Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Holds National Meeting

UWOC Reaffirms Fighting Stand

First Published: The Worker, for Hawaii, Vol. 3, No. 4, May 6, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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(WPS) An important national conference of the Unemployed Workers Organizing Committee (UWOC) was held in St. Louis, Missouri on April 15-16. Two things were particularly significant about this conference.

First of all, it was held on the second anniversary of the death of Gert Alexander, a leading member of the Revolutionary Communist Party who, in 1971, together with other workers organized the first UWOC chapter in the San Francisco Bay Area. The last six years of Gert’s life were spent linking up with and leading the struggles of the unemployed, as part of the overall fight of the working class against the criminal workings of the capitalist system. In the course of this, Gert Alexander led UWOC in becoming a fighting, nationwide organization of the unemployed, and not some kind of reform group begging the capitalists for a few more crumbs from their table. Secondly, the conference was held after the defeat of an underhanded attempt by a few people to take over the organization and turn it into the type of limp-wristed reform group that Gert and the rank and file members of UWOC had fought against from the beginning.

The St. Louis conference unanimously denounced this clique and their schemes that would have turned UWOC into a plaything for the politicians in Washington–instead of a fighting organization of the unemployed taking matters into their own hands, fighting for their needs in unity with the whole working class, employed and unemployed.

What was this clique of hacks trying to do with UWOC and the struggle of the unemployed? Their view was that workers cannot fight for jobs or income, because jobs or income is too much to demand, too hard to fight for, too much of a long-term struggle. Besides, Carter says he is for creating jobs, so we’d better not play into his hands, they said. Instead, UWOC should only look at what is right in front of its nose, and try to beat back the attacks on the unemployed that are coming down right now, today.

But with this short-sighted, defeatist view they couldn’t even see or fight the attacks that are coming down today.


For example, at an emergency national meeting in Detroit on Feb. 4, UWOC summed up that its recent campaign leading up to national demonstrations on Jan. 21 was a dead-end road from the start. The slogan “Fight Carter’s Unemployment Offensive,” which the hacks insisted was the key to the whole campaign, was in fact completely incorrect. Both the idea for such a demonstration and the main slogan raised were nothing more than a gimmick, a “magic solution” to the conditions faced by the unemployed. Under their “leadership” people’s desire to fight against real attacks on unemployment benefits and against government job programs like workfare or two-bit, dead-end “job training” programs, was misdirected into a pie-in-the-sky scheme.

The problem, in their eyes, stemmed from the government, or Carter’s policy, so the logical solution was to play “pressure group” and change the policy. It amounted to trying to turn UWOC into just another dime-a-dozen lobbying group to get the government to come up with better unemployment policies.


But more than this, this line was part and parcel of a whole outlook which led these hacks into head-long opposition to the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), to which they belonged at that time. The schemes they pushed could only lead those they influenced to the conclusion that capitalism can be reformed and unemployment can be eliminated–or at least “held under control”–under capitalism. But the RCP stands for the understanding that unemployment arose with the birth of capitalism, grows uncontrollably to immense proportions, and will be with us until the day we overthrow the capitalist system.

This is why the RCP stands for building the struggles of the workers in a revolutionary way–against the system that is the source of all the people’s problems. This is an outlook these hacks could not practice or even stomach.

For all these reasons their attempt to destroy the effectiveness of UWOC went hand-in-hand with their attempt to cut the revolutionary heart out of the working class movement and its revolutionary Party. When they met defeat in the Party, they sought to buttress up their careers by seizing control of UWOC. But in both cases they met with dismal failure.

Getting rid of this garbage has been a big victory for UWOC and the struggle of the millions of unemployed in this country. It set the stage for the St. Louis conference to reaffirm the basic principles that UWOC was founded on back in 1971 and achieve a much clearer understanding of the road forward in the fight around unemployment and for the needs of the unemployed.


It deepened UWOC’s commitment to its slogan: “Employed, Unemployed–Same Crisis, Same Fight!” Through discussion the conference concluded that this statement speaks the truth and puts the lie to the capitalists’ and their politicians’ attempts to divide the working class between employed and unemployed.

The ex-misleaders of UWOC viewed the unemployed and employed as separate interest groups who could unite only on the basis of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” Specifically they would warn the employed, “You better support the unemployed or they will become a scab force and drive down your wages and working conditions.”

