60 years after death, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn still scares the right / by C.J. Atkins

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, ‘The Rebel Girl,’ addresses strikers in Paterson, N.J. in 1913.

Originally published in the People’s World on May 17, 2023

Although she’s been dead for almost six decades, it looks like Elizabeth Gurley Flynn is still getting under the skin of right-wingers. Just two weeks after it was installed, a historical marker commemorating her birth in Concord, N.H., has been demolished on the order of Republican state officials.

The green and white cast iron plaque—the kind you see on the side of highways or in public places noting where significant events occurred or famous persons once lived—was erected on May Day in downtown Concord, where Flynn was born in 1890.

The sign was barely bolted into place before conservatives demanded its removal, embarrassed apparently that the state might recognize someone who devoted her life to fighting for workers’ rights, women’s right to vote, birth control, civil liberties, and economic equality. But it was Flynn’s leadership in the Communist Party USA that really boiled their blood.

“This is a devout communist,” complained Joseph Kenney, a Republican member of the Executive Council, the five-person body that approves state contracts, judicial nominees, and other positions. “How can we possibly promote her propaganda, which still exists now through this sign in downtown Concord?”

The historical marker dedicated to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn in Concord, N.H., Friday, May 5, 2023, before it was ordered removed by the state’s Republican governor. | Kathy McCormack / AP

But in a state with the motto “Live Free or Die,” is there really any better figure to represent that rebellious spirit than “The Rebel Girl” herself?

An agitator her entire life

Flynn earned her Rebel Girl nickname doing battle against the same kind of reactionary politics expressed by Kenney. She made her debut as an activist at the age of 15, giving her first public speech, “What Socialism Will Do for Women,” at the Harlem Socialist Club in New York.

Two years later, at just 17, she was already a full-time organizer for the Wobblies, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a revolutionary labor group that sought to organize all workers into “One Big Union.” She traveled from one end of the country to the other, organizing restaurant workers in New York, garment workers in Pennsylvania, weavers in New Jersey, miners in Minnesota, Montana, and Washington State.

She was immortalized in song for her exploits by famed songwriter Joe Hill, who penned “The Rebel Girl” in 1915, giving Flynn the moniker that would follow her for the rest of her life.

With bosses and their hired guns in local police departments determined to muzzle anyone demanding rights for workers, the IWW faced many free speech fights. City councils were pressured by employers to ban organizers from speaking in the streets.

During one such battle in Spokane, Wash., Flynn chained herself to a lamppost so the cops wouldn’t be able to drag her off to jail as easily. There, she gave a fiery speech demanding freedom for workers to organize and publish their views. She’d end up behind bars more than ten times during her years with the IWW.

With the first Red Scare in full swing following the Russian Revolution, constitutional freedoms like speech, press, and assembly were under attack across the United States. Workers and their organizations were the primary targets, and foreign-born immigrant workers faced mass deportations. This prompted Flynn and others to found the American Civil Liberties Union to defend democracy against right-wing reactionaries.

She also pushed the ACLU to take an active role in fighting for women’s rights, particularly access to birth control and the right to vote.

When Italian anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were framed up on murder charges in 1920, Flynn became a leader in their defense campaign and helped turn their case into an international cause célèbre.

Flynn, who was an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World at the height of its influence, was immortalized in song by Joe Hill when he wrote ‘The Rebel Girl.’

Though the two were eventually murdered by the state, the effort to save them helped launch the International Labor Defense, which fought to save the Scottsboro Nine, battled Ku Klux Klan terror, and defended workers in courtrooms anytime they were under attack. Flynn served as the organization’s chair for a number of years.

By the mid-’30s, amidst the suffering of the Great Depression, Flynn’s radicalism led her to join the Communist Party. Almost immediately, she began writing a column on women’s issues for the Daily Worker newspaper, predecessor of today’s People’s World. That column would run weekly for the next 26 years. In a short time, she was elected to the CPUSA’s National Committee.

During the global fight against Hitler fascism and Japanese imperialism during World War II, Flynn played a key role on the home front. She led struggles for equal pay for the women who replaced men on the assembly lines and agitated for day care centers for these working mothers.

In 1942, she ran for Congress in New York, making unity in the fight against fascism and the battle for equality at home the primary planks of her campaign. She earned 50,000 votes.

After the war, Red Scare repression returned. A dozen top leaders of the CPUSA were arrested in 1948 and accused of violating the Smith Act under the false charge of “conspiring to advocate the overthrow the government by force and violence.” The Rebel Girl was a central leader in the movement to defend not only the Communist leaders but also the First Amendment from those who wanted to see it destroyed.

When a second wave of anti-communist arrests was launched in 1951, Flynn was thrown in jail with 16 other party members. At the opening of her federal trial, she declared:

“We are not a criminal conspiracy, but a working-class political party devoted to the immediate needs and aspirations of the American people, to the advancement of the workers, farmers, and the Negro people, to the preservation of democracy and culture, and to the advocacy of socialism.”

An ad for a 1943 Victory Rally featuring Flynn as the keynote speaker. | Daily Worker / People’s World Archives

Even if the jurors did not agree with the Communist Party’s politics, she urged them to remember that in a democratic society, the mere act of thinking should never be made a criminal offense.

“Let none of us forget, especially in this trial in dealing with new ideas and proposals for social change,” she said, “the wise words of Abraham Lincoln: ‘This country with its institutions belongs to the people who inhabit it.’”

Nine months later, the court handed down a guilty plea, and Flynn was sent to Alderson Prison in West Virginia for the next two years—along with Claudia Jones and Betty Gannett, two other women party leaders charged under the Smith Act.

As Prisoner #11710, Flynn set down on paper the details of life in a federal women’s correctional facility, published later as My Life as a Political Prisoner: The Alderson Story. She detailed not only the physical brutalities of incarceration but also its psychological toll:

“The heavy shadow of prison fell upon us in those three days—the locked door and the night patrol. The turning of a key on the outside of the door is a weird sensation to which one never became accustomed. One felt like a trapped animal in a cage.”

She also took the opportunity to expose the classist and racist nature of America’s prison-industrial complex. “No rich women were to be found in Alderson,” she wrote, highlighting how the prison system mostly consumed poor and working-class women, the majority Black and Spanish-speaking with past lives defined often by abuse, mental illness, or drug addiction.

Communist Party USA members – from left, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Marion Bachrach, Claudia Jones, and Betty Gannett – sit in a police van as they leave Federal Court in New York City, June 20, 1951, en route to the Women’s House of Detention after arraignment on charges of ‘criminal conspiracy to teach and advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence.’ | AP

Following her release from the penitentiary, Flynn didn’t hesitate to jump right back into leftist political work and Communist activism. She also ran for office again, putting her name forward for New York City Council in 1957.

In 1961, her long years of work were recognized by comrades, who elected her to become chairperson of the Communist Party, the first woman to ever hold the position. After winning back her passport from the government, Flynn traveled to the Soviet Union in 1964 to spend time working on her next book. While there, however, she became ill and passed away at the age of 74.

Over 25,000 people turned out for her state funeral in Moscow’s Red Square. Her remains were returned to the U.S., where they were buried in Chicago’s Waldheim Cemetery, near the Haymarket Martyrs and other labor heroes.

Flynn described herself as a “professional revolutionary, an agitator” against the injustices of capitalism, racism, and misogyny. As Prof. Mary Anne Trasciatti wrote: “It is no exaggeration to claim that Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was involved in almost every major campaign of the U.S. left in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century.”

And it is that life lived in struggle which so irritates conservatives in New Hampshire; they simply can’t stand for the erection of a historical marker that might remind people of such a figure or prompt them to learn more about her, or, heaven forbid, follow in her footsteps.

Sununu shrinks

So, it is no surprise that Gov. Chris Sununu quickly acted on the demands of his fellow Republicans on the Executive Council who said the historical marker in Concord was “inappropriate, given Flynn’s communist involvement.” Since the marker was on state property, his office had power to order its destruction.

Sununu’s spokesperson, Ben Vihstadt, said on Monday, “All policies and guidelines were followed in removing this controversial marker.”

Supporters of accurate history differ with Sununu. They accuse the state of violating its own rules for the markers, rules which say that markers can only be “retired” if they “contain errors of fact, are in a state of disrepair, or require refurbishment.” None of those apply in the Flynn case.

“We still say that under the department’s own guidelines, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s birthplace in Concord is a fitting location for a historical marker,” said Mary Lee Sargent, a former U.S. history teacher and labor and women’s rights activist.

A selection of Flynn’s many pamphlets and books.

The sign was approved last year by the Concord City Council after a recommendation from the state marker program, which is run by the N.H. Historical Resources Division and the Transportation Department.

A commissioner for the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources says the marker program is popular “because it’s initiated at the local level,” with no “top-down effort” to populate New Hampshire with historical markers of elected officials’ own political heroes nor to cleanse the state of their ideological foes.

