It could have been a sad event. People of all ages, from many walks of life, had traveled from far and wide to this city to attend a tribute and express the deep loss they feel over the death of a great revolutionary leader.
But on March 14, 1998, when the Marc Ballroom filled to capacity with nearly 500 people as diverse as the working class in this country, and as speaker after speaker recalled the living struggles at the heart of Sam Marcys 70 years of political life, a new collective mood emerged.
In the hall filled with beautiful banners and photographs chronicling the many militant activities he had inspired, people talked of how they will organize and build Workers World Party.
And that was the real tribute to Sam Marcy.
Marcy, the founder and chairperson of WWP, died Feb. 1 at age 86.
The legacy of the person known by fellow labor unionists in the 1940s as "Solidarity Sam" is the revolutionary, working-class party that he and a handful of other founding members began building from the ground up in 1959.
Arise you prisoners of starvation
In an article by Marcy included in the tribute journal, he wrote that in order for a political tendency to make the transition to a party, "it must continually fight to make its class composition correspond to its revolutionary class program."
The Party leaders and guests from other struggle organizations who took the podium to speak about Marcys role in history and his influence on their lives proved that the organization he built meets that criterion.
Larry Holmes stressed that Marcy steeled the Party in the resolute defense of the right of self-determination of nationally oppressed peo ples. "This is Lenin ism in essence and in spirit," he said.
Monica Moorehead reminded those gathered that WWP "was the only multinational left party in the U.S. to defend the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, Deacons for Defense and other revolutionaries promoting the right to self-defense against state repression."
Arise you wretched of the earth
"As a lesbian, as a Latina, as a woman and as a worker, I feel compelled today to express my utmost gratitude to this man," Teresa Gutierrez said. She concluded it was "no coincidence that it was from his Party that the first, and really the only Marxist explanation of gay oppression evolved."
"The fight against womens oppression is a thread woven into the fabric of this party," Sharon Eolis said.
Workers World Partys role in the disability-rights movement, said Brian Shea, "is part of Marcys legacy to the working class and the oppressed."
A delegation of WWP youths of all nationalities paid a moving collective tribute to Marcy. As Imani Henry read a poem about the Partys founders, the audienceranging in age from young teens to nonagenariansrose to their feet and cheered.
"Sam really cared about youth. He fought for us and helped us fight for ourselves," Tahnee Stair told the audience. "His work will be carried on by all the comrades, with special vigor of the younger comrades of Workers World Party."
Sam Marcy understood the leadership potential of "the wretched of the earth"the most downtrodden and wounded by oppressionrecalled guest speaker Esperanza Martell of Pro-Liber tad and the Amnesty Campaign to Free the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners.
For justice thunders condemnation
Speaker after speaker recalled how Sam Marcys ideas took root in concrete action:
- The first demonstration in defense of the liberation struggle in the Congo in 1960.
- The formation of the Mothers Alliance in Buffalo in the 1960s in support of oppressed women.
- A collection of money in the 1960s for guns for Black people in Monroe, N.C., defending themselves against the Klan.
- Organizing GIs against the brass during the Vietnam War.
- The Prisoners Solidarity Committeeso respected inside the walls that the Attica prisoners asked it to send in an observer during the September 1971 rebellion.
- The March Against Racism in Boston on Dec. 14, 1974, that drew 25,000 people.
- The March on the Pentagon of more than 100,000 on May 3, 1981.
- The A Job Is a Right Campaign that led a battle against plant closings and layoffs.
Deirdre Griswold, editor of Workers World newspaper, reviewed Marcys strong commitment to internationalism and defense of the socialist countries. Brian Becker and Sara Flounders showed how crucial his intervention had been in the anti-imperialist and anti-war movement in this country.
Fred Goldstein opened by repeating of Marcy what Frederick Engels had said of Karl Marx on his death: "He was above all a revolutionary."
Scores of solidarity messages from activists, organizations and parties across the United States and around the world paid tribute to the revolutionary solidarity WWP has extended to the struggles of workers and oppressed people everywhere.
A better worlds in birth
"The best monument we can build to Comrade Sam Marcy is the Party," concluded Dick Becker, a national WWP leader from the San Francisco branch.
Checkbooks and pens appeared when the Sam Marcy Fighting Fund was announced at the tribute. The war chest will enable WWP to continue its battles on every front: from organizing to end the sanctions and war threats against Iraq to defending Cuba to fighting rac ism and the death penalty.
And in honor of Marcy, WWP will hold a conference in November to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto.
Monica Moorehead concluded: "So, Sam, we all want to thank you for helping to build this Party. And we pledge to you and the others who have come before us that we stand ready to carry on the task of building a workers world for all humanity."
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