First Published: The Call, Vol. 5, No. 21, September 27, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Southern Conference Education Fund (SCEF) took a firm stand in opposition to the two imperialist superpowers and their drive towards a new world war at the September 4-5 Board meeting.
The semi-annual meeting in the Black Belt town of Epes, Alabama, was well attended by workers and activists from throughout the South. The positions they adopted on the international situation and on the labor struggle in the South mark an important break from the influence of the former opportunist leaders of SCEF, the revisionist Communist Party (CP).
The meeting also reflected the broadening base of SCEF among workers of different nationalities. This could be seen by the large number of presentations by participants in the workers’ struggle from across the South. The meeting also received a solidarity statement from the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU).
A little over a year ago, the CP was driven out of SCEF, and the organization which they had turned into a small bureaucratic clique began to take on the qualities of a militant anti-imperialist mass organization. Last year’s Southern Fight Back Conference sponsored by SCEF in Eastabutchie, Mississippi, brought hundreds of workers, Black and white, together in common struggle.
Until now, the revisionist influences still remained, with old policies prohibiting SCEF from taking a stand on the international situation. At the board meeting this policy was radically changed as SCEF adopted a resolution opposing the two superpowers, the U.S. and the USSR, and supporting the peoples of the third world who are fighting imperialism.
The resolution, which was presented by David Simpson, drew broad support, while a counter resolution by Jim Grant, supporting the Soviet Union and attacking China and the October League’s leading role in SCEF was rejected.
A position paper by Dorothy Simmons from Atlanta refuted Grant’s opportunist stand. She wrote: “If our enemy was only U.S. imperialism, there would not have been World War I and World War II. Just looking back at the past of my lifetime through the eyes of an Afro-American this is plain to see.”
She added: “You say the view of the ’OL and Simpson would have us abandon the struggle against U.S. imperialism and that no longer will the U.S. ruling class be seen as the enemy of the revolutionary forces of the world.’ I totally disagree and feel that your statement was onesidedly projected. The view that is being asked of us to accept is that of opposing world war and it takes two to tango. The view is laying out these tango partners, the U.S. and USSR.”
Simmons adds in her letter: “With war, my people will be put in the front lines with other minority people. It means a river of blood and death for poor people; making juicier profits for the rich while we get poorer. It is the duty of every organization that struggles for the people, especially an organization like SCEF, to enlighten and arm the people with ideas in a revolutionary manner.”
SCEF also adopted a position on organizing the unorganized, condemning the labor bureaucrats who unite with capitalism’s white supremacist policies in the South and who refuse to organize the southern workers. The resolution called on SCEF to “never rely on the labor bureaucrats,” but instead to drive “these labor aristocrats out of the unions.” SCEF took on a major project to help organize the Cannon Mills in North Carolina.
Daisy Crawford, a Black textile worker and leader in the Cannon Mills campaign, also warned against the treachery of the union misleaders and exposed their sell-out policies at Cannon.
The theme of reliance on the masses also came up in the discussion of the Gary Tyler defense work of SCEF. Kalamuya Salaam, the chairman of the Peoples Defense Coalition to Free Gary Tyler and Fight Injustice in New Orleans, summed up the experience of the defense work in that city. He pointed to the need to wage the defense movement in a revolutionary fashion, relying on the strength of the masses rather than on the good graces of the courts.
A small group of provocateurs from the Workers Viewpoint Organization tried their best to disrupt the SCEF meeting as they have been doing in anti-imperialist and progressive meetings throughout the country. But they were sent packing as the people voted to put them out, noting that so long as SCEF was under CP leadership, these opportunists were quite content. But now that there is revolutionary leadership, they had suddenly launched their frenzied attacks.
Despite the wrecking attempts, this very important meeting continued and a high degree of unity was reached.
The growth of SCEF was also reflected in its Interim Committee elections, which saw a good number of workers and minorities elected to leading positions. The SCEF president Bob Zellner was re-elected, while Eva MacMillian, a Black woman from Dallas, Texas, was elected vice-president.