With the intervention of Sununu and reactionaries at the highest levels of state government, that tradition is over. Anti-communism may have won out, but perhaps there is a silver lining.

Thanks to all the media coverage conservatives have generated with their contrived controversy, more people will probably learn about Elizabeth Gurley Flynn from articles like this one than would have ever read a plaque at the courthouse in downtown Concord.


The Rebel Girl: An Autobiography – My First Life (1906-1926)

My Life as a Political Prisoner – The Rebel Girl Becomes “No. 11710”

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of

International Workers Day roundtable highlights organizing and solidarity / by Special to the People’s World

A roundtable discussion explored the organizing experiences of three unions in Connecticut. It featured Paul Seltzer, Local 33 Unite Here; Jordie Adams, Starbucks Workers United; and Symone Destin, SEIU 1199 NE. The event was moderated by Pearl Granat, lifelong activist for social justice and retired 1199 organizer. | via Connecticut People’s World Committee

Originally published in the People’s World on May 16, 2023

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—As images of recent workers’ gains, struggles, and actions projected onto the screen and the sounds of labor music ranged outside of the New Haven Peoples Center on to the street, everyone who entered felt an inviting atmosphere of labor solidarity for the People’s World May Day rally: “International Workers Day 2023 – Organize Now for a Just and Peaceful Future.”

Emcee Jahmal Henderson, a food service worker, welcomed everyone to this celebration of courageous organizing being led by young workers, women of color, immigrant workers, and low-wage workers for basic rights and survival against corporate greed.

A powerful slide show “May Day Around the World” highlighted struggles and victories across continents in today’s times, showing working class solidarity for wages, benefits, public education, affordable housing, and peace against the extreme right-wing corporate agenda.

A roundtable discussion explored the organizing experiences of three unions in Connecticut. It featured Paul Seltzer, Local 33 Unite Here; Jordie Adams, Starbucks Workers United; and Symone Destin, SEIU 1199 NE. The event was moderated by Pearl Granat, lifelong activist for social justice and retired 1199 organizer.

Jordie Adams, a Starbucks barista, spoke of helping organize a union at her store in Vernon, Conn., and in other stores. She also proudly announced that, just the prior week, the 300th Starbucks store was organized by Starbucks Workers United. There are now unionized stores in 41 states plus D.C.

Adams was one of dozens of Starbucks workers who traveled to the nation’s capital to attend the Senate hearing called by Sen. Bernie Sanders, chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which questioned former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz about union busting.

“Howard Schultz said the average pay is $17 an hour, which is not true. That number includes supervisors pay,” said Adams. “It was interesting to listen to him lie in front of the Senate.”

Schultz attempted to send a PR person in his place, but Sanders would not agree. To keep the pressure on, Adams and others told their own senators about firings of organizers and other illegal practices happening in their states.

Paul Seltzer, a leader of Local 33 Unite Here and graduate teacher in the history department at Yale, spoke about their blowout union election, with 91% yes votes, gaining recognition from Yale after over 30 years of organizing. They are now negotiating a first contract.

Emcee Jahmal Henderson, a food service worker, welcomed everyone to the celebration and also made a pitch for People’s World. | via Connecticut People’s World Committee

“Graduate workers needed a seat at the table and a say in our work,” said Seltzer. “Our work is essential for the university to carry out its mission for teaching and research.”

During the pandemic, required work hours for Seltzer and all grad teachers skyrocketed with no discussion. But for his wife, a member of Local 34, the clerical and technical workers union at Yale, it was different.  “With the union, workers had a voice to negotiate with the university for higher standards and benefits.”

Seltzer came to Yale in 2017 from Atlanta, where he was a food service worker at the airport and helped organize a union. “We got our first raise, health care costs plummeted, and we won workers’ rights on the job.” This inspired him to stay in the fight for union rights in the workplace.

Local 33 restarted their union campaign in 2021. “We talked to thousands of co-workers and expanded the organizing committee,” he said. “In fall of 2022, thousands of union cards were signed and after a rally of over 1,000 people Yale agreed to respect the results of a graduate worker union election.”

Simone Destin is an 1199 member and a six-year group home worker assisting people with disabilities. She is currently involved in a contract fight for better working conditions and pensions, better health care for all group home workers, and better rights for the disabled community she serves.

While working during the pandemic, Destin got COVID twice and ended up with a $10,000 hospital bill. From this experience, she became determined to stay in the fight for funding in the state budget “for living wages and benefits and to be recognized for the things we are doing to help the people we serve.

“People are struggling daily to make ends meet,” she said. “We are fighting for livable wages. You can’t live off $17 an hour if you have to pay $2,000 rent, electric bill, groceries.

“Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states,” said Destin. “There are 12 billionaires in Connecticut.  And people are struggling daily to make ends meet. It doesn’t make any sense to be so stingy and selfish with our taxpayer dollars.”

She urged everyone to bring a crowd to the state capitol on Wednesday, May 17, for the Recovery for All “Equity Can’t Wait” rally for a moral budget. The budget battle underway will determine funding for vital services and for raising poverty wages of workers like Destin.

Despite a surplus, a full rainy-day fund, and the potential to tax the rich, the governor and legislature say the spending cap limits what can be included in the budget. But the Recovery for All coalition of 70 organizations is demanding alternatives like an equity revenue intercept, saying “the spending cap is not an excuse to leave our communities suffering.”

When Granat asked the panelists “What do you all have in common?” each stressed their common working-class interests and the need for solidarity to overcome fear and keep up the fight.

“We all want to be seen and heard. We all want change not just for ourselves but for everyone else, for our communities,” said Destin, telling Adams and Seltzer, “You have both been doing an amazing job.

via Connecticut People’s World Committee

“In 1199, some workers believe we won’t win, and they don’t want to fight,” said Destin. “We remind them that we deserve more than what we are getting and we’re fighting with you every single day.

1199 cares about our members and the people we serve. We will win.”

“We all have to get up every day and make the choice to keep fighting,” said Seltzer. “We do it because we know we deserve more. All our campaigns have had to link up with other unions and other groups.  Local 33 won because we had support from Unite Here Locals 34, 35, 217, and other groups. We had a shared analysis about how to build power together and then take action together.”

Adams agreed. “We have to unite store by store, there are 9,000 Starbucks stores in the U.S. It’ s exhausting, but we care about what we’re doing and it’s worth the fight. The struggle is real and we are moving forward.”

A citation from the New Haven Board of Alders was presented to each of the unions.

The evening closed with distribution of the Connecticut Communist Party’s program on the housing crisis and an invitation to join. A tribute to Harry Belafonte included videos from his trip to Cuba to receive the Friendship Medal in 2020 and a performance of the banana boat song in Japan.

During the program donations were collected for the People’s World 2023 fund drive.

Video of the full event can be viewed on Facebook here.

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.

New Hampshire Republicans want to erase Communist leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn from history / by Kathy McCormack

A historical marker dedicated to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn stands in Concord, N.H., May 5, 2023. She was born in the city and became a labor activist who later joined the Communist Party and was sent to prison. Gov. Chris Sununu is calling for a review of the state’s historical marker program after Republican officials objected to Flynn’s marker. | Kathy McCormack via AP

Originally published in the People’s World on May 9, 2023

CONCORD, N.H. (AP)—A historical marker dedicated to a New Hampshire labor activist who championed women’s rights and was a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union—but who also joined the Communist Party and was sent to prison—has drawn objections from Republican officials and scrutiny from the governor.

Known as “The Rebel Girl” for her fiery speeches, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was born in Concord in 1890. A green and white Historical Highway Marker dedicated to her, one of 278 across the state, was unveiled Monday last week near her birthplace.

In addition to her rights activism, the marker also says she joined the Communist Party USA in 1936 and was sent to prison in 1951. She was one of many party members prosecuted “under the notorious Smith Act,” the marker says, the Red Scare witch-hunt law which forbade any attempts to “advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government by force or violence.”

Flynn later chaired the Communist Party. She died in Moscow during a visit to the Soviet Unino in 1964, at age 74. She was cremated, and her ashes were taken on a “flower-decked bier” to Red Square during a funeral tribute, according to Associated Press accounts at the time.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is calling for a review of the state’s historical marker program.

“This is a devout communist,” said Joseph Kenney, a Republican member of the Executive Council, at a regular meeting Wednesday. “We are the ‘Live Free or Die’ state. How can we possibly promote her propaganda, which still exists now through this sign in downtown Concord?”

David Wheeler, a Republican who’s also on the five-member Executive Council, which votes on state contracts and Sununu’s department appointees, said he wants the council to have more oversight of the historical marker process.

Sarah Stewart, the commissioner for the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, said at the meeting that the marker program is very popular “because it’s initiated at the local level. There is no state top-down effort to populate the state with historical highway markers.”

There are “many potentially controversial” markers, Stewart said. “The purpose of them is not to commemorate heroes. The purpose is to provide a snapshot that the local community feels is of historic value.”

