had read and who had that kind of thought of a better society, where the working man would have his say and have his proper position in running the world, the city, the other circumstances. So that was the reason that the thing did explode. Of course, we didn't have time. There were a lot of visitors, a lot of people in other little factories. Standard Cotton was a good example. All right, it's true that they made parts for the industry. But still, you know, it was a very nonentity of a plant. But because they came around, they said, "Look, we've got our plant organized. So, okay, come on along," you know. They were wonderful, wonderful guys there.
LEIGHTON: Well, there were...during that period, of course, you were constantly besieged by people from everything from J. C. Penney's to the candy stores.
H. KRAUS: Of course, that was after the strike. After the strike there was no limit. And it got to be so overwhelming that we just didn't know what to do.
MEYER: Can you tell us, did you have any dealings with or know anything about the teachers' union?
H. KRAUS: Yes, Dorothy was involved with the union.
D. KRAUS: Yes, sure.
MEYER: What was your connection?
D. KRAUS: Stearn, what's her name?
LEIGHTON: Caroline Stearns.
D. KRAUS: Caroline Stearns. She's the one that they had the contract with. We knew of her. We didn't know her, before, you see. We had never been in touch with her, because we never were in Flint. This is the first we were in Flint, you see, so we didn't know her. But we knew of her. And she came around; she came around several times. And we had talks with her and she told us that she was very much in agreement that we should do something and she was going to help us. And she said there were several people there. They didn't want to come out into the open. They were scared. And there were several other teachers that she was sure would support her and would support ours. And interestingly enough, what she also told us is that the children of the strikers were, many of them in her class and in the other classes. And they were talking and they were all for the teachers to be organized. That was very...
MEYER: No question that was a definite support for the teachers organizing.
D. KRAUS: That's right, for the teachers organizing.
H. KRAUS: Yes, it worked out. Also I even may have written about this in the paper that there were times when, even after the strike, when some of the teachers were still reactionary, you know, and very voluble. Would attack the union, especially when there was that big attack that I tell you about a few weeks after, when all these wildcat strikes took place.
LEIGHTON: And the kids, there were fights, and kids wouldn't take it!
D. KRAUS: They wouldn't accept it.
H. KRAUS: You know, kids from militant families, they'd stand up and they'd say, "That's not true," you know, and so on. They didn't know a heck of a lot. But some of them did.
D. KRAUS: It was just wonderful. We didn't have time to follow it through, to go there, to be with the kids, to see the kids. See, there were so few people who were helping, you know. All right...
MEYER: We've actually spoken to a couple of people who were like teenagers.
H. KRAUS: At that time.
MEYER: They were in high school and they can remember...one fellow we talked to remembered seeing the soldiers out of the window of the school.
H. KRAUS: Yes, they would be the ones.
D. KRAUS: They would be the ones, no question about that.
H. KRAUS: I do know that that took place and you'd hear about it, you know. But, as I said, this whole counterattack that took place, not only on the outside, but actually with collaboration, knowing or unknowing, conscious or unconscious, probably conscious...
D. KRAUS: Oh, conscious, definitely.
H. KRAUS: Collaboration by the people inside the union who were in cahoots with Martin and company and the Lovestoneites. Of course, the united front broke up very quickly because the Lovestoneites received orders, you know.
LEIGHTON: They pulled out then?
H. KRAUS: They pulled out; they made us aware that there was no longer...we could no longer count on them.
D. KRAUS: Oh, and also attacks.
H. KRAUS: And they also started taking over, wanting to take over. The question of who would be the leading people in the unions, you know, and so on and so forth. There was so much of it; you know, it was so overwhelming. There were thousands of workers, remember.
MEYER: The color attack, as you refer to it, had a lot of elements to it, I gathered. To frame a general question, there, I think what we're really interested in at this point, after looking at everything we looked at, is to really get a sense of what kind of motivations were driving the counterattack and who was...
H. KRAUS: Just let's see what elements we have. We had the company, I think that's basic, because...
D. KRAUS: They were always there.
MEYER: They were always the company, that's right.
H. KRAUS: They thought that they could still win, you know. The union just had a certain small, short period.
MEYER: A counterrevolution.
H. KRAUS: We had to establish our power, the leadership in the plants and prove that they worked. Because they were gonna have elections or some sort of labor board or some kind of election. So we had to show that we were the bargaining agent, that we did represent the workers, because we certainly didn't officially, forthrightly. During the strike, we had a minority. We knew that, but we felt that we had the silent majority behind us. And that proved true. And that proved true. But nevertheless, the counterattack was fierce, anyway. Newspapers and on a national scope tried to smash the union, to try to give the union a bad name, irresponsible, what's the use, you know. We have a contract.
D. KRAUS: The money question came up right away, remember?
H. KRAUS: Money? More than anything, Dorothy, was really the control, you know, control of the line, the speed.
D. KRAUS: The fact that they said that the charges against Bob...
MEYER: Against Travis?
H. KRAUS: Oh, money, you mean that?
D. KRAUS: That he spent so much money on expenses and all that. That's another element.
KRAUS: Well, that's another element. I'm talking about the attack
from the companies, and you know, and the Journal and all their
spokesmen and the newspapers and so on. And this proves that I
was right, that you really couldn't trust the newspapers. And
during the strike, while we were being picturesque and so on, they
would put our pictures in and so on. That was great, especially because
we weren't violent. They liked the fact that the strike was not
violent. This is true in other cities. Cleveland was where
it really made headway, because we did have violence in Fisher 2 and
then finally in Fisher 4 or Chevy 4. But, in general, this is
one, the major, the major, the big element. But then, too, there
was a counterattack in the plants. See, the workers really were
angry. They were determined. The most militant of them,
they wanted to establish their right, the congestion, the speed of the
line and so on and so forth. Wages were a minor thing. They
had received this...
D. KRAUS: Stewards, the question of stewards.
H. KRAUS: Steward, the steward system.
LEIGHTON: I've wanted to ask you on the steward system. As I understand, one of the things that Bob Travis put in, which could probably have been inherited to some extent, was a system, steward system based on the English model somewhat of one man representing about, let's say, twenty or twenty-five others. And he would work beside these people and they would elect him periodically and so on. And he was their direct contact up the line. Somewhere after the strike, the question comes up of whether to retain or expand the stewardship system throughout the...through Local 156 or the committeeman system. That is very confusing in the minds of workers because some of them call it stewards right up to the present day.
H. KRAUS: Yes.
LEIGHTON: Some talk about committeemen, some remember something about it. The only person who was very clear on it was Bob Travis, that there was an election or a vote taken on the executive board or among the strike leaders in Flint.
D. KRAUS: He lost?
LEIGHTON: Bob lost. The stewardship system went down the drain. He said he lost by one vote and the deciding vote was Walter Reuther, to do away with the stewardship, the British type of stewardship system, and replace it with a committeeman system, which was one person to represent every two hundred or two hundred and fifty.
D. KRAUS: Well, Bob would know it better than we.
H. KRAUS: Well, of course, you know, many plants you had both. And it wasn't just because they were copying the English system. The steward system had been established in a number of plants. It had been established in Chevy, Toledo Chevy. Bob's plant, they had a steward system there. You had to have a committee system, too, you know, the larger system, because the stewards did not, they did not negotiate with the company on that higher level. They might settle something, but they were the union representatives on a job.
D. KRAUS: On a lower level.
H. KRAUS: Yes, they would collect dues. They would keep, you know, the guys informed and so on. And they might even argue it out with the foreman, because the idea was that the worker did not argue with the foreman, you know.
LEIGHTON: The union representative.
H. KRAUS: Union representative. It was better in a number of respects, but there should not have been any conflict. And a number of places they had both the steward system and the committee system.
LEIGHTON: I think what we're getting at is, even in your time in Flint and in the organizing in auto, did you see a shift from that, that the committeeman system began to replace the stewards in the plants?
H. KRAUS: Yes, I think that those who were in favor of a more authoritarian sort of system, Reuther would be, especially later. In the early days with Reuther there was no difference between us in this viewpoint. But Reuther began to become, you know, you got to control it, and so on. And one of the answers, I think, to the wildcat strike was that, because if you had a steward system, they were so damn close to the workers that they really responded to the workers' desire, the immediate desires, you know.
