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:
The Many and the Few & Four Little Girls

Sep 18, 2023

Book: The Many and the Few: A Chronicle of the Dynamic Auto Workers, by Henry Kraus, 1985

The book tells the story of the 1937 Flint Sit-Down Strike, written by a man who took part in the events. He sets the stage by describing the ramshackle homes, forced overtime, constant speed-up and lay-offs, crippling jobs with no health care, and indiscriminate pay cuts. Workers tried to organize: strikes had succeeded in other cities, but in Flint the bosses so far had held them at bay. The UAW, newly affiliated with the CIO, sent in battle-tested organizers. And some workers had been reading and discussing on how to fight the class system, learning how communism and socialism said that workers should be the ones running society.

The time was right: the constant speed-up and firing of anyone who spoke up caused bubbling eruptions. Finally, it was decided to “sit-down,” that is to occupy the plant, a relatively new kind of strike, at GM’s Fisher Body Plant #1. The book describes the democracy of the strike, how decisions were made, how work was organized during the occupation, how disciplined the strikers had to be, how it involved the women and the community. They organized committees for cleaning, exercise, security, entertainment, and defense.

GM and their goons tried all kinds of dirty tricks and attacks, but the workers fought back and stood firm. Eventually the strike spread to 17 GM plants, lasted 44 days and involved 136,000 workers. The UAW finally won a raise and union recognition with a guarantee of no reprisals against the organizers.

Film: Four Little Girls, directed by Spike Lee, 1997, streaming on Max and available to rent on other services

On Sunday, Sept. 15, 1963, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a church in Birmingham, Alabama, murdering four young girls who were there attending Sunday services. Birmingham was the scene of regular violent attacks on the civil rights demonstrators by the police or the Klan. They used trained attack dogs, firehoses, beatings, and bombings.

The film develops the individual personalities of the four girls and lets us get to know them, and to mourn for their lives cut so short. It shows the role of this church in central Birmingham in the life of the Black community and its place in providing an organizing center for the civil rights efforts.