I saw Nat in the hospital just before he died. He was had difficulty hearing and talking. He asked me why he was moved to another room and I told him that that my son and his grandson Kevin had had informed me that he was moved to a hospice setting.
I could sense that he not much longer to live. When I told him about the workers in the Ukraine and Seattle, he seemed happy with the new and then he ask why I was in the room. I told him that I came to say goodbye to my friend and old comrade. He nodded, smiled and rested.
Nat Weinstein was my friend and comrade for over 60 Years. During that time we were ‘comrades in arms’ and fighters in many struggles, which included:
- The Civil Rights Movement, including the defense of Malcolm X and his ideas, during the last year of Malcolm’s life;
- Fighting as brothers in the Painters union for workers democracy and opposing the concept of business unionism;
- The anti-war movement;
- The struggle for workers’s democracy;
- The struggle to build a proletarian party; and
- The struggle to build a Socialist World.
Nat was one of the youngest proletarian leaders of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), which still had a majority proletarian leadership and membership, when I first joined it in 1961. In the early 60s, he was one of my mentors in the SWP.
When I moved to New York City, he suggested that I become an apprentice painter and a brothers in the Painters Union. Nat was the organizer of the New York Branch of the Socialist Workers. We have been brothers ever since.
In 1964, right after Malcolm X broke from the Nation of Islam, As my the branch organizer he led the New York City SWP’s collaboration with Malcolm X.
In April 1966, two months after Malcolm’s assassination, Dow Wilson, the leader San Francisco Painters Local #4, was also assassinated. Dow Wilson was leading a San Francisco Bay Area rank and file caucus of painters’ union members, who were fighting both business unionism and for union democracy.
In late April of 1966, former member of the SWP, who was part of this painter caucus, sent a letter to the SWP leadership, asking the SWP it had any members of the painters union that the SWP transfer to San Francisco to help this struggle.
Nat and I accepted an assignment to transfer to San Francisco, so that we could become a part of and to help that struggle. He soon became part of that Bay Area caucus and what we became members the Local #4 “Dow Wilson” caucus. The first Bay Area meeting, we attended, had over 500 rank and file painters discussing how to continue this fight against ‘business unionism’ and build in Dow Wilson’s words: ‘a democratic rank and file painters government,’ based on the concept of one member one vote. We both have been fighting against Business Unionism and for worker’s democracy, from that time till today.
Nat helped to lead the SWP in a solidarity coalition with Walter Johnston, the leader of Department Store Union Employees Local# 1100, to win a strike against Sears Roebuck Company.
In 1978, despite the treachery of the AFL-Bureaucracy we worked, side my side, to build solidarity for the coalminers strike, and we helped form a labor coalition that raise over $200,000 in strike support for the striking coal miners.
The whole period, from 1950’s then till 2009, there has been a decline in the workers movement and a subsequent decline of the the socialist movement, in the US. Due to the complacency of the working class and the relative stability of capitalism, the betrayal of the petty bourgeoisie leaderships of these movements rose to betray our class. From then till the present, the Trade Union Misleaders have degenerated to the point that they now claim to be in ‘partnership’ with the boss and use their bureaucratic apparatus to control the membership.
These betrayals led to the decline of the socialism movement and its degeneration.
Nat was one of the first to oppose the degeneration of the SWP into a Petty Bourgeoisie Party led by a clique of former students.
Nat and I have been active our whole life in the ongoing struggle to build a Proletarian Party composed of revolutionary workers..
In spite of the degeneration of every organization in which Nat a member, Nat a was revolution optimist, and would always state, words to the effect, that the revolution was only five years away, till his dying day. Till his dying day he had confidence in the power of the working class to change society.
There has been a change in the consciousness of the working class sine the economic crisis, since the 2008 economic collapse there have been sings of the capacity of the workers to defend their standard of living.
The most oppressed sections and exploited of the working class — the non-union young and oppressed minority workers to win a livable minimum wage. With no labor bureaucracy obstructing them, they carried this fight into the political arena. For example, Kashama Sawant, a leader of this struggle in Seattle and member of the Socialist Alternative Party in Seattle, was elected to office receiving 93, 000 votes — signifying a new day for socialists! — That the ‘times they are a changin’ again! That Our time is coming!
Nat was very encouraged by the election Sawant. That workers are now open to socialist ideas. That the majority of the world’s population are now wide open to socialist ideas and the majority see the enemy as the 1% who control the world wealth and that the 1%’s perpetual wars in their perpetual quest for ever more profits at the cost of the survival of humanity!
Nat, like Joe Hill would want us, not to morn his death, but to go on to organize to help build a better world, a better habitat for humanity and the rest of the species on this planet—a Socialist World! Nat always had confidence in the power of the working class to change society when, it unites in struggle.
I will end with this paraphrase of the Last Chorus of Solidarity Forever.
In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold
Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand-fold
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
‘So that the world can live as one’!
The Best way to celebrates Nat’s Live, is to continue to struggle for a better world, not based on profits, but based upon the needs for all. A truly democratic Socialist World!