Any person, municipality, or agency can suggest a marker as long as they get 20 signatures from New Hampshire residents. Supporters must draft the marker’s text and provide footnotes and copies of supporting documentation, according to the state Division of Historical Resources. The division and a historical resources advisory group evaluate the criteria.

Communist Party USA members – from left, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Marion Bachrach, Claudia Jones, and Betty Gannett – sit in a police van as they leave Federal Court in New York City, June 20, 1951, en route to the Women’s House of Detention after arraignment on charges of ‘criminal conspiracy to teach and advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence.’ New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is calling for a review of the state’s historical marker program after two government officials objected to one of Flynn, who was born in Concord. | AP

The sign was approved last year by the Concord City Council following a recommendation from the marker program, which is jointly administered by the Historical Resources Division and the Transportation Department. It currently stands at the edge of a parking lot near the county courthouse.

Concord Mayor Jim Bouley said Friday that the council’s approval was limited to the location of the sign for safety purposes. He said he was puzzled by a letter Stewart sent him Thursday saying the city can re-evaluate its approval of the marker.

“We don’t approve content,” the mayor said.

Plus, Bouley said the sign is on state, not city, property. “They can do whatever they want on their own property. Why would the city care?”

Historical markers run the gamut, telling stories about the last living Revolutionary War soldier, poets and painters who lived nearby, long-lost villages, and contemporary sports figures.

Flynn is “one of the most significant radical leaders of the twentieth century,” the marker’s supporters said in a letter to City Council last year. The sign also notes Flynn’s support for women’s voting rights and for access to birth control.

“We’re going to review the whole process,” Sununu said at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I completely agree with the sentiment here,” the governor said, adding, “It’s the state marker. You can’t say we don’t have any responsibility in terms of what it says and where it goes.”

One marker from 2011 that was brought up during Wednesday’s meeting celebrates the 50th anniversary of the “Betty and Barney Hill incident,” during which the couple reported a close encounter with a UFO. Their experience was described in a best-selling book, a television movie, and numerous speaking engagements.

“The UFO one I’m gonna live with,” said Kenney, the Executive Council member. “That’s a funny story.”

A serious marker about a real-life historical figure who fought for women’s equality and labor rights is apparently too much, however.

Kathy McCormack writes for Associated Press from Concord, New Hampshire.

Millions march on May Day around the world / by Combined Sources

Activists in Paris draped the statue on Place de la Republique with a banner reading ‘Macron resign’ during a demonstration, Monday, May 1, 2023. French unions staged massive demonstrations around France to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s recent move to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. | Aurelien Morissard / AP

Posted in the People’s World on May 2, 2023

People squeezed by inflation and demanding economic justice took to streets across Asia, Europe, and the Americas on Monday to mark May Day, in an outpouring of worker discontent not seen since before the worldwide COVID-19 lockdowns.

A million marched in France on Monday as union-led May Day rallies warned President Emmanuel Macron to back down over plans to raise the retirement age.

Crowds banged pots and pans as they wound through Paris, with French trade unions calling “Everyone onto the streets” under the slogan “United with the People for the Withdrawal” of the hated pension reform, which Macron forced through by decree because he could not get it through parliament.

Striking miners march at a May Day rally in Rustenburg, South Africa, Monday, May 1, 2022. | Denis Farrell / AP

Near the Place de la Republique, activists smashed pinatas representing Macron and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

Organizers estimated that half a million marched in Paris, with huge rallies in many other cities and towns, including 130,000 in Marseille. Police fired tear gas at protesters in Lyon and clashes erupted in other cities.

French union members were joined by groups fighting for economic justice, or just expressing anger at what is seen as Macron’s out-of-touch, pro-business leadership. Labor activists from abroad were also present, among them Hyrwon Chong of the South Korean Metal Workers’ Union.

“Today we see rising inequality throughout the world, terrible inflation,” she said, adding that Macron’s government was trying “to tear down a pillar of the social system which is the pension system.”

While May Day is marked worldwide as a celebration of labor rights, this year’s rallies tapped into broader frustrations.

Protests in Germany kicked off with a “Take Back the Night” rally organized by feminist and queer groups on the eve of May Day to protest against violence directed at women and LGBTQ+ people. On Monday, thousands more turned out in marches organized by German labor unions in Berlin, Cologne, and other cities, rejecting recent calls by conservative politicians for restrictions on the right to strike.

Italy’s neo-fascist premier, Giorgia Meloni, made a point to intentionally snub the country’s labor movement by working on Monday—as her Cabinet passed measures on that it claims show demonstrates their boss’s concern for workers.

Workers rally in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, May 1, 2023. | Ariana Cubillos / AP

But opposition lawmakers and union leaders said the measures do nothing to increase salaries or combat the widespread practice of hiring workers on temporary contracts. Many young people say they can’t contemplate starting families or even move out of parents’ homes because they only get temporary contracts.

In other places, May Day rallies highlighted galloping inflation and the need to raise pay. Over 70 May Day demos took place in Spain, with unions warning of “social conflict” if pay isn’t raised to match inflation.

In Northern Macedonia’s capital Skopje, thousands of trade union members protested a recent government decision granting ministers a 78% raise. The minimum monthly wage for workers in one of Europe’s poorest countries, meanwhile, is 320 euros ($350). The hike will put ministers’ wages at around 2,300 euros ($2,530).

“We are here, not only (to mark) Labor Day, but also to warn that if there is no social justice, there will be no social peace either,” said union leader Jakim Nedelkovski.

Taiwanese workers hold slogans reading, ‘Fail to govern and workers will come settle the score,’ during a May Day rally in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, May 1, 2023. | Chiang Ying-ying / AP

In Moscow—once the site of the world’s largest May Day parades when the city was the capital of the socialist Soviet Union—this year’s gathering was much smaller than typical years. Even in the post-Soviet years, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and trade unions usually hold large marches and protests. That was not the case for 2023.

The country’s biggest trade union federation cancelled its Moscow march, citing “the higher level of terrorist threat, even in regions far from the places of the special military operation,” the phrase used by the Russian government for its war in Ukraine. Red Square has been closed to the public since April 27, and the Putin government also cited “terror threats” as the reason for scaling back Victory Day commemorations scheduled for May 9.

In war-ravaged Ukraine, meanwhile, May Day was also barely observed. “It is good that we don’t celebrate this holiday like it was done during the Bolshevik times. It was something truly awful,” said Anatolii Borsiuk, a 77-year-old supporter of President Volodymyr Zelensky interviewed in Kiev. Alla Liapkina, also a resident of the capital, described the flowers and balloons of Soviet May Day gatherings when workers were honored, but said, “Now we live in a different era.”

In Venezuela, which has suffered rampant inflation for years, thousands of workers demonstrated to demand a minimum wage increase at a time when the majority cannot meet basic needs despite their last increase 14 months ago. “Decent wages and pensions now!” protesters chanted in the capital, Caracas. Many also criticized U.S. sanctions against the socialist-led government of Nicolás Maduro, chanting, “This is not a blockade, this is looting.”

In Bolivia, left-wing President Luis Arce led a Labor Day march in La Paz with a major union and announced a 5% increase in the minimum wage. Arce said his government “is strong because the unions are strong.”

In Brazil, the focus was not only on traditional labor unions but also on part-time workers and those in the informal sector, with the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announcing a work group on proposals to regulate that sector after the president recently described those workers as “almost like slaves.”

Tens of thousands marched in Seoul, South Korea, chanting: “The price of everything has increased except for our wages. Increase our minimum wages! Reduce our working hours!”

In Tokyo, unions marched with opposition politicians, and rally speakers slammed Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s plan to double the military budget, saying the money should be earmarked for social security and raising pay.

In Lahore, Pakistan, marchers defied a ban on demonstrations to march on the Punjab Assembly; in Peshawar, unions held a series of indoor events to get around the ban.

Portraits of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, and Sri Lankan revolutionary leader Rohana Wijeweera are carried on cars during a rally organized by People’s Liberation Front, a Marxist political party, to mark May Day in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, May 1, 2023. | Eranga Jayawardena / AP

In Jakarta, workers slammed the Indonesian government’s Job Creation Law, which protester Sri Ajeng warned “only benefits employers, not workers.”

In Taiwan, thousands of workers protested what they call the inadequacies of the self-ruled island’s labor policies, putting pressure on the ruling party before the 2024 presidential election.

Communists led a demonstration in Beirut, Lebanon, with the march including a block of migrant domestic workers demanding better pay and treatment.

In China, the five-day May Day holiday was the first since COVID reopening, with rail companies saying passenger journeys had broken all records—hitting 19.66 million journeys on Saturday, when the holiday began—and air, land, and sea traffic up 152% from a year earlier.

This article features material from the Associated Press, Morning Star, People’s Daily, and other sources.

