New York City forum on Chile uprising, myth of ‘Thanksgiving,’ surge of U.S. strikes
The New York chapter of Workers World Party held a forum on Nov. 2 featuring three dynamic women speakers on important struggles at home and abroad. Stephanie Tromblay, Huron/Metis nonstatus and of mixed Southeast Indigenous heritage, officially opened the meeting by reminding everyone:
“We meet on stolen Lenni-Lenape homelands — the Lenapehoking. Workers World Party looks toward the day that all Indigenous nations’ land claims are paid in full, from the Wampanoag lands at the Cape [Massachusetts] to the Ohlone lands in the San Francisco Bay Area, from the Appalachians to the Rockies.”
She went on to speak about the significance of the 50th National Day of Mourning and the racist myth of “Thanksgiving.” Explaining the origins of NDOM, Tromblay said,
“In 1970, an Aquinnah Wampanoag man, Wamsutta Frank James, who had been asked to speak at a fancy Commonwealth of Massachusetts banquet celebrating the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims, was told by a representative of the Department of Commerce and Development that he wouldn’t be allowed to give his speech.
“[Wamsutta] used one of their own history books as a basis for his talk — a Pilgrim’s account of their first year on Turtle Island. The book told of their opening his ancestor’s graves, stealing the Wampanoag villages’ food supplies, selling his ancestors as slaves for 220 shillings each.
“Back in 1970, the organizers of the fancy state dinner told Wamsutta they would only let him speak if he agreed to deliver a speech that they would write. Instead, Wamsutta and hundreds of Indigenous people and supporters gathered in Plymouth and observed the first National Day of Mourning.
“Only Indigenous people spoke at Day of Mourning, and that is true to this day.” The demand for the freedom of Indigenous political prisoner Leonard Peltier is also raised at NDOM, along with a solidarity statement written by him.” (Hear the entire talk at youtu.be/syYPJIrU2Xw/.)
‘Workers can fight back and win through people power’
Siddika Degia, a Peoples Power Assemblies/NYC organizer and student at CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, spoke on the upsurge of U.S. strikes in 2019 — the highest since 1986. An estimated 85,000 workers participated in 13 different strikes the week of Oct. 21, Degia said. She explained about the nature of the strikes:
“All these 13 strikes across the country have not been about unions or about wages and health insurance. Strikes are never about the wages or health insurance no matter how much the ruling class would like you to believe.
“Strikes are about the rank and file fighting for all the working class. Workers demanding change because they are feeling the burden of capitalism and want better lives.”
Degia stated, “These are workers fighting for things like unionizing or better work conditions or even things like getting ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] out of Greyhound or cops out of the subway. Often undocumented workers and Black and Brown workers are the most vulnerable workers in the USA because they are criminalized in this country.
“When unionizing, or fighting for their rights, workers often call out ICE on its treatment of undocumented workers. Yet, demos like ICE off Greyhound — a migrant-led movement — or Peoples Power Assemblies/NYC organizing around the subway fare-evasion campaign lets workers know that they can fight back and win through people power.” (Hear Degia’s entire talk at youtu.be/ainM4T29R38/.)
Youth rebellion rocks Chile
Nieves Ayress Moreno, from the La Peña del Bronx movement and a former political prisoner of the civil-military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile during the early 1970s, a regime backed by U.S. imperialism, spoke about the current uprising in Chile.
Ayress Moreno began her summary by saying that the Nov. 1 protest against the racist policing of Black and Brown youth in the New York City subways was very similar to Chilean high school students rebelling against fare hikes. She stated that in Santiago alone, 7,000 people have been arrested and their whereabouts are unknown. More than 1,500 have been injured.
Part of her written statement reads: “The violent reaction by [President] Piñera toward the youth angered Chilean civil society. The young people reminded Chilean society that it is not merely about the increase of the fare but 30 years of economic policy to privatize the whole country. Chileans are sending a warning to the world about waking up to the nightmare of the neoliberal market.
“Neoliberal policy privatizes education, it privatizes water, it privatizes health, it privatizes social security, it privatizes transportation, it lowers the wages of the workers to subsidize the rich. The Chilean people say, ‘They took away so much that they even took away our fear.’” (To hear Ayress Moreno’s comments, go to youtu.be/-o72MDGrE-o/.)