The pathetic end of the San Diego celery strike is another picture of betrayal and deception reminiscent of Orange County. It is a picture of a Mexican Consul, some local politicians and their stooges and a couple of incompetent labor leaders who helped these agents of the employers to maneuver the striking unions into calling a two day “truce” in picketing just as the Shipper-Growers were beginning to feel the pressure of the strike, thus breaking the backbone of the workers’ offensive.
The picture was painted by the Farmers’ Protective Association, framed by its agents within the unions, and nicely glassed in by a clique of Stalinites.
The unions of San Diego County up until a week ago were the pride of the state, the shining light of unionism in agriculture; today they are nothing but another menacing blot, marking the spot where another strike was broken, and this one without a struggle. Six months ago the San Diego unions boasted of good contractual relations with the growers; their leadership was clear and their perspectives sound; their ranks were filled with militant union men; they have given to the labor movement such men as Jose Espinoza.
But such events as the Orange County citrus strike, Los Angeles, Salinas, etc., had long ago planted a firm determination in the Shipper-Grower Associations to wipe out the existing unions in agriculture and the unions in San Diego in particular.
The first and most important line of strategy followed by the growers’ agents in the unions was to undermine the authentic leadership of the Mexican union with a vicious campaign of lies and slanders so that by the time of the strike all of the stable and militant leaders of the union were either discredited or entirely out of the ranks of the union.
One principal reason for the former stability of the union was the fact that its leadership never permitted the Communist Party to get a foothold. This time the Stalinists took the cue from the employers’ attacks upon the union and started one of their famous “build-ups” around a second-rate demagogic politician. He turned out to be an ideal stooge for either the bosses or the Stalinists, being absolutely ignorant of the meaning of the labor movement in any of its forms except perhaps as a sublimation of religious experience.
At the same time a vile campaign against Jose Espinoza was initiated, and to make it sure, just before the strike was to begin Jose was thrown in jail in Orange County on his old vagrancy charge along with Velarde of the CUCOM. The united front of the bosses and the Commies (is this the People’s Front in action?) then forced out Lillian Monroe and Castillo, leaders of last year’s successful strike along with Espinoza.
Thus the unions entered the strike with the membership considerably demoralized by the recent turn-over of militants and little confidence in the leadership. Nevertheless, after a very fair walkout on January 27th a militant picket-line succeeded in tying up considerable of the celery crop.
The idea that under the best conditions these unions might have been able to deal with the Celery Growers’ Association as a whole (tributary to the Farmers’ Protective Association) is at best overly optimistic. A good chance for partial victory lay, however, in concentration of the workers’ forces in such a way as to enable the unions to break off one after another several Shipper-Growers from the Association.
The sixth day of the strike found the Association in the agony of a sure split as a result of well concentrated workers’ forces. The powerful apparatus of the bosses, both inside and outside the unions, sprang into immediate action. The County Supervisors threatened to pass an anti-picketing law effective in “all unincorporated districts” (the agricultural areas) of the county. Without consultation with the Central Strike Committee a meeting was hastily prepared wherein a supervisor was to present a “plan” for “settling” the strike.
So the puppet-stage was set and the puppets under the puppet mastership of Chet Moore jerked on their strings, and the strike was in the hands of the bosses.
The politician, Bellon, smiled and ogled and told how workers must use “strategy” in order to win. This strategy, said the politician, consists in removing your picket line for two days in order to save us poor politicians the embarrassment of passing an anti-picketing law at the insistence of the Farmers’ Protective Association. No one was taken in at first, some of the workers actually laughed in his face, but the stage was well set. At Bellon’s right sat our two-bit, build-up leader and his trusty Stalinite builder-upper, also two local nitwits, stooging for the politician, and a representative of the San Diego County Building Trades Council. They were all pleading for the agricultural workers to help them fight the anti-picketing law, directed at the celery strike—by removing the pickets from the celery fields. At Bellon’s right sat the crafty Mexican Consul giving silent but effective support.