CPUSA condemns white supremacist violence, whether by police or racist front-door vigilantes / by Special to the People’s World

Images: Ralph Yarl, photo from Faith Spoonmore GoFundMe / Family photo of Jayland Walker; Ralph Yarl, family photo

Originally published in the People’s World on April 21, 2023

Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old Black youth, was shot twice on April 13 in Kansas City, Mo., by 85-year-old Andrew Lester after Yarl rang his doorbell. Yarl was released from the hospital on April 17. Lester faces charges of assault in the first degree and criminal action. Clay County attorney Zachary Thompson said, “I can tell you there was a racial component to this case.”

In a parallel struggle, the police who shot another Black youth, Jayland Walker, at least 40 times in Akron, Ohio, face no charges.

Such instances of systemic racism and individual racist actions are being met by continuing, repeated democratic demands from activists for justice, community control, and an immediate end to racist violence.

“The violence of white supremacy, whether hiding behind ‘stand your ground’ laws or the uniform of ‘protect and serve’ police, is not diminishing, and neither are the people’s grief and anger,” said Eric Brooks, co-convener of the African American Equality Commission of the Communist Party.

Yarl was hospitalized with two gunshot wounds, including one to the head, according to his family and lawyers. He was sent by his parents to pick up his younger brothers from a friend’s house on Thursday evening but mistakenly went to the wrong house a block away.

Faith Spoonmore, Yarl’s aunt, wrote that her nephew “pulled into the driveway and rang the doorbell. The man in the home opened the door, looked my nephew in the eye, and shot him in the head.”

Spoonmore continued: “My nephew fell to the ground, and the man shot him again. Ralph was able to get up and run to the neighbor’s house, looking for help. Unfortunately, he had to run to three different homes before someone finally agreed to help him after he was told to lie on the ground with his hands up.”

Missouri, where Yarl was shot, has enacted “stand your ground” laws that are frequently used to shield white murderers of Black people from the legal system, and from any semblance of justice. As laid out by Kynala Phillips in The Kansas City Star:

“These kinds of ‘stand your ground’ laws are controversial and have gathered national attention for helping to acquit people like George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 after claiming he felt he was in fear for his life. More recently, Wisconsin’s ‘stand your ground’ law was the basis for acquitting Kyle Rittenhouse after he opened fire on protesters in 2020 and killed two men and injured another.”

Missouri’s ‘stand your ground’ law has received overwhelming support from Republican lawmakers, while state Democrats were largely against the law.

The 2016 version of the law eliminated the requirement that someone first try to retreat before using force when they’re lawfully allowed to be at a location. A previous law had already eliminated the duty to retreat inside their home or vehicle.

2022 study showed Missouri’s gun homicide rate increased significantly after the ‘stand your ground’ law was enacted. States with such laws, including Missouri, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, saw gun homicides increase from 16.2% to 33.5% after enactment.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lewis who is Black, said “stand your ground” should not apply in the Yarl case. “If ‘stand your ground’ really lets somebody just shoot somebody that rings a doorbell,” he said, “that [puts] the life of every postal worker, every campaigner, every Amazon delivery person at risk in this country.”

Stacey Graves, the white Chief of the Kansas City Police Department, said “There was a ‘potential’ self-defense or ‘stand your ground’ element that investigators were examining.”

It remains to be seen whether Lester will mount a “stand your ground” based defense.

In the Jayland Walker case, an Ohio grand jury decided to set eight Akron police officers free after they stopped Walker, a Black youth, for a darkened license plate traffic violation, and then shot him to death, firing 94 shots at Walker in 6.7 seconds as he fled, unarmed, away from them.

Responding, Brooks said, “The Communist Party USA calls for an end to racist police violence against Black, Brown, and Asian people, against women, and against migrants. We call for democratic community control of the police, repeal of all ‘stand your ground’ laws, and de-escalation of use of police force in oppressed communities.”

In addition to demanding justice for Yarl, Brooks said the CPUSA was also in agreement with calls for a federal civil rights investigation into the murder of Walker.

Police reforms in recent years have not stopped racist killings by the police. Democratic community control of the police, and the re-imagination of what public safety means, are necessary to end racist police violence, Brooks emphasized.

Democratic community control of the police was won in Chicago under the leadership of the National Alliance Against Racist and Police Repression (NAARPR), with organized labor and elected officials adding their strength to the cause. The NAARPR says:

“This historic moment demands that Black, Puerto Rican, Chicano/Mexicano, and other oppressed communities in the United States give ourselves historic new rights and power. Our communities have the right to be free of police tyranny. Defending that right requires the power to control the police, instead of being controlled by them. Before we can talk about police reforms, communities first have to take power to control and reform the police themselves. That requires that we directly elect civilian police accountability councils (CPACs) who will defend our rights, independent of the political masters who today use the police to serve their ends.”

The CPUSA’s African American Equality Commission further stated:

“Black, Brown and Asian people, women and migrants, must be safe in our communities, regardless of skin color or citizenship status. The United States cannot continue as a white supremacist stronghold for capitalist exploitation. The killing of Black and Brown youth is a component of the heartless denial of humanity at the core of capitalism. We can organize and take control of the police in our communities and end the killings now.”

To participate in the struggle for community control of the police, please reach out to the National Alliance Against Racist and Police Repression and the Communist Party USA.

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.

International Publishers gears up for its centennial in 2024 / by Eric A. Gordon

Since 1924, International Publishers has been one of the premier Marxist presses in the English-speaking world. | C.J. Atkins / People’s World

Originally published in the People’s World on April 14, 2023

NEW YORK—As International Publishers prepares to celebrate 100 years of publishing next year, People’s World sat down with its President Gary Bono and Vice President Tony Pecinovsky for a chat concerning its history, what’s happening with the imprint nowadays, and thoughts about the future.

Eric Gordon: International Publishers used to be the only, or at least one of very few, Marxist or left-wing publishers in the United States. Now there are several. Even some mainstream publishers issue popular books with a Marxist point of view. What niche does IP have in this marketplace? What might distinguish an IP book from something you might see from one of these other publishers? In other words, what place does IP occupy in the publishing universe?

Tony Pecinovsky: Well, International Publishers is not only one of the first Marxist publishers in the U.S., it is also one of the longest continually publishing Marxist publishers in the U.S. This is an important distinction. In fact, next year, 2024, marks our 100th anniversary, and we’re co-hosting a day-long seminar at NYU’s Tamiment Library later this year in preparation for this milestone moment. Scholars and activists from across the country will present papers on IP’s legacy, and those papers will be turned into a book as part of our centennial celebration.

International Publishers President Gary Bono and Vice President Tony Pecinovksy

We’re also gearing up for the next phase of our history. After all, we’re well into the 21st century now, right? And—just a little context—IP has survived for a century despite repeated, concerted efforts to destroy us, to make us illegal. That is to say, to make it illegal to publish books on Marxism-Leninism. So, our legacy is part of what makes us unique. Our legacy is part of our niche.

Gary Bono: We do indeed occupy a special place in the publishing universe, but I don’t want PW readers to draw the wrong conclusion. IP is a small publisher, but—like the Communist Party USA—our influence has always been much larger than our actual size. We are home to some of the most important Marxist classics, books that help to set the pace of struggle—for workers’ rights, for African-American equality, for peace, international solidarity, and socialism—in the 20th century. Herbert Aptheker’s American Negro Slave Revoltsor Philip S. Foner’s monumental 11-volume History of the U.S. Labor Movementor W.E.B. Du Bois’s autobiography, or the five-volume Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, or Alphaeus Hunton’s Decision in AfricaI could go on and on.

Pecinovsky: In short, IP titles helped to shape and define the contours of struggle through much of the 20th century.

Gordon: What are some of IP’s current “best sellers?” And why are those titles resonating with readers?

Bono: Well, our current—and longest running “best seller”—is The Communist ManifestoTypically, our IP edition sells around 40,000 copies per year. Of course, 2023 is the 175th anniversary of the Manifesto and we hope to publish an Anniversary Edition with a new cover and new foreword in the coming months. Something to really celebrate the Manifesto!

A number of Marxist classics sell really well—Gramsci’s The Prison Notebooks, Marx and Engels’s The German Ideology, Lenin’s Left-Wing Communism, and quite a few others.

Pecinovsky: Our “best seller” from a contemporary author would be Gerald Horne’s The Counter-Revolution of 1836All of Dr. Horne’s books sell very well. Also, selling very well right now is American Trade Unionism by William Z. Foster. As you may know, this book is credited by some of the Amazon workers in Staten Island for providing the organizational and political guidance that led to their historic victory last year. It is also being used by Starbucks workers during some of their organizing trainings. I’m sure Foster would be proud!

Bono: Yeah, I think these books are resonating because of the extraordinary times we’re living in. Young people are organizing—Amazon workers, Starbucks workers, etc.—like never before. There is an upsurge and interest in socialism. It’s only natural that they look to the successful organizing strategies and tactics of the past. And who better than Foster? He, and the CPUSA, helped to spur the CIO into action in the 1930s. Their initiatives led to the greatest upsurge in working-class victories in U.S. history. So, of course, the works of Foster are going to resonate. I’m happy to say, we recently republished a biography of Foster titled Working Class Giant.

