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‘A revolutionary party makes us effective’

Published Dec 23, 2010 7:00 PM

David Sole
WW photo: G. Dunkel

Following are excerpts from a Nov. 14 talk given by David Sole at the Workers World Party national conference held in New York City Nov. 13-14.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of WWP’s Detroit branch’s founding. The branch began during a period of revolutionary upsurge. The Civil Rights and the Black liberation struggles had swept the country. The Vietnamese national liberation fight was hammering 500,000 U.S. troops, resulting in a mass anti-war movement here. Communists led most of the liberation movements worldwide.

We led the Ann Arbor Students for a Democratic Society and were active in all the battles then. We read left-wing publications like the Guardian and Workers World. We devoured Marx and Lenin, trying to understand tumultuous world events. We argued about the working class with the Weathermen at their Flint “SDS War Council” in December 1969. Two months later, they went underground, having written off the U.S. working class. In May 1970, we quit the University of Michigan campus to work for the revolution in working-class Detroit.

That summer we issued the first edition of our newspaper, Red Times. We sent two delegates to attend the WW national conference. Two weeks later, we joined the party. The oldest of us was 22. Other revolutionary youth collectives around the country joined the party then. The party tripled in size.

Detroit Youth Against War & Fascism promoted anti-imperialism, self-determination and working-class solidarity. Our first demonstration was in solidarity with the Palestinian people when Jordan massacred thousands of Palestinians in 1970.

We demonstrated in support of the Irish Republican Army and the Quebec Liberation Front. We fought the Ku Klux Klan in a pitched battle in Pontiac when busing for integration of public schools began there. We picketed Jackson Prison in rural Michigan to support the striking Prisoners’ Labor Union, and we supported the Attica prison rebellion.

Some of us entered the auto and steel factories to begin the struggle to transform the labor movement. We worked in the movements for women’s, LGBTQ and Native American rights. We opened our branch headquarters in 1971 and then another office in a union hall for the party’s mass labor organization, the Center for United Labor Action. By 1973, we ended publish-

ing Red Times to push WW newspaper.

Activism alone cannot sustain a revolutionary struggle. One needs to understand economic, social and political developments. Without Marxist economics and historical materialism, no individual or group can withstand bourgeois ideology.

Twists and turns, victories and defeats can disorient revolutionaries who don’t have the tools to figure out what’s happening. We found that critical element every time we opened our party newspaper. We benefited from consulting experienced party leaders, including Sam Marcy, Dorothy Ballan, Vince Copeland and Milt Neidenberg.

Each member who was engaged in a union or community struggle brought that struggle to the whole party for discussion and analysis. Today economic conditions are drawing many African-American, Latino/a and white activists toward our branch. They are eagerly deepening their activism by attending classes where we study Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.

Being part of a revolutionary party makes it possible for us to become an effective force. Our party gathers together the best fighters from many generations and struggles. It creates a tradition of militancy, a body of literature, a coherent ideology and a training ground for new cadres.

Our many interventions in the workers’ struggles have brought a revolutionary perspective through transitional demands. We organized the Oil Belongs to the People and Food Is a Right campaigns, the Job is a Right Campaign, which challenged GM’s plant closings, and the recent struggle for a moratorium on foreclosures.

The economic collapse has emboldened the capitalists to ruthlessly drive down workers’ wages and attack social services and benefits won in decades of struggle. This is a key difference from 1970 when workers’ average standard of living was still rising, as it had from the late 1940s.

Unemployment, wage cuts, foreclosures, racism, oppression and war are forcing the working class to ask questions. We must bring the message that socialism is the only answer to the crisis. The ideological setbacks the communist movement suffered with the Soviet Union’s collapse have made this imperative.

Our party’s ideology has been tested in decades of battle. The party has lost none of its fiery, revolutionary fighting spirit. We are determined to find a way into every mass arena to bring the message of anti-racism, anti-imperialism, self-determination and communism. Now is a great time to join!