LEIGHTON: Did you see that in Flint, then, that the stewards were being bypassed to control the wildcats?
H. KRAUS: I wouldn't know about that. I don't think it ever came up at that period, because there it was real democracy. My god, it was hot, you know. The idea was to try to settle it and keep the thing going.
D. KRAUS: Keep it down.
H. KRAUS: We knew that the plants had to run. There was never any question in our mind. And we would talk to the guys and we would rush. You know, you had to be in a hundred places, because really there were literally dozens upon dozens of these strikes. And sometimes they were such that they would affect the whole damn plant, you know. And the papers would be full of the stuff and you know they had a certain amount of justice in this complaint. You know, after all, they're there not to establish the union. They're there to run the plant for business and for production of autos. But we never, never attacked the workers, what I call the counterattack, for their militancy. And I'll never forget I had a long, long talk with Bob and the other guys there. And I said, "Well, I'm gonna have to write an editorial, anyway." And I put it on the front page. And I don't remember what I said. I do start out by saying, you know, that the papers are full of the attacks and you know, wildcat strikes, and so on and so forth. And these people never gave a damn to learn what conditions the workers had worked under and how they were ridden and how terrible it was and so on. And all of a sudden they're so concerned, you know. And they're finding all kinds of faults and disregarding the realities. But then I end up by saying, but nevertheless, for the good of the union, we have to learn to control ourselves. And we have the media through which we can settle these issues and we should do it, you know. We should not just take off and this is anarchy and it's dangerous and it's wrong, you know and harmful to be in it. This is the only time I ever did, if I remember, say something about it.
D. KRAUS: Now, go back and start...that was the first point.
H. KRAUS: The other element, of course, is the intra- or inter-union stuff. And I think that was probably by all odds the most dangerous.
LEIGHTON: The most unexpected.
H. KRAUS: Unexpected and the most horrible.
D. KRAUS: They wanted us to come back.
H. KRAUS: It ends up, of course, with the big attack, with the big split, which came very fast in Flint, very fast. And there were various elements to it. One of them, as I already mentioned, the fact that there was jealousy. The group that had fought in the strike, you know, and really covered themselves with glory and often got hurt, you know, and so on, fought the police and fought everybody else. They, you know, it was natural more or less for them to be proud and they would, you know, sort of talk down some other guy who hadn't. The question would be "Where were you in February or January of 1937? Where were you?" And they knew where they were. But nevertheless, because they had such a big majority, five to one, maybe six to one, depending on the plant, the non-strikers began to win out in posts. Now, whether it was stewards or the committee, I know that they began to come forward. And I was aware, by the time I was fired at the international level and went right into Flint, I was aware that the thing was just horrible.
LEIGHTON: Was there any logic to the anti-union guys, the non-activists, in the way they moved in? The people who were coming in, were they identifiable by some kind of category?
H. KRAUS: Yes, they were. You couldn't say that they were Black Legionnaires or anything like that. But they had all those elements. The elements that were non-union or anti-union, all of a sudden they begin to flare up, you know. They come, oh, they joined the union. "We're union," you know. And I remember that what was taking place was attacks, attacks against Bob, attacks against the leaders, attacks on this, attacks on sometimes just, you know, anything. It didn't matter what. Some nonsense. But nevertheless, and eventually they'd find something good, you know, that made some headway for them, so that it got to the point that they had these department meetings, you know. Take the Chevy plant with its, what, fourteen thousand workers. Well, by god, there were so many departments that had a thousand workers, eight hundred workers. And they met, you know. They met every week. You know, they were meeting all the time. And there was no end to it. These meetings were really attended. There were big crowds. And these attacks would come and you had to be there. I remember Roy, who had charge of Chevy, Roy and the other guy----what was his name? He was from Wisconsin also.
LEIGHTON: Carl Haessler?
H. KRAUS: No, no, no, Carl was not a union...he was just a newspaperman. No, Ralph Dale was in charge of Buick. He was the organizer who was in charge of Buick. And Buick was fine. Of course they didn't have a strike, you know. It was all very nice and when they had meetings it was great. And Buick was always a unity local, because later on you had the unity and the progressives. You know those two. The progressive name, by the way, came through the Lovestoneites; you know that was always progressive. And that's what Martin and Frankensteen picked up. But so there was no problem there. There was no problem with, what do you call it, where the women worked?
LEIGHTON: AC Spark Plug.
H. KRAUS: That was also unity, became unity with them. But in Fisher 1, all these gangs came up, you know, reestablished themselves. It wasn't as easy, but they were able to defeat, they had an election and defeated Bud.
LEIGHTON: Was Bert Harris in evidence around there at all?
H. KRAUS: Bert Harris wasn't, because it was too apparent what kind of a role he had played. But there were other guys. And by the way, you were asking about parties. You did not have Socialist Party there, no CPO (that's the Lovestones; just occurred to me for the first time). There was the Communists, of course, they were...as far as the left wing was concerned. But there was what they called a Peoples' Party.
H. KRAUS: Proletarian, that's it.
MEYER: When you say "there" do you mean Fisher 1?
H. KRAUS: Fisher 1. And there's some great guys. They were in close united front. There was never any problem that I was aware of. I really didn't know who they were. I knew Bud. I knew that Walt Moore was Communist, because he had run for some big office, you know, on the Communist ticket. But otherwise I'd say, "Well, what is?" Oh, I forget one of them very nice guys there, one of the leaders. I think he even became the head.
LEIGHTON: Vic VanEtten.
H. KRAUS: Vic VanEtten was one of them. I don't think Vic was a Communist. I'm quite sure he was Proletarian.
LEIGHTON: I think so.
H. KRAUS: Then there was another one, sort of stockman.
LEIGHTON: Joe Devitt.
H. KRAUS: No, no, Joe Devitt was a Communist, I'm sure. Joe Devitt must have been a Communist, because he was too close. And they had been friends even before they came to Flint, you know. So they must have been, with the Unemployed Council, you know, and trade union.
LEIGHTON: He and Walter Moore and Jay Green and Bud.
H. KRAUS: Jay Green. Jay Green. Wait a second. I think Jay Green may have been Proletarian.
LEIGHTON: Could be. They were all friends; they had known each other for a while.
H. KRAUS: Jay Green. That's the one I mean. I don't think he was a Communist; I'm not sure.
LEIGHTON: His wife just passed away.
H. KRAUS: Jay has been gone.
LEIGHTON: Quite a while, apparently.
H. KRAUS: In other words, the men always die sooner, usually. The weaker sex. Anyway, they were all attacked because they had been in the strike leadership. And I think they were all removed, because I remember at the convention, where by this time, you know, it was August, the thing had been consolidated. I think that at Fisher we had very little strength at Fisher. I don't remember any more in the records, the papers, but I don't think we had a heck of a lot. We'd had Chevy and Buick and AC Spark Plug. But Chevy was split. I know that Roy Reuther was elected a delegate. And that was a big point of dispute, because he hadn't worked in the plant, you know. And we, ourselves, didn't like it, you know. But the Reuthers didn't mind some of that stuff. But there also were splits...
LEIGHTON: Do you remember who the others were, well, individuals?
H. KRAUS: Well, I remember Jack Little. Jack Little started coming forward. He was a very shrewd guy. Very good, you know. Had a lot of personality, handsome, dark fellow. This is the way I remember. He wasn't enormous, but a very nice guy. But he was a vicious guy. And he had not played any role. Never saw him around in the strikes or anything. I think he may have joined just at the very end, because I always suspected Jack Little of being a stool pigeon, you know, a company man. And the company undoubtedly, with its agents, began to operate much more cleverly, because by this time the LaFollette Committee things had broken. And, boy, the word had passed around, you know, "boy, we got to get some brains." But Jack Little was a great spokesman. And he was, I'll never forget, at a couple of these meetings, committee meetings, and then, of course, plant-wide meetings. He was vicious, and he began to really attack Bob Travis. Then too, there was a split among the party, you know, the left-wing element. Still, I wasn't aware of anything between the Communists and Socialists, though there was something beginning to perk there. During the strike, I know, the Socialists did something that I know the Communists never would have done. They sent in some of their leaders from the outside into the plant.
