At this year’s Peace and Freedom Party convention, held Aug. 12-14 in Sacramento, Calif., delegates were reminded of their party’s early and rich anti-racist history and were urged to show solidarity with the struggles of Black and Brown people against police murders by nominating Monica Moorehead and Lamont Lilly, Workers World Party’s presidential candidates, to head their ticket.
While Moorehead and Lilly did not win the nomination, the PFP was moved to a greater understanding of the need to build solidarity with the Black Lives Matter uprising. The PFP has ballot status in California and has usually endorsed candidates of national parties in the presidential elections.
Dave Welsh, a retired postal worker and member of PFP since 1967, motivated the discussion that continued throughout the weekend. “In the early days of the Peace and Freedom Party, the movements against the Vietnam War and the Black Liberation movement were the focus for our presidential campaign. We formed an alliance with the Black Panther Party. The comparable issue here today is support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and Monica and Lamont have done a tremendous job of supporting that movement,” Welsh concluded.
The convention began Friday night with speeches from the four presidential candidates: Moorehead and Lilly for WWP; Gloria La Riva for the Party for Socialism and Liberation; Lynn Kahn, an independent; and Laura Wells representing the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein. The unspoken question of the night was: Which way forward for the PFP and for the movement of activists, who need to be convinced to support socialist candidates in the upcoming elections?
Moorehead: ‘Forge solidarity with the most oppressed’
In her talk, Moorehead asked the question: “Why do Marxists run in the elections?” She noted that while elections will never change the “fundamental conditions of our class,” revolutionaries will use “every arena of struggle including elections.” She went on to explain that in the fight for socialism, “the struggle to unite the workers and the oppressed of the world, must also be a struggle to forge solidarity, in both words and deeds, with the most oppressed sectors of our global class.”
Moorehead urged the activists not to fall into the trap of minimizing “the importance of combating racism, the oppression of immigrant workers, and the oppression of women, and lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, and queer people for the sake of ‘unity.’”
Both WWP candidates in their opening remarks to the convention urged the PFP to show their solidarity with the Black and Brown youth who were fighting in the streets against police killings and terror. They called for unity among left parties to support the most oppressed.
Lamont Lilly, the young vice presidential candidate, likened this moment to a critical political crossroads for the anti-capitalist movement and argued that “true socialism should reflect a connection to the oppressed, a commitment to the proletarian working class, to the disenfranchised and most marginalized.”
Lilly stated that “the Black Panther Party considered themselves the vanguard, and rightfully so. And so do many of the various fractions of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
“Those were the youth and working poor we saw in Ferguson and Baltimore fighting back against tanks and teargas with their bodies, laying it … all on the line, connecting their local struggles to Palestine and Libya … building on the revolutionary spirit of Cuba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela,” added Lilly. Both Lilly and Moorehead traveled to Ferguson to show their solidarity after the police assassination of Michael Brown.
The other presidential candidates found themselves pressed to express their support for the Black Lives Matter uprising in their talks.
Saturday was the day for nominations from the floor for the various candidates and the final tally of delegate votes choosing the 2016 PFP presidential candidate.
Parker: ‘Build movement for socialism’
John Parker, who received over 33,000 votes as the PFP candidate for U.S. Senate in the June primary, gave a moving talk, challenging the delegates to be true to themselves and to either move the organization “forward in relevance” or to “remain static” and ignore our “responsibilities as revolutionaries.”
Parker said, “Monica Moorehead is a leader in the Black Lives Matter solidarity movement and represents a turning point for the Peace and Freedom Party, not away, but inwards toward its legacy of solidarity for the purpose of unity, for the purpose of building the movement for socialism. I nominate Monica Moorehead for president.”
Jefferson de Azevedo, a member of the Los Angeles branch of WWP, stressed the need for all the groups seeking the PFP nomination to work together in unity. “We’ve got to stop being so individualist, and be socialists. We must work with each other and help each other or we will never win. My enemy is capitalism,” Jefferson said.
Sekou Parker, an 18-year-old Black delegate from South Central Los Angeles, felt he had to speak out and endorse Monica Moorehead: “I believe in change. This country has to change.” He recounted the time that he was walking home and a police car slowed down and started driving slowly beside him. Parker noted, “It was probably the scariest moment of my life.” The young man wondered: “Are they going to arrest me? Are they going to shoot me?”
At the same time that Parker and other delegates were speaking, a Black man was being shot and killed by the police in Milwaukee, and the Black community was rebelling against this latest police murder.
The WWP candidates lost the political battle to be on the PFP ticket; the delegates chose Gloria La Riva of PSL. Despite this, Moorehead and Lilly made a strong impression on the other candidates and on the PFP delegates. The discussion of the weekend was framed by the overwhelming need to build solidarity with the oppressed communities, particularly with the struggles of Black and Brown people against police terror and murder.
Moorehead summed this up in her talk to the convention: “If we are to erect a new, united, revolutionary socialist movement, our first order of business must be to find a way to maximize concrete solidarity with targeted communities. This, and only this, can be the foundation of the dawning of a new revolutionary socialist project.”
The Moorehead/Lilly campaign will run a write-in campaign in California (and many other states) and continue to politically organize to demand “Black Lives Matter, stop ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and all deportations, and abolish capitalism.” The WWP candidates will be on the ballot in other states, including New Jersey, Utah, Maryland and Wisconsin.