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Western regional conference calls for revolutionary struggle, socialist unity

Published Sep 8, 2010 5:12 PM

Known in the region as “the people’s library,” the Southern California Library of Los Angeles was the site of the first Western Regional “Abolish Capitalism, Fight Injustice — Conference on Socialism” of Workers World Party.

WW photos: Abayomi Azikiwe, Monica Moorehead, Bob McCubbin, Cheryl LaBash

With daylong attendance on Sept. 4 well surpassing 100, and standing-room-only available for latecomers, the assemblage was notable for its diversity, especially the presence of large numbers of people of color, youth, activists and workers of many nationalities.

Along with many people from southern California, especially the Los Angeles area, party representatives attended from the WWP chapters in San Francisco, San Diego and Tucson, Ariz. Party members and supporters also came from San Jose, Oakland and Orange County in California as well as from Seattle.

An open mike for questions and comments followed every plenary session.

Also notable was the participation in the conference of speakers representing other organizations of struggle that agree with WWP’s recent call to the movement for a regroupment for socialist unity. Kuusela Hilo of BAYAN USA described the current plight and centuries-long struggle of Filipino workers for national liberation; Ron Gochez of Unión del Barrio provided a militant defense of the demand for the return of stolen Mexican lands; and Zahi Damuni, co-founder of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, focused on liberation for occupied Palestine.

Rosie Martinez, former vice president of Service Employees Local 660 (now Local 721), who is currently a leader of the union’s Latino Caucus, spoke of the struggle to defend some of the most oppressed workers, especially women workers in the health industries. She linked that struggle to the effort of workers worldwide to defend themselves against attacks by some of the same transnational corporations.

Celina Benitez from the Southern California Immigration Coalition called for a day-in, day-out, full-time commitment to the struggle for full legalization of all immigrant workers, in addition to focusing on important mobilization days such as May 1.

Dave Welsh, a San Francisco Labor Council delegate representing the Letter Carriers union, spoke on the need for a Works Progress Administration-type federal jobs program for the 30 million presently unemployed and underemployed people in this country. He urged that this demand be raised from the rank-and-file at the projected Oct. 2 Washington, D.C., mobilization.

Carlos Mejiafrom the Honduran resistance gave a solidarity greeting.

Capitalist economic crisis, war at home

John Parker, a WWP National Committee member and Los Angeles branch organizer, opened the conference with a tribute to the important work of all the organizations present and a call for increased solidarity despite any political differences. Such an effort is necessary, he suggested, as groundwork to the building of unity in the struggle for socialism.

Parker went on to offer a brief analysis of how the historical pattern in which workers in the imperialist countries have been more privileged than workers in the superexploited countries is changing. There is a global “leveling” underway. Going under the name of “globalization,” the result is the growing impoverishment of workers everywhere.

Parker raised the current condition of overproduction, the burgeoning warehouses full of commodities for which there are no buyers. Under these chronic conditions, the imperialists don’t want educated workers. There is a serious effort underway to destroy the public education system. But a positive condition is the changing character of the working class. It has become more multinational with a larger percentage of women. These demographic developments bring with them the certainty of more dynamic and class-conscious working-class leadership.

Parker quoted from the book “High Tech, Low Pay” by Sam Marcy, founding member of Workers World Party, on the changes in production that underlie these developments: “The technological revolution is therefore a quantum jump whose devastating effects require a revolutionary strategy to overcome.”

WWP national leader Larry Holmes stated that even capitalism functioning normally is a crisis for the working class. He described the present global and national situation, however, as a capitalist crisis, but one of a new type, where the various component parts of the capitalist system have ceased working in harmony and are now, in fact, in conflict with each other. The ruling class is now and will increasingly use racism as a solution to the deepening problem of an economy stuck in neutral.

Holmes stressed the need to actively fight the ruling-class program of racism and defend immigrant workers and Muslims and all who are under attack. He cited as an example the Party’s role in initiating a Sept. 11 mobilization to defend the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan.

While on the one hand describing the Tea Party movement as a phenomenon that must be taken seriously, he emphasized that it is not “the real storm.” It is, he suggested, the storm before the real storm. The real storm, he predicted, is coming: “The real storm is the working class rising up.”