LEIGHTON: Hy Fish.
H. KRAUS: Hy Fish and another guy.
LEIGHTON: Bert Cochran?
H. KRAUS: No, I wasn't aware. He must have been around. But there was another guy who was the National Secretary or something, a little fellow.
LEIGHTON: Art Crutty?
H. KRAUS: Maybe that was it. Art? No, what was his name? He was Jewish, not Hy Fish. But he was buzzing around giving orders, you know. And I looked at him; who the hell is he, you know? And I asked. He actually called a meeting of the Socialist "fraction", at the time, within hours of the taking of the plant. And I became aware of it. Somebody told me about it, so I went; I just barged in. I said, "Nice meeting." I didn't even know several of them, you know. And they were embarrassed as hell. And I think their job was to put Kermit Johnson in, to make sure that Kermit Johnson was elected. Well, there's no opposition to that. We also thought that he was the logical man. So it wasn't against Bob or ourselves or anything like that. Yes, I began to be aware, but there was a reason for that. The Socialist Party itself was split. You see, the national Socialist Party was not in favor of this whole thing, development. They didn't like this united front with the Communists. That was sure. And they kept sending people into...and I know Powers Hapgood, who was a Socialist, giggled to me once and he says, "Boy, the party sure doesn't like what's taking place here." I said, "What's wrong? Don't they like the success?" The national level came at the Chrysler strike, during the Chrysler strike, because of the fact that I think the Communists conducted themselves badly, because the fact that John L. Lewis was the negotiator and they should have just accepted the fact that John L. Lewis would continue to be a great negotiator. There should not have been any doubt, you know. And yet, maybe the doubts weren't expressed openly. I think they may have been expressed at meetings of the unions, of the strikers. I'm not sure, because I was so damn busy putting out the paper, I didn't pay much attention to that. You really had to have your mind entirely on this factual stuff or you didn't know what was taking place.
MEYER: Well, you mean the workers began to be concerned about Lewis?
H. KRAUS: No, there was a tendency, and by the way in this respect the Socialists and Communists were combined.
D. KRAUS: United, you mean.
H. KRAUS: United, yeah. Because I know that people like George Edwards and so on, you know, he must have been on the payroll by this time. They were...and oh, I remember, even as early as the Kelsey-Hayes strike how super-duper militant Sophie Goodman, Sophie Reuther, Victor's wife was. You know, really, you just couldn't control her, you know. Actually she was attacking Walter once, you know, because of the settlement of the strike, you know. She said, "You've sold us out, you've sold us out!" She was yelling at the top of her voice. So there wasn't any of that sort of thing. And besides we were all, both sides, you know, and all the left, outside of the CPOers were under attack. And, as I said, Vic Reuther and I were the first ones that were fired, which showed exactly what the tendency was going to be.
|LEIGHTON: On this factionalism in this early period right after the strike.
H. KRAUS: Yes.
LEIGHTON: In your papers at Wayne State, there was something Bill and I came across which was fascinating and leads me into the whole question of the CIO. At an April meeting at Flint (I don't know whether it would have been Local 156, or we couldn't tell exactly.) a man named Capellini comes, claiming that he represents Martin and John L. Lewis. Now, my question is is this the CIO getting into the act, too? Obviously I don't meanthe CIO. I mean some people in the leadership of the CIO, furthering the factionalism. And who was Capellini?
H. KRAUS: I don't think. Capellini was an organizer. He had been with the Mine Workers originally, I think from Pennsylvania. And I think he had been in the opposition for a while and then was hired by Lewis. I'm not sure. But all of a sudden this very, very handsome Italian guy, you know...
D. KRAUS: Dapper.
H. KRAUS: Yes, "dapper" is the proper word. And he started going after all the gals, I remember, in the office, you know. But we didn't trust him one bit. And really he wasn't anything. He wasn't like Powers Hapgood, for instance, who came up to Flint, you know, during the Chevy 4, the taking of Chevy 4. And I remember him packing his hat with paper, you know, because they all expected to be hit, you know, struck by cops and so on. But Capellini, no, he was just a politician. Now if he said this, you saw this among my papers?
LEIGHTON: It was meeting notes; they might have been yours. You would know, of course, from the handwriting. Where did they...?
MEYER: They were like minutes of a meeting at which Capellini was present.
H. KRAUS: I don't remember mentioning Capellini, but he didn't stay on very long, anyway.
MEYER: Well, it indicated who was at the meeting. I don't think it was you. But Travis, Bob was there.
H. KRAUS: Well, what it may have been was he just came in to a meeting.
MEYER: Well, the interesting thing about the notes is they indicated that people were quite upset with his presence, very upset.
LEIGHTON: He got the workers all upset, by the things he said.
MEYER: There were letters from Flint workers complaining about who was this Capellini guy coming in.
H. KRAUS: I don't remember that at all. I don't remember that. I was in Detroit, see, because we were still going back and forth.
D. KRAUS: So, evidently these are not his notes.
LEIGHTON: No, they were notes taken by a secretary at a meeting.
H. KRAUS: But Capellini, you see, because remember that Flint was taken over by this committee. See when the split came and Bob was removed as the director, you know the leading organizer or whatever you'd call him. And they'd put a committee in place and this is when Pieper comes in.
LEIGHTON: Comes in to Flint?
D. KRAUS: Sure, he was brought in to Flint.
LEIGHTON: Now, that was just prior to the convention, in the summer?
H. KRAUS: I think it must have been as early as April. I'm not sure. No, no, I can't be sure.
D. KRAUS: You better check that.
LEIGHTON: 'Cause Bob was still around. I think they gave him a big going-away blast at one of the parks, one of the amusement parks or something.
H. KRAUS: Yes, maybe I'm way ahead of myself.
LEIGHTON: In late spring, in May or June. Now he might have come back up from Detroit or wherever he was.
D. KRAUS: No, the committee was sent in quite early, but I don't remember the days. You better check.
H. KRAUS: Bob was still there because I came in and I was editor. So Bob must still have been there. And I was editor until after the Milwaukee convention. As soon as that was over I was fired, the last time. Fired for the last time, thank God.
LEIGHTON: Well, my question about Capellini, though, is really did you ever have any evidence that he was a plant by Martin or from the CIO itself? Was he official capacity or was he just some guy who came on his own?
H. KRAUS: I don't think the CIO was getting involved in this fight, because Lewis was the determining factor, and Lewis showed himself as being so much opposed to this fight that was developing. He didn't know what it was all about, probably, because Germer just didn't know what it was all about. And when Lewis found out what it was all about, when he came to the convention and he saw the danger of this terrific split in the union.
D. KRAUS: It was a little late already.
H. KRAUS: This is August, and he saw this. Then there was no question. He took a position on it.
MEYER: Which was to support...
H. KRAUS: To support unity, unity, unity. In other words...
MEYER: The principal of unity?
H. KRAUS: The principal of unity, but it also meant unity.
MEYER: Yes, I know. I was wondering which sense you meant it in.
H. KRAUS: Well, this is the way it was interpreted. Because I know, after his speech, I met Dick Frankensteen and he was crying because he said he never expected John L. to do this to me. I said, "What are you talking about? He was just talking about unity." He said, "Oh, Henry, you know what it's all about." John L. knew what unity meant. It meant to preserve these officers and of course, that was the case. They could have won and booted everybody out. They must have had an easy sixty percent of the votes. That didn't mean in Michigan, especially.
MEYER: Who had sixty percent of the votes?
