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General Baker


By General Baker

General Baker, a founder of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the Detroit Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) in the 1960's opened a U.S. Social Forum workshop with some comments on labor history.

“The Black workers had absolute loyalty to the Ford Motor Company back in the 1930s. They had no reason to be loyal to a union that still had by-laws with Jim Crow clauses in it. At Ford Motor Company, the Blacks were not just confined to the foundry and those heavy places. Ford had them all over, in the assembly plant and the engine plant — had to have big meetings to figure out how to win over these Black workers to the cause.

“John L. Lewis and the coal miners came up to Detroit. They had big rallies at the old Olympia Stadium. They brought in Paul Robeson to sing and address the crowd and to convince the workers that they were going to have a multinational union. John Lewis opened up the meeting saying ‘if there is anybody in this room that thinks that our Negro brothers are not an equal part of the union, then you get out of here now.’ They had that kind of forcefulness in the discussion for solidarity at the Rouge plant.

“They put out at least six editions of a newspaper called the Ford Facts. They sent sound trucks around the Black community. They had Reverend Hill and other progressive ministers join their side, as they went to work to try to win over these Black workers for the union cause. Special papers came out just for the black community that were printed by the international union. When you tell people that they did something like that today, people don’t believe it. But there it is on the record. And only after they did all that were they able to get the victorious union in April of 1941.

“I think it is important to note that the solidarity that developed out of the Rouge plant was different than any other plant. Even today when you look at the UAW leadership and the Blacks in leadership, most of them come out of Rouge Local 600, because of the real solidarity that was won on the battlefield — not just ideologically. I think it is important because when we get to the DRUM movement in the 1960s, there was already a legacy of struggle around discrimination. So this thing didn’t jump out of nowhere. There was a history and continuity to it, all the way to the end of the war and up to today. Even during World War II we still had strikes. When Black workers went into the final assembly lines at the Packard plant, all the whites walked out. Same thing happened at the General Motor’s Turnstead plant. So, you see these other plants didn’t have the kind of solidarity that we developed at the Rouge.

“I think at some point it is also important to talk about the other sections of the labor movement — the community organizations. If it hadn’t been for them, we could never have done the organizing. Most people think the labor movement is just a trade union. If that was the case, the union would never win anything. You get caught up in the bureaucracy and follow trade union rules and you aren’t going to ever win. You need to set the conditions on how you’re going to fight.”

General Gordon Baker and Darryl “Waistline” Mitchell, and others are available to speak. For information, contact Speakers for a New America. Call 800-691-6888 or email info@speakersforanewamerica.com

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Brother Waistline


By Brother Waistline

“My first involvement was in 1968-9. I was a young man. I was driven by the Civil Rights Movement and the kind of struggle that no longer exists today. I want to place everything in that framework. The world that I grew up with no longer exists. When I was in high school, I knew what I was going to do with my life. I went to a school with different trade programs. We had music classes. You could learn a trade. You could learn how to cook. I learned how to type at 14 –15 years old. My point is that I grew up in a society with a different orientation. This orientation was industrial. At 16 or 17 I knew I could find my place in life. I could get a job and make a man’s wage and marry the girl I always wanted to. That’s not the case today. Something has happened from the time I was growing up and the kind of society we have now. I grew up as part of the last generation of what we would have to call the great industrial middle class of America. Once upon a time, people in America made money. We made money in this town. That’s not the case today. Today statistically, 60% of the American working class makes $14 an hour or less. That’s pathetic. Something has happened. Sooner or later we have to figure out what that was. The social forum is where we come together and begin a new process. I want to read something out of this book called “Detroit — A History of Struggle. A Vision of the Future.” Yes, I wrote it…. I wrote it for you. “Here is how it begins. It’s a point of view: It says:

“In the beginning human beings create instruments, tools and machines in the drama to sustain and improve human life. Since people organize society around the instruments of production, types of social organization and types of family life ultimately depend upon the type of tools and energy sources which exist and define one’s life activity.

“The industrial revolution grew out of the long history of development of tools and machines, and is a certain kind of society. People created industrial tools, machines and means setting into play stages of growth of the industrial revolution.

“Then, on the Sixth Day the industrial revolution recreated man in its image.

“In this beginning there was the word. The word became flesh with mind, heart and soul. The voice spoke:

“Which way is Detroit and how do I get there?”

“Our story is the story of the development and the rise, and the fall of the industrial working class. It is the story of all the phases we went through to try to get organized. Bound up with our story is the history of the development of industrial capitalism. We have to know what it was that we were fighting and why we have to have another vision and do things in such a way so that we can continue to struggle for a new society.

General Gordon Baker and Darryl “Waistline” Mitchell, and others are available to speak. For information, contact Speakers for a New America. Call 800-691-6888 or email info@speakersforanewamerica.com

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