Socialist Organizer For A Workers' International Wed, 04 Mar 2015 18:49:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 First Reactions Inside Greece to the “Reform Program” Approved by the Eurogroup Wed, 04 Mar 2015 18:49:21 +0000 [Note: The following article is reprinted from Issue No. 341 (March 5, 2015) of Informations Ouvrières (Labor News), the weekly newspaper of the Independent Workers Party of France (POI).]

After the publication of the list of “reforms” that the Greek government forwarded to the creditors of Greece — and that were “validated” by them — what is the situation?

In the Greek working class, among the layers of the population that have been hit by five years of policies of social destruction imposed by the “Memorandum,” opinions are divided. Many workers who voted Syriza say — as was the case of these construction workers interviewed by one of our Greek correspondents: “You have to give the government a bit more time. It’s not so simple; they have the entire world against them — the European Central Bank (ECB), the IMF, the European governments. . . .”

That said, as highlighted by Stathis Kouvelakis, a member of the Central Committee of Syriza, the agreement is not a victory given that “the agreement stipulates that the Greek government will repay its creditors, and on time.” The agreement, moreover, establishes “that the country will accept to be placed under the supervision of the ‘institutions’ – the new name of the Troika[1] — and that “the government commits itself not to take any unilateral action that could endanger the budgetary objectives set forth by the creditors.

But herein lies the problem, as Kouvelakis noted: “The restoration of labor legislation . . . as well as the rehiring of laid-off public employees, the restoration of electricity for households that had their power cut off, or the reconstitution of the ERT (public radio and television)” . . . all these commitments “have clashed with the dictates of the European Union and the Troika.”

And Kouvelakis concluded: “The problem is right there. . . . You cannot break with the policies of austerity and the mechanisms of the Memorandum without confronting the European Union. . . . Any political force that seeks to take issue with, let alone go against, the dominant policy directives in relation to economic policy, must break with such directives; this is an indispensable condition“[2].

But though they may want to “give the government a bit more time,” the workers are not about to give up fighting for their demands. On Thursday, February 26, the leadership of the OLME, the teachers’ union, was received at the Ministry of Education, where they demanded that the thousands of laid-off teachers be rehired.

It was a face-to-face meeting between a Syriza government minister and the union president, also a member of Syriza, who, as it turns out, had also been laid off. One of our Greek correspondents commented on this meeting as follows: “The Greek unions are not about to throw in the towel.”

It is in this context that one must understand the importance of the vote that took place at the Central Committee of Syriza this past weekend.

Alexis Tsipras[3], came to the meeting to defend the terms of the agreement with the Eurogroup, and he was faced with the vote by 41% of the members of the Central Committee[4] in support of a resolution titled “We disagree with the list of measures signed with the Eurogroup” (with 55% voting against and 4% abstaining). These measures, according to the resolution, are “in total contradiction with the electoral commitments of Syriza. In the coming days, Syriza must immediately enact measures in accordance with its electoral commitments, whatever commitments it may have made to the Eurogroup.”

In other words, Syriza must heed the will of the Greek people expressed in the vote of January 25, 2015.

- – - – -


[1] Troika: The European Central Bank, the IMF and the European Union

[2] Concerning the attitude of French President François Hollande, who some in France have called upon to come to the rescue of Greece, Stathis Kouvelakis replied: “You cannot implement a policy of austerity and vote for the anti-labor Macron Law, on the one hand, and provide political help to a country that wants to break with austerity, on the other.”

[3] Alex Tsipras, member of Syriza, is the new Greek prime minister.

[4] A vote by 41% of the Central Committee means that the resolution was submitted and approved by forces in Syriza beyond those of the “Left Platform.”


