Revive class struggle, strengthen international solidarity
Published Nov 18, 2009 6:55 PM
Two main themes ran through the 2009 Workers World Party National Conference:
the revival of serious class struggle in the United States as the capitalist
crisis brutally strips the workers and oppressed of their jobs, homes and
health, and the need to strengthen international workers’ solidarity in
the face of corporate globalization and increasing militarism and war.
No one took these huge tasks lightly. But the many speakers resonated with
confidence that WWP, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, had
the experience and the program to rise to the challenges.
Youth and veterans of the struggle for socialism
gather on stage to sing the
International at the
closing of WWP’s 50th Anniversary Conference.
WW photo: G. Dunkel
“Don’t be afraid of hard issues,” said Secretariat member
Larry Holmes in a summation of the conference. “Surviving through years
of political reaction has made us tougher. We have what the workers need. Build
a workers’ world!”
The conference was held on Nov. 14-15 in New York. Even more than in previous
years, this one rocked with the input of those most oppressed: African
American, Latino/a, youth, lesbian, gay, bi and trans, and immigrant activists,
who spoke from the stage and from open mikes in the audience. The majority of
speakers were women. The diversity reflected the party’s long history of
applying affirmative action internally while fighting racism, male chauvinism,
immigrant bashing and oppression of LGBT people.
The youth group Fight Imperialism, Stand Together detailed how the worst
economic crisis since the Depression of the 1930s was devastating young people.
FIST held a workshop so youth from different parts of the country could
exchange ideas on how to coordinate struggles on campuses and in the
WWP founding members from left:
Neidenberg, Deirdre Griswold,
Merrill, Frances Dostal,
Art Rosen, Rosie
WW photo: Brenda Sandburg
Allies from different organizations and unions brought greetings to the
conference and contributed to the discussion. A high point was a talk by
Armando Robles, president of the United Electrical Workers local that carried
out a successful occupation of the Republic Doors and Windows plant in Chicago,
winning benefits the company had denied the workers when it summarily tried to
close its doors and walk away. Dante Strobino of FIST, himself a UE organizer,
introduced Robles. Jill White of Chicago WWP told of organizing a massive
solidarity demonstration with the Republic workers.
Using Marxism as a weapon
In prepared presentations, WWP leaders again and again used the tools of
Marxism and Leninism to define the problems facing the working class and
oppressed peoples today and to chart a path of resistance.
In the opening session FIST leader Larry Hales reviewed the horrific statistics
of youth unemployment and poverty, particularly in communities of color.
Capitalism makes people “bruised, brutal and hurt,” said Hales, but
there’s “a better world to fight for” and young people can be
made into revolutionary fighters for socialism.
Teresa Gutierrez, a member of the party’s Secretariat who recently went
to Honduras and then to a conference on migrants in Greece, called the waves of
migration caused by lack of opportunity a “crime of capitalism” and
saw the 200 million uprooted workers around the world as “an army in the
making.” Gutierrez and later speakers focused on the role of migrants in
reviving May Day as an international day of workers’ struggle.
Dispelling any notion that the present “recovery” will help the
workers, Secretariat member and author Fred Goldstein went over the figures:
more money in the pockets of the rich even as the job hemorrhage continues.
Ford Motors got government subsidies but its sales are down and 53,000 Ford
workers have been laid off. “The system of capitalist exploitation is
reaching its limits,” he said, and reviewed Marx’s findings on how
the bosses will destroy their own markets to increase profits. Just as in the
1930s, it’s only militant workers’ struggles that can bring about
any relief from the capitalist government.
Larry Holmes dealt with the relationship between the big union federations and
the Obama government. Why didn’t the unions bring hundreds of thousands
to Washington to demand single-payer health care, he asked. Without that kind
of mass pressure, the Democrats came up with “a compromise on health care
reform that betrays women.” Holmes also urged the unions to help organize
the jobless in their own interests—“Unemployment aids union busting
and wage cuts,” he pointed out.
How militarism is deepening the economic crisis was addressed by Secretariat
member Sara Flounders. Capitalism can’t live without the enormous
Pentagon budget, but it’s dragging the system down. Even with all its
weaponry and high-paid mercenaries, the U.S. can’t defeat the resistance
in Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world. Flounders also
pointed out that the federal government seized four mosques in New York at the
same time it imposed new sanctions on Iran. She called for solidarity with Arab
and Muslim peoples.
Input from activists
The conference alternated prepared talks with an open mike for questions and
Jen Waller, a young activist, saw no future for the world under capitalism,
which exploits the land and the people. Julius Dykes, an autoworker with 25
years’ seniority, told of the anger and fear among workers regarding
another upcoming layoff and how a friend had committed suicide. He praised the
party’s work in the Pittsburgh Jobs March and Tent City, and urged a
national jobs march.
An Iranian said the attack on Muslims is an attack on the working class. A
young man shared that he was moving from anarchism to communism. An immigrant
from Los Angeles said the prisons are full of the youth and homeless. A woman
from Rhode Island asked for solidarity with soldiers’ families who live
below the poverty level.