The conference summed up that “We Won’t Scab and We Won’t Starve” is an important battlecry, that we have to fight against the capitalists’ attempts to use high unemployment as a club over the heads of employed workers. But this is only part of the unity between employed and unemployed workers, and UWOC’s slogan of “Employed, Unemployed–Same Crisis, Same Fight” says a lot more.

It says that employed and unemployed in reality have a lot more in common than they do differences. “We’re all workers, whether today we got a job or not. We all own nothing, got nothing to sell, to live on, except our ability to work. And the conditions we face boil down to the same, whether it’s speed-up or wage-cutting or attacks on our organization on the job or unemployment benefit cuts, no jobs, harassment at the unemployment offices while out of a job. It boils down to the same crisis causing these conditions, and the same fight against it. Any blow any section of us workers make against the common source of our condition, whether employed or unemployed, is a blow for all of us. We’re different battalions in the same army.”

This is the basic understanding of “Employed, Unemployed–Same Crisis, Same Fight” that came out of the UWOC conference. And people there resolved to build this kind of understanding and this kind of fight by taking key battles of workers like the miners strike into the unemployment offices. And by taking the fight for Jobs or Income into the factories and mines and mills, all in the spirit that it’s the same crisis, the same fight.


The UWOC conference resolved that “Jobs or Income is our main demand.” Loud and long applause signaled the unanimous vote of all present to restore this just and bold demand–that expresses the need of every single worker in this country and hits back at continuing unemployment and the deepening crisis in this country–to its rightful place after the clique of ex-misleaders tried to liquidate it.

There was much discussion over the question: how can we demand jobs or income when it is generally known that there has always been unemployment in this country. After all, if you can’t make a profit for the capitalist then you don’t work, even though there’s plenty of work that needs to be done.

RCP members and some other people at the conference brought out that unemployment can only be ended by revolution that will end the capitalist system itself. But as long as this system exists workers have no choice but to fight against unemployment. And through the discussion and debate, everybody in UWOC united more strongly than ever behind its uncompromising demand for Jobs or Income–meaning union jobs at union wages or income to cover the cost of living for all periods of unemployment. This is clearly the need of millions in this country, and UWOC does not accept any of the capitalists’ excuses for their system and its failure to provide jobs. “Workers built this country. To Hell with your profits–we will not be without!” is UWOC’s and the working class’ answer to them.


Behind this demand the conference resolved “to build a powerful social movement in this country for Jobs or Income.” Members spoke to the fact that UWOC is not a “jobs service,” but a fighting organization of unemployed workers.

It can’t promise anybody anything like the politicians, whether it’s their Humphrey-Hawkins Bill or whether they come up with some gimmick like “Fight Carter’s Unemployment Offensive.” But what it can say for sure is that the only way forward for working people and the unemployed specifically is to fight, to organize and mobilize our forces.

Around jobs this means building up a fight and a force for jobs or income that can’t be ignored, because “in unity and action is strength and power,” as UWOC says. It means that through demonstrations, picket lines, raising hell in the unemployment offices, taking on policies and attacks on the unemployed, putting up posters and flyers everywhere, our message comes through sharp and clear: We demand Jobs or Income, Now!


The second day of the conference took on other key questions around unemployment: the Bakke Decision and the attack on affirmative action programs, the attack on “illegals” and workers, the government’s workfare, forced work schemes. These were questions of how the capitalists and their system attack different sections of the people, like minority nationalities, immigrant workers, welfare recippients, and then turn around and promote confusion and divisions by blaming unemployment on the people, taking the heat off themselves.

There was especially a lot of lively discussion over the resolution, passed unanimously, to oppose the Bakke Decision: “UWOC, as an organization representing all the unemployed, and building a broad movement against unemployment in all its manifestations, supports affirmative action, and fights discrimination while building the overall fight for Jobs or Income for all. Further, UWOC denounces the Bakke decision, and the whole he of ’reverse discrimination,’ and resolves to fight it as part of uniting the working class to fight both unemployment and discrimination.”

Through all the discussion, debate and decisions reached at its national conference, UWOC indeed committed itself to a road forward of struggle with a much clearer understanding of who and what the fight of the unemployed is up against and what has to be done to change things.