Pecinovsky: Similarly with Gerald Horne’s The Counter-Revolution of 1836. People see the fascist-like attacks taking place all around them. They see the continued assault on Black lives, trans lives, reproductive rights. They see what’s happening in Florida with DeSantis and the Republicans basically deciding school curricula. Trump! MAGA! They fear that fascism is on the rise, and they are looking at the historical parallels—settler colonialism, slavery, genocide of the Native Americans, Jim Crow, etc. They are seeing today’s fascist-like attacks—Jan. 6, 2021, for example—as a continuation of a white, settler-colonial counter-revolution. Gerald’s book helps us understand what’s happening today not as an aberration, but rather as a continuation. And this is important if we are to intellectually and ideologically arm ourselves for the struggles ahead.   

Gordon: Does IP’s association with the Communist Party work for it or against it—in terms of getting books reviewed, overall sales, soliciting writers? Or do you think most people don’t know or don’t care about this?

Pecinovsky: You know, in today’s world, I don’t think most readers are aware of the historic links between IP and the CPUSA. Of course, that history is there. The role of Alexander Trachtenberg, James S. Allen, and Betty Smith—all CPUSA members—in leading IP is important. However, it is also important to note that IP is a separate entity. It has—and will continue to—publish books by Communists, and have a special relationship with the CPUSA. However, its readers and authors are much, much broader than the CPUSA.

Bono: Just briefly I would add, do not at all understate the role of Abraham Heller, Trachtenberg’s partner in the early days. He largely supported IP monetarily in the early years, including paying Trachtenberg’s salary, before it had established itself as the premier Marxist publisher in the U.S. Also, there is the role of Jim Allen. You can’t forget him. During the post-WWII Red Scare, there was a concerted effort made to put IP out of business. It was Jim Allen who stepped in at that point and by heroic effort saved the company. He also brought out many new titles, recruited new authors, and was the driving force behind publication of the 50-volume Marx-Engels Collected Works. If Trachtenberg is considered to be the founder, Jim Allen should be considered the “refounder.” What you see today is largely thanks to Jim Allen. There’s more about this history on our website.

Pecinovsky: I think what distinguishes IP from some other publishers is that it refuses to fall into the anti-communist trap. Instead, it sees Communists—Communism, Marxism-Leninism—as a legitimate current within the broader people’s movement for socialism.

Of course, as the Organization of American Historians pondered some years ago, a “Red Taboo” remains in U.S. historiography. This Red Taboo impacts who’s willing to review IP books. It impacts sales. It also impacts who is willing to write for IP—just consider the issue of academic tenure! Though I’m happy to say that is changing.

Gordon: How is IP attracting new authors? What can IP offer to writers? Why would they want to be published by IP?

Pecinovsky: IP is proactively contacting new authors. For example, I was just at the annual African American Intellectual History Society conference in Charlotte, N.C. While there—presenting a paper on challenging anti-communist myths—I also attended several workshops and panel discussions with an eye toward identifying possible IP authors.

In fact, we have several new, unique manuscripts in the works by non-Communist scholars writing on the history of Black women Communists, on Claudia Jones, on the publications Working Women/Women Today, among other topics.

For the first time in a long time, authors are also reaching out to IP—offering their manuscripts to us. I think this is because they know IP—know our history, our legacy—and they want to be associated, even loosely, with that legacy of resistance against capitalism and for socialism. In some ways, they see us making a comeback!

Bono: Also, we offer authors several benefits that traditional publishers cannot compete with. We do provide modest royalties. Of course, that’s not why people write for us. We also have a very quick turnaround. For example, we can take a finished manuscript and have it in print within six months. That’s unheard of in the academic world. With most academic or university presses, it’s a two- or three-year process from manuscript to finished book.

Gordon: Where do you see the strengths of IP’s catalogue? The weaknesses?

Pecinovsky: IP has a lot of strengths. For example, we are the North American publisher of the 50-volume Marx-Engels Collected Works. And let me interrupt with this commercial break! Almost half of the 50 volumes are now on sale for 70% off! So, if you’re looking to jump start your Marx-Engels Collected Works, now is the time. Use coupon code MECWSale when you check out. And now back to our regular programming:

Courtesy of @TheDailyWorker on Instagram

Other strengths are IP’s books dealing with the struggle for African-American equality and Black liberation. I mentioned Gerald Horne earlier. We have a new book by Gerald coming out soon titled Revolting Capital dealing with racism and radicalism in Washington, D.C., from 1900 to 2000. Of course, prominent Communists, such as Alphaeus Hunton and Doxey Wilkerson, factor heavily into his analysis.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, we have new manuscripts on Claudia Jones and Black women Communists organizing in the Midwest during the Great Depression. We’ll eventually bring Henry Winston, James Jackson, and Claude Lightfoot’s books back into print. We just need new forewords for these titles. Of course, our Herbert Aptheker, Frederick Douglass, and W.E.B. Du Bois titles are great examples. My book The Cancer of Colonialism: W. Alphaeus Hunton, Black Liberation, and the Daily Worker, 1944-1946 is an example of a more recent title focused on equality and liberation. So, as I said, books dealing with the struggle for equality and liberation—this has historically been a strength of IP’s.

However, one of the things that I noticed when I first started working for IP was the imbalance in our catalogue when it comes to books by and about women, women’s struggles, working-class feminism, the struggle of Black women, and other women of color. This is a major weakness in our catalogue. Similarly, IP has nothing currently on the struggle for LGBTQ equality—another weakness. And we only have a few books on the struggle for a sustainable environment.

Bono: Absolutely, Tony. New blood, new issues, new concerns. These are major weaknesses that have to be addressed. They should have been addressed a long time ago! As part of our effort to attract new authors and solicit new manuscripts, titles dealing with these topics are front and center.

Pecinovsky: Hey, but let me mention something else, a strength! We invested quite a bit recently in building a new website, much more user-friendly, accessible, you can readily find anything you’re looking for, easy payment and shipping. Check it out.

Gordon: I do have a personal interest in this question, but if you think about it, translations are actually a big part of IP’s catalogue—Marx, Engels, Lenin, Gramsci, and lots of others! Are you seeking new work to be translated into English?

Pecinovsky: Yes, and I’m glad you asked. IP, like the larger Communist movement, is internationalist. We are part of an international movement. It’s in our name! We are actually part of what is called the International Union of Left Publishers (IULP), which translates and shares books from all parts of the world. Our next IULP project is the publication of a selection of essays and articles by Ruth First, a leader of the South African Communist Party who was assassinated by the apartheid regime.

Bono: As far as translations go, we are always looking for books that fulfill our mission. And you, Eric, know that very well! The eight-book Manuel Tiago series is a wonderful example of the types of projects IP is excited to take on. Tiago was the pen name for Álvaro Cunhal, longtime leader of the Portuguese Communist Party. The series is a wonderful literary example—based on a lifetime of experience—of how to organize underground resistance to fascism. These books are a must-read, especially in today’s world, where populist fascism is rearing its ugly head. And I want to publicly thank you for bringing this project to us. I know our Portuguese comrades are thrilled that all of Cunhal’s fictional work is now available in English for the first time!

Gordon: Thank you, Gary, I really appreciate that. As we speak, the last and most epic book in the series, Until Tomorrow, Comrades, is at the printer.

Pecinovsky: Last year we published Cheng Enfu’s China’s Economic DialecticWith a new Cold War brewing, it is more important than ever that we try to understand the world from China’s perspective and do our part to foster international solidarity and peace.   

Gordon: Amen! But let me follow up with this: Would IP want to pursue more fictional writing?

Pecinovsky: Absolutely! Personally, I read more history—more non-fiction—than fiction. But I know a lot of people prefer fiction. In fact, we just received a manuscript submission for a series of anti-capitalist sci-fi novels. These could be really interesting. Now, they have to be read, edited, etc. There is a process.

The point is: People develop and strengthen their class consciousness in a multiplicity of ways. Not everybody wants to read Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Not everybody wants to read history—which is what your guy Álvaro Cunhal understood so well. So, this could be another avenue to develop and foster an IP reader base—people who see IP as their go-to place to find anti-capitalist literature.

Gordon: I’m conducting this interview with you for People’s World. Is there anything you want to say particularly to our readership?

PecinovskyPeople’s World—and its predecessor papers—has always supported IP. We appreciate your support. We hope PW readers will continue seeing IP as part of the larger PW family.

Bono: And who knows, maybe someone reading this interview will feel inspired and submit a manuscript to us. I hope they do.

Eric A. Gordon is the author of a biography of radical American composer Marc Blitzstein, co-author of composer Earl Robinson’s autobiography, and the translator of a memoir by Brazilian author Hadasa Cytrynowicz. He has received numerous awards for his People’s World writing from the International Labor Communications Association. His latest project is translating the nine books of fiction by Manuel Tiago (pseudonym for Álvaro Cunhal) from Portuguese, the first volumes available from International Publishers NY.

