Chicago SP Debs Award to Pat Gorman;
O'Neal Praises Socialists' 'Sensible Strategy'
By HENRY BAYER
The largest audience in Chicago
Debs Day history gathered recently to honor Patrick Gorman, Secy.-Treas.
of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters. Those present heard speeches
by AFL-CIO Executive Council member Frederick O'Neal, and Bruce
Miller, Mid-West Socialist and Democratic Party leader, and they
joined in the festivities and serious political discussion which
accompanied the Chicago Socialist Party's annual dinner.
Socialists, trade unionists,
liberals, and students responded enthusiastically to the speakers
and the medley of socialist and labor songs presented by the
mid-west YPSL chorus and listened attentively to the presentations
outlining a strategy and program for rebuilding the democratic
socialist movement and the progressive coalition.
Bruce Miller, chairman of the
Wayne County (Detroit) Democratic Party and a long time socialist,
spoke of Norman Thomas and Eugene V. Debs, and how they represented
two major elements, middle class idealists and the labor movement
, respectively, which must ally to build a majority democratic
Calling for a strengthening of
this alliance, Miller said of Thomas, "He spoke his personal
convictions, and it was good psychology, and commonsense, good
politics. You cannot build a coalition on name-calling and polarization."
PROGRAM FOR AMERICA
Stressing economic solutions
to the problems for which the most bizarre recommendations have
been made, Miller stated, "We socialists have a program
for America. We have known for a long time that the only way
to fight racism is to dig it out by its economic roots. . . We
need income redistribution in this country. Our wealth increases,
but the gap between rich and poor widens."
He reminded the audience that
many liberals and radicals who advocate a "reordering of
priorities" remained silent during the two major tax cuts,
which benefited the rich, that America has experienced over the
past several years.
Finally, he traced the shift
in America's political mood from that of the McCarthy (Joe) era,
when all but [a] few abandoned their socialist beliefs, until
today, when radicalism has become chic, and many have criticized
the Socialist Party for its failure to succumb to that which
is transiently fashionable. "Some may not call us Socialists.
But many people - even the Nazis and Communists - have taken
our Socialist name (as Norman Thomas pointed out), without our
program so that I, for one, will settle for the program even
without the name."
Frederick O'Neal, President of
Actor's Equity and a Vice President of the AFL-CIO, expressed
his pleasure at the resurgence of the Socialist Party in the
60s because, in his words, "As a leader in the trade union
movement and as a Black American. . . I am aware that for the
first time in many years, the objectives and political philosophy
of the trade union and civil rights movements run somewhat parallel
with those of the Socialist Party."
Outlining the vicissitudes of
the SP's history, O'Neal noted that though the Party experienced
both success and disappointment, it continuously projected new
ideas into the political consciousness of Americans.
"Most important, it projected
the idea of democratic social planning which has yet to be fully
accepted in this country, and until it is accepted we will never
solve our social problems."
O'Neal spoke of the growing importance
of the black vote in building a majority coalition. With the
increased size and sophistication of the black electorate, a
progressive majority can no longer ignore the black vote. "And,"
O'Neal quipped, "I have heard this process amusingly described
as 'the browning of America.' Believe me, this browning will
do for America what a greening never could do. It might even
undo the damage that has been done by some of the more prominent
and irresponsible greeners."
LABOR - NEGRO ALLIANCE
Calling for the consummation
of a "strong and lasting Negro-Labor alliance," O'Neal
reminded the audience that "it is, in the end, not sufficient.
We also need the middle class liberal community and student activists
- not the Weatherman activists, but the Frontlash activists,
the YPSL activists." The audience's reaction indicated that
they, too, recognized the need for the coalition's expansion.
AWARD TO GORMAN
Jack Bollens, National Vice Chairman
of the World Without War Council, presented the 1971 Eugene V.
Debs Award to Patrick Gorman, seventy-nine year old Secretary-Treasurer
of the Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butcher Workmen (AFL-CIO).
Bollens traced Gorman's impressive
record in the fields of labor, civil rights, and peace from 1912,
when Gorman took his first union job, through his efforts in
the early twenties, when he insisted on the organization of integrated
locals, to the present, when, in addition to his full-scale union
activities, Gorman has been of great assistance to Bollen's Turn
Toward Peace organization's attempt to bring about a peaceful
and democratic settlement to the Indochina horror.
Tribute to Gorman was also paid
by civil rights leaders A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin,
whose message praised the labor leader's civil rights efforts,
not only today, but in the past when support for the black struggle
was not as common in labor circles as it is today.
In accepting the award, Gorman
told the audience how the influence of Eugene Debs had guided
his own work and thought over the past half-century. Indeed,
his commitment to industrial unionism and world peace demonstrates
the profound impact of Debs.
Reaffirming his commitment to
the wisdom of Debs, Gorman stated, "If I had to give up
all but two of the many awards I have been honored with over
my lifetime, I would keep the one presented to me last year by
the Eugene Debs Foundation and this award presented to me tonight
by the Socialist Party which so honorably continues his legacy."
For Socialists in Chicago, the
size and diversity of the audience and its trade union depth,
the enthusiasm which greeted the Socialist ideas expressed and
the democratic left approach that was presented, and the presence
of a phalanx of members of the Young People's Socialist League,
representing seven mid-western chapters, each established within
the past eighteen months - all point to a future of increased
growth and activity for the Socialist movement.
HENRY BAYER is the organizer
for the Chicago SP and a member of the YPSL National Executive