Michigan makes history, first state to repeal Right-to-Work (for less) in 60 years / by Mark Gruenberg

Thousands of workers protest right-to-work on the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich. | Carlos Osorio / AP

Originally published in the People’s World, March 16, 2023

LANSING, Mich.—Michigan’s pro-worker Democratic sweep last November swept out the Wolverine State’s corporate Republican-passed right-to-work (for less) laws in March.

Democratic legislative leaders, who took “trifecta” power in the election, made RTW repeal their #1 priority and won it 56-53 in the state House and 20-17 in the Senate on party-line votes.

Then lawmakers, also on party-line votes, restored project labor agreements, too.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), whose landslide win over a Trumpite foe produced the coattails that created the first completely Democratic control in Lansing in decades, is expected to sign both measures. The RTW repeal would be the first in a state in 60 years.

Workers jammed the capitol rotunda in Lansing before the House votes, chanting “We are union, the mighty, mighty union,” and erupted into a minute-and-a-half of constant cheers, raised fists, and whoops in a corridor outside the state Senate chamber after the votes there.

Right-to-work is a favorite Republican, radical right, and corporate cause, which seeks to strip workers and their unions of money and political power. PLAs set up both deadlines and worker protections on construction projects. Banning them is the top goal of the anti-worker Associated Builders and Contractors, an ersatz “grassroots” association of cut-rate non-union contractors.

A button issued by the Michigan District of the Communist Party urging the repeal of the state’s right-to-work law.

Started in the 1940s as a racist way to divide white from Black workers in the South, right-to-work spread to Michigan in 2012 after the 2010 Republican legislative sweep there and elsewhere. Given unions’ prominent role in Michigan, the RTW win particularly hurt there.

So its repeal was especially gratifying to the state AFL-CIO and Michigan workers. And just to make sure the repeal sticks, lawmakers added some unrelated appropriations for education programs. Laws with money in them can’t be pushed into referendums. Others can.

“Today, our pro-worker Democratic majority in the state House took historic action to undo the devastation caused by decades of attacks on workers’ freedom,” state AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber said after House passage.

“Since 2012, thousands of Michigan workers, labor leaders, and organizers across the state have been mobilizing and laying the groundwork for this moment. We applaud the House’s swift action to undo the damage caused by Betsy DeVos”—a major Republican campaign cash contributor who became Donald Trump’s Education Secretary—and Republican Govs. “John Engler, Rick Snyder, and their worker suppression agendas.

“Our legislative leaders are delivering on the promises they made and putting power back into the hands of Michigan workers.”

“What choice do you have when the greedy corporations try to put employees against one another in a race to the bottom?” House Majority Leader Abraham Alyash, D-Hamtramck, asked his colleagues.

“Why do folks in here sometimes get so angry that we’re trying to push people out of poverty?”

“Union dues are an important stream of revenue that help pay for critical contract negotiations, staff, and support of members,” said Rep. Regina Weiss, D-Detroit, sponsor of RTW repeal. “When unions have decreased dues, they have less power to improve working conditions.”

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People’s World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).

In Today’s Election, the Survival of Brazil’s Democracy Is at Stake / An Interview With Vincent Bevins

Supporters of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wave flags during a campaign rally in a street in Brasília, on October 29, 2022. (Evaristo Sa / AFP via Getty Images)

Originally published in Jacobin, on October 30, 2022

Today, Brazilian voters are not just choosing between Bolsonaro and Lula — the far right and the Left — but whether their nation’s politics will be authoritarian or democratic.

Today, more than one hundred million Brazilians will vote in the second and final round of the country’s presidential election, which pits former president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva against extreme-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. In the first round, held earlier this month, Bolsonaro finished more than five points behind Lula and seems poised to become the first Brazilian president ever to lose reelection. Nonetheless, polls have seemed to tighten in recent weeks and many observers expect a close contest today — raising the ominous prospect that Bolsonaro may refuse to concede defeat and attempt to cling to power.

