The Organizer Weekly Newsletter — Issue No. 1 — June 17, 2020
Millions in the Streets Demand End to Police Terror and Systemic Racism
Massive protests of millions of young people in the streets against the police murder of George Floyd have exploded in all major U.S. cities. The protests, however, are not limited to this one tragedy, nor even to the countless other lives lost to police murder — they are challenging the nation’s racist political institutions themselves.
Protestors are demanding that statues of Confederate leaders be pulled down and that military bases with Confederate names be renamed. Not surprisingly, Trump opposes this on the grounds that they are part of U.S. history — and on this specific point he is right. The modern history of the United States is rooted in the alliance between the Northern capitalist class and the former slavocracy of the South. After the Civil War, these forces joined together against not only freed Black slaves, but against the unity between Blacks and the white working poor forged during Radical Reconstruction.
To cement this counter-revolutionary alliance, it was necessary for the Northern capitalists to make a “deal” with their Southern allies, allowing them greater autonomy to impose segregation, enact the heinous Jim Crow laws, and enable the Ku Klux Klan to lynch thousands of Black people who dared to rise up against Jim Crow.
Defeating this “deal” between the Northern capitalists and the slavocracy — a still-unfinished democratic task, despite the gains of the Civil Rights Movement — poses the need to extirpate institutionalized racism at its roots once and for all.
Racism at the Core of Capitalist and Imperialist Domination
Every day that this struggle continues, the ruling class understands more that these protests against racism have the potential to go even further; that what’s at stake is not only ending police harassment and murder, but the stability of the institutions at the core of capitalist and imperialist domination, at home and abroad.
From the beginning, capitalist rule in the United States has used institutional racism to pit white workers against the Black working class. White workers are made to feel threatened whenever Black workers make gains. By closing factories throughout the Rust Belt and laying off millions of workers, the capitalist system in decay is now targeting the gains of the white skilled working class. Institutionalized racism has been wielded yet again with fraudulent arguments to scapegoat Black workers (called “welfare cheats”) and undocumented immigrants (deemed “illegal”) for the ills of a capitalist economy that is incapable of addressing the needs of the working-class majority.
The Democrats would like to reduce the issue of police brutality to a few “bad apples.” Suddenly the political establishment is flush with proposals to “reform” the police and to bring “bad” cops to justice. Socialist Organizer, of course, supports every effort to bring the killers of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery to justice. But even if those responsible for their murders are held accountable — still far from being the case — this will not resolve the issue of institutionalized racism.
Two Intertwined Struggles
An effective struggle against racism cannot be limited to addressing individual acts of racism or police murder. It must strike at the core of our racist institutions. We also must link the struggle against racism to the struggle against capitalism because you cannot fight effectively against racism without taking on capitalism, and, conversely, you cannot fight effectively against capitalism without taking on racism.
On June 9, ILWU Locals 10 and 34 took the lead in organizing a nationwide work stoppage of 8 minutes and 46 seconds to honor victims of police murder. By so doing, they pointed the way forward for the entire labor movement. As Teamsters Local 808 President Chris Silvera put it in a statement supporting the action, “It is time for the labor movement to move to the front lines of the fight against systemic racism.”
The actions spearheaded by ILWU Locals 10 and 34 were held under the slogan of the Million Worker March: “Mobilizing In Our Own Name.” These actions, in turn, pose the need for working class independence from the twin parties of the bosses.
Socialist Organizer supports the effort by Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) to build an independent Labor-based political party rooted in the unions and communities of the oppressed. At the same time, we support efforts by the Ujima People’s Progress Party and other Black organizations to build a mass-based Black worker-led political party. This is the way forward. This is the way to end repression and capitalist exploitation.
We invite our readers to learn more about these efforts in this first issue of The Organizer Weekly Newsletter.
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Stop-Work Actions on June 9 and Juneteenth Galvanize Labor’s Fightback at Home and Abroad
By MYA SHONE
The clarion call was issued. “Let labor’s voice be heard throughout the land!”
International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Bay Area locals 10, 34, 75, and 91, along with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 808 — representing Metro North and building service workers in New York City — called upon workers, organized and unorganized, throughout the United States to “stop work and lay down their tools” on Tuesday, June 9 at 9:00 am Pacific “for an 8-minute 46-second collective vigil of silence to honor the memory of George Floyd and all those murdered at the hands of police.”
