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Notable New     Yorkers
Select     Notable New Yorker

Moe FonerMoe Foner
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a theater union down at 14th Street and would perform plays by communists or left playwrights who were looking for audiences and writing about stevedores, miners, writing about workers. The intellectuals were writing about workers, performing plays about workers for audiences of intellectuals. Very rare that you'd get workers down there. I guess in some cases they did, but you'd get worker intellectuals. You'd get some of the people, who would move in that direction. So that you have audiences developing, and then you had the Group Theater. It's not communist, but there are communists in the Group Theater. But there is an openness to ideas in that period, so that Broadway, Hollywood, many of the writers then end up in Hollywood, and on the coast there is a contingent that develops around there. We were always familiar with people who were coming in and out from the coast, who had gone to the coast, who were now writing for Hollywood, who were progressives until the Hollywood Ten kind of thing, the same period kind of thing.

I don't know if I've answered your question, but there is a big reservoir of people, activities. Also, progressive writers and playwrights and songwriters and musicians, they're anxious to perform for workers. See, that's a very important thing we got. The fact that 65 is doing programs for workers, you can well imagine how some of the artists felt. “Oh, we're going to do things for the working class.” See, it was an opportunity for them to bring their talents to the workers, not that these were basic workers, but we did that. That was something that proved invaluable when the hospital workers came, because via the exploited, downtrodden black, Hispanic workers, women, and black actors and actresses and Hispanic and whites were sympathetic, just as the issue of hospital organizing struck a very responsive cord even among just ordinary people--ordinary people, not merely intellectuals. Because I remember we got television stuff and radio stuff of the stations doing interviews, man on the street, public opinion kinds of things of the hospital workers. It was fascinating to see how they reacted, because we had gotten our message across, and people felt, yes, it's unfair that anybody should be forced to work for so little, and they have a right to have a union. They weren't asking for the moon. So that we were in touch, we were hitting a responsive cord. These people came to help on a good issue. They stayed to do other things. Some developed an identity and closeness to us that continues to this present day.


What, I guess, is a little bit surprising to me is that the whole thing -- that is to say, relationship between these intellectuals and artists and so forth, and the left wasn't more thoroughly exploded by the

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