What are the issues at play in Brazil’s historic election? How have the politics of COVID-19 factored in? And what does the future hold for the far-right project of Bolsonarismo, even if the man at its center loses the runoff? To explore these questions, Jacobin’s Luke Savage sat down with Vincent Bevins — who lived in Brazil from 2010 to 2016 and worked as a correspondent, wrote The Jakarta Method (which came out in 2020), and moved back to São Paulo last year to work on his second book.


To start with the basics: because neither major candidate received over 50 percent of the vote earlier this month, Brazil is going to be voting in the second round of its presidential election on October 30. Before we get to the runoff, can you walk us through what transpired in the first round a bit? The general impression seems to be that Lula somewhat underperformed what some polls suggested was possible. Can you explain the results of the first round and give us your impression of them?


After Lula got out of jail and recovered his political rights — his right to run for president, which he lost after trying unsuccessfully in 2018 to run for president against Bolsonaro the first time — many polls indicated he was going to absolutely trounce Bolsonaro, among other things because Bolsonaro had done such a poor job governing the country, especially during the pandemic. Now, only a couple of those polls suggested that Lula was going to actually clear the 50 percent hurdle necessary to wrap it up in the first round. Some people were hoping for that, though I didn’t myself think it was too likely. Now, he ultimately got 48.5 percent of the vote, which is only a little bit less than the 50 percent he would’ve needed. And if he had gotten that extra 1.5 percent, it would be a really resounding defeat for Bolsonaro. No Brazilian president has ever lost reelection ever since reelection has been allowed in Brazilian democracy.

Still, the result was a little bit less than what the more optimistic parts of the Left were hoping for.

What was more of a surprise was how Bolsonarismo as a political movement outside of Bolsonaro himself did across the country. It did quite well in Congress, especially in the Senate, snatching some key governorships and appearing to be positioned to snatch more. So the polls really underestimated Bolsonarismo’s support more than they overestimated Lula’s.


Can you put Bolsonarismo in context for us? I think there’s a similar problem or complexity at work when we talk about something like Trumpism in that you’re dealing with a political tendency that is very much based around a charismatic figure at its center, and is intimately linked in some ways to their personal affectations and style, but also has a separate life of its own.


I think that Bolsonarismo is more real than Trumpism. It’s a weird and contradictory coalition of forces in Brazilian society that came together as a result of his candidacy in 2018, and could well (though may not necessarily) continue to exist after Bolsonaro himself leaves the presidency and after his family stops being a force in Brazilian politics. What exactly is that strange and contradictory coalition of forces? Essentially, it’s an extreme right movement. Everybody that is a Bolsonarista, I would say, is opposed to democracy or is at least willing to cancel democracy for some kind of a higher purpose.

Bolsonarismo draws upon the support of the security services and people who support them. Evangelical Christians have also become a very important part of what Bolsonarismo is. At the beginning, there was a kind of a neoliberal, hardcore free-market component to Bolsonarismo as well. Paulo Guedes, who is literally a Chicago boy and used to work in Pinochet’s Chile, became finance minister. That support from the upper class, business, and national bourgeoisie is not quite as strong today as it was in 2018. But they were an important part of bringing this coalition together.

There are also the agricultural heartlands of the country, which are now seeming to be quite Bolsonarista. The fact that agriculture has done well under Bolsonaro’s government often has nothing to do with him. But the parts of the agricultural world that want to break laws and burn down even more of the Amazon rainforest than is allowed by current legislation, that want to invade indigenous territories, those people tend to be Bolsonarista just because Bolsonaro says these actions are good. So, it’s clear Bolsonarismo will be in power in some way, at least with a bloc in Congress and in control of state governments, even if Jair Bolsonaro loses and walks out of the presidential palace on January 1.


Outside observers, and by that I mainly mean those in the United States, are I think somewhat bound to see this election through a very particular set of reference points. And perhaps that makes some sense in broad strokes: Bolsonaro having some obvious similarities with Trump, among other things. But Brazil is a huge and complicated country with politics of its own — not just a Portuguese-speaking version of the United States. What would you say are the main issues at play in the election beyond those that most English-speaking media are liable to focus on?