H. KRAUS: Homer Martin, Dick Frankensteen, the progressives. I'm sure they had sixty percent. And we had only forty percent. But they had the whole damn country, you know. As I said, this is where Martin's fame and his charisma had operated. But in Michigan itself, the strength of the unity slate is shown by the kind of men that were elected to the board. You see, you had...it was finally an agreed to slate. You know, you had Reuther, you had Frankensteen. Frankensteen, no, Frankensteen became a vice president. But you had Reuther, you had, oh, several real left-wing elements that were elected to the board. LaMott was elected. I forget the names, but I know...I don't think there were more than about four representatives from Michigan. Well, six, maybe. No, there were maybe six or eight. But I know that we had a majority of them; the left had a majority on the board, because the board was anti-Martin. It was at least fifty-fifty. But it was anti...because Martin began to maneuver with it. The officers, of course, were solid, because you had what's-his-name. Lewis said, "Look, they've done such a good job. Why not elect them all?" you know. And that's what happened. They realized that they couldn't, you know, after he made this definite statement, that they couldn't antagonize him, or they felt they couldn't. So they re-elected everybody and added Dick Frankensteen as one of the vice presidents. Dick Frankensteen wanted to be the only vice president, you know. And the others could be put on board and so on. But nevertheless, this is the way it was. So that meant that the officers actually represented a majority. The left-wing officers represented a majority.
D. KRAUS: In the unity.
H. KRAUS: In the unity, which played a very, very significant role in the future destiny of the union, you know.
LEIGHTON: Did you have anything on this point, 'cause I wanted to carry this CIO thing?
LEIGHTON: Okay, the unity in the progressive caucus, caucuses, remain right up through 1939, don't they?
H. KRAUS: Well, no.
LEIGHTON: They don't.
H. KRAUS: I should say not. You'd better not start with that, because there's a lot there.
MEYER: Because of the split with the AFL?
H. KRAUS: No, it had nothing to do with the AFL. It had to do with the Reuther and the Socialists. This split started developing in 1938 already. And the split really occurs in response to the amazing disintegration of the Martin forces. Martin was so bad and he did such horrible things that he lost his prestige. You wouldn't believe that he could have, you know.
|LEIGHTON: Well, and you caught him with the goodies with the memo. Wasn't it a memo from Jay Lovestone?
H. KRAUS: Well, that, that came...
LEIGHTON: That was the final act.
H. KRAUS: Not only the memo. We had a bunch of papers, you know, this night that Maurice Sugar came to the house and he said, "What would you say if I told you this will be the end of Martin right here in these papers?" I said, "Well, great. What do you want me to do with 'em?" And that's when I put out the... But there's much more. We didn't have room for the whole lot of it. But nevertheless, this "Dear Homer," the "Dear Homer" letters which I've put into it.
LEIGHTON: What about Reuther, though, the Reuther faction?
H. KRAUS: Reuther went along, you see, because Reuther could see himself as rising all the time. Remember Reuther was a great guy and big fighter, and you know, union man and so on. But he was ambitious. He was more ambitious than...he was as ambitious as a man like Dick Frankensteen, who didn't have the kind of, how shall I say, political knowledge and idealism that Walter was supposed to have had.
D. KRAUS: Oh, Walter was also smarter than...
H. KRAUS: Well, I don't care about his smart. Walter was the smartest man, maybe there, you know, most politically smart. He didn't have the depth of understanding that Mortimer had, because Mortimer had gone through life that way. Nobody could ever take it away from Mort. And this is what was his strength, and why everybody, all the workers went, just tended toward him, you know. They trusted him. Walter didn't have that kind of background. Walter was an intellectual. He had gone to the university. You know, he was a Socialist, it's true, but Socialist from the standpoint of an intellectual socialist.
D. KRAUS: A professional militant.
H. KRAUS: He had chosen his father...you know the stories about his father putting them on soapboxes, you know. We got to meet the family; we spent two days there, you know, in Wheeling. Great guy. But we could see the kind of background these people had and it was good. Fine to know that workers would have that kind of leadership. But at the same time when we began to see the course that things took, that I began very early realizing that if Reuther were ever to feel that he was going to be deterred in his progress up to the front, to the top, then he would be a dangerous man. You wouldn't be able to hold him back, you know. Who knew what he would...we didn't expect him to do the things that he did do. I didn't, anyway. But, no, he was going up, up, up, up, up! And the thing that must have pleased him in his heart of hearts, you know, was the fact that this attack by Martin against the other officers, like Mort and Ed Hall, was weakening them. It was weakening them. And Ed Hall was never the caliber that could have taken over the leadership. And Mort was getting older. And Mort was not a fighter; Mort was too damned decent. All these stories, you know, of the Bert Cochrans and so on, you know about how slimy he was. This is all false. Mort didn't have it in him. If he had any slime, you know, any of these ideas at all during this period, it was because of us, of me, talking to him and saying, "Mort, look what's happening? Don't you realize?" When Mort, once he's accused of having gone, left a meeting, an important meeting in Pontiac, I think, and gone home, driven home back to Detroit, which is in northern Detroit there. And so he was accused at his trial, you know, later and "What did you go for?" He said, "I wanted a cup of coffee, a cup of tea." And this is true; he got bored. He just got bored with all of this palaver.
D. KRAUS: He often got bored.
H. KRAUS: And he hated it! So he just walked out, you know, quietly. Nobody ever noticed him, you know. And he sat there, oh, to hell with it, I'll drive down and have a cup of tea. I don't know, I never thought that tea was especially good, you know. I had many dozens and hundreds of cups there. But he thought it was the greatest tea that anybody ever served, that Margaret served. But Reuther saw that this was happening and it was all to the good as far as he was concerned. And at the convention, the Milwaukee convention, Reuther became the outstanding spokesman. This is the first time that he really comes to the fore. And everybody noticed Walter, you know. He was the big leader and there was no question that he would be a board member, you know, the outstanding board member. In the first convention at South Bend we just had to finagle and work with things to get him in, you know. I must say it was not very...
D. KRAUS: Cricket.
H. KRAUS: Cricket, yes, democratic. Well, it was democratic, but nevertheless, how he got in there was a question of a few falsehoods, and...
D. KRAUS: Extra votes.
H. KRAUS: Yes, well, there were so few votes in the first place. But anyway, so Walter was the kingpin and he went into the thing in this fashion. Well, it also made the Socialists more aggressive. There weren't that many Socialists. But nevertheless, you had people like George Edwards, you know, who was very capable and a fine spokesman, you know. Vic was never too much of a political character, but nevertheless he was there. And Walter was always pushing him, after all. Roy was the least of the group. But Roy stayed on in Flint, of course, until he was booted out, much later. So that the break-up, the fact that the Socialists were beginning to react to the arguments of people like Norman Thomas and others that I don't...maybe Cochran. I didn't know that Cochran was that important in the national leadership. Oh, Frank Trager was the name of the Socialist leader who came to Flint.
LEIGHTON: He came to Flint, that short guy.
H. KRAUS: Yes, and I saw him in the plant there, you know.
D. KRAUS: Yes, and he called a meeting. "Hey, we got to have this meeting." But what they must have felt with Walter was that well, we're getting strong enough we can be on our own pretty soon. We won't have to take the Communist line, or any arguments from them. But I, soon after, got very sick. I was ill for several months there, in bed. And I had a foolish thing; I had an operation. This is why I sort of lose contact. You had to be right there all the time, you know. If you were away for two or three days... When we went to New York that time, you know, boy, we rushed back and we had a big meeting with all the fellows, you know, and the gals who were still there, to tell us what had taken place. Otherwise you really didn't know from day to day. But I know that things were taking place. There was a big meeting of the General Motors Council. And there was a difference of opinion between Socialists and Communists. I don't remember.
LEIGHTON: This would have been at the time of the Milwaukee convention?
D. KRAUS: At the end of the...after the Milwaukee Convention. It would be around November, something like that, of '37, and opposition also in backing of candidates. And they started making friends, you know.
D. KRAUS: They were buying up people, beginning to buy up people.
H. KRAUS: Buying up...
D. KRAUS: Beginning to buy up, pay 'em a little bit, you know.
H. KRAUS: Oh, I don't think there was any question of money.
D. KRAUS: Oh, I do.
H. KRAUS: Oh, no, no.
LEIGHTON: This is Reuther?
H. KRAUS: Oh, I don't think; that's a funny thing to say. No, I don't think that's so.
MEYER: You had a question about Hillman and Murray?