]]> 0
Interview with Colia LaFayette Clark: “We Have to Finish the March of the Civil Rights Movement!” Tue, 03 Mar 2015 18:53:08 +0000


As the struggles against police brutality and racism in the United States intensify, it is critical to take a moment and discuss the legacy of the struggle for Black Liberation in the United States. The Organizer newspaper correspondent Anthony Palmer was fortunate enough to sit down with Colia LaFayette Clark for this purpose. Sister Colia has been a life-long organizer and advocate in worker, Black, and other community struggles. She shares with us not only her experiences from the Civil Rights movement, but also the experiences of her parents and grandparents. Presented below are excerpts from these stories, which represent close to 100 years of struggle. At the end of the interview, Sister Colia shares her advice, based on her wealth of experience, for this current generation of organizers in the various movements against racism   [Colia LaFayette Clark. Photo by Fraternité]         and police violence that have been led by a new generation of youth. The interview is reprinted here from the March 2015 issue of The Organizer. The Editors

T.O.: You grew up in a family that participated in various workers’ struggles. How did that affect you growing up?

C.L.C.: My parents were active in the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. When I grew up, there were actually killings of Black folk. The last killing, which really tugged at my father and grandfather and had them talking about leaving the county and coming into the city of Jackson, was a brother who had ten children and was given a warning by the local whites.

The whites fully had the upper hand; they had always had the upper hand. They had the gun power, the police power, and the State power in terms of the law. So they gave him a warning that he was to move or be killed. He had a wife and ten children. He wouldn’t go, and they found him the following morning lying on his porch, dead. We are talking about the late 1920s and early ‘30s. My father participated in these struggles and worked in the levee camps.

T.O.: Tell us a little more about the levee camps?

C.L.C.: Blacks in the state of Mississippi were forced to remain on the plantations in 1927, when we were hit by the Great Flood — a much greater flood than the one that occurred in New Orleans several years ago. This was the beginning of the Black exodus from the South.

It was a backwater flood. It backed up from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Cairo, Illinois — well over 1,000 miles, filling up all of the Mississippi Delta flatlands. Whites were blowing up levees in many cases, so that they could make sure that the land stayed flooded and Blacks lost their homes and property. It was a very violent scene. Then the federal government ordered every Black male of age within 150 miles of the flood to work on the levees. The order was strictly enforced. One of our cousins was murdered when the levee camp police came to his door. They accused him of not showing up for work. He informed them that he had just completed his 24-hour shift and had just arrived home. They refused to accept this excuse and shot him right in front of his wife and children.

Black women and children were not allowed to leave the plantation despite the fact that the water was up, covering most buildings. Black women and children had to flee to the rooftops. My daddy described scenes with snakes, bobcats, chickens, hogs, and whatever else could get on the roof, alongside the women and children. And when the federal and state government finally got the barges out, they often did not rescue the women and children. They did not count. This was 1927. My daddy described the violence, the food shortages and more. I grew up with the telling of those stories.

T.O.: Tell us about your work with the NAACP and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the early 1960s. You were part of the first group to go to Selma, is that right?

C.L.C.: We were the first organizers to go into Selma and set up the Black Belt Alabama Project, with headquarters in Selma, Dallas County, Alabama. Dr. King would come in with his apparatus two years later and get all the fame. But this was a SNCC project, established by the students, who did all the initial and difficult organizing work. Unfortunately, these students are portrayed in Selma, the new movie, as more of a deterrent to the organizing effort.

[SNCC Organizers Arrested. Photo by John Kouns]

The Black students, the Black youth, have not received the recognition they deserve. Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old girl, took a seat on a bus in Montgomery. This kicked off the Montgomery movement around buses. She was one of more than 200 young people who took seats, most of them women. Rosa Parks would take a seat nine months later.

I became a student at Tougaloo College in the fall of 1959. The very September that I entered that school, we became the first college chapter in the state of Mississippi to form a chapter of the NAACP. By January 1960 we were really seriously talking about how we were going to take on the State of Mississippi and the desegregation program. The year that followed we did some serious organizing work, with our sit-ins.

On one occasion, the Tougaloo 9 did a sit-in at the Jackson Public Library. After that 24 students did a follow-up demonstration. The students then visited Mayor Allan Thompson. From there we went to the two downtown businesses that had lunch counters: Walgreen’s and Woolworth’s with the intent of doing a sit-in. But the police made it impossible for us to even get to a lunch counter.

