The months following the 9/11 attacks and the US victory in Afghanistan were a difficult period for socialists in the US as a tidal wave of nationalism, racism, and support for Bush swept across the country. This was brought to a head when, with the US victory in Afghanistan, the anti-war movement collapsed. Nonetheless, we succeeded in doing some good political work on campuses, in unions and the community.
Eighth CWI World Congress
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Report from the CWI section in the United States on their party campaigns and activities over the last twelve months. This is an edited version of the report presented to the Eighth World Congress of the CWI, held in Belgium from 23-30 November. We urge all readers that agree with the ideas of the CWI to help us in the struggle for a socialist world. Join the CWI today!
CWI Online, 27 December 2002
In the past few months we have turned the corner, with the organization turning outwards, carrying out a number of successful campaigns and interventions. This has brought a whole new layer of members into the organization.
Successful Nigerian Speaking Tour
In September and October we organized a highly successful national speaking tour of comrade Segun from Nigeria, alongside our campaign on college campuses with the start of the school semester. In addition to public meetings on the political situation in Africa, some branches organized meetings on opposing a war on Iraq. In total 23 public meetings were organized in 8 cities across the US. Approximately 1,200 people attended these meetings (an average turnout of 52 people per meeting). Seven articles and interviews in the main press, student and community newspapers and radio stations with Segun and Philip, were generated as part of the campaign, and one commercial video of Segun’s speech.
New members were recruited from these two campaigns – a 25% growth of membership. Around 2000 papers were sold as part of the campus recruitment drive and the Nigerian-speaking tour meetings.
Bush’s drive to war against Iraq has brought new layers of youth and workers into struggle. The resulting mass protests, combined with our campus recruitment drive and the Nigerian speaking tour, enabled us to sell more copies of Justice issue #31 than any other issue of the paper in the history of the US organization since its founding, breaking our previous record during the Nader campaign in 2000.
The Nigerian speaking tour and the campus recruitment drive were expensive but we were able to raise this money through appeals for donations and increased sales of the paper. On top of this a good deal was raised in donations, along with two old laptop computers, for the Nigerian section. Membership
An important gain since the last World Congress in 1998 has been the establishment of new branches and the significant growth of previously small branches. We have made big gains in the Seattle branch and Oberlin. In the past year, we have built a new branch Minneapolis.
Other branch areas include
Seattle, Washington, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Chicago, Illinois, East Lansing, Michigan, Oberlin, Ohio, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York, Boston, Massachusetts. There are smaller numbers of comrades around the country.
Since January 2001, we have produced the newspaper out of Seattle. This has played an important role in building unity and confidence in the organization, and providing us with an important campaigning tool. It has also helped train a new layer of comrades in Seattle in writing, editing and producing the newspaper of the organization.
Campaigning against war on Iraq
The Bush Administration’s plan to wage war on Iraq has become the most important political issue in the US. Discussions at our November National Committee focused on the political and organizational questions related to the likely war on Iraq. We agreed to make anti-war work and youth work our top priority at this time while continuing to position ourselves to participate in workers’ struggles as they develop.
Branches have launched campus anti-war coalitions in Oberlin, Seattle and Minneapolis and in Boston’s University of Massachusetts we are working to build a coalition. The Minneapolis branch was the key organizer of an anti-war rally with 500 people that blocked a major street, receiving quite good media coverage. The Seattle branch helped organized 2 rallies against the war on the 2 campuses we have a presence at, attracting 250 people to one and 100 to the other.
The New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Oberlin branches have intervened in the numerous major national anti-war demonstrations on the east coast consistently, selling 200-500 papers at each one. A Seattle Teamster comrade, as part of a group of anti-war union activists, drafted an anti-war resolution that was adopted by the Washington State Labor Council, one of the only anti-war resolutions to pass through union bodies.
The Minneapolis and Oberlin branches are organizing state-wide student anti-war conferences in their states, based on the success of the 150-strong Northwest anti-war conference the Seattle branch organized during the Afghanistan war. We are also organizing student walk-outs the day after bombings begin.
We have on going work in a number of unions in different branches. In New York, we recently have recruited a teacher from the ongoing work amongst public school teachers.
We have had 3 important successes in our trade union work this year. One was helping get the anti-war resolution passed through the Washington State Labor Council, which we just mentioned.
Our Chicago comrades who are in the leadership of AFSCME Local 2858 succeeded in getting an important resolution of theirs, although amended, passed through the national AFSCME convention (public sector workers), which is the second largest union in the US. It opened up the possibility of the union endorsing independent candidates as well as its usual policy of supporting Democrats. The resolution makes a scathing attack on the Democrats and calls for the international union to "only support and endorse candidates, including independent candidates, who support AFSCME’s working families agenda … those candidates who fight to return the burden of taxes in our society to those who can best afford to pay, and ought to pay, namely the rich and the big corporations, and who are not afraid to oppose the rich and powerful in order to defend our jobs and services."
In Seattle at the UPS package shipping company we carried out a consistent campaign of plant gate paper sales and leafleting from June 2001 – September 2002 in preparation for a possible strike during contract negotiations. Besides building a reputation among the UPS workers, this was a very good learning experience and training for many of our new members in how to intervene in the labor movement. When the Teamsters leadership struck a deal with UPS that would not significantly improve wages, benefits or working conditions, we had an impact in urging Seattle Teamsters to vote NO. In large part due to our campaign, the Seattle UPS members were one of the few UPS locals to vote down the contract. A young UPS worker joined us out of this campaign. We hope to use the base of the 3 Teamsters we now have in Seattle to produce a rank-and-file Teamster newsletter.
Our branches regularly organize solidarity support for workers when union struggles break out or when protests develop against government cutbacks in social services, community issues, etc. We also helped or in occasionally played a leading role in organizing forums and protests against police brutality in the African American communities of Seattle and New York.
New Web page and Email Lists
Besides our internal Members’ Bulletin email list, we have established a new, attractive website. We set up a national public announcement email list in August, which has now grown to 600 people, and we hope it will grow to 1000 by March 2003.