Saturday, November 22, 2008

National Conference on the New Situation in the U.S. and the World Held in New York City

Obama, capitalist economic crisis

Workers World Party conference focuses on new situation

By Monica Moorehead
New York
Published Nov 20, 2008 11:29 PM

The historic election of the first Black U.S. president, Barack Obama, and the deepening capitalist economic crisis have become the center of worldwide dialog and debate in the broad, progressive movement. Many are asking if these two unprecedented developments will lead to a revival of the class struggle inside the U.S., ultimately resulting in a socialist future.

These important questions and more were raised at a timely conference entitled “The New Situation in the U.S. and the World” held in New York on the weekend of Nov. 15-16, sponsored by Workers World Party. WWP members from around the country attended, along with key activists and allies as well as the youth and student organization Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST).

The conference included plenary sessions where WWP speakers gave a Marxist, working-class analysis on the multifaceted political and economic crisis that permeates every sector of society. They projected genuine optimism regarding the openness by the masses to an anti-capitalist, pro-socialist orientation. There were discussion groups including a question and answer period and also a dialog on strategies and tactics for local and national organizing.

FIST held a workshop on Saturday that attracted activists from around the country to discuss a fightback program for young people. The FIST panel included Caleb Maupin, Namibia Donadio, Karina Schechter, Jaimeson Champion and Larry Hales.

At several points during the conference, summaries of 25 international messages of solidarity to the conference were read.

What’s behind the new situation?

The Saturday morning plenary session was chaired by Miya Campbell, a FIST organizer and spoken-word artist from Boston, who moved the conference with a highly creative and political spoken-word presentation based upon a poem by Langston Hughes. Then Judy Greenspan from San Francisco, a long-time fighter for prisoners’ rights and an LGBT activist, formally gave a welcoming talk. Following her welcome three talks were given by WWP Secretariat members Larry Holmes, Teresa Gutierrez and Fred Goldstein.

Holmes focused a great deal of his talk on a 1950 thesis written by the late WWP chairperson, Sam Marcy, that explained how imperialist economic development would eventually change the social and political character of the working class here and worldwide, making it more multinational. This phenomenon was essential in Obama winning the presidency. Holmes also motivated the need to hold actions on the 80th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday the third week in January to demand political and economic equality.

Gutierrez, a leader in the May 1st Coalition for Immigrant and Worker Rights in New York, spoke on the capitalist crisis, the immigrant rights struggle and the potential for building classwide unity among all workers—with a special emphasis on May Day 2009.

Goldstein, the author of the newly released book, “Low-Wage Capitalism,” explained why socialism is the only solution to both the current phase of the economic crisis and the general crisis of capitalist exploitation and overproduction that sacrifices human needs for profits.

Jerry Goldberg, a retired Detroit auto worker and a leader of the Moratorium Now! Coalition Against Foreclosures and Evictions in Michigan, compared the current crisis to the 1930s Great Depression and the need to go directly to the workers and oppressed with an independent, fight back program in their interests.

The struggle at home

Bev Heistand, a retired nurse and co-chair of the second plenary session, which focused on the struggle at home, shared with the audience a description of the declining living standards where she lives, in Buffalo, N.Y., especially in the area of health care. The other co-chair, LeiLani Dowell, a FIST organizer and Workers World managing editor in New York, spoke on the political and economic crisis facing young people.

Monica Moorehead, a WWP Secretariat member and Workers World managing editor, addressed the contradictions of the Obama victory in relationship to the struggle against racism and national oppression.

Dante Strobino, a Raleigh FIST member and UE union organizer, and Martha Grevatt, a longtime auto worker from Cleveland, reviewed the changing character of the working class in North Carolina and Ohio that led to Obama winning those states on Nov. 4.

Kris Hamel, a co-founder of the Detroit Action Network for Reproductive Rights, and Phebe Eckfeldt, a leader of the Women’s Fightback Network in Boston, spelled out the political and economic challenges facing working-class and oppressed women of all ages.

Imani Henry, a trans activist and co-founder of Rainbow Flags for Mumia, described the organized mass anger in the streets resulting from the passage of the bigoted Proposition 8 that overturned same-sex marriage in California on Nov. 4.

John Parker, a Los Angeles International Action Center organizer, analyzed the significance of the general crisis in California that led to the formation of the Labor-Community Coalition.

Sharon Black, a founder of the Baltimore All Peoples Congress and a health care worker in New York, explained why it is important to reach out to workers and oppressed peoples with popular propanda.

The struggle abroad

Tyneisha Bowens, a FIST organizer from Philadelphia, chaired the third plenary session on the struggle abroad and gave opening remarks on her experiences in socialist Cuba in 2007.

Sara Flounders, a WWP Secretariat member and an IAC co-director, presented an overview of the global crisis of imperialism and a call for revolutionary defeatism as a form of supporting the right to self-determination.

Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of Pan-African News Wire from Detroit, highlighted the ongoing economic, political and military oppression of Africa by imperialism and explained why the U.S. movement must extend a hand of solidarity to African workers and peasants.

Joyce Chediac, a Lebanese activist and writer in New York, reviewed the reactions of various political forces in the Middle East to the Obama victory and said that the liberation struggle will continue in the region no matter who is in the White House.

Berta Joubert-Ceci, a Mundo Obrero editor from Philadelphia, reported on revolutionary developments in Latin America and the Caribbean, especially the struggle of people of African descent and the Indigenous in Colombia.

David Hoskins, a FIST member and trade union organizer in Washington, D.C., described the armed struggle that overturned the feudal monarchy in Nepal and the socialist process that is beginning there.

