1936 Gulf Coast maritime workers' strike

The 1936 Gulf Coast maritime workers' strike was a labor action of the splinter union "Maritime Federation of the Gulf Coast" lasting from October 31, 1936 to January 21, 1937. The strike's main effects were felt in Galveston; the Gulf Coast strike was parallel to a similar West Coast maritime strike, called simultaneously. Both strikes were catalysts for the formation of the National Maritime Union under union leader Joseph Curran. In Houston, New Orleans, other major docks along the Gulf Coast and other labor conflict had been a regular annual occurrence through the 1930s. In July 1934, three black longshoremen had been shot to death in a firefight on the Houston docks during a strike. In 1935, longshoremen along the entire coast had struck from October 1 through November 27 to little avail except for 14 more killings. Nationally, maritime workers had suffered declining wages and untenable working conditions under the leadership of the International Seamen's Union, perceived as corrupt and inefficient.

One response was increasing numbers of wildcat strikes. In March 1936, Joseph Curran led a spontaneous four-day work stoppage on the docked SS California in San Pedro, attracting personal attention and a degree of support from U. S. Labor Secretary Frances Perkins. By March 1936, seamen and longshoremen of the Gulf Coast port cities had organized themselves as the "Maritime Federation of the Gulf Coast". In a New Orleans conference they named Wobbly Gilbert Mers of Corpus Christi as leader; the rejection of the ISU set the stage for street tension between unions and a long list of beatings and violent incident, throughout the year. By his own description, in a letter to West Coast leader Harry Bridges, the biggest challenge facing Mers as head of this new organization was maintaining union solidarity across racial lines. Purportedly, a ban against black dockworkers in the ports of Brownsville and Port Isabel dated back to the Brownsville Affair of 1906. Another inspiration for the impending action was a small strike of black stewards on the SS Seminole of the Clyde-Mallory lines, who had refused to work in Galveston on June 13, upon returning to New York prevented all the company's liners from sailing.

Joseph Curran came to Texas in August. His first organizing meeting with local workers at a club was unexpectedly raided by the Houston police, with Curran escaping police custody through a bathroom window. On October 31 strikers of the Maritime Federation acted against an array of opponents, their own former leadership in the International Seamen's Union not only disowned them, had "beef gangs" chasing them through the street after dark since April, but eagerly branded them as Communists. In many cases, true; the Maritime Federation were confronted by their primary targets, the shipowners, as well as the unco-operative International Longshoremen's Association and law enforcement, which had taken "a decidedly anti-labor position". Houston Police had put former Texas lawman Frank Hamer on permanent payroll as strikebreaker. Hamer's installation of a ring of labor informants triggered complaints to the National Labor Relations Board. In late November, the offices of the ISU moved to Houston's Cotton Exchange Building.

The building became the scene of pickets and police arrests. Strikers were interested in an ISU official, Wilbur Dickey, holed up there, said to be sharing rank-and-file member information with police. On December 4, an attempt to flush out Dickey ended with him fatally shooting a striker, Johnny Kane, Dickey and two companions were beaten by a street mob before their rescue by police. Kane died on the 15th; the other known fatality was an Alaskan striker named Peter Banfield, a tanker seaman fatally stabbed in a fight in Galveston on December 9. Two melees between strikers and Houston police on the 23rd and on Christmas Eve brought at least 18 strikers to hospitalization and brought disapproving public attention to the police. Many had seemed to be drunk. Ending the strike became a priority for incoming Mayor Richard Fonville By appointing a new police chief and eliminating all "special officers," Fonville set the conditions for the violence to subside; the strike ended by union vote in New York City on January 21, 1937.