LEIGHTON: Yes, I wanted to, but that comes a little later.
H. KRAUS: About Murray and Hillman.
LEIGHTON: Yes, Murray and Hillman. Of course, the CIO, by 1939 is pressing pretty hard for Thomas. And we know about that election. That's explained in a lot of things that have been written, you know the Curran book or other things.
H. KRAUS: Of course, they didn't explain that there was a split. A lot of us were opposed to this line.
LEIGHTON: Yes, oh, right. And John L. Lewis was not in the picture then, was he?
H. KRAUS: No, John L. Lewis went to Mexico. He was invited to go to Mexico by the government.
LEIGHTON: He was very much opposed to Roosevelt, by that time, wasn't he?
H. KRAUS: Yes, he was opposed to...he always was opposed to Roosevelt. He was always a Republican. And he hated Roosevelt. You had a feeling that he just hated him. And he was a macho, too. He didn't like the fact that there was this woman who was the labor...
LEIGHTON: Frances Perkins.
H. KRAUS: Frances Perkins. He couldn't stand her. And so, by and large, he just didn't like the set-up. But nevertheless, he used it. But John L. really, I think John L. must have had some political ambitions and he began to realize that he was getting too old. It wasn't turning out that way. And then, too, John L. had great loyalty to people that had worked with him closely through all his life.
D. KRAUS: Even though they were against him at that time.
H. KRAUS: And one of them, Phil Murray is a good example.
D. KRAUS: One son of a gun! He was a reactionary.
H. KRAUS: Oh, he was horrible!
LEIGHTON: Oh, I have here that Lewis was, now as you've clarified, was in Mexico. And he sent Hillman and Murray apparently to the selection. And their idea, especially Hillman's, was to prepare the way for Reuther. Is that a correct statement, or is that wrong?
H. KRAUS: Yes, well, here's what...no, Hillman certainly liked Reuther. But nobody could say that he was preparing the way for Reuther at that point. But if he had, you know, if he was one of these guys, you know, just figuring everything out. He, of course, had a lot of help from the ACTU and so on.
LEIGHTON: The Association of Catholic Trade Unions.
H. KRAUS: Catholic Trade Unions. He always had a couple of priests around with him. It's the most amazing thing, you know.
H. KRAUS: That's Murray.
D. KRAUS: Murray.
D. KRAUS: Of course, Hillman should have had a couple of rabbis.
H. KRAUS: He didn't need 'em.
D. KRAUS: Oh, he was a son of a gun.
H. KRAUS: But the thing is that a lot...
MEYER: You're saying Lewis was was fooled by Murray, was it?
H. KRAUS: Yes, he knew what was happening. He knew that something was happening, but he just didn't want to get involved. He didn't want to fight with 'em.
MEYER: What game was Murray playing?
H. KRAUS: Murray was playing the game of getting rid of the left.
LEIGHTON: See, that's what I wanted to get. With whom?
MEYER: I mean, who was he playing it with?
H. KRAUS: Oh, with the Catholic Trade Unionists, with the elements in the union. For instance, he now had...
MEYER: Was it the CPO?
H. KRAUS: Oh, no, they weren't important enough. But he had...remember, Murray was the president of the biggest union in the CIO or next to the UAW. But the UAW wasn't that big then. He must have had a million members in this union then. And that union was run. You never saw anything like it, you know. It was really...Bob worked for them for a while and he would tell stories. It was really god-awful. You know, it was really like the way the UMW was run in the old days. You just didn't say anything.
LEIGHTON: You have dictatorship.
H. KRAUS: And besides, you see, they had hired a lot of Communists, really Communists, known Communists throughout. I didn't know it, who they were, especially, but I know that you'd find 'em in the Daily Worker. Guys, even they were section organizers of the Communist Party. And they would be made organizers for the SM...what was it, "smockers," whatever, the organizing committee.
LEIGHTON: Oh, the Steel Workers Organizing Committee. SWOC.
H. KRAUS: SWOC. Well, when the time came that they had signed the first agreement, you know, it was this terrible one where so many were killed.
LEIGHTON: Was that the Little Steel of '37?
H. KRAUS: Yes, Little Steel. But all of this was rearranged. They signed. There was one signed contract and everybody else flocked in. They knew this is it, you know. They got the word. "We've got to play footsie-tootsie with them. Keep the Communists away." The Communists were cleared out. Well, this was when Bob described it to me, because I think he was working for the SWOC for a while or for the steel workers for a while, and he said they would send a representative to a meeting of the local, the steel local. And he'd have a list and he'd say, "Brother Tim Hurley, Brother so-and-so, Brother so-and-so, please step forward." And they would step forward. Some of them were leaders of the union. And he'd say, "These men no longer hold their positions in the leadership of the union. They are declared removed." The union is in the hands of the following committee.
LEIGHTON: Put it in a receivership.
H. KRAUS: Murray put them into receivership, one after the other. Some of the most important plants in the whole damn set-up. And so, fine, the companies were delighted, you know. And they had not yet defeated several of the real tough, like Weirton and a few others. They hadn't been able to beat them and sign contracts.
We know about the Martin connection with Ford. In terms of this
kind of attack on the left, were there any other cases in which there
was this direct link occurring that anyone knew between the companies
H. KRAUS: Not that I know of. There may have been in smaller cases, you know, less important cases. But I don't know of anything like that. This was so crazy. It was just because he was really, he must have known that he just had a brief period there when they would discover who he was, you know. He must have known. And besides, I think, he must have been offered a very good deal, as it happened.
H. KRAUS: He became a representative for Ford, you know.
LEIGHTON: He was retired to a farm in Ann Arbor, given one.
H. KRAUS: He had a great time, you know. And that's all he cared about, that and women. He ran around.
LEIGHTON: One of the best sources, as you probably read, not the demise, after the fall of Homer Martin, is Harry Bennett.
H. KRAUS: Harry Bennett, Harry Bennett himself.
LEIGHTON: He tells how bad Martin was, even for the company. They had to pension him off. He was totally against the company.
H. KRAUS: Yes, it was terrible. It was really amazing. He was nuts.
LEIGHTON: But the Hillman and Murray. Do you think now, assessment-wise, that Hillman and Murray are really part of this counterattack on the left? And they were very much plugged in.
H. KRAUS: Oh, no question, no question.
LEIGHTON: Any idea where they were plugged in?
H. KRAUS: No question at all.
D. KRAUS: It was very, very apparent.
MEYER: You'd never know that he was a son of a missionary.
H. KRAUS: There's no doubt about Murray and Hillman. The only thing is that Murray did not play a role at the Cleveland convention, the '39 convention. It was Hillman, and he was a very shrewd guy. And of course, he couldn't have put it across without the Communist Party, I'm sure.
LEIGHTON: Couldn't have put it across without them.
H. KRAUS: Without the Communist Party.
LEIGHTON: Yes, but how do you mean?
H. KRAUS: Well, because the Communist Party decided that they didn't want to fight the CIO.
LEIGHTON: The Thomas selection.
H. KRAUS: Yes, and when Mortimer got up, Mortimer and, I think, John Anderson both got up and said, you know big important meetings of the leaders, you know, he said, (Mort said, I think he was the first) "I've been with the CIO from the beginning and they've done a terrific job. They've helped to organize, not only our union but many other unions." And he said, "I'm not gonna fight the CIO. I disagree with this line, but nevertheless, I'm not gonna fight with them." And then John Anderson also said the same. Well, we were, Bob Travis, too, and myself and a couple of others, we were dead against this. We had said so from the beginning back in Detroit already when we began to see what the tendency was. And we said that this is terrible. They're gonna throw the union down the drain. And that's when we started saying it means that Reuther is gonna take over. Because we knew what mush mouth was, you know, what kind of a guy R. J. Thomas was. He was just a nonentity. And he had been with Martin all this time. Well, that's okay. A lot of other guys came over, you know, and so on. But he was just a nonentity, he was dumb, he was nutsy, he was slow, he was dimwitted, he was also against a man like Reuther. And who else would there be? And according to the agreement, the officers were all removed. Mort and all the others were removed. They were no longer to be vice president. They were promised all kinds of things. "We'll give you the highest position," and so on and so forth. And it's true that Mort was made organizer for the aircraft industry. But the chief reason for that is the same reason Homer Martin wanted him to go up to Flint, because they didn't think he could do anything there.
