Oct 13, 2014
The following are excerpts from Sam Johnson’s book, A Fighter All My Life (reprinted with permission of the author and the publisher, Abecedarian Books).
OUR FIGHT TODAY IS FOR JOBS. Already in the 1970s, the fight was over jobs. We were fighting against speed-up. That’s about jobs. When they get you to do more work, they can get rid of other people. And that goes on year after year. It doesn’t take long, and they will have you doing two or three people’s jobs. That’s one of the reasons young workers can’t even get a job today. Or if they do, they can’t get enough money to raise a family.
It’s the capitalists’ policy: squeeze more work out of fewer workers, cut jobs. Profit first, profit before the workers’ lives. We’ve been going backwards and backwards.
There’s no way we should be catching hell. Why should we have to go through these things when it’s our labor that created the wealth, billions and trillions of dollars of wealth?
THE SCHOOLS ARE PART OF THIS CLASS SOCIETY. They keep the divisions going between rich and poor, not just in one place, but throughout the whole society. There are good schools in this country. But they’re mostly for the wealthy. They don’t put up schools like that for the working people and their kids.
Today, the bosses’ politicians are closing schools in the cities, getting rid of the teachers, packing more kids in the classroom.
They say they don’t have the money. Why don’t they have the money? They had it. We paid taxes. There’s money, but the government took that money and gave it to the big companies and the banks. They don’t use that money for the working people and their children. They don’t use it for schools for workers’ children.
WITHOUT JOBS, THERE WILL BE CRIME. These young people today can see there aren’t going to be any jobs for them. That younger generation that doesn’t have jobs and what they need to survive, they have to figure how to get money, and some of them turn to crime.
You see crime because this system is so rotten against the working class and the poor.
The young people out in the street, they’re a lot harder than young people used to be when I came up. They have to be, the way they come up. There’s so many more now out in the streets with no hopes, no possibilities.
They are some real fighters, but who do they fight today? Each other and maybe workers who live near them. They are fighting against themselves and against their class. But when there is a fight, when the working class really gets moving, we have to bring these young people along with us. They could fight tomorrow along with the rest of their class. Today, they’re just robbing other workers that have a few dollars. The problem is to go after the real robbers who put them in that condition.
WE’VE LOST MOST OF THE WORKERS in the plants who had experience in the fights. The workers today never went through fights. They haven’t seen that. Those of us who have been there have to reach out to the young generation, let them know how we got what we got. The older workers who came through the fights have to get to the younger ones, let them know what we did. But the younger generation has to become more active because you know the older generation will begin to slow down, and for some of us, the time is running out.
The workers in the 1930s and 1940s who went out on strike – they shut the plants and occupied them, they sent a message to the bosses: “You WILL give us what we want.” It’s the fight that made the changes. It was the workers who fought, not the politicians.
Workers today have to do the same thing, but this time workers have to take the plants over and not give them back. We have to take over and run these plants, run this city, run this country.
I SAW THE POWER WE CAN HAVE during the black rebellion. The black rebellion shut all those factories down. Black people on the street had enough force to shut this whole city down. That’s why the bosses hired more blacks, even off the streets. They created more jobs. And they couldn’t just bring blacks in. There also were a lot of poor whites out there without jobs. They had to create more jobs.
That’s what the capitalists are taking away from us today, jobs, because there is no fight.
You can’t just make a fight, get something and stop. We can see what happens when you stop, the bosses just take it right back to where it was or make it worse. When you see that, you know you can’t stop, you have to take it further, so the bosses can’t come back.
When we fight, we have to keep that fight getting bigger, keep it going. We can’t stop part-way, like the fights of the 1930s and the 1960s and 1970s did before. Take that power out of the capitalists’ hands. When you fight, if you leave them there, they’ll come back. When you stop fighting, they begin to creep back.
We can’t just think about this country. We’ve got to clean it all out, make it all right in one swoop, keep it going. Workers with a knowledge of history know not to stop part-way when the working class gets going.
SOME PEOPLE MAYBE CAN FIGHT, can defend themselves. I knew how to do that. But one person is not going to change anything about this system.
When the people being attacked, the working people come together, that’s what’s going to change it all. We’re the force that can get rid of this system we are living in. We are the force that produces the wealth. No way we should be living the way we are today, some people unemployed, homeless, starving. We should be having what that upper layer has. We all should have a decent place to live, transportation, schools for our kids like the best ones today, good clothes. We did the work that produced all those things.
We can take back the wealth our labor produced. If anybody can do that, we should be able to do it. We use our labor to make this economy work. We can organize our forces to set up a new economy and make it run for us.
When the working people see things from a class point of view, they will do that.