Far from symbolic, the action, which coincided with the funeral of George Floyd in Houston, was intended to galvanize a national and international labor fightback. “Longshore workers probably understand capitalism better than anyone else,” said Clarence Thomas, past secretary-treasurer, ILWU Local 10 and co-convener of the Million Worker March in 2004. “If the cargo doesn’t come off the ship, that’s merchandise not sold. Stopping work for eight minutes and 46 seconds is not a symbol; it’s an act that demonstrates the leverage of the working class.”
On June 9, during the mass upsurge, the ILWU Coast Longshore Division shut down all 29 West Coast Ports from Bellingham, WA, to San Diego, CA. To bring home the message, the longshore workers in Los Angeles unfurled a 40-ft banner with the ILWU logo and the cri de coeur “Black Lives Matter” [see photo, page 1].
All operations on the East and Gulf Coast ports stopped, too, as the 65,000-members of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), AFL-CIO crafted their own memorials.
Simultaneously, dockers in the Port of Montreal — members of Local Union 375, Canadian Union of Public Employees — as well as the Liverpool dockers in Merseyside, England, laid down their tools to demonstrate their unity.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, aside from the ILWU Oakland Port shutdown, MUNI drivers parked buses and stopped trolleys, BART workers curtailed trains and broadcast announcements, and San Francisco’s City workforce of more than 30,000 demonstrated to the country that labor was sending the strong message “Enough is enough — now is the time to act!”
Across the country in Toledo, Ohio, all city employees stopped work, as well, in response to the request by Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC, AFL-CIO), to join with 11,000 FLOC-represented farmworkers tilling the land on almost 700 farms with union contracts.
“FLOC has a long history of fighting police repression as early as the late 60s,” explained Velasquez. “We withstood beatings, arrests, jails from local police departments and county sheriffs, as well as KKK [Ku Klux Klan] cross-burning during the Campbell’s Soup strike of 1978.”
Kali Akuno of the People’s Strike 2020 distributed the ILWU stop-work message to youth in particular. “This step that the ILWU, ILA and Teamsters are taking,” Akuno explained, “addresses the deep issues at the heart of COVID-19, that is, the underlying white supremacy and racism, which are the reasons why the whole pandemic has played out so catastrophically for the Black community.” (Spectre, June 9)
ILWU Call for Juneteenth
Following on the heels of the June 9 protest, ILWU locals 10, 34, 75 and 91 issued a call to unions in the United States and internationally to join with them once again and initiate actions for Juneteenth, June 19 — the holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States.
The explicit demands are to Stop Police Terror and End Systemic Racism. These ILWU locals, together with other ILWU locals up and down the coast, will once again shut down the 29 West Coast ports, this time for an 8-hour work stoppage. They have joined forces with unions, community organizations, class struggle groups, and youth activists to prepare a massive car caravan, march and rally in both Oakland and Seattle.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) issued its own call for marches and labor actions under the hashtag — #StrikeForBlackLives. Organizers of the Atlanta protests against the death of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks also called for a Black workers’ strike, according to Newsweek.com.
“Labor has been and continues to be the most powerful tool to bring about social change in the United States of America, as well as the entire world,” stated Keith Shanklin, president of ILWU Local 34. “From the Haymarket Affair in 1886 to the Million Worker March in 2004, labor has continued to be the organizing foundation for the community to unite for social change,” Shanklin explained. He, along with Trent Willis, president of ILWU Local 10, have stressed this point time and again: “All lives will matter when Black lives matter because An Injury to One is An Injury to All!”
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Preparing the “Break the Grip” Conference at the End of July
By MILLIE PHILLIPS
A second expanded organizing meeting was held June 13 for the “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” conference, slated to take place later this summer, sponsored by Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP), the Ujima People’s Progress Party (UPP), and the Labor Fightback Network (LFN). The conference, scheduled for Baltimore on July 31, will now be online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like the previous expanded organizing meeting on April 25, around 50 people participated, including activists from the sponsoring groups, Black and Latinx organizations, and several unions. Given the mass uprising for Black Lives Matter, the discussion took on an added urgency, reflected in the opening speeches by Black activists Clarence Thomas, past secretary treasurer of ILWU 10 and a key initiator of the West Coast port shut down for Juneteenth; Erica Caines of UPP; Kali Akuno, co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson and a leader of the Peoples Strike movement; and Chris Silvera, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 808, as well as Latina activist Desiree Rojas, president of the Sacramento, CA, chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA).