The really simple answer to that question is that Brazil is in a much worse place than it was four years ago — and those Brazilians who can remember Lula’s government remember that things were better. Starvation and extreme poverty have jumped up under Bolsonaro, especially since the pandemic. And that is really what’s driven what I think is the major story of the campaign, which is that for the first time ever a sitting Brazilian president seems poised to lose reelection.

The comparison with the United States is an interesting one and it’s also kind of aggravating because, on the one hand, there are a lot of Trumpian things about Bolsonaro. On the other hand, Bolsonaro wants people in North America to think that. It’s an image that he (and some members of his family who are a little bit savvier when it comes to international relations and social media spin) has deliberately cultivated: that ‘I’m the Trump of the tropics and an ally of the Republican Party and Fox News in South America’; that ‘when they come after me down here, it’s the same thing as when woke professors and the Democratic Party come after you in North America.’ This has been done very explicitly, and I think there are reasons to do it. I mean, if a Republican were to reenter the White House, because of the sort of negative polarization in the most powerful country in the hemisphere, he would probably try to reach out to Bolsonarismo or perhaps take a really aggressive stance toward a possible Workers’ Party government in Brazil.

Bolsonaro’s personal history is very different from Trump’s, because Trump is a guy from television who, in my opinion, just wanted to stay on television and found in politics a way to do that. Bolsonaro, by comparison, is a creature of Brazil’s dictatorship — which of course came about as a result of the US-backed coup in 1964. He is a real believer in antidemocratic principles and a hardcore anti-communist. He’s not really a neoliberal, and he doesn’t care about economics. He’s not really religious, though he has made an alliance with Brazil’s growing evangelical Christian movement — which I suppose does resonate quite a bit with politics in the United States. But he’s somebody who, for his entire life, has believed that the Left needs to be crushed and that the democracy that has been constituted in Brazil since 1988 and the end of the dictatorship is a sham. This is a movement which has real ideological coherence in a way I don’t think Trumpism ever has. I have a hard time imagining that Trumpism could have the same longevity as Bolsonarismo.


In a televised debate earlier this month, Lula attacked Bolsonaro for his handling of COVID-19, and I’m very curious as to how much salience the pandemic has had throughout the campaign. Late last year, you wrote for New York Magazine that despite Bolsonaro’s anti-vaccine posturing, Brazil had had relatively few anti-vaxxers. Has that held during the campaign?


Yes, it has. I think that Bolsonaro (and especially his sons) instinctively try to import culture war stuff from the United States so they can see what sticks. From the very beginning, Bolsonaro really doubled down on the idea that COVID-19 wasn’t a big deal and people didn’t have to worry about it: everyone should work, the scientists saying that stay at home measures could work — that was a bunch of woke nonsense (though he wouldn’t have actually used that term). But this wasn’t effective, especially among urban elites. It did resonate within the hardcore base, though in a funny way: they would say ‘Yeah, we gotta look into those vaccines, there’s something wrong there . . .’ but then they would all get vaccinated anyway. So it didn’t really work here in the way that it did in the United States, and this was something that Bolsonaro lost important elite support over. Some of that migrated from the cities and countryside, and from the (let’s call it) respectable, civilized, pro-business right to the hyper-radicalized Bolsonarista base. And this is a strategy he has: he will often import things from the United States. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t.

Something else he’s tried to import from the United States is this idea that the voting system cannot be trusted. For almost the whole of last year, he was trying to set up a narrative that, if he were to lose, it would be fake because the voting system here can’t be trusted. Again, this makes no sense compared to the US context. In the United States, you have a diverse array of voting mechanisms in different states. In Brazil, no serious international observers think there’s anything strange about the way the votes are counted — it’s uniform across the country. The story Bolsonaro has been telling also calls into question his own victory and the victories of all his allies, so we’re now seeing — at the last minute — a pivot to a different narrative about how the election might be stolen from him, which has to do with censorship and court intervention.

