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Strengthen the working-class movement in the South

Published Nov 18, 2010 9:03 PM

Elena Everett
WW photo: G. Dunkel

Following are excerpts from the talk by Elena Everett, who introduced the opening plenary of the Workers World Party conference on Nov. 13. Everett is a founding member of the Durham, N.C., branch, which became the newest WWP branch in April 2009.

Our task today is to draw the connections between all struggles; reveal their roots and what is to be done; build on the dynamic and revolutionary Workers World Party regional conferences held this fall, which discussed the current crisis; and put out socialism as the solution toward which we must all be working.

On Sept. 4 more than 100 gathered in Los Angeles. On Sept. 28 Midwest activists came together in Chicago. On Oct. 23 in Durham we had a Southern regional conference on socialism. That was the first time this happened in the South.

This was very significant for us. Our brother Saladin Muhammed, chairperson of Black Workers for Justice and a co-presenter at the Durham conference, described the South as a bastion of reaction. Its economic base was built on slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and oppression, all of which persist today. It is the least unionized part of the country, where factories move to push down wages and bust unions. The working-class struggle and the Black workers’ struggle in the South are deeply intertwined in a defining — if not the defining — struggle of the region.

These regional conferences generated an outpouring of interest from a new generation of potential revolutionaries who want real solutions to the current crisis. It’s our task to connect these struggles, to show that the same people and corporations that push to privatize, shut down, and resegregate our schools, fund organizations that bash immigrants, attack higher education, lobby for less environmental regulation, and fund the racist Tea Party. They gain a lot by all this hatred, violence and exploitation.

Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor is greater than it was during the Depression. Unemployment figures have been in double digits for nearly two years, and the Republican leadership in Congress wants to continue tax breaks for the richest 2 percent.

The crisis can only be overcome by a radical transformation of our society, by replacing this system with one that treats everyone with dignity and puts people’s needs first. To get there we must recognize all struggles against oppression as one and work to put the power into the hands of the people.

We must do everything we can to build solidarity, strengthen our relationships with other working-class forces, and move collectively with unity and discipline. Everyone here who is active in struggle knows this is hard work. We are up to the task. A lot depends on it.

Solidarity, unity and collective action are our tools in this struggle. The capitalist ruling class does everything it can to keep us divided, blaming each other for the crisis. Whether through efforts to resegregate our public schools to forcing undocumented immigrants into the shadows under threat of deportation; to telling a lesbian couple they cannot sit on a public bench together and hold hands; to Smithfield Packing’s management — which during the union organizing campaign met separately with Latino and Latina  workers, Black workers and white workers — the bosses aim to keep people apart. These things happen in North Carolina every day.

Allowing these things to happen without resisting — without standing up, organizing and pointing out who gains when we do not work together — is how we lose.

Today we must pledge to win. We must take this task seriously and do everything to build unity and to be in solidarity with all struggles against oppression and injustice. Let us stand together and say no to racism, to bigotry, to budget cuts and immigrant bashing, to anti-lesbian/gay/bi/trans/queer bigotry, sexism and gender oppression. No to capitalism! Together we say yes to human rights, to jobs and health care for all, to being treated with dignity, to respecting the planet. Yes to Socialism! All power to the people!