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Immigrant rights movement at a crossroads

Published Nov 18, 2010 9:37 PM

Teresa Gutierrez
WW photo: G. Dunkel

Following are excerpts from the Nov. 13 talk given at the Workers World Party national conference by Teresa Gutierrez, a member of the Secretariat of Workers World Party and a leader of the May 1 Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights.

This conference is historic — because it takes place at a time of development in the capitalist system like none other. No communist or class-conscious organizer has faced what we are facing.

Imperialism and capitalism are at a unique point in development. This is a crisis of the entire system. This is not your common boom-and-bust crisis, but one with absolutely no answer to the growing unemployment or any of the myriad problems our class faces here and around the world.

This is a crisis with a jobless recovery. Does this mean we cannot win jobs in this period? Absolutely not! It only means that we must revive the class struggle, together with the ideological struggle, in order to win the jobs and rights workers deserve, including legalization.

The movement for immigrant rights, like many others, is at a crossroad. It is an example of how urgent the need is to revive the ideological struggle. Activists must put on class-conscious glasses in order to not only survive but move the struggle forward.

Jon Stewart attacked Marxism at his silly, obtuse but dangerous rally in Washington. But only Marxism will provide the tools to understand and put an end to the crisis.

How else can immigrant activists go forward? How else can we analyze the elections and their relevance to the passage of pro-immigrant legislation without class lenses?

The Latino vote in many areas of the country was crucial to Democratic elections. The re-election of Harry Reid is the biggest example.

Republican Latinos were elected in record numbers. The election of anti-immigrant Marc Rubio and Republican Gov. Rick Scott in Florida led immigrants to comment with great fear about their future.

History shows that it matters not who is in Washington but who is in the streets fighting.

In Florida, like elsewhere, there is talk about passing Arizona-like legislation. The alarming implementation of 287(g) — legislation initiated by Clinton, strengthened by Bush and expanded by President Obama — has led to a wave of racial profiling. Immigrants are singled out for arrest without suspicion of a crime. Being stopped for a busted taillight, selling DVDs on a street corner or a tragic domestic violence can quickly lead to deportation.

It is understandable how the fear of the right-wing, how the racist rhetoric of Tea Party candidates propelled many into the voting booths to pull the Democratic Party lever. But it’s a setback. The Democrats have done nothing but sell out the immigrant rights movement.

So what do we do? Organize and fight back, that’s what. These are pillars of our party work, whether it is in coalitions or organizing demonstrations.

Our work is guided by the teachings of Lenin and Sam Marcy, our founder. We understand that self-determination and our support of the oppressed play into every struggle. There are nuances and delicacies in every coalition. We worry when and how to criticize and when not to. These are important questions you have got to get right to advance the struggle.

One of the most debated developments in the immigrant rights movement now is that of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. This bill, introduced in 2001, would provide undocumented students with conditional legal status and eventual citizenship if, among other things, they attend college or enlist in the military.

There are few opportunities to attend college; jobs are scarce. The passage of the DREAM Act comes down to a recruitment tool for the imperialist armed forces; it is a forced draft of our immigrant youth. There’s no question about it.

But our party and the coalitions we work with have supported the students and youth in this movement. How can you not when undocumented youth have risen up in defiance and declared, “I am undocumented and unafraid.” After 10 years of fighting for this bill, they are angry.

This is a complex and even heartbreaking issue. But who will win the hearts and minds of these youth? Harry Reid? Not if we have anything to do with it!

Who will win the allegiance of all the workers and the oppressed? Who will see to it that the working class is marching, not to the voting booth, but in the streets to Wall Street, the Pentagon and the White House? Who will provide the analysis for the masses as they face unemployment, foreclosures and all the rest? Who will point the way out?

Who will support these youth who yearn for legalization but also point out to them in the most thoughtful and sensitive way: What will happen if the DREAM Act passes as is?

What will that legalized youth do when he or she is sent to Colombia to kill trade unionists or the rebels in the jungle? What will legalized youth do when they are sent to the U.S./Mexican border and ordered to turn their guns on an immigrant family crossing the same border that their family did?

How will you get into the door to raise a revolutionary, Marxist-Leninist analysis if you are attacking their struggle?

Despite the outcome of the elections, make no mistake about it: Latinos/as are not for sale. Our history is ripe with revolutionary fervor. We need only to recapture it.

When we do we will orient not to Colin Powell but to Mumia Abu-Jamal; not to the Democratic Party but to the Cuban Communist Party; not to Marc Rubio but to Fidel Castro; not to Gov. Susan Martinez of New Mexico but to revolutionary sister Lolita Lebron.

We will revive the ideas of Che Guevara, a maximum revolutionary leader of Latino heritage. Che said: “We must bear in mind that imperialism is a world system, the last stage of capitalism — and it must be defeated in a world confrontation.”

Comrades and friends, let us begin that world confrontation right here, right now, in the belly of the beast. The time has come. The time is now. There is no way forward but revolution. The capitalist system has run its course. There is no other option but to abolish it and build socialism.