First Published: The Call, Vol. 4, No. 3, December 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
The coordinating committee for the National Fight-Back Conference (Dec. 27-28) has issued a call for a nation-wide fight-back organization to come out of the upcoming Chicago meeting.
Coordinating committee member Arlene Shuemake told The Call that the conference was aimed at bringing the different fight-back organizations together in one organization. “Little organizations cannot fight by themselves,” Shuemake said. “If we don’t get organized,” she added, “oppression is going to continue and conditions are going to get worse and worse.”
The conference, which is being sponsored by more than 50 groups and individuals across the country, will be attended by an expected 800 to 1,000 people. The composition of the conference will be mainly workers and national minorities. To encourage the full participation of Spanish-speaking minorities, most of the Conference will be in English and Spanish, and there will be special workshops in Spanish. One of the central themes running through the conference will be the necessary unity between white and minority workers and unemployed, and men and women.
Shuemake, an unemployed white worker from Los Angeles, said that opposition to racial discrimination was key to the fight-back work. “If the white workers don’t back up the minorities,” she said, “if we don’t all fight together, things are going to remain the same way they’ve always been. By uniting together with all the different groups and nationalities we’re going to get where we want to go – and that’s up!”
The conference planners have scheduled workshops and panels to deal particularly with the special needs and demands of the minorities in the fight-back. One of the most controversial issues being discussed will be the question of busing and school desegregation. Activists in the desegregation struggles in Boston and Louisville will be attending the conference and the new organization hopes to come out of the meeting with a unified stand on this question.
Conference coordinator Larry Miller, from Baltimore, said: “The busing question is one of the main things being used by the bosses and the labor bureaucrats to undermine the growing struggle of working people. In one case in Louisville, a tobacco workers’ strike was broken when anti-busing signs appeared on the picket line. The Black strikers refused to walk the line with these racist signs.”
Miller said that only on the basis of a consistent stand against racism and in particular school segregation, could white and minority workers be united in the fight-back movement.
Workshops and panel discussion are also planned on the special oppression and demands of women and youth. The conference is expected to give its support to a growing campaign for “Jobs for Youth” being initiated by the Communist Youth Organization. As to the question of women, Larry Miller said: “A number of women’s groups and women activists are participating in the movement against the crisis. There are a number of questions that particularly hit women or hit them hardest, such as welfare rights, the effects of unemployment upon the family and the fact that women are generally the last hired and the first to be laid-off.”
Among the sponsors of the conference are the Black Women’s United Front which consists of hundreds of women from around the country opposed to racism, women’s oppression and imperialism. The conference has also been endorsed by various chapters and caucuses within the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW). Prominent women activists endorsing the conference include Nanny Washburn from Atlanta, who has been active in the workers’ movement since the turn of the century, and Mrs. Ethel Jackson, the mother of James Jackson, a Chicago-area steel-worker who is in jail on a frame-up murder charge.
One of the other cornerstones of the conference and the new national fight-back organization will be the unity of workers and unemployed. “Without factory workers playing an active and leading role,” said Miller, “the fight against unemployment cannot succeed. Workers and the jobless have the same fight and if they are not united in one organization on a class basis, they will be turned against each other with increasing competition for jobs.”
Increasingly in the local fight-back organizations, union and caucus members have been coming to regular meetings and doing work in their plants to educate other workers around the slogans “Jobs or Income for All!” and “Jobs Not War.” The National Fight-Back Conference will try to develop a common program with which to carry out this fight. The current crisis will be discussed in light of the growing danger of world war.
Conference planners have spoken out in opposition to the various reformist and legalistic programs for jobs being put forth by the union leaders and opportunists from the revisionist “Communist” Party U.S.A. (CP). These programs are aimed solely or primarily at lobbying in Congress for various job bills. Groups like the CP-backed National Coalition to Fight Inflation and Unemployment (NCFIU) have focused all their efforts on the passage of the Hawkins Bill (H.R. 50) through their “Legislative Conference” of last March.
Even if such a bill were to be passed it would at best only provide for a relatively few jobs and be used as a “safety valve” to take the steam out of the movement of the unemployed. The fight for jobs cannot be confined to reliance on legislation.
The National Fight-Back Conference and the organization to which it is giving birth, will have to take up the question of the fight for jobs in a revolutionary way. By combining mass actions and broad-based rank-and-file participation, the new organization is starting with a clear-cut anti-capitalist orientation. This orientation combined with a concrete minimal program will provide a basis for the fight-back to be waged in opposition to the narrow reformist approach.
The meeting will not be limited to the fight against unemployment, conference organizers pointed out. Miller said that groups working against police brutality and repression and for prisoner’s rights and prison reform will also take part.
“The struggle,” said Miller, “is not just against the economic aspects of the crisis. It’s also a political crisis, and police repression and repression in the prisons is something that faces all of us, especially in these difficult times.” Miller said that groups involved in this kind of work “have a definite role to play in the conference and should affiliate with the national fight-back organization.”
The new organization being proposed by the conference planners is seen as a broad united front with different local organizations affiliating on the basis of general unity with the slogans and demands of the fight-back. Rather than being a mass membership organization, individuals in different cities would take part through the local fight-back organizations. Miller said that this is the best form to organize national work while at the same time keeping the fight-back organization from being simply a paper organization.
The conference and the new organization are being built on the basis of work that has been done for many months in dozens of cities, and in the factories as well as the communities. It is being formed on the basis of already-existing solid organizations in various areas of the country.
Conference organizers have called on all groups and individuals wishing to participate in the conference or wishing more information to write: National Fight-Back Conference, Box 7646, Chicago, 111. 60680.