Search transcripts:    Advanced Search
Notable New     Yorkers
Select     Notable New Yorker

Moe FonerMoe Foner
Photo Gallery

Session:         Page of 592


Could you comment on how you see the relationship of your training in the left-wing movements to the way in which you all conducted the things that you did?


The first thing is that I don't think any other union would have dared take on the hospitals, except a union that had a feeling about race relations, poor people, and organizing. Nobody would dare, because the other unions told Davis, “You're crazy. Don't do it. It's ridiculous.” So you have to have that feeling about it to do it.

Secondly--I'm just trying to think of the left background. Obviously, a lot of what I learned plays in, but I would say that as far as I was concerned, sound organizational structure came to me best from my experience in 65, because that's where I learned that. However, the other things of media and entertainers and public figures, I don't know where I learned it. I learned it all through my life. What did the left contribute to it? A sense of organization, a sense of responsibility, that if you have a responsibility, you have a job, you do it, and everybody has to do his or her share. A feeling of working together with people. Also a feeling that the individual is not that important. See, I had a very unusual relationship with Davis in the sense that even though it developed into a cult of personality, we never were concerned about that. We never were concerned that Davis has to be the thing. If he was at a given time the person who identified most closely with the workers, it had to be him to sell it, to do it. But nobody was afraid that I was talking to the press. You did what you wanted to do or what you had to do, and nobody cared so much about it. So we didn't have that kind of problem. You had an enormously emotional involvement in a major issue. You felt that you were involved in making history. You really were on the cutting edge, you were in the newspapers, and it was good versus evil. Our strategy in that -- that was the thing that I always worked on -- was to try to simplify every issue into good versus evil, that what we were saying was good, what they were saying was evil.

Reporters have said this to me, that I am virtually grabbing them by the throat. I'm virtually saying to him, “You're a jerk unless you do this. How can you possibly go home tonight without doing something?” You almost are making them -- the word “conspirator” is wrong -- but you're making them allies of yours, to make them feel. You know, I've had this any number of times with reporters, with entertainers, with performers, who felt that then I'm doing them a favor. You should have read -- I'll bring in the message that Ossie sent to the Health PAC thing about me. It's a very, very moving kind of statement. I think that many people felt that, “You're not bothering

© 2006 Columbia University Libraries | Oral History Research Office | Rights and Permissions | Help