So yes, he imports these things even when they don’t work and, while that may cost him domestically, I think in the long term the Bolsonaro family has the idea of creating an alliance with the Republican Party. And they maybe do need something like that in order to survive, because if Bolsonaro had been soundly defeated in the first round, the family could have all faced jail time. I mean, they’ve certainly committed enough crimes to deserve it. The question was whether or not the political system would prosecute these kinds of cases given the explosiveness of such a scenario. And, now that they have a decent base in government, it might be less likely.

Anyway, its political effectiveness aside, COVID-19 questioning has been a big part of his campaign rhetorically. And that’s the direct result of the intentional Americanization of Brazilian politics, and Americanization of Brazil.


On the French far right, and I suppose across much of the far right globally, there’s been a lot of Americanization for obvious reasons. Has the specific framework of woke versus anti-woke actually penetrated the Brazilian context? You’ll hear French politicians like Marine Le Pen, for example, talking about “le wokeism,” and in that context, it gets discussed as a kind of pernicious import from the United States that needs to be repelled. What is the equivalent to that in Brazil? Has the rather nebulous binary of woke and anti-woke made its way into the lexicon of Bolsonarismo?


Not linguistically. But, as a vibe? Absolutely. The thing about Bolsonaro is that he has quite a coherent narrative going back to the 1990s, which is that the Left has been culturally and politically hegemonic, it tells you what you’re supposed to think, and there’s been (as he would call it) communist indoctrination. So that’s been the way that he’s looked at all of these things since the 1990s. And there have been a number of powerful, far-right ideological figures in Brazil — especially Olavo de Carvalho, this strange philosopher that lived in the United States and posted on Facebook all day long — who have used this framework of cultural Marxism or communist indoctrination.

So this would all fall within that: rights for LGBTQ people, recognition of diversity, using the state in any way to try and help poorer Brazilians — that’s all just communist indoctrination. Bolsonaro brought Tucker Carlson here and they had a conversation where they tried to find common discursive commonalities between their two discourses, and it wasn’t very hard to find them. Some of it was ridiculous because PT (Lula’s Workers’ Party) is very much working class and Carlson seemed to think it was the Brazilian equivalent of Brooklyn liberals that were voting Lula into power. But, in general, they did find a lot of common ground in terms of discourse.

And that’s not a coincidence, because Brazil is deeply influenced by US culture — not only in terms of the internet but also television and political discourse. The only other politics that Brazilian media pay attention to are those of the United States. A lot of woke-era vocabulary has certainly entered Brazilian Portuguese. You can, for example, get “cancelado” (canceled), which is something that the right rails against here. But “woke” itself hasn’t quite made it, even if the discourse around it absolutely overlaps.


There are two recent incidents I want to ask you about. Several days ago, police attempted to arrest a retired politician and an ally of Bolsonaro’s (Roberto Jefferson) and he responded by firing on them and throwing grenades? Bolsonaro has also apologized after footage emerged of him telling a story about an encounter with some teenage girls. What exactly is going on here?


Both of these episodes have been bad for Bolsonaro but I think one has been worse. They’ve also become live campaign elements and have really dominated a lot of the conversations in recent weeks. One is very real, and the other is, perhaps, less so beyond the fact that Bolsonaro can’t speak about young women without sexualizing and insulting them. In that case, Bolsonaro told this story about how he was walking around the outskirts of Brasília (the capital) and (in his telling) he saw some young women who were ‘all dressed up’ and said ‘Why are you dressed up?’ The best way to translate the phrase he used next is that he said ‘there was some chemistry.’ As he told it, he then asked them if he could go back to their place and asked ‘What are you doing?.’ And then — remember, this is the version of the story that he wants the Bolsonarista listener to hear — they said ‘We’re prostitutes because we’re Venezuelan and the Left destroyed our country, and this is all that’s left for us.’