MEYER: Had your voting strength changed in this time?
H. KRAUS: The board that was elected was still...
MEYER: In office?
H. KRAUS: I won't say left wing anymore, because, you see, there's a split in the left wing. But it certainly wasn't Reuther. It was certainly still controlled by Mortimer, Ed Hall, and so on and so forth. Of course, Ed Hall was no longer...neither was an officer. No, the board was...Reuther, by this time the split was definite between Reuther and the others. Remember...
MEYER: But what makes, kind of in the chemistry of all these different parts, what changes it in '37 is the independent action of the Socialists. Is that what changes it?
H. KRAUS: Yes. For instance, remember that the board, the officers had been removed by Homer Martin. Took, booted out, illegally. They were given trials, you know, supposedly and so on. But then they were fired. And this created such a tremendous response, kickback, that eventually they were forced to, Martin was forced to...well, he wasn't; the union was forced to take them back. Well, we had organized for this purpose, these meetings in different cities, Toledo, Detroit, something like our earlier things in the 1935 period. And the idea was to win support for the CIO, because it was evident Martin was already attacking the CIO and he was talking about AFL and so on and so forth. And, as a matter of fact, that's where he went. He established the UAW-AFL right at that point. And so we could bring that up. And we, I remember, we went to Washington. We drove to Washington. It was Mort and Ed and Dick Frankensteen, I think Dick was with us, myself and maybe one or two others. And we talked to John L. Of course, John L. loved Mort. He believed everything he said, you know, because Mort was so truthful. And Mort had been a miner.
LEIGHTON: Sure, and he was Welsh.
H. KRAUS: And he never believed anything wrong about Mort, you know. All the agitation, all the things that were said against him, never, never. . . So when Mort told him the story, John L. Lewis realized how disappointed these people were. He said, "Well, we can't come out, you know, openly in favor of your group, but nevertheless, we'll give you every support you know that we can and that you need." So the program was a new convention, a new convention that would straighten out the union, that would restore the democracy, because Martin had just rather run haywire over the whole thing, you know, eliminating all kinds of rules. But of course, in this respect, he had Jay Lovestone organizing the... And the thing that really did it was our paper, when we were able to expose his ties with Jay Lovestone. And, of course, Jay Lovestone must have had 30-40 people there in the office. And they had everything, including the editor of the paper, Bill Munger, and others. They fired what's his name? Carl Haessler was editor for a while. And they had fired him, and put Bill Munger in instead. And others, many, many, many others. Everybody, everybody, all the other things. This gal who was in charge of organizing ladies' auxiliaries, women's auxiliaries, was a Lovestoneite. And a couple of dozen of the organizers, you know. But the thing is that Lovestone, undoubtedly, was also in cahoots with this business of working with the Ford Company. See, it's an amazing thing, you know. This great revolutionary, you know. And he was undoubtedly tied up with it. I think he actually met with them. Well, despite all of this taking place, we found out that the Socialist Party, the Socialist group had several secret meetings with Homer Martin and his crowd, you know, on the committee level. Three or four.
MEYER: After Martin had left?
H. KRAUS: It was shortly before the CIO took its stand, you know, and made it quite clear. No, Martin was still the president even after there was a board meeting and the CIO had expressed its viewpoint with the board meeting. And by this time, the board went over to us, see. And so the officers were forced to be taken back, to be given their jobs with full back pay. And so then, soon after, Martin kicked over the traces.
LEIGHTON: But he met with some of the Socialists.
H. KRAUS: He met with some of the Socialists.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember who they were?
H. KRAUS: I must have known, but I can't remember now.
LEIGHTON: Reuther would not have been...
H. KRAUS: But they were tough guys. See, it was Vic and...
LEIGHTON: Oh, so the Reuthers would have been involved, I see. He does not mention that in his book.
H. KRAUS: No, of course not. And these meetings that we held, these big rallying meetings, because we had one local after another. We fought for...our officers went around and I was the one that organized all of that, because I had gotten better. And for these guys, you know, Ed Hall, Addes, Mort, Dick, to run to these meetings; they'd have these meetings of the locals, you know, everywhere, South Bend, here, there, you know, Milwaukee. And these guys would come there, you know, and I was the one that would organize this stuff for them. And they would come there and speak and the local, then, would take action in favor of our program, you know. New convention, new this, new that.
MEYER: This was in connection with the vote between the AFL and CIO.
H. KRAUS: Well, the AFL wasn't yet; had not yet come up. It was when Homer Martin realized that he was on the way out that he began to be tied up with the AFL.
LEIGHTON: Right, that was a last ditch.
H. KRAUS: That was the last ditch. And he had a couple of board members left, Washburn. They were CPOers.
LEIGHTON: Oh, yes.
H. KRAUS: Tucchi, Frank Tucchi, for whom I must take eternal blame and shame, you know. Because I was the one that really pushed him into the board.
D. KRAUS: Okay, Henry, excuse me, now you have to stop and just eat this.
H. KRAUS: Hillman's role, this is the only time I got to know Hillman. I'd met what's his name...
H. KRAUS: Murray on other occasions. But you know, Murray was not like Lewis, ever. Nobody was like Lewis in the UAW. In the UMW crowd we met a number of them, I mean of the old crowd that remained with Lewis. My god, you just couldn't believe that there would be that gap between the ability of this man, John L., and those that were with him. You could understand when you met people like John, John Brophy or others, you know, Powers Hapgood, even Adolph Germer, who was no longer a world leader. But he was brainy, he was smart. Then you just couldn't understand. It must have been force that he used, and not his brain. They recognized his leadership, you know, that he was the outstanding guy. But he had to maintain that lead with force. But I think I tell a story about Murray, Murray's coming to Detroit at the Dodge thing, you know, speaking there. So I had quite a long talk with him. I must have talked for a couple of hours there that day, and told him about how hot the thing was getting in auto. And he could care less. He couldn't be less interested. They were interested in steel.
H. KRAUS: That was it. And all right, it was okay. They wanted help, so we came up and made a speech at the gate for Dick Frankensteen, you know, and that was it. But he didn't understand.
MEYER: Would you consider the '39 convention to be chronologically the point where the activists left?
H. KRAUS: Yes, this was the breaking point.
MEYER: That's essentially the breaking point.
LEIGHTON: In a lot of ways.
H. KRAUS: No question that after '39, this meant the ascendancy of Reuther, even though it took some years yet. And, of course, you had the fact that the war came and that R. J. Thomas was protected by the war, you know. And Reuther couldn't do anything, he couldn't, you know, pull off any... He did anyway. He called the strike sooner than he should have, you know.
LEIGHTON: Oh, did Reuther, during the war from '39 on, did he continue to attack the left within the union?
H. KRAUS: Sure, sure, sure.
LEIGHTON: When did he turn on you and Bob, out in the open? I mean that you were really aware of it. Was it the '39 convention or before, or? I know you had your concerns about it, but when he openly...
H. KRAUS: Walter never really attacked us. He avoided us; and the last time I ever talked to him about it was when I met him. And there was no doubt there was a big split. It was in the UAW headquarters there and he saw me, and he said, "Jesus Christ, Henry, why don't you talk to these guys?" I said, "What guys?" He said, "Oh, you know, Communists, leaders," and so on, you know. So I said, "Well, you know that this is crazy. We ought to be pitching together."
LEIGHTON: This is in '39?