Gary Hicks—Mentor, revolutionary, and poet—¡Presente! / by Sharon Rose and Danny Shaw

Gary Hicks | Images: People’s World

Originally published in the People’s World on April 20, 2023

On Dec. 2, 2022, the international working-class movement lost an organizing and literary giant, Gary Graham Hicks.

Comrades and friends gathered at the Marxist Library in Oakland, Calif., on Saturday, March 25, for a memorial to remember the diverse contributions of a beloved poet, theorist, and internationalist.

We write this tribute so that future generations can draw from the deep well of Gary’s knowledge, verse, sharp-witted humor, and struggles.

The Recruiter

Black Panther Party member Gerald Smith, who hosted the tribute in Oakland, asked “Who will replace Gary Hicks?” Smith reminisced about the many back-and-forths over the decades about the question of Black America, about the struggle for Black self-determination.

Black liberation and class struggle were the two legs Gary walked on. Who else could go into Newark armed with the Black Panther newspaper and interrupt Ron Karenga to remind him that “Marx was a Black man”?

Smith went on to talk about the Panthers’ commitment to “pass it on” to the up-and-coming generations. One organization even experimented with the idea of only allowing members a vote if they attempted to bring young people to events.

This Renaissance Man was a persistent recruiter, especially of young people into the Young Communist League (YCL). Up until his final breaths, he was adamant that there can be no revolution without revolutionary organization. With his actions, Gary rejected sectarianism and never gave into personal judgment or resentments.

He encouraged all of us who knew him to follow George Jackson’s immortal words: “Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution.”

Through it all, Gary worked to build the Communist Party.

The Mentor

Gary was our living encyclopedia. If he was around, young comrades were sure to have a notebook close by. His knowledge of German, Chinese, Cuban, Yiddishland, South African, and Irish history—and any global struggle—was seemingly boundless. We anticipated the next book recommendation Gary might pick off the shelves of his mind’s library. When I visited the international working class’s ancestral grounds at Sachsenhausen and Dachau, it was like he was there with me.

Friday nights were a cause for celebration. Once, there was a new Malcolm biography that had dropped. And there we were at 3 AM, coast to coast, critically picking apart every page by Professor Marable or Les Payne.

On another occasion, a Saturday night, Gary was plotting. He called me up well past midnight: “Hey how are we going to get this lousy, philistine scoundrel of a social democrat to join the p’aty?” (Remember he is from Roxbury and I am from Brockton.)

Then, on a Sunday night, a group of us were scheduled to finish the final chapter of Black Reconstruction. Every word rose to the occasion. It felt like the 7th game of a playoff series between the Sox and the Yankees.

I teased Gary that he got younger every day because he never stopped. The paratransit in San Francisco, a socialist gain fought and won by the people, brought him everywhere and anywhere around town. And when he wasn’t here, we knew he was on a train headed somewhere—to a Progressive Lawyers Guild conference in California, a folk music event in Oregon, a poetry reading in Cambridge, or the Left Forum in New York City.

When I called him on the phone, I always anticipated which of the 50 states he might be in this time—flipping off every state trooper as he went. The student of Lenin that he was, I jested that this was his sealed train.

In 2020, he introduced me to give a talk at the Marxist Library entitled “Capitalism + Dope = Genocide,” a Panther formulation—and how it was relevant five decades later. Boy was I proud; the student had become the teacher.

A brilliant wordsmith, a magical story teller, and a perennial ballbreaker, Gary gravitated gracefully between the gravest and most humorous of topics. Whenever he was around his comrades, his eyes lit up and he locked in on the most pressing international topics of the day.

He often answered the phone by saying “This is Murphy’s Poolhall. Eight Ball speaking.” Always principled, he put many backwa’d workers in their place if they were guilty of any act of racism or sexism. He could hug you, but if he had to, he could stand you down, too. He knew the primary contradiction that existed and who the real enemy was but was never shy to check any of us, “on our bullshit.”

One young communist, Drew King, picked up the torch and recited the following tribute on March 25th:

Gary Hicks
Immortal thinker
Fearless philosopher
History’s restless wanderer
Proud Black Bolshevik
Lenin’s native son
Uncle Ho of Roxbury
Southie’s resident Marxist-Leninist
Berkeley’s Berlin Wall that will never fall
Intellectual giant
Your mind was my portal through history
For 17 years, I traversed the infinite shelves of your mind’s cosmic library
As you showed me the ways of the force
You took me on tours through antiquity, time and space
All of pharaoh’s armies never stood a chance against your cunning wit
You teach us that the struggle for people’s power is the struggle for memory and against forgetting
And since I first asked you what time it was 17 years ago
You slowly taught me to realize that it is the same time that it was when those two young men in London put out that clarion call for the workers of the world to unite, 175 years ago
I swear on my soul, Gary, they will unite after all and we will win

The Revolutionary

Gary was a former political prisoner. In March 1966, just before his 20th birthday, the Roxbury native joined fellow war resisters in burning his draft card on the steps of a Boston courthouse in opposition to the U.S. war in Indochina. These pioneers, shoulder to shoulder with Muhammed Ali, were some of the first in the movement that soon shook the country as thousands followed.

On that day, the group was beaten up by a crowd of mostly high school students from South Boston. Still, he never expressed any personal bitterness towards workers robbed from our ranks by fascism.

Because of his resistance to the genocidal war of aggression against Vietnam, the U.S. government sentenced him to three years in Lewisville penitentiary. There were many chapters and addendums to these stories that could only be understood as poetic license.

But they could never cage you, Gary.
Born Again Red
Fundamental Marx
He wrote it. 
And I read it.
And that settles it.

When he got out, Gary was determined to pursue higher education, which he did at Penn State, Brown University, and Antioch College, ultimately receiving his Master’s Degree from UMass, Boston in “American Studies.”

He spent the rest of his life devoted to the fight for equality and for the interests of the international working class. The coup in Chile in ’73, the Christmas bombing of Panama, the continuation of Communist leadership in China, Gary was on it. From any hospital or nursing home bed, he was getting on the phone to check in with his political fellow travelers.

Gary was in the streets putting his training to good use. He was involved in the housing rights movement, beginning in Boston with the Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants, in which he played a key organizing role. Tenants of the last place he lived—Redwood Gardens in Berkeley—benefited from Gary’s knowledge and experience standing up for their rights. No human suffering or triumph was foreign to him.

The Scholar

If there was a new book out by a leftist author, Gary raced to pick it up. There was nothing he enjoyed more than a good crisp read. He led and participated in many reading groups. Among other classics, we read The Seventh Cross together. Line by line, page by page, he broke down the ins and outs of resistance to the Nazis.

He read entire books out loud with study groups, no matter how big or small. W.E.B. Du Bois, Rosa Luxemburg, Eric Hobsbawm, and E.P. Thompson were but a few of his ideological forefathers and foremothers.

Students of the movement visited him in the hospital to keep study groups going. When he called, we gathered around the phone. He approached life with a love for it. As his comrade Juan Lopez remembers, he never sought fame or accolades.

A true dialectician. A revolutionary optimist who found the silver lining everywhere. A wit sharp like a whip with prose, rhythmic like Amiri Baraka’s Blues-words. A biting sense of humor and a dead seriousness that reminded you no matter what personal challenges you always keep fighting.

Comrades remembered: “You can’t talk about Gary without talking about books. His own memorial program was printed on a red bookmark. He was a living example for young communists of Lenin’s quote, “Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.”

The Poet

Gary Hicks | People’s World

His poetry—especially his books, Itching for Combat and A Pen is Like a Piece, You Pick it Up, You Use It—reflected what he was thinking and feeling about political struggles.

I met Gary on a stage in a movement space in 1997. We were performing poetry in defense of the strong and noble Cuban people. My poem was in Spanglish. He walked up behind me in his quirky way and said, “Hey man, that was a damn good poem. Yeah, I enjoyed it, even though I didn’t understand a word.”

Lincoln Bergman, Gary’s close friend from the Revolutionary Poets Brigade, remembered that despite any personal health issues, Gary’s “pan-socio political brilliance was undimmed.”

At the memorial, Bergman shared “45 Years Later,” one of Gary’s poems that went:

Look at these kids 
on tanks of victory 
My Peeps 
Children of Uncle Ho
My hero
Today I am 74
The kids on the tanks
Roughly my age
The kids who I
Inmate 33602-133
Prayed for victory
Every day of my imprisonment
They won
And we won, too.

The final goodbyes came in the form of affirmations of a radiant future. You brought us together, Gary. We laughed. We cried. We told stories. We listened to poetry. Just as you would have wanted it.

Farewell, kindred spirit. Farewell, comrade. These tears are made of knives and machetes. Aimee Cesaire’s redemption. Fanon’s baptism. Algeria’s boomerang. Vietnamese tanks roll forward. We will end as Gary lived, poetically, with the words of Langston Hughes:

I loved my friend. 
He went away from me. 
There’s nothing more to say. 
The poem ends, 
Soft as it began—
I loved my friend.

