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