The Gulf Coast strike was parallel to other US maritime strikes called at the same time. As wildcat strikes, they were not co-ordinated. A West Coast "Fall Strike" began on October 29, lasted 96 days, was led by Harry Lundeberg as president of the Maritime Federation of the Pacific; the ISU's policy and behavior towards rank-and-file members became a major factor in the founding of the National Maritime Union in May 1937. By its first convention in July, some 30,000 workers had joined. "From 1936 to 1938, 28 union members were killed and more than 300 were injured in strikes"but not, as some sources suggest, only in the 1936 Gulf Coast strike

Belarusian People's Republic

The Belarusian People's Republic referred to as the White Ruthenian Democratic Republic was a failed attempt to create a Belarusian state on the territory controlled by the German Imperial Army during World War I. The BNR existed from 1918 to 1919; the BNR was declared on March 9, 1918, in Minsk by the members of the Executive Committee of the First All-Belarusian Congress, two weeks on March 25, 1918, it proclaimed independence. In 1919, it co-existed with an alternative Communist government of Belarus, moving its seat of government to Vilnius and Hrodna, but ceased to exist due to the capture of the whole Belarusian territory by Polish and Bolshevik forces during the Polish–Soviet War of 1919-1921, its government in exile, the Rada of the Belarusian People's Republic is the oldest still functioning government in exile. The Belarusian People's Republic was declared on the territory of modern-day Belarus three weeks after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on March 3, 1918 between the new Bolshevik government of Soviet Russia and the Central Powers in the border city of Brest-Litovsk.

After the 1917 February Revolution in Russia, active discussions started in Belarus about either gaining autonomy within the new Russian Republic or declaring independence. Representatives of most Belarusian regions and of different political powers, including the Belarusian Socialist Assembly, the Christian democratic movement and the General Jewish Labour Bund, formed a Belarusian National Council in late 1917; the Council started working on establishing Belarusian governmental institutions. Both the Bolsheviks and Germans interfered in its activity. However, the Germans saw an independent Belarus as part of the implementation of their plan for buffer states within Mitteleuropa; the Bolsheviks had negotiations with the Belarusian Democratic Republic regarding an eventual recognition, but decided instead to establish a pro-Soviet government of Belarus - the Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus. Parallel with negotiations that started between the Germans and Bolsheviks, the Belarusian Council started demanding recognition of autonomous status for Belarus, with continuing internal discussions on whether it should become an autonomous region within Russia or declare national independence.

In its First Constituent Charter, passed on February 21, 1918, the Belarusian Council declared itself the only legitimate power in the territory of Belarus. On March 9, following the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk between the Germans and Bolsheviks, the Belarusian Council issued a Second Charter where it declared the establishment of the Belarusian People's Republic; the Belarusian Council became the provisional government of Belarus and was renamed the Council of the Belarusian People's Republic. On March 25, 1918, the All-Belarusian Congress proclaimed the independence of Belarusian National Republic; the Government of the BNR left Minsk in December 1918 for the Lithuanian Republic, in spring 1919 went into exile. In its Third Constituent Charter, the following territories were claimed for BNR: Mogilev Governorate, as well as Belarusian parts of Minsk Governorate, Grodno Governorate, Vilna Governorate, Vitebsk Governorate, Smolensk Governorate, parts of bordering governorates populated by Belarusians, rejecting the split of the Belarusian lands between Germany and Russia.

The areas were claimed because of a Belarusian majority or large minority, although there were numbers of Lithuanians and people speaking mixed varieties of Belarusian and Polish, as well as many Jews in towns and cities. Some of the Jews spoke Russian as their native tongue. There were attempts to create regular armed forces of the newly-established Belarusian People's Republic. Belarusian military units started to form within the disorganized Imperial Russian Army in 1917. According to the historian Oleg Latyszonek, about 11,000 people volunteers, served in the Army of the Belarusian People's Republic. General Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz supported the Government of the People's Republic and positioned his army as a Belarusian national army acting as the first President of the Belarusian Provisional Government shortly after the exile of the People's Republic before again handing power to the populace. For his resistance against Bolshevik forces, members of Belarusian minority in Poland regard him as their national hero.

The major military action of the Army of the People's Republic was the Slutsk defence action in late 1920. The Council of the BNR, based at that time in Lithuania, sent officers to help organize armed anti-Bolshevik resistance in the town of Slutsk; the Belarusian army managed to resist a month against the greater strength of the Red Army. During its short existence, the government of Belarus established close ties with the Ukrainian People's Republic, organized food supplies to Belarus from Ukraine and thereby prevented hunger in the country. Diplomatic representations of Belarus had been created in Germany, Estonia and other countries to lobby for Belarusian interests or to support Belarusian soldiers and refugees who landed in different parts of the form