Sharon Rose writing for the People’s World.

Danny Shaw Latin American and Caribbean Studies Professor at CUNY. International Affairs analyst at TeleSURtv, RT_com, HispanTV, and PressTV. Author: The Saints of Santo Domingo.

Connecticut Communists issue emergency housing program / C.D. Carlson

EVICTED: City-hired movers carry out a former tenants’ belongings from a house in Norwalk, Ct. | Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Newspapers via AP

Originally published in the People’s World on April 19, 2023

HARTFORD, Conn.—Tired of the same old system, a rising movement is organizing around the cornerstone principle that all people have the right to housing. In Connecticut, the movement is organizing for secure and stable housing as a means of creating a fairer, more stable, and more reliable democracy that puts the interests of working people before the interests of profit.

Last week, the Connecticut Communist Party USA issued an urgent program calling on all communities in the state to declare a housing emergency. The program grew out of the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic and the formation of a broad coalition of struggle to address working class needs, specifically the need to be free from arbitrary and aggressive evictions and the need for affordable housing.

The program, available online in full, draws a picture of a small state that has been hammered by an aggressive inflow of capital that has destabilized communities and harmed working renters and homeowners in the name of profit.

Recognizing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, where the United Nations stated all people have the right to housing, the program critiques the capitalist system that routinely fails to provide for the needs of people, opting instead to commodify housing in order to provide maximum profits for a corporate ruling class at the expense of people and planet.

The program describes in great detail the crisis in Connecticut that was kicked into overdrive by COVID-19. For example, the program makes clear that during the pandemic institutional investors like Blackstone and UBS Realty Investors flocked to the state for the sole purpose of land speculation, to flip housing, and jack up rents.

At the same time, big business in the state thrived; 12 Connecticut billionaires acquired $15 billion in value while essential and low-wage workers struggled to get by.

This squeeze on working people—being pressed in a vice of land speculation and capitalist exploitation—has caused wild disruption in housing and is gutting communities. For example, as rents have risen, 68% of workers in Connecticut now spend more than half their income on rent. This incredible pressure has led to a rise in homelessness for the first time in ten years.

The state has struggled to provide for the needs of the people being thrown into homelessness: Only one third of the people who call 2-1-1 for emergency housing are able to get placements—the remainder are left outside.

The program explains that the burden of high rent and evictions is borne disproportionately by Black and Latino residents, who are twice as likely to be evicted than white renters. Likewise, working mothers account for 56% of eviction filings, and the LGBTQ community and the undocumented are subjected to disastrous rates of discrimination and harm.

Despite these horrendous conditions, the program notes that the movement is rising and winning victories, raising class consciousness around the issue of landlord speculation along the way. For example, a diverse working-class coalition of housing activists in Connecticut won action by the state legislature establishing Right to Counsel in 2021, a program that gives tenants the right to an attorney in housing court.

This program has blunted arbitrary and aggressive evictions, as 76% of tenants with a lawyer are able to now avoid an eviction judgment and 71% are now able to avoid involuntary moves.

Building off that victory, door-knocking across the state was launched to build support for a statewide 2.5% rent cap. The coalition expanded to include unions and community groups. This broad coalition of working-class organizations organized hundreds of people to give their testimonies to the legislature’s Housing Committee in a hearing that ran 20 hours through the night and into the morning.

Workers sharing horror stories of eviction and severe hardship that resulted from skyrocketing rents—sometimes doubled rents imposed with little notice—far outnumbered the corporate landlords five-to-one in the longest public hearing in living memory.

While corporate interests were able to block legislation in this session, the movement carries on, as 72% of Connecticut workers continue to demand a cap on rent.

The program closes with a ten-point emergency program directed at local and state governments:

  1. Immediately declare a state of emergency and continue and expand all protections against evictions and foreclosures put in place during the pandemic.
  2. Enact a 2.5% annual rent cap, coupled with rules preventing rent increases from one tenant to the next and a prohibition on no-cause evictions.
  3. Eliminate systemic inequalities and discrimination; enforce anti-discrimination laws against redlining and other harmful practices by large landlords and lenders; require municipal zoning laws that allow for multi-family and affordable housing units; enact rules that seal eviction and foreclosure records so landlords cannot use that information to discriminate against tenants who enforce their rights.
  4. Require representative fair rent commissions in all municipalities and give standing to tenant unions before those commissions; defend the right to organize tenant unions and enact rules that require the recognition of those unions by their landlords.
  5. Allocate sufficient resources to expand the Right to Counsel program to cover every municipality in the state.
  6. Expand state and federal rental assistance for low- and moderate-income households, including for the unhoused.
  7. Enforce equal protection from environmental and health hazards in housing.
  8. Increase real estate conveyance taxes and fees on the large investors buying up single family and rental properties and use those funds to create affordable units.
  9. Enact the Equity Agenda put forth by Recovery for All to tax the rich and provide relief to renters and homeowners. The Equity Agenda would increase revenue by $1.24 -1.44 billion per year through a 2-mill statewide property tax on commercial and residential properties worth more than $1.5 million, a 5 percent surtax on capital gains for people earning more than $500,000, raising the corporate tax rate, and a 10 percent digital advertising tax on companies earning more than $10 billion. It would create three new tax brackets with higher tax rates for people earning more than $1 million, $10 million and $25 million. The agenda includes tax relief for the poor and middle class by spending annually: $49 million to maintain the state’s income tax credit; $250 million to double the child tax credit to $500; $180-240 million to double the property tax credit to $600; and $180-240 million to provide property tax relief to seniors.
  10. Make a historic national public investment in affordable housing by reallocating funds from the excessive military budget to our communities as part of a just transition to a green, peace economy.

The report concludes with a quote from a working-class mother of color. In Spanish, she recounted her children’s struggle with a recent eviction and unhealthy living conditions: “It is stressful and inhuman not to find affordable housing, because it is a human right to have a roof and stay in the community. Displacement is abusive much more for children.”

The movement is stepping forward.

C.D. Carlson writes from Connecticut.

The Ohio woman who beat the Red Scare blacklists / by Taylor Dorrell

Anna Haas Morgan. | People’s World Archives

Posted in the People’s World on April 10, 2023

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Where the Columbus Convention Center’s concrete parking garage now sits, there once stood an old home that hosted a modest bookstore stocked with liberal titles and publications, including selections from the National Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.

The establishment was run by the homeowners: the radical organizer and activist, Anna Hass Morgan, and her husband, Richard Morgan, a prominent Anthropology professor at Ohio State.

Decades ago, the two lost everything after Anna was called before the Ohio Un-American Activities Commission for her labor organizing, civil rights activism, and electoral work.

To Columbus

Anna Hass Morgan was a fierce, relentless woman who carried herself with an air of fearlessness. When she was protesting against Nazis marching through Chicago, police told her she was blocking traffic even though she stood safely on the sidewalk.

“I put my arms around a tree, and I said I wouldn’t move and I wasn’t blocking the traffic because the tree had been there longer than I had, and they hadn’t moved the tree,” she said in an interview. Two police had to pry her from the tree and drag her away from the street. This was the first event revealed in her 800-page FBI file.

Morgan was born in 1894 in Providence, R.I., and spent much of her life on the move. Radicalized by Eugene Debs’ visit to the state, she attended Brown University for two years before moving to Cuba for four years with her then-husband, Rubio, in the late 1910s.

She then returned to Rhode Island before logging time in Chicago and Champaign, Ill. During the Great Depression, Morgan organized unemployed workers, led protests against the lack of medical care, and raised money for striking miners and to buy ambulances for the Spanish Civil War.

She was also a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the American League Against War and Fascism, and the Communist Party USA. Gradually, Rubio grew weary of Morgan’s activism. He told her that she had to choose between him or the party.

“I chose the Communist Party,” she proclaimed. They divorced, and Morgan briefly moved to Indianapolis. She then married Richard Morgan and the two moved to Columbus.

Struggles in Columbus

Despite the Communist Party being forced to operate underground due to the repression and arrest of its leadership, the Franklin County club boasted between 300 and 400 members. Those members, including Morgan, were central to various local organizations and struggles. They were actively engaged in the Progressive Party, in the Black-led Vanguard League, and various union struggles.

In the early 1940s, they organized in support of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 8802, which prohibited racial discrimination for federal employment and set up the Fair Employment Practice Commission.

Richard Morgan organized a Black history exhibit at the art museum and invited the founder of the National Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, the trailblazing Black historian Carter Woodson, to host the Association’s annual meeting in Columbus.

This reportedly angered city leaders, including the Columbus Dispatch’s A.B. Johnson who, according to Anna, “sent word to the museum board that the exhibit should be closed up at once.” But the Columbus Citizen covered the conflict and teachers both Black and white spoke up in support of the exhibit, saying, “This was the best thing that happened to Columbus to have this exhibit open.”

