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James Johnson On Trial

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The prosecution has rested its case and the defense has begun in the trial of James Johnson, black Chrysler worker from Detroit who stands accused of murdering a white jobsetter and a black and a white foreman on his assembly line. Johnson was fired for "insubordination" after he refused to work at a job he had been transferred to arbitrarily by his foreman. It was the last in a long series of abuses by Chrysler, and Johnson went home and returned to the plant with an M-1 carbine.

Defense strategy is to put the United Auto Workers and Chrysler on trial -- Working conditions in the plant are a hazard -- three workers have been killed in the last 2 years because of defective equipment, two of them women ordered back to work while sick, and one from blood poisoning, contacted after being refused medicine by plant officials after an accident. Workers are constantly harassed and intimidated, all in an effort to keep them churning out products at ever-increasing speeds - to make the Corporations money.

People's attorney Kenneth Cockrel, of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, is representing Johnson. Last week he brought the Judge and Jury down to the Eldon Gear and Axle plant where Johnson worked to let them see the wretched unsafe conditions that exist there. But Chrysler, ever conscious of its public image, had beat them to it and had the whole place cleaned up.

The league of Revolutionary Black Workers is defending James Johnson, but they point out that his act did not result in his liberation. It was an act of resistance and not of revolution, and did no more than eliminate a couple of lower representatives of the system that was oppressing him. Johnson did not change the system. Only the people organized and working together over a protracted period of time, can do that.