Labor’s ‘Julie’ Margolin, gone but not forgotten

Julie Margolin
Anyone who met “Julie,” as he was affectionately known by his friends, would get a big smile and feel the warmth of his long handshake. Typically, when first meeting someone, Julie would grab their hand and smile, looking directly into their eyes, and showing his confidence in ordinary people.

Though Margolin lived through and saw brutality he never lost his faith in either the world’s working class or, indeed, humanity itself and its possibility of establishing a new, socialist society, in which all lived in peace and prosperity.

Perhaps the most violence he saw was in World War II, in which he earned several combat bars.

During his first military battles, he was not even armed. Margolin sailed with the Merchant Marine, commercial ships that were not armed but still targets of Nazi torpedoes. Many people were killed in those early battles, and this number included Margolin’s friends. These commercial ships actually bore more casualties than military vessels.

Before the war, his mettle was tested in union organizing drives, which bore a ferocity of their own, especially in their early days when the bosses were unrestrained by much in the way of labor law.

In the 1920s, Margolin took a job at Silver’s Cafeteria in Brooklyn. It was there that he first became active in organizing, as part of the Food Workers Industrial Union, Local 110. Of course, the union was attacked by the bosses, but it was successful, and went on to organize in Manhattan.

He continued his organizing activities, helping to organize the Workers Alliance (the union of the New Deal-era W.P.A. workers) and the Newspaper Guild. He walked the picket line with Heywood Broun, the union’s president.

When he went into the Merchant Marine, he continued organizing, signing up seamen into the National Maritime Union. The NMU became well known for its militancy.

His working-class sense of justice and internationalism led him to struggle in nations around the world. In Argentina at a strike of bank workers, he was tear-gassed by Peronists. He was in Brazil when the U.S. overthrew the democratically-elected government in 1964, establishing a military dictatorship.

By that time, he was well-acquainted with the workings of U.S. imperialism-and the need to fight them. Already a veteran of the struggle for peace, he was thrown into Rikers prison for opposing the Korean war and arrested a number of times doing civil disobedience protests against the Vietnam war.

Margolin joined the Motion Picture Studio Mechanics, Local 52 of IATSE, the union of professional stagehands, motion picture technicians, and allied crafts, in October 1954. He was a delegate from IATSE to the NYC Central Labor Council and a member of the NYC Labor Chorus. Margolin became the oldest delegate to the council and reportedly never missed a meeting. IATSE, the labor council and other labor organizations noted his passing.

Margolin, along with his close friend George Mann, toured the country and world, playing upbeat folk songs combining social and labor history with contemporary commentary. They released a four-part anti-Bush series called “Hail To The Thief.”

Communist Party Executive Vice Chair Jarvis Tyner said Margolin was a tremendous fighter for progress.

“I have know and worked with Julie for more than 40 years. He was a working class hero, a comrade and friend. He was a proud member of the CPUSA for most of his life. He will be missed but never forgotten,” he said.

A memorial service and concert will be held for Margolin on Oct. 16 in New York City. For more information go to http://georgemann.home.att.net

 

 

 

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