H. KRAUS: Yes, and I said, well that's up to you, isn't it? By this time I was disgusted. I really had had enough, so I didn't care. So I said, "Why don't you talk to them?" He said, "I can't talk to them; they won't listen. You know they're stubborn." But I knew that they were planning right along. A naive guy like Frank Winn. It's funny you don't know about it. It just shows how Frank Winn didn't amount to much, you know. He was the public relations, publicity man. And we were always good friends. We worked, we had the same office, you know. But he was a Socialist; he was definitely. I mean he was pulled in for that reason. And he's the one that brought George Edwards into the field. George was national president of the students' union; and they were both from Texas. They had been to school together. And Frank said, "Say, I know what, I ought to call George Edwards and tell him to come." They were organizing, bringing all kinds of people into Detroit. So I said, "Gee, that's a great thing." I knew who George Edwards was because he was president. So he phoned him, right there, you know. And he said, "George, why don't you come; we're having great times. Things are really hopping." And he came. That's how he came. And he was unmarried yet. He was young.
MEYER: To what do you kind of attribute the ultimate split and attack on the left? What were the motivations?
H. KRAUS: Oh yes, well, I haven't said that when Martin was finished everybody started coming our way, you know. Of course, Dick Frankensteen had already broken. His break with Martin took place in '38 already, probably. It must have been '38. As I said, I was off, I was sick for about five months, you know. So I really didn't know what was happening. But I know that, because I know he had broken by then and I know when I got better we were very good friends. And we would go out together, you know, with Mickey and his wife and Dorothy and I. And we'd go out to Frankenmuth for chicken dinners or we'd go to movies together. And they'd come over. People didn't invite each other to dinner.
D. KRAUS: Oh, we invited them quite a number of times.
H. KRAUS: Really?
D. KRAUS: Sure, we had that nice Polack.
H. KRAUS: But I didn't think that you were much of a cook then.
D. KRAUS: I may not have been as good a cook.
H. KRAUS: But we would go out to dinner. This is the way I remember it. And well, this is what really got Reuther, Walter, what stuck in his crawl. See, because he was on the rise and taking the lead. And he was sure that he was gonna be the accepted leader of the left. He would be the presidential candidate.
D. KRAUS: Complete.
H. KRAUS: And, by gosh, here's this Frankensteen. And we're friends with them and, not only that, I remember arguing a couple of times with them. You know, they thought I was a stooge, you know, being friends with him. So I said, "Listen, he's a nice guy. I've been a friend of his from way in the back, when the whole thing started in '36. He's a nice guy. I know what his views are. Dick Frankensteen believes that every idea he gets, everything he does is right. But that's no different from a lot of other people in this field. You can't argue with them, you know, and you can't argue with Dick. When Dick feels that he's doing the right thing for him, then there's no arguing with him. And when he sided with Martin he had his reasons, his rationalizations. And that was it, you know. But when he realized that Dick wasn't gonna serve his own destiny anymore with Martin, boom, he comes over. And he made that move through Mortimer, I think. He asked Mort, "Let's go out and have something together," and he told him. I don't remember the exact circumstances, but I remember Mort told us about it. And so, sure, that's great. That meant the end of Martin. The only one that he had left was mush mouth. That was the last, the only officer. And then, of course, he had three or four members of the board. Washburn and Frank Tucchi. Well, we began to notice that something's funny about the Socialist group, you know, and Walt. And they were getting ready for a Communist sellout, you know. Communist meant everybody, you know. And this, undoubtedly, is what turned them. And what animates his meetings with Homer Martin and his crowd and their being friendly with Munger and such like, you know. And they're having meetings and, as I started saying, Frank Winn comes to me once and he says, "Boy, Henry, we had a meeting today. We're gonna take the leadership away from you."
LEIGHTON: So he would spill everything.
H. KRAUS: Yes, well he was so naive. I said, "Boy, more power to you."
MEYER: So Reuther got worried because support was drifting.
H. KRAUS: He was worried that now the Communists and the other left, which, when I say "Communist," it means really the considerable majority of the left, let's say. People like Leo LaMott and Ed Hall and so on and so forth.
LEIGHTON: People who stayed basically progressive on the small changes.
H. KRAUS: Progressive and were going to back Frankensteen instead of Reuther for the presidency, because he knew that Mortimer wouldn't be the proper candidate. He was a little scared of George Addes, but you know, George. I never thought that George would put his hat in the ring there, because he was too satisfied with the job he had. And I think he was aware of the fact that he really didn't have it; he just didn't have it. And he didn't. And I don't think he would have really pushed for the presidency, because he did, around the Cleveland Convention in '39 there. But I think if it weren't for Maurice Sugar, he wouldn't have done it. I'm the only one maybe that says this, you know, but I think that's true, because he just adored Morrie, and he had put Morrie in as the general counsel at a time when it was really unpopular to do so. See, it was his authority to do that, you know, according to the constitution or something. And he brought him back and he also respected Morrie, because, of course, Morrie was a wonderful guy and he was pure and he was great, you know, and he was smart. But the thing he wasn't smart about was backing George Addes for the presidency, because George didn't have it. And when in Cleveland there, four days passed by and we couldn't do anything. We wanted to have the elections right away. That was our program, so we could get it over with. And we could put R. J. Thomas in as president, because we knew it was inevitable; but also have the other people elected. But we were stubborn; we refused to accept the Hillman line. And we still thought that maybe we could, you know, win out. And so we just argued with him. Hillman would call two of us and then two more, and two more, you know, and talk: "Let's sit down," you know. He had a very heavy accent, you know.
|LEIGHTON: He was Swedish, wasn't he, or something like that?
H. KRAUS: No, Jewish, Russian Jew.
LEIGHTON: That's right, I was thinking of someone else.
H. KRAUS: But it was impossible. He just couldn't get to first base. And Ed Hall would say, "Shit, Phil, you know that all you're talking is shit, pure unadulterated shit." Boy.
D. KRAUS: His name wasn't Phil.
H. KRAUS: No, not Phil. Well, Phil was around for the first couple of days.
D. KRAUS: Sidney.
H. KRAUS: Sidney. And funny thing, you know, you talk to a lot of left-wingers still and Communists, and they all seem to think Sidney Hillman was a great guy. He was just a politician, a real politician, and that's what he was carrying out there. And Phil Murray left and he knew that he was leaving. Now at that point there's no doubt that he began to feel that Reuther was the man. But his job was to get the left wing to cry off and support R. J. Thomas.
MEYER: You talk about Lewis kind of being defaced, now at this point. Who was, I mean where was the center of power in the CIO? Who is it?
H. KRAUS: It was shifting; it was shifting to Phil Murray.
MEYER: Phil Murray.
D. KRAUS: He was the authority.
H. KRAUS: Sidney Hillman could never be the center of power. First place he was Jewish. He was in one of the lesser unions, Garment Workers. And of course, he had an opposition, strong opposition, what's his name.
H. KRAUS: Who was really still backing Homer Martin, because of Jay Lovestone. Remember Jay Lovestone was a Dubinsky man. So that was out. And they hated each other and they were always at each other's throats. And so it was Phil Murray, Phil Murray and all his henchmen, people, younger people who were coming up, you know. Oh yes, a man like what's his name, Carey of the electrical workers. You know Carey, he was also a Catholic and close with the ACTU. He was bright and handsome, you know, and so on and so forth, but he was dumb as hell. He was really dumb.
D. KRAUS: He lost out.
H. KRAUS: Yes, he lost out. And it was only because he was dumb that the United Electrical Workers, the only really important union, a left-wing union, was able to retain its leadership, left union leadership, which, of course, goes on during today, though it's much weaker than it was then. And they took a lot; they had the same situation there. The CIO came in and wanted to put Carey in in command. And they said, "To hell with you." Well, they were in agreement to keep Carey in as president, but they wanted to keep people like Emspach and Macliss and so on, in also, sort of a triumvirate there. And the CIO wanted them to get rid of them, which they refused to do. And to us, we didn't know it was happening because we were so concerned with our own. But this is what we should have done. They defied the CIO, and the CIO didn't do anything about it. Now Phil Murray had the stupidity to tell us, you know, me at one or two of the meetings, that if we did not agree to back R. J. that... Ed Hall asked him, "Well what the hell would you do?" Ed was very foul-mouthed. He was that way also in negotiations, and Knudsen, who was such a good Christian, you know, he was horrified. He walked out a couple of times. He said, "I can't listen to this man; I can't be with this man." But he said, "What the hell, what do you want to do? What's your plan? What if we refuse? We're gonna refuse to back this son of a bitch. We're not gonna take him. Not only is he a crook and he's been with Martin and he's just as bad as Martin, but he's dumb." So Phil Murray was horrified and angry. He was a very dignified, very handsome, handsome man. He raised his eyebrows and so on and said, "We will call a press conference and say that the Communist Party has taken over the UAW. So Ed Hall lets out a guffaw and he says, "Well, how the hell will that cause the autoworkers of this country to be able to make a choice between you, the CIO, and Homer Martin?" Because that's what he's been saying to them for the last two years. So Murray didn't act. Murray laughed. They had this Sidney Hillman there and Sidney was much cleverer, much more...