Tasks of a revolutionary party

Gloria Verdieu, an IAC organizer and Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition leader from San Diego, chaired the plenary session on the challenges facing a revolutionary party and gave a firsthand report on the superiority of the health care system in Cuba based on her own experience when she was hospitalized there.

Deirdre Griswold, a WWP Secretariat member and Workers World editor, talked about the opportunities opened up for imperialist exploitation by the collapse of the USSR and Eastern Europe and how this delayed, but could not prevent, the current resurgence of class consciousness. She pointed out how Goldstein’s new book, “Low-Wage Capitalism,” builds on the Marxist analysis of these questions developed by Sam Marcy’s books “High Tech, Low Pay” and “Perestroika.”

Larry Hales, a Workers World contributing editor in New York, spoke on why a party must win youth to its ranks with a correct ideology.

Gloria Rubac, a leader of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement in Texas, and Mike Martinez, a FIST organizer from Miami and member of the Mundo Obrero staff, urged serious attention to the Workers World Party’s fall fund drive and the need for deepening the influence of its revolutionary newspaper, respectively.

Steve Kirschbaum, a founding member of the United Steelworkers Local 8751 school bus drivers’ union in Boston, explained the role of communist trade unionists in the struggle against racism.

John Catalinotto, a Workers World managing editor, informed the conference about the WWP’s fraternal relations with global movements.

The conference ended with a summation by Larry Holmes and the singing of the International, followed by spoken-word selections by Miya Campbell and Mike Martinez. Philadelphia hip-hop artist, Tha Truth, and his partner, Colleen, also performed during the conference.

WW will be publishing excerpts from the plenary talks in the coming weeks. Go to to see video podcasts of the talks.
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Page printed from:

What activists had to say about WWP conference

By Betsey Piette
Published Nov 20, 2008 11:03 PM

With a deepening global economic crisis and the election of the first African-American president of the U.S. creating a new political situation, the Workers World Party conference on socialism was a magnet for activists who sensed a sea change in the working-class struggle.

Community, union and youth activists came from across the country to discuss the impact of the election and the mounting struggles against the economic onslaught against workers and oppressed, and to make plans for future struggles.

Some were longtime supporters and allies of Workers World Party. For others, it was their first time at a national gathering of the party.

Sandra Hines from Detroit, Mich., was attending a WWP conference for the second time and liked what she saw. Hines, a leader with the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice, lost her family home of 38 years to foreclosure. She knows well the pain of people fighting against the greed of the banks and has become an outspoken advocate in the struggle to win a moratorium against foreclosures.

She didn’t attempt to contain her enthusiasm, frequently shouting out encouragement to speakers. “The excitement and energy people have here is refreshing,” Hines noted. “It’s predicated in the fact that the complete financial collapse has awakened us all. The collapse is a reality for people all over the world. We can’t leave it to big government politicians for our salvation. They have no interest in the working class.

“I hope people will take from the conference the courage and commitment to fight back. We need to lay out our program for where the bailout money should go. The money going to the banks is our money. It came from our blood, sweat and tears, and we have the right to demand our fair share. People have to fight back. This is no time to be afraid,” she concluded.

Deborah Wray, a public housing activist from Providence, R.I., spoke to the historic significance of the Obama election in the fight against racism. Wray is active with the People’s Assembly/Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE) and helped organize events commemorating Rosa Parks’ courageous defiance of racial segregation that led to the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955.

“We exercised our freedom to get out and vote, and now we have to take on all the other issues that confront us—housing, prisons, education, unemployment and more. This is what people in my project are talking about. The Obama election was an important victory, but racism was not swept under the rug.”

This was also the first WWP conference for Martha Rojas, a Colombian activist and union organizer for home health care workers in Los Angeles. Rojas first met WWP during the 2006 massive struggles around immigrant rights.

“It’s great to see African Americans, Anglos and Latin@s involved together in the struggle,” Rojas stated. “This is my place. The speakers here are not just saying there should be unity, but they are doing things to bring it about.”

Rojas described the impact of the global economic crisis on her family in Colombia. “There is a saying that when the U.S. gets a cold, Colombia gets pneumonia. My family were never doing that well, but now they are really suffering.

“Because Barack Obama came out against Plan Colombia, the Afro-Colombian community came out in the thousands when he won,” Rojas said. “Colombia has the second-largest African community in Latin America after Brazil. The vote against racism for Obama is affecting them. If the U.S. can change, we can make a difference in Colombia against Uribe.”

Pam Africa from International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal welcomed the insight the conference offered on the Obama election. “The conference was great,” Africa reported, “and very educational on where we need to go from here after the elections.

“I have never felt anything but solidarity from Workers World around the struggle to free Mumia. With all the other commitments the party has, you have never set aside your support for political prisoners, whether it’s Mumia or the Cuban Five. Workers World is not just there in a conference like this, but in the street and on the front line. Not behind me, but beside me. I’ll be at the next conference, too!” Africa concluded.

“I’m very impressed with the commitment of the people who came to this meeting from all over the country,” noted Dave Welch, a leader of the National Association of Letter Carriers Local 214 and delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council. “They are already deeply involved with the fight against foreclosures to put people back in their homes. They come from the rising movement of workers and poor who are dealing with the economic crisis that is devastating people’s lives.”

“I’m encouraged by the labor struggles I’ve heard reported here like the victory of the Boston school bus drivers. People are also taking actions to fight racism where it happens, like the lynching of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero by a mob on Long Island. Many are fighting the epidemic of police brutality and the attacks on immigrant rights. It’s happening all over the country.”
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Page printed from:

No comments: