I am so sentimental about those old idealistic Communist SOBs (and Bs) of my “old days” and of Dos Passos’s USA trilogy that I wanted to remind you of the Paterson Silk Strike of 1913, which was organized from the Botto House in Haledon, NJ. I was born (later than 1913!!!) in Haledon, 42 or 47 N. 12th Street, although I grew up mostly in Paterson – lived in Haledon for only about six months (alcoholic parents had to keep moving). The town – a working-class suburb of Paterson – was Socialist in 1913 and had a Socialist mayor (William Brueckmann). Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Big Bill Hayward, and John Reed were all there, speaking to the crowd from the 2d floor porch – which was like a balcony. It’s still there. You can see it. It is now the home of the American Labor Museum, 83 Norwood Street, Haledon, NJ.
Carlo Tresca was also there. He was an anarcho-syndicalist (my kinda guy) assassinated in NYC in the ‘40s, possibly because he had become a strong anti-Stalinist. (Tresca was also, however, a strong critic of Italian Fascism, so….) Reed died in 1920; Haywood in 1928; when Stalin was just getting started. So they never lived to decide where they would stand vis-a-vis “Uncle Joe,” the Ivan the Terrible of 20th century Russia. Apparently and unfortunately, Elizabeth remained a loyal Stalinist right to the end of her life in 1964. That makes me sad. Good woman – limited discernment.
Reed is buried in the Kremlin. Half of the ashes of Flynn and half of the ashes of Haywood are interred in the Kremlin and the other half in each case are buried near the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument in Chicago.
Tomorrow, Sept. 5, the Haledon-to-Paterson Labor Day Parade will begin at the Botto House at 1:30 PM and will finish “at the Great Falls Historic District in the City of Paterson, where a festival with food, fun and entertainment will be taking place.” My friends and I in downtown Paterson used to swim in the deep and frightening water of the Passaic Falls chasm (90 feet deep, they say), the statue of Alexander Hamilton (the founder of Paterson) gazing at us from across the industrial swirl.
Here’s something on Elizabeth Flynn and the 1913 strike: Flynn – Take a look.
P.S. I still have an up-to-date dues-paying IWW card. But my membership in the Insane Liberation Front has lapsed. Ah, Romanticism!
P.P.S. Communism, of course, once established and entrenched, became brutal, and awful, even genocidal. “The best-laid schemes….”
P.P.P.S. How ‘bout this?
P.P.P.P.S. And here’s the “Orthodox” version