Months before she was subpoenaed to testify before the Ohio Un-American Activities Commission in 1952, Morgan spearheaded relief efforts for a strike taking place just east of South Linden.

The Mine, Mill, and Smelters Union led the strike against the American Zinc Oxide Plant, a company that was poisoning its workers and the shantytown neighborhood where workers lived, dubbed the “American Addition,” with toxic fumes. The fumes caused respiratory illnesses and death, and the lengthy strike left Black residents in the American Addition neighborhood financially ruined.

The Communist Party asked Morgan to chair a relief committee that raised strike relief funds, as well as a solidarity demonstration that led to a dozen middle-class white residents being arrested for supporting the workers, an action that boosted morale for those on strike.

Morgan had been arrested numerous times in Columbus for her activism. Once, a mob raided the home of a local party organizer. After police ended the home raid, someone called Morgan to warn her that they were likely to come to her home and bookstore next. They didn’t, but the threat of mob violence, arrest, and police brutality constantly hung over the heads of organizers in the city and across the country.

Although the local Communist Party was underground, it nonetheless remained under surveillance as well. Morgan recalled having executive committee meetings in cars parked hidden along the Scioto River, and her husband was fired from OSU and the Ohio Historical Society for suspicion of being a Communist.

Morgan got a job as a nurse and took up other odd jobs to stay afloat, and the couple ended up moving to a farm at 5800 Cleveland Ave., where strip malls now stand. There was a concerted effort from public and private forces to stifle the gains that workers made while union density and radicalism flourished.

“In Dayton with refrigerator people, in Akron with rubber, in Youngstown with steel, [the bosses] felt they had to do something, and they brought in Harvey Matusow to break the union. For $300 a month, he lied and lied about what the unions were doing,” Morgan said.

Matusow was a notorious paid witness during the McCarthy era, providing numerous phony testimonies across the country. Originally a paid informant operating inside the Communist Party before being expelled by the party, Matusow once claimed that The New York Times had 126 Communists on its Sunday sections staff, even though the Sunday sections staff numbered only 100 people.

He revealed his many lies in his book False Witness, where he admitted to fabricating stories about the Communists in Ohio unions in exchange for the money businesses were paying him in an attempt to break the unions.

“Big business saw that in order to break the unions, the Communists must be hounded out of labor leadership,” Anita Waters, a former professor at Denison University, wrote in a People’s World article about Morgan. “Businessmen enlisted elected officials in the Ohio legislature to do that work for them.”

The Ohio Un-American Activities Commission

In 1952, Anna Hass Morgan was subpoenaed to come before the Ohio Un-American Activities Commission (OUAC), Ohio’s rendition of the House Un-American Activities Committee, run by State Sen. Gordon Renner.

“All of a sudden it just seemed as if the city was just blowing up,” Morgan said. “They threatened our lives, they threatened to burn our property, and all that.”

The subpoena alone was enough to blacklist an individual. No lawyer would come anywhere close to her. She was smeared in the press, and the basic necessities of everyday life—such as having insurance—became unattainable. “People were afraid to be seen with us,” she later said.

During the hearing, Morgan was bombarded with specific questions about her activism and involvement in the Communist Party, all of which she refused to answer. Her prepared statement was printed out as a leaflet and handed out by the United Electrical Workers, and later picked up by local papers. Morgan’s pleading of the Fifth Amendment led to her arrest for contempt, and she was swiftly convicted.

OUAC recommended a continuation of anti-Communist repression, and the state legislature obliged. In 1953, two bills were signed into law, one authorizing the firing of public employees who were members of “subversive groups,” and the other authorizing the firing of public employees who refused to testify as to whether or not they were members of such organizations.

Morgan was an unyielding individual, a woman who wouldn’t cede to even the most all-encompassing and repressive forces. She found Thelma Furry, a lawyer who had just graduated from the University of Akron School of Law and herself a member of the Communist Party.

“We agreed that somebody had to stop the Committee, and maybe I was the one to do it,” Morgan said. After seven years of fighting, Morgan reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously overturned her conviction, defending her right to free speech. As Morgan put it: “All the nine old men decided in my favor.”

After the resolute Morgan beat Ohio’s blacklists, she and her husband continued to fight for labor and civil rights. She recalled in an interview how bad Jim Crow was in Columbus. Black residents couldn’t enter many local restaurants, were bound to the galleries in movie theaters, and suffered from racist violence.

In her later years, she marched in protest of the Vietnam War. In 1968, she moved to Massachusetts, where she lived to age 101.

Now, the woman whose life is a testament to working-class defiance, and who has largely been purged from local memory, should have her own place in Columbus’ history restored. After all, it was her defiance that brought down the Ohio Un-American Activities Commission, and that should serve as a model for current and future generations to seek out injustices that need correcting and to say, “Maybe I am the one to do it.”

This article originally appeared in Matter News

Taylor Dorrell is a journalist, essayist, great lakes megaregionalist, and photo person based in Ohio. He is a contributing writer at the Cleveland Review of Books, a reporter at the Columbus Free Press, and a member of the National Writers Union.

Detroit Communists, anti-eviction activists battle bailiffs to protect woman from losing her home / by Special to the People’s World

Bailiffs and movers forcibly remove protesters who were protecting Taura Brown from being evicted in Detroit. | Photo courtesy of Steve Neavling / Detroit Metro Times

Originally published in the People’s World on April 10, 2023

DETROIT—The fight against predatory landlords has reached a new stage of struggle in the Motor City.

On March 21, after months of grassroots struggle for the protection of local resident Taura Brown and her home, Wayne County Judge Shawn Jacque of the 36th District Court signed a court order for her eviction.

Brown is a terminally ill Black woman on dialysis, with Stage 5 kidney failure. She has been fighting against a wrongful eviction and struggling against the so-called “community non-profit” Cass Community Social Services, headed by Rev. Faith Fowler, for two years.

Brown is now being evicted from her home—despite paying her rent on time—for speaking out against alleged fraud and micromanaging of residents in her community.

She was given ten days to remove her belongings, including the dialysis equipment that keeps her alive, but Brown and housing activists in Detroit were prepared to defend her home against an unjust and inhumane eviction at all costs.

On April 4, court officers executed the eviction order. Spearheaded by Detroit Eviction Defense, housing activists, including members of the Detroit Club of the Communist Party USA, stationed themselves at Brown’s address, ready to defend her and her home.

What ensued afterwards was a disturbing display of violence, intimidation, and brutality by Wayne County bailiffs to evict her. Activists were punched, thrown to the ground, kicked, spit at, and even threatened with a knife by the bailiffs and their “movers.”

The Detroit police officers who were present on the scene did little, if anything, to control the illegal and violent actions of the court officers and their contractors. The complicity of law enforcement on site came as no surprise, as the police primarily exist to defend private property at the will of slumlords and at the expense of working-class and poor people.

“No slumlords, no cops, all evictions have got to stop,” was the chant of the activists as they locked shoulder-to-shoulder and arm-in-arm in the face of the aggressive eviction team.

Despite the violence and intimidation, the day’s events adequately exposed the courts, police, and landlords as upholders of capitalism and white supremacy.

The Detroit Club of the Communist Party USA issued a statement commending “the bravery, determination, and revolutionary spirit of Ms. Brown, the home defenders, and our party members who risked arrest and harm in order to defend her and ultimately the interests of all working class and oppressed people.”

The violent eviction of Brown came a week after the Detroit City Council granted billionaires millions of dollars in tax incentives for the development of a gentrifying, profit-oriented project called “District Detroit,” which will include brand new hotels and amenities for those who can afford them, laying the basis for a general rise in rents, prices, and displacement for the residents already living there.

The inclination Detroit’s city government has to accommodate billionaires and higher income out-of-towners is ironic when city residents like Brown are being forced out of their homes at the will of Wayne County judges and fraudulent landlords. Many activists feel the city does not have the back of its residents—unless they’re white and rich, which is a racist and classist policy.

The Detroit Communist Party Club called for “an immediate stoppage to the wrongful and violent eviction of Ms. Brown and demand compensation for all damages as a result of this act of brutality—paid for in full by Rev. Faith Fowler and Cass Community Social Services.”

It also demanded an investigation into the actions of the bailiffs and their movers and said they should be charged to the fullest extent of the law. “The Detroit Police Department should also be investigated,” the Communists said, “for the inaction of their officers when confronted with violence and brutality against non-violent activists by the bailiffs and movers.”

The CPUSA members also drew attention to the bigger systemic issues, affirming “the need for unity of the working class in the struggle against the capitalist system which perpetuates exploitation, racism, sexism, and violence.”

The fight to defend Brown’s home is expected to intensify moving forward as the courts, the police, and the so-called “community philanthropist” group known as Cass Community Social Services regroup and prepare to retaliate.

Please make a contribution to the Michigan Solidarity Bail Fund here.

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.