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Agrees on need for ending capitalism, winning socialism

Published Sep 24, 2010 8:04 PM

Eighty people attended a Midwest conference that the Chicago branch of Workers World Party hosted here on Sept. 18. Its theme: the need for a revolutionary struggle against capitalism and for socialism.

Participants came from Chicago and other areas of Illinois; Detroit and Lansing/East Lansing, Mich.; Cleveland, Toledo and other Ohio cities; and Wisconsin. A few speakers and organizers came from New York and New Jersey as well as North Carolina.

WW photos: Bryan G. Pfeifer

The attendees represented many struggles and included activists and revolutionaries of many nationalities, ages and abilities; lesbian/gay/bi/trans/queer and straight people; women and men. They were workers employed, unemployed and retired; union members; high school and college students; community organizers; and anti-imperialist activists.

Solidarity and a fightback mood permeated the meeting hall at the United Electrical Workers building where the conference was held. UE workers in Chicago had occupied the Republic Windows and Doors factory in December 2008 when the company announced it was closing the plant and moving elsewhere.

The UE union hall’s walls are embellished with magnificent murals of the multinational working class engaged in struggle. This “is my house and now your house,” said Armando Robles, president of Local 1110 and leader of the 2008 plant occupation, as he welcomed the audience.

The six-hour agenda was divided into five discussions. Each had several introductory speakers. The first session on “Class struggle and socialism,” kicked off with a political analysis by Larry Holmes, a WWP national leader and organizer with the Bail Out the People Movement in New York City.

Fight for socialism

Holmes said “the new normal” of mass unemployment and continued layoffs and cutbacks in this stage of capitalism is “painful, but it wakes workers up to the need to struggle. And we support every fight, however small.

“But capitalism cannot be fixed or reformed. Capitalism is an existential threat to life, to everything that human beings need. We must launch a powerful, magnetic struggle for socialism,” declared Holmes.

Jill Hill of the Chicago WWP branch, who also chaired the session, spoke on the Party’s contributions in providing a Marxist understanding of the roots of women’s and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer oppression. She explained how these oppressions arose with the development of private property and how to overturn them through struggle.

Julie Fry, a national organizer with FIST — Fight Imperialism, Stand Together — described socialism as “organizing and planning the economy and society to meet human needs. The workers and oppressed will decide how to use the wealth we all create.”

National question, anti-imperialism

The second discussion panel heard from Abayomi Azikiwe, a leader in the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice and a WW contributing editor, on the national question and the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, “the cutting edge issue for the working class.”

Sara Flounders, a WWP national leader and co-director of the International Action Center, spoke on the topic of international solidarity and the anti-imperialist struggle. She described the 9/11 action in New York City that brought out thousands in defense of the Muslim and Arab communities. “This kind of anti-racist response to the ruling class and the right wing is the acid test for revolutionaries in the U.S.” she said.

Youth, students on the march

FIST organizer Rakhee Devasthali chaired the third discussion, which focused on youth and student struggles. Megan Spencer, a Michigan State University student activist, spoke about Ahlam Mohsen, an MSU student facing federal charges for allegedly putting a pie into the face of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin as an act of anti-war protest. “The struggle she faces is significant for all of us in the fight against capitalism, racism and imperialism,” said Spencer. Mohsen herself was among the conference attendees.

National FIST organizer Larry Hales described the fight for equal, quality public education and last March 4’s day of actions when hundreds of thousands of students, parents, teachers and other education workers, community members and progressives demanded an end to budget cuts, layoffs and cutbacks. “This struggle was about more than just public education — it was about the system itself and what it’s done to people,” said Hales. He urged everyone to participate in the upcoming Oct. 7 National Day to Defend Public Education.

Workers and community struggles

Chicago union activist Joe Iosbaker, who represented the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, spoke during the fourth discussion, on workers’ and community struggles. “We need to build a fighting movement that connects [these] struggles in order to take away the anger from the Tea Party movement — because we are the angriest,” he said.

Martha Grevatt, a longtime United Auto Workers member and lesbian activist, talked about fighting racism and bigotry on the shop floor. “When combined, women, people of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants, Muslims, the disabled and other oppressed groups are the majority of the working class. We build class solidarity by educating all workers to be against the bigotry promoted by the bosses and directed against the most oppressed workers.”

Jerry Goldberg, a WWP leader and organizer in the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs, talked about “the art of revolution” and “how to bring our program to the workers in a living way that challenges capitalism in a way workers can grasp.” He affirmed, “We don’t recognize the property rights of the bankers and capitalists. Workers have a property right to a job and a home. That’s the right we fight for when we demand a moratorium on debt service to the banks, on foreclosures and plant closings.”

Jorge Ortiz of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign told about the struggle to save the Rogers Park Community House, a free daycare and community center for low-income families that is facing foreclosure and eviction by the federally owned mortgage entity, Fannie Mae.

Ortiz also gave a firsthand report of the occupation that began Sept. 15 at a school field house in Pilsen, where the Chicano/a community is fighting to save the structure from being demolished. Residents use the building for after-school programs and community meetings and demand it be turned into a library.

Hundreds of people have been supporting the occupation and preventing police from removing the activists. A delegation from the WWP conference visited the field house in solidarity.

Why join Workers World Party

WWP Detroit leader Debbie Johnson chaired the discussion on building a revolutionary party. Lou Paulsen of Chicago WWP discussed why workers should study Marxism. “The fundamental reason is so that workers can understand the system and act in their own interests,” he said.

Kris Hamel, a Workers World newspaper managing editor from Detroit, spoke about the role of a workers’ newspaper. “Workers World takes sides in the class struggle — you can tell our ‘bias’ right away when you read it. We need workers and students and activists to make this your own newspaper, to write for it and tell about the struggles you’re involved in.”

Caleb Maupin of Cleveland FIST gave a fiery talk on why workers and youth should join WWP. “When we leave here today we’ll go back to the world where we constantly struggle to survive. If you take anything away with you today, I hope it’s the idea that it doesn’t have to be this way, that a better future is possible, but only if we take to the streets and fight for it.”

After each panel’s initial speakers completed their remarks, the floor was opened up for discussion and questions. Every conference participant had the opportunity to take the microphone and talk about the struggles they were engaged in and how socialism could be achieved in the U.S.

New activists joined veteran organizers in talking about the broad range of issues raised at the conference. Many indicated it was their first time attending a “socialist” event. Several youth said they were dedicating their energies to the fight against capitalism and learning more about socialism.

At the conference’s end, Cleveland FIST organizer Adam Gluntz played the guitar and led the audience in singing “The International.”