The visit to Mayor Allan Thompson was comical. He actually burst into tears, accusing Tougaloo College students of violating his friendship by staging the earlier demonstration at the Jackson Public Library.

The fact that there was no library for Blacks never came up in his teary complaint. In a separate action, 150 Jackson State students in support of the arrested Tougaloo 9 marched on downtown Jackson. The students were beaten and tear-gassed, with dogs sicced on them. The following day, the leaders of the Jackson State students who participated in the action were dismissed. We then filed a lawsuit.

Tougaloo College immediately accepted these students. Campbell College, a private Methodist school, whose campus was side by side with Jackson State College, also participated with the Jackson State students. Campbell College had been a vital part of our Tougaloo organizing efforts since early 1960.

The Tougaloo chapter of the NAACP was formed in 1959. Anne Moody, author of the book, “Coming of Age in Mississippi,” was the secretary for the Tougaloo chapter. She died earlier this year.

Campbell College was represented at our meetings in Tougaloo by its dean, Charles Jones, and an occasional student. Campbell College would stage a bus sit-in to desegrate Jackson city buses within a few days of the Tougaloo sit-in. This is a school that was destroyed by the state of Mississippi through the power of eminent domain because of the college’s work to revolutionize Black Jackson.

T.O.: What is your feeling on lawsuits, or the legal strategy in general, for movements today?

C.L.C.: I think you take everything you can. I was recently at a meeting at Riverside Church in New York City with some young people; they always wonder about this. A young girl from the movement was real clear: “Lawsuits? It gets us nowhere.” I could understand her point: whatever we win, they always manage to take it take it back. We need a new Constitutional Convention in this country, because Blacks are not represented in this country. Despite all its amendments, the Constitution remains grounded in much of the framework of slavery and expansionism of the new nation that was formed at that time.

[Marching in Harlem in solidarity with Selma. Photo by National Guardian]

T.O.: Back to your work, SNCC went into Selma in the early ’60s. . . .

C.L.C.: The first night we arrived in Selma we went to the Torch Motel. This is the motel that would later be bugged and bombed when Doctor King stayed there. At 10:45 pm there was a knock on the door; it scared us out of our wits. Standing outside were two tall white men who told us they were from the federal government. They said they were deputy attorney generals. They were there to ask us to leave as there was a death threat on us. They said that the Justice Department had already filed a lawsuit for the right to vote in 1961 and that our presence there would only disturb a racist judge appointed by John Fitzgerald Kennedy. We said we were not leaving and that they should go and arrest the people  they said were threatening us. So that was our arrival in Selma. We began to see how the federal government really had a marriage with the South. We saw that the whole damn thing was a war.

We in SNCC were in Selma since 1963, working around the clock with our voter registration campaigns. We organized and held mass demonstrations. We were jailed. We were beaten. We started a movement and attracted national attention. This was part of a 10-year campaign that we, the youth, had begun back on March 2, 1955, when a young 15-year-old girl took a seat on a bus.

[Montgomery: Colia Clark faces down water hoses used on demonstrators. Photo by Danny Lyon]

Dr. King put down his apparatus in Selma two years later. I’m not angry with them for doing it, but there was serious disrespect to our youth. Despite that, we all worked together. We were one. The march on the bridge, with workers being attacked and with Doctor King leading it, was in March 1965. This was 10 years after our journey began.

T.O.: What would you say to youth organizing today?

C.L.C.: I am very proud of the youth organizers today because they have taken the leadership. It’s the first time since the 1960s that the youth have gotten so involved. It’s now a good time for them to demand of us, who are 65 and older, a historical legacy that deals with not just our projects and goals, but also our successes and failures . . . and our relationships with each other.

The Civil Rights Bill and the Voting Rights Act are merely a piece of a legacy. How did we get those pieces of legislation and what did we go through to get them? The Civil Rights Movement was a metaphor for Black liberation. As soon as we were finished with the Civil Rights piece it dawned on us: When Dr. King went to Washington he went there to collect on a bad check. We haven’t gotten the check yet.

