Monday, November 26, 2007

Workers World Conference Draws Activists From All Over

WWP conference draws activists from all over

By Jaimeson Champion
and Brenda Ryan
New York
Published Nov 21, 2007 2:47 AM

The Workers World Party national conference held here on Nov. 17-18 drew hundreds of people from all over the country, many of whom had never been to a party conference before. They were moved by the party’s linkage of the immigrant struggle to the economic crisis and rising racism and its commitment to the unity of the class struggle.

“The over-riding theme of the conference is for people to unite,” said Sandra Hines, an African American from Detroit. “This is a people’s fight to unite against capitalism, imperialism and racism. As an activist I have to pass this message along, to bring people into the movement. It’s our job to enlighten other people.” The experiences of others at the conference “fired me up to be an activist,” she said.

Hines engaged in a fierce battle this year, running for Detroit’s public school board in the Fifth District against Joyce Hayes-Giles. Hayes-Giles is vice president of the school board and vice president of Detroit’s gas and light company, DTE Energy. As part of her grassroots campaign, Hines successfully fought to keep one of the neighborhood schools from closing. Of the 15,000 votes cast, Hines got more than 5,000 to some 6,000 votes for Hayes-Giles. She is now fighting for the right of students to take schoolbooks home to study.

Many young activists and students attended the conference, sharing their experiences in the struggle and discussing ways to build class solidarity for a socialist future.

Mike Martinez, a Cuban from Miami and a leader of the Bolivarian Youth organization, said he came in order to “meet other people from around the country involved in the struggle against imperialism.” In the conference discussion groups, Martinez described the struggle against police brutality and racism in Miami and for affordable housing in a city filled with high-priced condominiums. He also spoke about building solidarity with revolutionary Cuba and Venezuela and about the need to step up the fight to free the Cuban Five.

Namibia Donadio, a Panamanian member of FIST (Fight Imperialism-Stand Together) and student organizer at Rutgers, said Larry Holmes’ speech about the importance of building a revolutionary workers’ party made a big impact on her. “It really hit me how important it is right now as a broader number of people are developing consciousness,” she said.

Donadio noted that rallies for the Jena 6 occurred all over the country and students who had never before been active have taken part in these protests. And the immigrant rights marches in the last three years and organizing against the raids have drawn more people into political action. “We have to explain to people that what’s happening is a result of the class struggle and imperialism,” she said. Donadio played an active role in several workshops, which she said was valuable to her as a youth leader.

Cassandra Rice, an anti-war activist from West Virginia, found out about the conference at the Troops Out Now Coalition encampment to stop the war in Washington, D.C., in September and immediately made plans to attend. She said that her main reason for coming was in order to learn more about socialism. She said at her college “socialism and Marxism were kind of glossed over” and she wanted to come to the conference to gain a more in-depth perspective.

Linda Gomaa from Chapel Hill, N.C., an organizer with Student Action with Workers, said she heard about the conference on the social networking website Facebook. After speaking with members of the Raleigh, N.C., branch of FIST, she decided to attend the conference. She said she was interested in “learning about the Bolshevik Revolution and how lessons from it could be applied to struggles today.”

Two sisters from Michigan State University, who had first learned about WWP from their aunt, were also enthusiastic about the conference. Lauren Spencer, a junior, ran for Michigan State’s Board of Trustees last year on a “Stop the War” joint slate of WWP and the Green Party. LGBT issues are of primary importance to her. She works with an MSU panel program that provides speakers about queer to a women’s psychology class, reads for CD versions of “Lesbian Connection” magazine, which are produced for the visually impaired, is a member of a queer caucus for people of color, and is a member of the Lansing Association for Human Rights.

“It’s nice to see people who are not LGBT-identified as allies,” Lauren said, to see “the struggle of people of color, poor people and LGBT people showing solidarity and showing that the struggles are all the same.”

Meghan Spencer, a freshman, is on the women’s counsel, a feminist student organization at MSU. She said one of the talks that most moved her was on communism and climate change and “our responsibility to act on it.”
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