First Published: The Call, Vol. 6, No. 45, November 21, 1977.
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.
Atlanta–From the coal fields of West Virginia, to small Black Belt towns and the barrios of Houston, people are mobilizing for the Southwide Conference on Jobs or Income to be held here Nov. 26-27.
“We can’t eat promises,” proclaimed the headline on the latest issue of SCEF’s newspaper, Southern Struggle, which detailed plans for the conference. “This will be our answer to Jimmy Carter’s empty promises and forced work programs.”
In addition to the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), which initiated the conference, support has also come from the Committee Against Racial Discrimination at Delta, Southern Region of the National Lawyers Guild, the Ronnie Long Defense Committee, Operation Human Rights in Birmingham, People United for Justice for Prisoners in Dallas, Black Women’s United Front in Dallas, National Fight Back Organization, Communist Youth Organization, Mrs. Nanny Washburn, Mrs. Susan McQurter, the Ethiopian Students Union in North America Atlanta chapter, the Communist Party (M-L) and others.
SCEF, which is also giving its active support to the Feb. 18 March for Jobs in Washington, D.C., sees this conference as the starting point for a big jobs campaign in the South.
“If you look at the South today,” a SCEF activist told The Call, “you can see that the fight for jobs or income lies at the very heart of the people’s struggles.”
A quick look at some basic statistics proves the truth in this statement. For example, 42% of the entire population of the South lives below the official government “poverty line.”
The majority of those people below the poverty line are Afro-Americans, for whom the stench of the slave market and the shadow of the plantation is still a reality of life in 1977. Denied their right to self-determination, Afro-Americans are systematically forced into the worst and lowest paying jobs–where there are any jobs to be had at all. These conditions of oppression, have intensified in this period of crisis.
Unemployment figures in big southern cities like New Orleans, San Antonio, Savannah and Tampa are all significantly above the national average of 7.1%. This is despite the fact that many industries have “run away” from northern industrial centers in order to take advantage of the low wages and low level of unionization throughout the South. These conditions are the product of the way capitalism has used racism and national oppression to keep Black people in chains and keep Black and white workers divided.
“The demand for jobs isn’t just a demand for the unemployed,” stressed a SCEF organizer. “It is also a key question for those who are still working.”
As examples, the SCEF representative pointed to the militant strike on the New Orleans docks, now in its second month. “The central issue here too is jobs,” he said. “The longshoremen are fighting for a guaranteed 32 hours of work a week. Also, thousands of Southern women garment workers have been cut back to 2 or 3 day workweeks in the sweatshop mills of the big apparel companies.
Along with unemployment has come a reign of police terror in working class and minority communities across the South. Whether it was young Bennie McQurter, a white worker strangled by cops in Atlanta’s Grant Park, or Joe Campos Torres, the Chicano worker who was drowned in a Houston bayou by five cops last May–police have used the tactics of terror to frighten militant fighters and keep the lid on the explosive anger of the people.
“You have to see that the fight against police terror, frameups, legal lynchings and Klan attacks, is a component part of the fight against the crisis that we are building,” said SCEF’s Organizational Secretary, David Simpson. “When we say ’Free Gary Tyler’ or ’Free Ronnie Long,’ we are saying that we are going to unite white and minority workers in common struggle against racism, against poverty and unemployment, and against the system that stands behind these attacks.”
The conference speakers reflect the many struggles and areas of work which will be represented. Keynote speakers will be Mrs. Eva McMillan, the newly-elected president of SCEF and a long-time activist in the Black freedom struggle; Fred Walters, president of the militant Gulfcoast Pulpwood Association; Robert Williams, the Black freedom fighter who organized an armed resistance movement to Klan attacks in North Carolina during the 1960s; and Odis Hyde, a veteran Black worker and communist who today is a leader of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist).
Mrs. Juanita Tyler, the mother of Black frame-up victim Gary Tyler, will also deliver a solidarity statement and provide the conference with the latest news on her son’s case.
Among the other features of the conference will be a public event on the evening of Nov. 26 in solidarity with the liberation struggles in Africa. Nzonke-xusa, a representative of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) will speak, along with a representative of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU).
The two-day meeting will be held with bilingual translation in Spanish, as it is expected that many Spanish-speaking activists will be attending. Cultural activity will also give life to the conference as songs and music of the people’s struggle in the South will be performed.
A good deal of discussion at the conference will also be focussed on building for the Feb. 18 march in Washington. To publicize that demonstration, conference participants will take to the streets of Atlanta at noon on Nov. 26 in a rally that will demand “Jobs or Income Now!” “Free Gary Tyler” and “Down with the racist regimes in southern Africa!”
SCEF urges all interested people to come to this important conference. Transportation is being arranged from major southern cities. For more information, you can call SCEF directly at 404-752-6900.