Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Building Solidarity in Common Struggle: Interview with TUAL Organizer Matt Fusco

First Published: Unite!, Vol. 6, No. 16, September 1, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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UNITE!: Recently the TUAL put out a call for a united front of labor and for election-day demonstrations. What are the reasons for this campaign?

Matt Fusco, TUAL: We called for progressive forces in the labor movement to join in building a United Front of Labor Against Layoffs and Plant Closings. This is the specific campaign we are taking up. The united front of labor is a general tactic we employ. It aims to unite active and progressive forces in the labor movement in a common struggle against capital, against the monopolies, whether it be over wage struggles, strikes, against layoffs, against repressive legislation, etc. It is extremely important today that the revolutionary trade union movement in the U.S. begin to rebuild the solidarity in common struggle against the source of our troubles, the capitalist system of wage slavery.

Today, the TUAL calls particularly for active groups and militant workers in the labor movement to build this united front against layoffs and plant closings. Today, there are many groups in he labor movement: local caucuses which have as their main objective getting rid of a local’s corrupt and bureaucratic administration, groups which are focusing on fighting repressive legislation and for the repeal of Taft-Hartley’s 14B, groups fighting to stop union-busting, groups that focus on workplace health and safety. The TUAL is trying to win all of these groups to the understanding that the main question that faces the working class today is the attacks on our jobs, our very right to earn a living, through lay-offs and plant closings.

Unlike the last crisis of 1974-1975, this time there have been numerous plant shutdowns. Small capitalists have been cut out, large conglomerates have cut back on less profitable plants or even whole areas of production, have been abandoned in order to restructure industries such as steel to produce only profitable products with fewer workers. In response to this, workers in steel, and other industries have begun to fight back against the layoffs and plant closings. A number of conferences have been held, in Oregon, Ohio, and Indiana, for instance, where the question of layoffs and plant closings was discussed. Militant demonstrations have occurred in Pittsburgh, Youngstown and Chicago.

The situation that exists today is that many of these groups are working in isolation from one another. This is because the trade union apparatus and organization that exists in the U.S. today – I mean the AFL-CIO, UAW, IBT, UMW – the bureaucracy will not take up this fight. In order to break this isolation and build the common fight, the TUAL has issued a call for building a united front and has proposed steps to take in order to increase communication and the discussion of issues, as well as proposing common actions to be taken. These include Labor Day rallies, against layoffs and plant closings, to be conducted regionally, a march on Washington, to be held before the elections, in late October and for local demonstrations on election day, protesting the fact that no presidential candidate offers a solution to the problems faced by working people.

UNITE!: Your call for a united front of labor was issued in part to the Trade Unionists for Action and Democracy (TUAD) and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU). Do you expect them to respond? In what way?

Fusco: To respond directly? To answer our letter? No, not at this time.

Several months ago, TUAL members went to a conference called by TUAD, in Gary Indiana. At that conference, in the workshop on plant closings, an important matter was raised by people who were not members of TUAD. It questioned the correctness of TUAD’s solution of nationalizing the steel industry and other ailing industries. TUAD made sure that there was no discussion and debate of this question. Only when the progressive forces in the labor movement discuss and decide questions like the one of nationalization, will we be able to build the unity necessary to effectively fight against layoffs and plant closings.

Also at this conference, various speakers issued a call for a demonstration in Washington for jobs. But no steps were taken to form any kind of national coalition to build for such a demonstration. Two months have passed with little-activity to show.

UNITE!: The TUAL has moved to involve itself deeply in the movement against layoffs and plant closings. Where is this movement going, in your estimation? Who is the reliable core of the movement? What tactics will you use to fight layoffs and plant closings?

Fusco: Where the movement is going depends a great deal on how rapidly and solidly the united front of labor can be built to effectively oppose the current attacks on our standard of living, our jobs, our political and trade union rights. But the TUAL has a view on what steps must be taken to mount an effective defense.

Individuals and militant organizations must set aside the poisonous ideas, promoted by the liberal wing of the AFL-CIO), that all we need to do is rely on liberal politicians to fight our battles for us. Our view is that the workers must not rely on liberal politicians or the Democratic Party to fight for jobs.

We advocate a program of combining job actions in particular plants – like slowdown strikes and so on with regional and national demonstrations which point to the whole private-enterprise, wage slavery system and its current economic crisis as the source of unemployment and poverty. Unity, plant to plant, city to city, must be built, but it must not rely on the legislative offices of the state and the trade union bureaucracy. It must be the independent, revolutionary activity of the working class. It must oppose sell-out unionism. It must be visible. We believe as well, that all militants must begin to form regional organizations to fight layoffs and plant closings, joining in a national network.