Holmes noted the historic tradition of working-class struggle and emphasized that revolutionaries must take seriously and be involved in every struggle of workers and oppressed people, no matter how minor, while always keeping in mind the big picture, the need to build a mass movement for socialism. Socialism, he emphasized, is the only reasonable path for the planet. He concluded his remarks with the observation that the fight for socialism is not the property of one party. It must be a movement, and we have to launch such a socialist movement.

Judy Greenspan, a longtime party activist from San Francisco and a teacher, offered an overview of the growing attacks on public education, stressing the scapegoating of teachers, the use of divide-and-conquer tactics that pit parents against teachers and teachers against teachers, and the racist character of the present system. She urged everyone to support the Oct. 7 Defend Public Education mobilization.

Capitalist state terrorizing our communities

Jefferson Azevedo, a Brazilian revolutionary and Los Angeles WWP branch member, reminded the audience that wars are also a cause of migration. The military, he charged, is an important purveyor of racism.

Larry Hales, a leader of the revolutionary youth group Fight Imperialism, Stand Together and WW contributing editor, spoke on the role of the state, a Marxist concept defined as organized violence, such as the police and the military, that stands between the haves and the have-nots and functions as protection for the haves and a constant threat of terror against the workers and oppressed.

Gloria Verdieu, a San Diego WWP branch organizer, spoke on the cases of political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal, the MOVE 9 and Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. Cheryl LaBash, a WWP national organizer and a co-coordinator of the U.S.-Cuba Labor Exchange, paid tribute to the Cuban socialist revolution and called for the freedom of the Cuban Five political prisoners.

Fighting U.S. imperialism, defending self-determination

Monica Moorehead, a WW managing editor and Women’s Fightback Network organizer, spoke on the Party’s theoretical contributions in explaining the class roots of women’s oppression and lesbian, gay, bi and trans oppression. She also spoke on a recent conference she attended in Montreal that brought together more than 350 women activists from around the world under the banner of fighting imperialism.

Teresa Gutierrez, co-coordinator of the New York May 1 Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights and a WWP national leader, stated that there will be no compromising on full rights for all immigrant workers. “No to the Schumer plan,” she emphasized, and no to “comprehensive immigration reform,” a code phrase for continuing the persecution of immigrant workers. She cited V.I. Lenin’s writings on the right of oppressed nations to self-determination as an essential guide in formulating demands such as the return of the lands stolen from Mexico and the right of African Americans to reparations for centuries of unpaid slave labor. Within the movement of immigrant workers, she observed, there exists an army while, in fact, a world without borders is being created by the international working class.

Paul Teitelbaum, a WWP organizer in Tucson and a May 1 Coalition activist, recounted the sordid history of the U.S. takeover of Mexican lands and the disastrous effects the “free-trade” agreement NAFTA has had on Mexico’s poor and working-class people.

Sharon Black, a national WWP organizer, spoke on how individualism is promoted by bourgeois culture, and how it serves the interests of the ruling class. But our class needs organization, she insisted, especially since the ruling class keeps us exploited and oppressed in part because it is very organized and centralized. Black urged conference attendees not affiliated to seriously consider joining WWP or one of the other organizations in attendance.

Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire and an organizer of the Detroit branch of WWP, traced the history of North American/African relations from the beginning of the trade in enslaved African people to the current efforts by the Pentagon to achieve decisive military control over the African continent.

Los Angeles WWP organizer Maggie Vascassenno, California student activist Daniella Rodriguez and San Diego WWP member Zola Muhammad were conference co-chairs. The event concluded with a spirited singing of “The International,” a revolutionary workers’ anthem.

When asked how she liked the conference, Fresno State college student Chisanga Changa from Zambia told WW, “I am liberated, educated and inspired. The conference was amazing. I was very touched.”

The success of this conference showed that as the economic crisis deepens, here and worldwide, socialism is becoming more popular and capitalism more and more unpopular.

The Los Angeles WWP branch will be holding Marxist classes on socialism starting on Sept. 18. For more information, call (323) 515-5870 or visit workersworld.net.