None of this makes sense in the way that he told it, because, if he were to have stumbled upon that horrible situation, he shouldn’t have gone on a podcast, he should have called in the police to stop these young women from being sex trafficked. This strange attempt to pin sex work in Brazil on the Left in Venezuela doesn’t make a lot of sense either, because he’s the president and there are, as I think I mentioned earlier, millions of young people who can’t get enough food here. So, if you want to find Brazilians that are in very difficult situations (because of him) it’s not hard to do. Anyway, journalists went back and looked into this and the Venezuelan women said ‘No, he did come here, but we’re not sex workers.’ He just made that up or thought it, and I think this incident really is just another example of him not being able to talk about women without sexualizing or insulting them — and hinting at the idea he was having sexual thoughts toward underage immigrants.

Now, the story with Roberto Jefferson — who is a longtime friend and ally of the Bolsonaro family — definitely happened because it was filmed and he wanted everyone to know about it. This guy is kind of nuts and even many on the Right will admit to that. He’s been under house arrest, apparently for being part of a digital criminal organization which is using social media to push for antidemocratic measures. Now, this part is kind of strange and I don’t exactly understand the sentence, but they basically said he couldn’t be under house arrest anymore because he’d been violating the terms of his house arrest by using social media. And they sent someone to go pick him up and, instead of cooperating, he tried to mount some kind of heroic martyr’s stand and go down in a blaze of glory because they wouldn’t let him post on the internet. He ended up coming out, shooting some federal police, and throwing a grenade at them. And this has become a huge scandal that even Bolsonaro has been forced to distance himself from. Usually, Bolsonaro will back anything happening on the Right that’s provocative. In this case, he actually went and said, ‘We’re not that close, and this is not the kind of thing I support.’

But another problem for Bolsonaro is that the incident reminded everyone that his son Eduardo, when he was eighteen, was on the books for receiving a salary for work he performed as a congressional assistant in Brasília while he was a full-time student in Rio de Janeiro — and the man who hired him for this job, which must have been fake (and if it was not fake, it would’ve been illegal to hire him for it) was Roberto Jefferson. This is the kind of low-level corruption that everyone believes the Bolsonaro family has been involved in forever. They never got involved in the high-level corruption that became the subject of the Lava Jato investigations because they weren’t important enough in Congress. So, this is not only a problem because somebody that has been photographed many times with Bolsonaro tried to kill a bunch of police — which is a big deal given the pro-security-forces orientation of Bolsonarismo — but also because it reminded people of the corruption Bolsonaro’s son was apparently involved with many years ago.

It’s bad for Bolsonaro because he was already behind in the polls, though they had been getting closer. So if this stops them from tightening further, it may be enough to lose him the election. It’s only Tuesday, and of course something even more insane could happen before Sunday, but this was too mediatized an event to stop people from talking about it and, well, everybody is talking about it.


Polling ahead of the first round of voting suggested, on average, a Lula lead of about eleven points – though he finished by only five. Ahead of the runoff at the end of this month, polls have still given Lula an edge but have also seemed to tighten further. Perhaps predictably, Bolsonaro has started attacking pollsters (Brazil’s House of Representatives is even set to pass legislation criminalizing inaccurate polls — though its future in the Senate looks more uncertain). I’d like to ask you about that, but I’m also curious how you account for the electoral resilience of Bolsonarismo? Brazil’s GDP has fallen since he was elected in 2018. There’s also been an increase in hunger, to say nothing of nearly seven hundred thousand COVID-19 deaths. All of these likely contributed to what was at one time a Lula lead of almost thirty points. Things look quite different now. How would you account for what’s become an unexpectedly close election?


It’s a good question. One part of it that’s troubling and hopefully ephemeral is that Bolsonaro found his real base after 2018. There was just a strange grouping of people that got together behind his candidacy largely out of rejection for what had come before. But, as I said, agricultural parts of the country can believe somewhat rationally that Bolsonaro is better for their interests. Evangelical Christians can probably believe, albeit with less evidence, that he’s somebody who can push for the sort of moral policies that Lula would not (and that’s an area where fake news comes into play, but you can create a stable base with that kind of representation of Lula).

