First Published: In a special supplement to The Call, Vol. 4, No. 4, January 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The National Fight-Back Conference is bringing together workers and unemployed from throughout the country to organize the struggle of the people for jobs and justice.
How can this struggle be organized successfully? What are the key tasks of those engaged in the fight-back? On whom shall we rely? These are questions that will be discussed in workshops and on the conference floor. These are questions that everyone in the new Fight-Back Organization must address.
The current crisis, the worst in 40 years, has thrown 11 million workers out of work. It has brought major cities to the brink of bankruptcy and has brought production in many industries to a standstill. Those still working have been forced to speed up their work and often have had wage cuts forced on them. The current economic crisis, however, has affected many more people than the workers. Thousands of small shop owners have been put out of business. Students are facing massive cut-backs in education. The spiraling inflation has made it impossible for many to feed or clothe their families decently. Millions of women have been forced out of work and on to welfare, while the cutbacks in the welfare system have intensified the oppression of women still further.
All this has been coupled with a vicious attack on the minorities. Racism and repression are a component part of the general attempt by the ruling class to make the people pay the cost of the crisis.
We can see that the broad and general character of the crisis has had an effect upon the great majority of the people in this country. Millions have been thrown into struggle against the capitalist system which is at the root of this crisis. It has created the possibilities of building a broad united front movement based upon militant struggle which aims at winning the things people need, like decent jobs or income for all, and protecting what has been won in past struggles.
But this kind of broad movement can only be built with leadership. Where is this leadership going to come from? The broad character of the movement also has certain built-in weaknesses. For one thing, there is the danger of our forces being dispersed and divided. For another, each class and strata of people comes into the struggle with their own motives and interests and political outlooks. Only when the fight-back is firmly rooted among the working class, only to the degree that the fight-back organization has working class participation and leadership, can it win victories.
The working class and particularly the factory workers are the most powerful force in society. While the mass struggle of the working class has been uneven in its development during the past few years, it is still the class that holds the key to success. The working class is the class of people who are forced to sell their labor power to the capitalists each day. They are brought together at the point of production by the capitalists themselves. Other strata of the people, even some who suffer greater oppression at times, are often dispersed.
Through its own position in production, the working class develops the power to give the most consistent leadership to the fight-back as well as to the revolutionary struggle against capitalism itself.
Through the historic experiences of the working class, its outlook and ideology are in direct opposition to the capitalists. This revolutionary outlook must be embodied in an organization, the Marxist-Leninist party. While there is no such party at the present time, it is being built and soon will be able to give real leadership to all the struggles and organizations of the people against capitalism. The party can best provide this leadership because it represents the interests of the working class, the most revolutionary class in society. It too must be firmly based in the factories and the trade unions.
Today, the actions of the ruling class and their lackeys in the trade union leadership cause ever heightening competition between those with jobs and the unemployed. The Fight-Back Organization must bring working people and unemployed together in one fighting organization in order to block this divide and rule strategy. It must serve to spark the rank-and-file movement in the trade unions, helping to rid the working class of labor aristocrats who oppose the fight-back with all their power. Fight-Back committees in each city should have a policy of bringing a significant number of factory workers to meetings and into positions of leadership along with jobless workers, women., youth and. senior citizens. Branches of these committees should be organized in the factories themselves and the fight for jobs and against discrimination brought into the trade unions and rank-and-file organizations.
The sponsorship of the conference by several unions and caucuses is a good start; more work, of course, must be done. A statement of policy on the question of working class leadership and factory participation in the Fight-Back Organization should come out of the conference workshops such as “The Fight in the Unions (Rank-and-File Caucuses),” “The Economic Crisis and the Workers Fight-Back,” and “Jobs or Income Now.”
Another key task for the new organization will be the building of unity between the fight-back struggle in general and the particular struggles of the Black, Latino, Asian, Indian and other minority peoples. The Fight-Back cannot be confined to narrow economic questions, because the attacks are not simply economic ones. The hardest hit by the crisis have been the oppressed minorities. They have historically been the last hired and the first fired as well as the main victims of police repression and racist attacks.
Attacks on the democratic rights of minorities such as the racist anti-busing, segregationist movement are an integral part of the capitalist offensive against the whole working class.
A big breakthrough is being made at the National Fight-Back Conference in the participation of white and minority workers in one single organization. This is the way the common struggle can best be carried out. But multi-national unity has to be fought for, and it’s a protracted struggle. Whether it be the organizing drive of the Gulfcoast Pulpwood Assoc., or the Phillip Morris strike in Louisville, the strike of 80,000 West Virginian miners or anti-deportation struggle at Beltline Co. in Los Angeles, the movement has had to come face to face with inequality and national oppression and chauvinism. These dangerous weapons of the ruling class have been the most successful in breaking the back of our struggles.
The fight-back therefore, must take a clear and consistent stand in support of the democratic rights of all those who suffer from discrimination and national oppression.
The most controversial of these struggles are around busing for school desegregation and deportations. Busing is a case where minorities in Boston, Louisville and other cities are continuing their historic struggle for equality and dignity. The anti-busing movement is an anti-working class movement under reactionary and fascist leadership. They demagogically play on the most backward fears of the white workers in order to attack the rights of minorities and undermine working class unity.
Deportations is an issue where the ruling class is trying to blame the workers of other countries for the rising unemployment and divert attention away from the real source of the crisis—the system itself.
It is a controversial issue only because of the confusion spread by the capitalists and their agents in the leadership of the unions (who owe their privileged positions to the oppression of these foreign workers). A consistent defense of the rights of foreign-born workers by the National Fight-Back Organization can unite U.S. and foreign-born workers and respond powerfully to the divisive schemes of the bosses.
Finally, the fight-back must stand for special measures (compensative measures) in hiring, promotion and union protection to end inequality between the workers of different nationalities and discrimination against women. How can unity be built in the fight for jobs as long as the minority workers are systematically excluded from the skilled trades? How can unity be built in the unions when the seniority system of many unions now has racism and male chauvinism built into it? The answer to these questions rests upon the workers and unemployed together uniting the special demands of the minority workers and women with the demands of all the people.
The demands for “Jobs or Income Now” and “Jobs Not War” have little meaning without the demand: “End All National Oppression and Racial Discrimination.”
The founding of the National Fight-Back Organization is a great event in the history of the people’s struggle. Under the leadership of the working class, this movement can win historic victories in the struggle against capitalism and its present offensive. While the movement must have the broadest possible character, it needs a solid core based on the unity of workers and unemployed of all colors and nationalities. But this unity will not fall from the skies.
The conference must take a stand on these key questions of policy to ensure that the working class can be the main and leading force in the struggle and that the special demands of the minorities are consistently defended.