A Tribute

For Memorial Day, the People’s Weekly World pays tribute to our former labor editor and veteran journalist, Fred Gaboury, who died Jan. 29. Gaboury was in the Air Force during World War II. Below are excerpts from a tribute delivered at a memorial for Gaboury April 4 in Chicago.

“A communist is a person who believes the woes we are experiencing today are not owing to the faults of individuals but to the economic system of capitalism under which we live.

“A communist believes that the ultimate solution to the problems of poverty, depressions, inflations and war lies in the establishment of a socialist society.

“The communists believe in absolute equality of rights and opportunities for all peoples, regardless of race or nationality.

“They believe that such a better world will never come into existence through dreaming and talking alone, but must be achieved by … participating to the full in every immediate struggle for the benefit of the common [person] be it improved street car service, free milk for school children, or a gigantic union struggle for better wages or conditions.”

Author Mike Quin wrote that in an essay, “What is a Communist?” Quin was one of Fred’s favorite writers. He would recite many a poem by Quin, Robert Service or A.A. Milne. Fred’s life was the very reflection of Quin’s description.

There are many vivid words to describe Fred. He was gruff and rough, with a booming voice. He was larger-than-life, a colorful figure who used colorful phrases.

When you were having a hard time: “Illegitimi non carborundum – Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

When someone asked how he was doing: “I’m up to my ass in alligators.”

When one of his ideas was met with silence: “That fell like a turd from a tall ox.”

He was a worker’s worker, a man’s man, a journalist’s journalist. He would never ask you to do something he wouldn’t do himself. He learned that from the lumber camps where he would volunteer for the most dangerous jobs. He had a heart of gold. Just like the working-class folk heroes, who came out of the wild and beautiful Pacific Northwest from where he hailed.

I knew Fred for 20 years. I met him when I first joined the Young Communist League. I learned my first lesson in class struggle and vocabulary from him. I was working in a machine shop. I was telling him about the job and I kept saying, “In my shop.” He finally interrupted me and said, “Your shop! It’s not your shop. You don’t own a goddamn bolt in that shop!”

He loved life, he loved the struggle for a better world, and he loved to use the written word to advance that struggle. He could write, edit, get others to write, interview – he would get on the phone or get in his car to go get an important story. He was a working class intellectual and Marxist – a hard worker. He would raise money and get subscriptions. He worked to build the Communist Party. He did it all.

But he placed the emphasis on action. So when the Bush administration was building up for an invasion of Iraq and the world’s peace forces were building up in opposition – Fred didn’t just write about it – he sprang into action. He worked with others to get a statement signed by local labor leaders, which they took to the Chicago Federation of Labor meeting and got delegates to sign. Then he worked with his companion Marianne to get their town board to pass a resolution against the war.

Fred was incredibly sensitive to kids and moms. He was chivalrous. He taught my son poker. Now that and the word “chivalrous” may seem like a strange fit, but it makes perfect sense.

Fred was quite opinionated, which may be an understatement. There were so many arguments we had. When he died, someone said – and I think it’s true – unless you had a fight with Fred, you really didn’t know him.

Fred’s indomitable fighting spirit lives on in all of us. We loved him and miss him. Thank you, Fred.

Terrie Albano is editor of the People’s Weekly World. She can be reached at talbano@pww.org.