Much of the meeting was spent in breakout rooms, one led by Ajamu Baraka, leader of Black Alliance for Peace, on linking up with the antiwar and anti-imperialist movements, and two directed specifically at union members and activists of color geared toward concrete tasks and concerns related to building the July 31 conference.
Overall, the meeting was a success, drawing together a corps of dedicated independent politics supporters, committed to working through the challenges of building a successful team grounded in the multiracial working class, clarifying our goals and messaging, addressing the need to support Black self-determination, developing a media presence, improving outreach, dealing with backwardness in parts of labor movement, and determining how to relate to other movements and organizations with different strategies and tactics toward breaking with the Democratic Party.
ILWU’s Juneteenth (June 19) action is a model of labor-community organizing that is helping all of us see the way forward to the July 31 conference and beyond.
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Statement by the Ujima People’s Progress Party on the Murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd
BALTIMORE — These past weeks have witnessed stepped-up struggle and resistance to the ongoing violence and murder of Black working class people by white supremacists and police.
The recent wave of murders began with the modern-day lynching of Ahmaud Arbery. This was a case where two white men felt emboldened enough to follow and kill an unarmed Black man in broad daylight, and then turn over a video of the murder that they themselves had filmed, thinking that such a video would exonerate them.
Then there was the police execution of Breonna Taylor, a young Emergency Medical Technician in Louisville, Kentucky, who was killed by police who broke into her home with a “no-knock” warrant and fired 20 shots.
And then there was George Floyd, murdered by a Minneapolis cop who kneeled on his neck as he cried out, “I can’t breathe, don’t kill me!”
The liberal media — an extension of the capitalist ruling class in America — would like to brand these murders as random cases of racism, of a few bad apples.
Racism is a factor, of course. But if the police are able to get away with these murders, thousands of which have gone unpunished, it’s because institutional policies have been put into place ever since we’ve been here that protect and encourage the police and white supremacist killings of Black working class people. It’s a systemic issue to control the Black communities.
In a class society split between the haves and have-nots, the police are needed to control workers and the poor; otherwise workers would rise up to take back the wealth that they created and that was stolen from them. Police were established to protect the interests of the ruling class.
Today, we are hearing voices from Black misleaders urging us to place our confidence in the Democratic Party. But the Democrats are representatives of the capitalist ruling class, and they will always have the back of the police.
One example: Amy Klobuchar, who is a Democratic Party vice-presidential hopeful, was a prosecutor in Minnesota from 1999 to 2006. During her time in office she failed to bring charges in more than two dozen police killings, including a killing by officer Derek Chauvin, the man who murdered George Floyd. Had Klobuchar prosecuted Chauvin, he would not have been on the force.
The two-party system is designed to defend the armed battalions of the capitalist State. The system may give you one or two police officers here and there, but that doesn’t resolve the problem. It doesn’t address the fact that there is a colonial policy in place of containment of Black people.
So what is to be done? How can we as the Ujima People’s Progress Party help put an end to police brutality?
Our party has a platform for revolutionary transformation. Having said that, we need to start with community control of the police, establishing a Civilian Review Board that repeals the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights and that has the powers to investigate independently and to hire and fire police officers.
This is a fundamental demand. It can build momentum in the streets and promote a mass movement for change. it is a demand to give our community some space just to breathe and live without being shot, maimed or killed.
The struggle for community control is aimed at unseating some of the powers-that-be, but it doesn’t unseat the capitalists who make the laws that protect their class rule. We understand that.
The struggle to unseat the capitalists and their two-party system requires self-organization of Black working class people and revolutionary leadership. It is not just about winning an election, though this is one of our objectives. It is about building Black power for our Black working class communities. We can’t get around being organized under our own revolutionary leadership.