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Billy Bragg Interview by Kazmi

Labor on the Job Transcribed By Lauri Truitt, Bay Area Guinness Fleadh - June 1998

Billy Bragg: ...It wouldn't be a Woodie Guthrie gig if it wouldn't be about what Woodie Guthrie said; if it wasn't about unions.

Over the last two years the Liverpool dockers have been on strike over an issue about not crossing picket lines and over here in San Francisco the longshoremen union here have refused to unload ships that have come over from Liverpool. In international so lidarity I'd like to thank you, the people in California for refusing to unload those ships.

Unfortunately, the longshoreman union is now the victim of a McCarthyite lawsuit which helps to bankrupt the union and break the back of one of the most radical unions in the United States of America.

I invited the union to come down here and have a presence...to have a stand.

If you have an opportunity to go over there and stop. Have a look at what's happening there, because what's probably going to happen there is that some union members might possibly go to jail this year. They need your support because all they were doing was what was in their rules. They were making a picket (line).

Do people have a right to make a picket line or not? That's the question that's here. So please take an opportunity to go over there.

I'd like to dedicate this to the International Lonshoremen and Warehouse Union here in California.

Kazmi: You can tell me why you're supporting the Liverpool Dockers?

Billy Bragg: Well, because the issue that the Liverpool Dockers' strike is based on is basically the fundamental right to refuse to cross a picket line. You know they themselves were not the actual people that went on strike originally, but they refused to cross a pic ket line and were subsequently sacked and that infringes on the basic fundamental right of workers around the world to act together in union so that's why it's very, very important in Britain and that's why that's reflected through the international actio ns around the world.

Kazmi: You've been supporting the workers' struggles?

Billy Bragg: Yeah. I mean it seems to me that it was very important in my country in the 1980's, because Margaret Thatcher took on the labour movement. But now we have a Labour government, you would think that possibly it was like that, and now we're trying to work wi th the Labour government, but they don't seem to be a government that responds to the labour movement. So when people ask me if I'm old labour or new labour, I tell them I'm organized labour.

Kazmi: What do you think about Britain's labor movement right now?

Billy Bragg: Well, I think at the moment we're in a situation when we're needing to deal with a new reality of having to deal with a Labour government, which is difficult. But my hope is that as we integrate more with Europe, so we'll be able to integrate more with European unions.

Kazmi: What do you think about internationalism?

Billy Bragg: Internationalism is to me the most important part of Socialism because if anything you'll find that over the years its been nationalism that's been the cause of wars. Its been nationalism that 's been the cause of racism, xenophobia, and violence. So obv iously, internationalism, which is the opposite of that is very, very important to us on the left, as a means to overcome war-mongering and racism.