The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Culture Corner:
“Salt of the Earth” & “The Seattle General Strike of 1919”

May 29, 2023

Film: Salt of the Earth, 1954, streaming on YouTube

This powerful movie was made outside of the Hollywood movie system during the McCarthy Period. It was financed by the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, a militant union that was expelled by the CIO for its refusal to expel its communist members. The movie’s writer, director and producer had all been blacklisted by Hollywood for their politics.

The film is based on the true story of a miners’ strike for equal wages and safety in New Mexico. It addressed the company’s divide-and-conquer policy of granting small privileges to the Anglo workers, setting them against the Mexican American workers.

Only five people in the film were professional actors. The rest were people from the actual community in New Mexico, and many acted in their true-life roles.

The film itself is a complex powerful tale of the male workers and their wives struggling to come together to defeat all the powers against them. It especially shows the women overcoming male resistance and coming into their own by participating in the strike.

While it was not allowed to be shown until the 1960s, it became well known and respected for the classic that it is.

Book: The Seattle General Strike of 1919 by Robert L. Friedheim, 1964, new edition, 2018

This book tells of the six-day general strike of 65,000 workers in Seattle in February of 1919.

Seattle was jammed with workers due to World War I in the shipbuilding industry and on the docks. It was a hotbed of ideas and radicalism, with many experienced worker militants who had links to traditions stretching back to the beginning of the workers movement in this country.

Workers had mostly forgone striking during the war, but once the war ended, they felt it was time to strike. The entire working class of the city supported the strike. The strikers demanded wage increases for all, not just their own union.

During the six-day strike, they organized kitchens to feed the strikers, medical care, communication, and the other services they needed to survive and keep the strike going. They ran the city.

The strike was the first general city-wide strike in this country and shook all.