People representing various struggle groups took the mike to thank WWP for its
Pam Africa of International Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal acknowledged
the party, and particularly Secretariat members Monica Moorehead and Larry
Holmes, for their work in Millions 4 Mumia and in building a massive Madison
Square Garden solidarity meeting for the imprisoned revolutionary
Brenda Stokely of the Million Worker March Movement raised the need to bring
the working class together for a strong May Day demonstration and the
importance of education on the history of class struggle.
Ignacio Meneses of the U.S.-Cuba Labor Exchange called WWP “a point of
reference for the struggle in the U.S.”
Shafeah M’Balia of Black Workers for Justice in North Carolina brought
greetings from her group on behalf of “the oppressed working class of the
Black nation.” She told of the many programs BWFJ has initiated to bring
together women, workers and youth.
Representatives of Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the Vancouver
Mobilization Against War and Occupation were invited to the stage to deliver
solidarity statements. Both groups have worked with WWP in a number of
struggles. Bernadette Ellorin expressed greetings from BAYAN-USA.
Community organizer Rosie Bonds, aunt of baseball great Barry Bonds, told of
homeless women sleeping under freeways while luxurious officers’ quarters
go vacant at the nearby closed Alameda Naval Air Station. She is now
distributing Workers World newspaper in Berkeley, Calif.
Fight imperialism, build the party
Other plenaries covered the global flashpoints of U.S. imperialist aggression
and WWP’s 50 years of struggle guided by its Marxist analysis.
Monica Moorehead spoke on the task of a workers’ party to build
solidarity within the broader political movement, especially defending the
right to self-determination for oppressed nations. She explained the need for a
workers’ party to build unity among its ranks if it hopes to win over the
most class-conscious fighters.
Support for Palestine was covered by Bill Doares and Judy Greenspan. Doares
recalled how back in the 1960s, when most progressives here refused to
criticize Israel, WWP demonstrated in support of Palestine during the June War.
Joyce Chediac talked about the struggle of Palestinians in Lebanon and the
Lebanese people, who are represented by Hezbollah. All three speakers had been
to the Middle East in the past summer.
Berta Joubert-Ceci, fresh from a solidarity delegation to Honduras, told how
the people are struggling to take back the wealth stolen by the oligarchy and
U.S. transnationals. “The coup started when President Zelaya raised the
minimum wage by 60 percent,” she reminded everyone. The Honduran struggle
is part of a popular upsurge in all of Latin America. A message to the
conference from Juan Barahona, leader of the Honduran Resistance, was read.
Abayomi Azikiwe of the Michigan Moratorium NOW! Coalition and a contributing
editor to Workers World newspaper traced the connection between the struggle
for jobs and homes in Detroit and the mass dislocation and poverty in Africa
caused by imperialism. Another dynamic speaker from the coalition was Sandra
Hines, who called Detroit, with nearly 30 percent unemployment, “a
Katrina without the water.”
Another Detroiter, Jerry Goldberg, spoke of building the party when the Midwest
was a stronghold of organized labor. Autoworker Martha Grevatt of Cleveland
reported how GM, Ford and Chrysler have abandoned Detroit, creating a disaster
that is not “natural.” But Chrysler workers rejected recent
concessions by a vote of 3-1, presaging renewed struggle in this vital
LeiLani Dowell spoke of the party’s contributions to the struggle for
women’s and LGBT rights, and later on Bob McCubbin introduced Stonewall
rebellion participant Sebastian Pernice.
Sharon Black of Baltimore stressed how crucial Black-white unity was in
building the Pittsburgh Jobs March.
John Parker of Los Angeles commended the party’s courage and commitment
in fighting against foreclosures and heading off attempts to divide the working
Julie Fry gave examples of WWP’s long history of support for the Cuban
China’s tremendous importance in the world was stressed by Secretariat
member Deirdre Griswold, who reviewed the political struggles there and their
impact on revolutionary movements. She reminded everyone that Sam Marcy, who
founded Workers World in 1959, had written as early as 1950 on the profound
significance of the Chinese Revolution for the world class struggle.
Tribute was also given to legendary party founders Dorothy Ballan and Vince
Copeland, as well as to those founding members still living whose 50 years of
experience in the party continue to enrich it today.
At a session on party organization, labor militant Steve Kirschbaum of Boston
urged everyone to contribute to the WW national fund drive, while Kris Hamel of
Detroit stressed getting Workers World newspaper into the hands of workers with
regularity and consistency. Richard Kossally of New York and Mike Martinez of
Miami stressed the importance of political education.
It wasn’t all speeches. There was revolutionary music and poetry that
spoke to the heart, thanks to Miya Campbell and Nana Soul.
So many solidarity messages came from popular organizations and communist
parties all over the world that only excerpts could be read.
Workers World newspaper will publish the highlights of many of the speeches in
this and coming issues. Video podcasts of the plenary presentations will be
available at www.workers.tv.
The energy and optimism that flowed at this conference will surely be felt as
Workers World Party organizes new struggles in the year to come. Hold onto your
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: [email protected]
Subscribe [email protected]
Support independent news DONATE