Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

L.A. Conference Discusses Tasks: Building Class Struggle Unions

First Published: The Call, Vol. 7, No. 3, January 23, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Los Angeles–A conference on building class struggle unions and organizing the fight against the capitalist crisis was held here recently by the CPML. Attended by about 75 workers of many nationalities, participants came especially from auto, rubber, garment, service and meat-packing industries and unions.

In his opening remarks to the conference, CPML Central Committee member Odis Hyde pointed to the importance of building unity between employed and unemployed workers in order to fight the effects of the current economic crisis. He drew on his experiences in the great unemployment battles of the 1930s.

“75,000 of us went to Springfield, Illinois,” Hyde recalled, “to the state legislature because we wanted something to eat– jobs or no jobs. Those monkeys told us, ’You can’t come here, this is not the way laws are made.’

“But by the end of that day, they passed a law providing emergency relief for the needy and jobless and a one-year stop on evictions. After we got home, we found the food they dished out to us was rotten, spoiled in the bosses’ warehouses. So we began the struggle for cash relief, or what you know as unemployment compensation today.”

Hyde stressed, “We didn’t just wake up one morning and say, ’Let’s all go to the legislature and get some food. This protest was part of a politically organized movement, led by the Communist Party when it was a revolutionary party. It was organized by people who knew this system had to be overthrown. Folks could look at the Soviet Union, which was a socialist country then, and see that the workers there had run the rich folks out and were doing just fine.”

This same theme was continued in the workshop on “Building the Jobs or Income Now (JOIN) Campaign in the Shops,” which focused on mobilizing support for the Feb. 18 March on Washington, D.C. It brought out the importance of developing programs of struggle against the effects of the economic crisis in the shops, which the majority of employed and unemployed workers could unite around and fight for.

Cannery workers from Oakland spoke of the importance of taking the JOIN campaign into the union and told how they had won their Teamsters local to endorse the Feb. 18 march.

They explained that the Teamster bureaucrats had refused to organize any actions in opposition to the closing of the Oakland canneries. As a result, the workforce of mainly Black women was put out on the streets. Rank-and-file activists showed how their union should be an organization which mobilizes against layoffs, for the reopening of plants and for workers to receive an adequate income until they are back at work. Hundreds of cannery workers came to see the JOIN March as a way to build their struggle both for jobs, as well as against the union mis-leaders, and they voted to support the Feb. 18 march.

The conference also saw a presentation and discussion on the international situation. It emphasized the common interests between U.S. workers and workers and oppressed peoples throughout the world.

This presentation hit out at the bosses’ lie that foreign-born workers are the cause of the crisis and showed how the U.S. imperialists had made tremendous superprofits from the exploitation of third world countries. It was pointed out that part of these superprofits are used to bribe the most highly skilled section of the working class including the top bureaucrats presently running the unions.

A common theme running throughout all the workshops was that multinational unity is the foundation upon which the struggle in the shops and unions must be built. It was agreed in the workshops on “Organizing the Struggle in the Shops and Unions” and “Fighting Discrimination” that a successful fight against layoffs, speedup, forced overtime and bad working conditions could not be built in isolation. It must be linked to the fight against discriminatory hiring, firing and promotions, and to end deportations and to the demand for equality of languages.

Many of the activists from the shops spoke of the lessons they had learned in the fight to build class struggle unions. One caucus activist pointed out, “The majority of workers are dissatisfied with the present state of the union and they want the unions to be fighting organizations. But labelling the reformists and revisionists as ’traitors’ is not sufficient for us to win our unions back. We have to combine concrete exposures of the bureaucrats with organizing the rank and-file fightback on the shop floor and in every union local.”

The leader from the workshop on using The Call/El Clarin stressed the importance of building networks of active workers in the factories who distribute, write for, and study the newspaper. It was pointed out that these networks can provide the backbone to organize the class struggle in the shops and must be kept secret from the bosses and their agents. Examples were given of Call circles which had been organized in a number of shops.

In summing up the conference as a whole, participants were very enthusiastic and looked forward to more opportunities to study together and learn from each other’s experiences. “I’ve got a much better idea now what a class struggle union really is,” said one worker who attended, “and I’m ready to go out to fight to build it.”