The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Put Power in the Workers’ Hands

Jun 9, 2014

The following is a transcript of a speech that Sam Johnson gave at a book-signing in Detroit to mark the publication of his memoir, A Fighter All My Life.

“In the early 1970s, I began to see that one person fighting alone cannot change things. I began to get a bigger picture. I got that from people who came before me. That’s when I began to talk to workers around me, I began to pull them together so we could stand together.

At Dodge Main, we had lunch time meetings. If workers had a problem we sat down and talked about it, and about what we could do to back the company off. Maybe some people won’t think that’s a big thing. But that’s exactly what doesn’t happen, the workers getting together and deciding what to do about their problems. It is a big thing.

We passed out flyers, standing at the gate with different nationalities, letting other workers know about our problem and what we could do about it. That got past the divisions created by the company.

When you come together, you increase the weight of the workers. When you increase the numbers, that puts more power in the workers’ hands.

To fix the problems that working people face, we’re going to have to fight again. If we don’t fight, then it will go on just like what’s happening now. Things are going backwards, especially for the younger generation.

Today, there’s no jobs for young people. The bosses and the union leaders create a division with this two-tier. When you don’t oppose it, then those young people won’t support you.

A lot of those young people today will fight, but it’s the wrong fight. They attack their friends, rob people around them in the neighborhood.

It takes a different fight, when we stand together. That’s what can change things, what can stop all these attacks – on the young people, on the schools, on the teachers.

The young people today need to know the history, know how we got what we have.

When workers begin to fight we’ll need a few people who understand why these attacks are coming, people who have that bigger picture, people who will be able to direct that fight against the attacks.

What working people need to know now, it’s the capitalists and their policy that is the problem. That whole policy is nothing but an attack on working people.

The Democrats and the Republicans push this policy. Then the trade union leaders turn around and push this policy on us. It’s going to keep getting worse if we don’t stand up against the people attacking us.

The forces that the capitalists use, that’s us. They use us against us, to protect them and to carry out their attacks. We need to understand that and stop doing what they want.

We have the forces to change what’s happening to us, to stop the attacks that are coming toward us. We have the forces we could use for us, not for what the capitalists want.

What forces? Workers, we are workers. From our labor we make this whole system run, but we run it for the capitalists today.

The forces that protect them, the army, the police, the national guard, that’s us, working people. We’re being used against us. To change this, we’ll have to understand this and take our forces and use them to organize a fight for what we need and for what we want.

And we’ll have to build a working class party to do that, a party that speaks for the working class, a party that gives the workers a voice.”