Harry Bridges and the ILWU From Wharf Rats to Lords of the Docks
The consistent progressive, anti-fascist policies of the ILWU, and its example of militant, democratic unionism under the leadership of Harry Bridges, aroused the fierce enmity and hatred of the ruling circles in the U.S. Beginning in 1940 there were four separate deportation trials of Bridges, all of which failed in their mission to remove Bridges as head of the ILWU and send him back to Australia.
After one of the unsuccessful trials, which had gone to the U.S. Supreme Court, the opinion of Justice Frank Murphy, speaking for the majority, said, “Seldom, if ever, in the history of this nation, has there been such a concentrated, relentless crusade to deport an individual simply because he dared to exercise the freedoms guaranteed to him by the Constitution.”
Despite the massive pressure to accommodate and make his peace with the system, Bridges never compromised his basic beliefs. “My thinking” said Bridges, “is Marxist. And the basic thing about this lousy capitalist system is that the workers create the wealth, but those who own it – the rich – keep getting richer and the poor get poorer.”