H. KRAUS: Smoother and, how shall I say, more patient, you know. Over and over he'd say the same thing. He didn't give this kind of an argument, you know. But he said, "Look you have been through a terrible fight and you cannot take people who are identified. You have to have somebody who is not identified." Listen to this. They'd say, "You mean to say R. J. Thomas isn't identified?" He's identified with Homer Martin. They came into the picture very consciously.
LEIGHTON: Did they take out after the left within the UAW specifically?
H. KRAUS: Yes, yes.
LEIGHTON: I mean we know who else they did.
H. KRAUS: Yes, they came in.
LEIGHTON: Did they come to Flint?
H. KRAUS: They came to Detroit and I got involved there through one of their major attacks. Not myself personally, but they attacked the doctors who were in this tuberculosis program. There was an anti-tuberculosis program that was being backed by the state medical set-up. I think it was the Health Department. And it was conservative, but nevertheless it was a good thing. And Walter Crife...wasn't that his name, the author?
D. KRAUS: Sure, very active.
H. KRAUS: Who had been very active in trying to foster this kind of thing, helped.
D. KRAUS: Checks on TB.
H. KRAUS: Pre-checks, you know.
H. KRAUS: Give mass checks on tuberculosis. There was a test, you know, that was given. And they could find with a very quick test. And they could find that there was a possibility. Then they went to the x-ray. So they noticed, somehow or other, they noticed that there was a special group that were lined up with the union because the union had established through George Addes, by the way, had established a department, a medical department. Because that was a very serious thing, you know, the various industrial diseases and so on and so forth. And they wanted to study and be helped. And a man by the name of Landrum...
H. KRAUS: Dr. Landrum was the director for the union. And then there was another group, you know, others, and one of them was somebody we knew, because he had his office right in the place we were living in. His name was Shafarman, Dr. Shafarman, Eugene Shafarman, and a couple of others, Bicknell and a few others. I don't remember their names. But anyway somebody found out, probably some stooges, that these guys had been very active in this campaign. And they had examined hundreds of people, workers and people, but mainly workers. But now that was all a business of collecting, making a lot of money, which they then were supposed to have turned over to the Communist Party. Well, they also found out that some of the names, not many, I don't know, a dozen or something like that, were people who had gone to Spain as volunteers to fight against Franco. Remember this is the period, '38, right at the very end. And so, boy, this is beautiful. In comes the Dies Committee, with all this, you know, to prove that the Communist Party, of course they were taking over the UAW and the medical profession and they were helping fight, send fighters to Spain, etc., etc. Well, the way I came into it was they needed somebody to tell the facts, because it's true that they had examined, oh, I think these five doctors or six or something had examined hundreds of cases. But they were union doctors. They had been active. And besides, they really took the things seriously. A lot of the other doctors didn't like the whole idea. And so they examined these people. They found an enormous percentage of the number of the people who had TB. I think they must have, I don't really know the number, but it must have been. And so I wrote a brochure on it, exposing all these things. And that this is an attack, really, on the part of the reactionary doctors to sort of destroy this program. And also to destroy the doctors who were active in it. And what could have happened to Gene Shafarman and the others was that they could have been kicked out of the medical association. Or society. And this was the danger. Of course, they weren't. This brochure and all the rest of it must have helped them to retain their standing.
LEIGHTON: Of course, after the war, even by '41, you've gone to the west coast, I believe.
H. KRAUS: We went to the west coast. We arrived in '40, May Day, 1940.
LEIGHTON: But things like the Dies Committee. Did you already see evidence that it was beginning to intimidate workers? Were they speaking about it?
H. KRAUS: Oh, no question. We knew.
D. KRAUS: A lot of workers left. I don't know if it intimidated them.
LEIGHTON: I mean the political. What I really mean both the political people and others from rank and file, too.
H. KRAUS: Of course, I even wrote about them. No, there's no question that was their purpose. There's no question that that was their purpose.
LEIGHTON: But what I'm saying is that you began to see evidence of it really taking hold.
H. KRAUS: Sure you see, of course. Look, they come in and they get this tremendous publicity. All the newspapers give, you know, and show them. People believe these things. It's an attack on the union, as well. And the union is in a bad position, you know.
D. KRAUS: The unions don't answer; they don't say anything about it, you see.
H. KRAUS: Well, argue; we had these terrible, you know, fights and splits and so on and so forth.
LEIGHTON: The Dies Committee, though, never bothered you?
H. KRAUS: Me personally, no.
LEIGHTON: Did any of the other committees in the postwar period ever bother you?
H. KRAUS: No, it's the funniest damn thing. They never...I think maybe because we weren't important. I don't know, you know. What could they do to us?
D. KRAUS: We were no longer important.
H. KRAUS: Yes, that's true. We no longer had...what could they do, you know? Maybe they were afraid. Maybe they thought, well, these people would talk freely. They'd just tell the truth and it wouldn't do them any good, because that's what we would have done. We would have just talked, you know, and told 'em the whole thing. We wouldn't have denied anything. They could have asked anything they wished. But, no...
D. KRAUS: When did the Dies Committee come in to Detroit?
H. KRAUS: It was in 1938.
LEIGHTON: I'd say '38. They got started about 1937.
H. KRAUS: You see, so '39, that finished. We were through and
we disappeared from the scene because I was writing my book at...
LEIGHTON: Beaver Island.
H. KRAUS: Beaver Island. Then Mort starts acting up when we finished.
D. KRAUS: We came back to Detroit and to Cleveland in '40.
H. KRAUS: We came back to Cleveland, and Mort said that he was in California and he wanted us to come out there to help him. He said things were beginning to buzz and I need you.
D. KRAUS: In the aircraft.
H. KRAUS: And I said, "No, I don't want to go. I don't want to go." I really didn't want to get back into the union. I just was sick and tired of it and I had other personal reasons, but Dorothy wanted to go to California. And one day she announces to me, "Look, I've got a job." I said, "Oh, that's nice, where?" She said, "California, working for Mort."
D. KRAUS: Well, I wanted to get in. Henry didn't, but I wanted to.
H. KRAUS: And she also wanted to get to California.
D. KRAUS: California, that's true. But I also saw the aircraft.
H. KRAUS: Mort would write these letters saying things are beginning to buzz. He was at his old game, you know, slow and talking to people. And they were young, you know, and he was marvelous with them.
LEIGHTON: Well, they had all migrated from like the Midwest.
H. KRAUS: Well, I said, "Fine, I'll go if you let me finish my book," because I realized, you know, I'd just boom, boom, boom, boom, boom and I had to rewrite the whole thing and carefully. I had never written a book. So I said, "Sure, I'll come with you." And so we did, and I finished my book, and I sent it off to a publisher.
D. KRAUS: Well, that's not important.
H. KRAUS: And then came the first strike, the Valti strike. And Mort said, "Hey, you've gotta come out." So I did. I helped with that strike in a big victory.
D. KRAUS: Okay, now that's another story.
H. KRAUS: And then I agreed to become a help in the organization of the North American.
D. KRAUS: That's another story. We're not on the North American strike, now, Henry. We never wrote a book on the North American story.
H. KRAUS: That was when we finished up with any friendly relations with Dick Frankensteen, because he turned out to be an awful heel. This is really when he showed his heeldom (sic). Wow!
D. KRAUS: I want to say...No, don't put it on the tape. I'll tell it to you later.