A Tribute to Tom Bias (1950-2019), Leader of the Labor Fightback Network

16 Dec

From The Organizer newspaper, December 2019

The labor, socialist, independent politics and labor music movements lost a leader on
October 17, 2019, when Tom Bias succumbed to a long struggle with cancer. Up until a few weeks before his death, Tom continued his activism, even when he knew he had very little time left and had declined further treatment. Many of us working in these
movements have lost a close friend and comrade. His wife Linda Bryk, daughter Fiona
Kyle, and other family members lost a loved one, and, to them, Socialist Organizer (SO)
sends our deepest sympathy.
We in SO knew Tom mostly through our work in the LFN, which Tom took over chairing after the group’s founder Jerry Gordon died in 2016. Some of our members also remember Tom from the 1970s, when he belonged to the Socialist Workers Party (SWP).
Tom’s activism started in college with the movement against the Vietnam War, where he first met and joined the SWP’s youth group the Young Socialist Alliance. Tom left the SWP in 1979, and was, for a while, a member the Fourth Internationalist Tendency, one of the groups that split off from the SWP in the early 1980s following the degeneration of the SWP. Though Tom declined to join any other socialist groups for the rest of his life, he maintained close relations with many of his comrades from those years and remained staunchly anti-capitalist.
In young adulthood, Tom spent some time in Iran, where he learned to speak Farsi and
became knowledgeable about the politics and culture of Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. He kept on being an antiwar activist, primarily in New Jersey, where he worked with New Jersey Peace Action. His knowledge of the Middle East served well
the movements against U.S. wars in the region.
A stalwart supporter of organized labor, Tom became a printer and an active member
of the International Typographical Union. He worked in this trade for much of his adult
life. In the 1990s, Tom participated in the effort to create a Labor Party and when that effort stagnated, he, along with Jerry Gordon and some of the other leaders of what be-
came the LFN, continued to organize for labor to break with the Democratic Party.
After layoffs in his 50s and subsequent struggles with medical bills and foreclosure
— a painfully direct experience of the trials of U.S. working class life in 2000s — Tom
became a paralegal to labor attorney Bennet Zurofsky.
Inspired by Woody Guthrie from his native Oklahoma, Tom shared with Zurofsky a love of labor music. Tom was a talented songwriter, singer, and guitarist, writing songs addressing workers’ rights, poverty, peace, and environmental justice. He served, as Zurofsky does now, as the director of the New Jersey-based Solidarity Singers, which
participates regularly in the Great Labor Arts Exchange and performs at picket lines and
demonstrations in New Jersey, New York, and other Eastern states. As says his close
friend, fellow musician, and LFN leader Jerry Levinsky, “His songs will leave a legacy of hope for the future of the working class.”
While Tom has left us, his legacy will live on among all who work and sing for workers’ liberation. — The Editors

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