The other dynamic, which I think is really important for explaining the shifts in polling that have transpired over the last few months, is the massive and shameless use of the state to pour money into every part of the country where it might influence voters. Bolsonaro entered office with a neoliberal finance minister who promised to be transparent and anti-corruption. And what’s happening now is a use of the state to flood money into the pockets of political allies, anybody that can help influence voting, and anybody that might be convinced to change their vote to an extent that’s really never been seen before.

It’s quite shocking, and I think even some of the most seasoned analysts of Latin American politics have been surprised that he’s moved forward a lot of welfare payments to the months just before the election. Lula still leads among the poorest Brazilians, but not as much as he did a few months ago. And the best explanation for this is that Bolsonaro gave them money. Everyone knows the finance minister is going to cut all of that off immediately in January, and he already has plans to do so. This is purely to get people to vote one way rather than the other, and it’s very bad for state finances.

Then there’s been this (as it’s been called) multibillion dollar secret budget which allows local lawmakers allied to Bolsonaro to basically spend money locally however they want. There’s already considerable evidence of corruption coming out of this secret budget — towns are making up the numbers, e.g. a town with eleven thousand people that performed seventeen thousand dental procedures in the last two weeks, and other stuff in this vein.

So, in addition to the sort of organic base of Bolsonarismo growing throughout four years in power, you have the shameless use of state finances to try to influence votes at the last minute.


As a final question, would it be fair to say that the proportion of economic versus cultural politics at play in Brazilian politics at the moment favors the latter? From abroad, the impression of Bolsonaro is that he’s very much a culture warrior, and that seems to be one of the ways he’s been able to mitigate the drag of the country’s poor economic performance over the past four years on his own electoral prospects. How would you characterize the final stage of the election in terms of whether economic or cultural issues are prevailing?


I would say it’s more the cultural. If it were economic, you would not see such a big discrepancy between male and female voters. White men are the only demographic category in Brazil that go for Bolsonaro over Lula (black women, by contrast, vote for Lula something like four to one). Bolsonarismo is powered by the petty bourgeois or middle class (but not that educated) white man that has weaponized his identity — which resonates with Trump’s support — that is, the kind of white man that believes he is at risk of having his privilege taken away and thinks he can attack those below him with the help of someone above him. In other words, the classic base for the extreme right: the angry, frustrated, emasculated, petty bourgeois man, in coalition with agribusiness and small scale producers. That’s more or less the organic and economic base.

But the real core of the Bolsonarismoist movement is not so strictly rational. The committed Bolsonaristas really believe in it. His spending offensive has gotten some of Lula’s base to come over to his side in the last few weeks, but Lula is still ahead amongst people who care, first and foremost, about where their food is coming from next month. But that part of the story — the classic, extreme right base, the anti-democratic man — I think that is at the core of what Bolsonarismo is.

Vincent Bevins is a journalist and the author of The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program That Shaped Our World.

Luke Savage is a staff writer at Jacobin.

Jacobin, October 30, 2022, https://jacobin.com/

Indonesia was model for anti-communist massacres, U.S. complicity / by W. T. Whitney Jr.

Opinion: Why “vote against fascism”? / by Callum Wilson

“Vote against fascism” is an excellent slogan and an even better strategy. While many of those who I would say are ultra left would decry such a call for action, I ask, why?

I am from and live in Pennsylvania. Of the two major candidates running for governor, Josh Shapiro (D) and Doug Mastriano (R), it is clear that Mastriano represents a fascist-aligned danger, if the man cannot be called a fascist himself. His platform fits with the standard MAGA call to arms: ban education that is deemed “woke” (read includes Black people and or LGBT people), eliminate mail-in voting, push voter IDs, and increase the number of “poll watchers” to guard against supposed voter fraud. Mastriano also supports a total ban on abortion and even the arrest of doctors who perform the procedure. His platform also mentions appointing a “Secretary of State with experience in securing elections from fraud,” mimicking Trump’s cries of election misconduct.