SNCC completed its generational task. SNCC played a major role in securing the Civil Rights bill and the Voting Rights Act. In a sense, we worked our way out of a job. But the issue of Black Power still remains unfinished. Black Power opens up the whole issue of finishing the unfinished work of the March on Washington in 1963.

T.O.: So Black Power is the unfinished part of the legacy of Civil Rights?

C.L.C.: It is the unfinished work. It is what will give Blacks our humanity back. We can then call ourselves Black for the first time in hundreds of years and feel pride. We can call ourselves Black and not have our insides turn and twist and feel that we are nothing. We can call ourselves African with pride, respect, dignity, joy, and jubilation.

To see a Black man walk down the street in that hour immediately following the initial cry for Black Power, there was pride in that walk. Overnight, that was in our heads. Black Power brought it out. So I salute SNCC and Stokely Carmichael and those people who raised the issue of Black Power, which Richard Wright, wrote about in 1948.

So when I talk with students, this is part of the legacy. It’s not a small legacy; it’s a huge legacy. The movement for Ethnic Studies emerged after the cry for Black Power. We now have to finish the march. The March on Washington had two pieces, and the Black Power piece has not been completed. That is the rest of the march; it will have to do with housing and education, and a massive jobs program. It will have to link up with the unions, as we not only need to be in unions, but we need to have the unions accept us.

T.O.: How important is labor to the movements today?

C.L.C.: Employed workers, unemployed workers, underemployed workers, and never employed workers all have to move as one, but labor has got to overcome its racism. Now the bosses and the government are trying to destroy public sector unions. Private sector labor is less than 7% union. It’s being destroyed. The public sector is what they are coming after now, and that’s where most Black and Brown unionized folk are.

A “right to work law” is a right not to have a job. It’s a right not to work. A right not to have a union. A right not to have access to childcare. A right not to have collective bargaining. That is what “right to work” means. And a union worker makes more money than a “right to work” worker — and they are lying if they say they don’t. But we got to reinvigorate all the unions.

I was working as a teacher in a union in New York City. Most of the unions had no sense of the history of the labor movement. They had never even heard of Joe Hill. These were schoolteachers! They didn’t know anything about a labor union. Why are you in a union?

Joe Hill was screaming, “It takes more than guns to kill a man.” Whether it was Dr. King, Joe Hill, Medgar Evers, or Malcolm X, it takes more than guns to kill a man. And that is part of the legacy. This used to be alive in the labor movement. Workers need to reclaim their unions for struggle.

It’s wonderful seeing the fighting spirit in the youth, in their “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” and “I Can’t Breathe!” movements. Our young people will do well. They will continue with our struggle.

T.O.: What is the area around Selma like today? You went there in 2010 to receive an award?

C.L.C.: Now this is my big complaint. Here they go to Alabama and spend millions of dollars doing a damn movie. That’s what I said, a damn movie. I’m not opposed to new movies, but the houses in Selma are just rotten houses. Black people are living in rotten houses that are falling apart.

You don’t come in and spend millions of dollars on a movie, when the place needs to be rehabbed. And you don’t make a movie that disrespects the young people that opened up the youth movement for the 21st century. If you are going to spend millions of dollars, at least rehab those houses; do at least that.

But the whole county could benefit from a massive jobs program. This means you’ve got to come in and talk about what kind of industry can we bring here to this poor Black-belt county. They need more than museums; they need jobs in agriculture and industry, they need a massive public works program.

T.O.: Do you have any last piece of advice for student organizers?

C.L.C.: To young people who are in school – in K-12 but also those beginning college: work hard in your studies, don’t flunk out. You need to be literate in all areas — literate in economics and civics, in math and science, so that when you come out of school, you come out a whole person and not a piece of a person. Strive for excellence in education and in all areas of your life.

And get active politically. We’ve got a new movement going. You don’t want to flunk out the “I Can’t Breathe!” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” movements. Don’t flunk them out.


]]> 0