Wobbly, the Rough-And-Tumble Story of An American Radical

By Ralph Chaplin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 32. SAN FRANCISCO AND HARRY
BRIDGES. CLASS WAR ON THE WATERFRONT

AIR travel was new to me. It was my first long flight, and I found it difficult to accustom myself to the thought of a labor editor traveling in such style. I was well aware that these luxuries were a commonplace to the post— Wagner Act crop of labor organizers. It is the sort of living that has softened the labor boys up, I thought—thick steaks and "swindle sheets" instead of "the rods" and "coffee-and" as in the old days. In spite of my misgivings I settled back rather impatiently for the urgent 3,190-mile journey to San Francisco. This was to be a clinical test of my ability to appraise the post—Wagner Act labor movement. I had been present when Bill Foster's "boring from within" brat had come squalling into the world. What had happened since then? I would soon know. I was sure of two things: one, that I knew a Communist when I saw one and, two, that I could identify the party line on sight. Nobody could fool me about such matters any more.

My reception at the office of the International Longshoremen's Association was anything but friendly. In fact, it was frigid. Something had come over the I.L.A. with which I had been familiar in the past. There were no rough-and-ready dockers about as in the old days. The stenographers were bright young Gotham girls. Their eyes were hard, and their accents unmistakably flavored with the Lower East Side.

Shomacher, the union official to whom I had been directed, appraised me coldly. It was like standing before a police judge. I was painfully familiar with Shomacher's type. The C.I.O. long‐ shoremen's office might have been brought here, lock, stock, and barrel, from one of the swarming lanes around Union Square. Even the pamphlets and newspapers displayed about

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