Should we not agree to vote against such a candidate and the repulsive ideology and forces that they represent? This is what “vote against fascism” means. Why, then, is there such a backlash against the call to “vote against fascism?” There are differing schools of thought on this, both un-Marxist-Leninist.

Voting gives us a say in the kind of terrain on which we struggle. 

The first is that “voting doesn’t matter.” The saying goes that if voting mattered, they wouldn’t let us do it. This logic ignores two facts: first, the expansion of the electorate had to be fought for, and second, voter suppression continues to this day. The election of Trump is what allowed for the Supreme Court to be packed with far-right judges, which has taken us to where we are now. Voting matters and gives us a say in the kind of terrain on which we struggle. Would a Clinton victory in 2016 take us to socialism? Of course not, but it would have led to more favorable ground on which to struggle, the same way that the Biden victory in 2020 has allowed for an albeit uphill battle, but one that has given us an administration more favorable to labor than the previous one.

Sometimes we hear from ultra-left forces who say “revolution now!” but will be disappointed to find out that’s now how revolutionary change works. The great October revolution was not accomplished in a single day or even one year. It took decades of organizing to topple the czar and more to build a socialist nation.

The second, and perhaps the more outlandish reason not to participate in electoral struggle is that “the USA and or the Democratic Party is already fascist.” While none can deny the increasing authoritarian rule of Republican states, and that liberal politicians and baseline democrats are capable of great oppression and cruelty, this is not fascism. Georgi Dimitrov gives us a very clear definition:

“the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital. Going on to say “It is the organization of terrorist vengeance against the working class and the revolutionary section of the peasantry and intelligentsia. In foreign policy, fascism is jingoism in its most brutal form, fomenting bestial hatred of other nations.”

Somehow I cannot believe that a lukewarm Democrat like Pete Buttigieg or even the worst, like Kyrsten Sinema or Joe Manchin, fit this definition. Even liberals can plainly see the fascist nature of Republicans who view the January 6th coup attempt as “legitimate political discourse.” Despite the rare exceptions like Republican Senator Liz Cheney, the GOP is far more right-wing than in the Nixon era. And those deemed “heroes” like Cheney and the testifiers at the January 6 hearings have enabled the Trump regime all along by remaining silent for four long years. Proud Boys, intimidating poll watchers, and the mob of rioters are poised to be the storm troopers of fascism and the Republican Party.

Not differentiating progressive Democrats from fascist Republicans is dogmatic adherence to the long-discredited “social fascist” theory.

The CPUSA has never said “vote blue no matter who.” The conservative Democrats should be primaried and challenged by progressives, democratic socialists, and Communists. But not differentiating progressive Democrats from fascist Republicans is dogmatic adherence to the long-discredited “social fascist” theory, which equated social democracy with fascism. The social fascist theory led to the Communist Party of Germany to ignore the rise of the Nazis, focusing more of their attention on the SPD (Socialist Party of Deutschland). This theory was held during the third period of the Comintern, and by the fourth period was replaced by the popular front against fascism, which remains the bedrock of our platform to this day.

So what did Dimitrov, leader of the Comintern and later Socialist Bulgaria, have to say about voting and bourgeois democracy?

We are not Anarchists, and it is not at all a matter of indifference to us what kind of political regime exists in any given country: whether a bourgeois dictatorship in the form of bourgeois democracy, even with democratic rights and liberties greatly curtailed, or a bourgeois dictatorship in its open, fascist form. While being upholders of Soviet democracy, we shall defend every inch the democratic gains which the working class has wrested in the course of years of stubborn struggle, and shall resolutely fight to extend these gains.

How great were the sacrifices of the British working class before it secured the right to strike, a legal status for its trade unions, the right of assembly and freedom of the press, extension of the franchise, and other rights. How many tens of thousands of workers gave their lives in the revolutionary battles fought in France in the nineteenth century to obtain the elementary rights and the lawful opportunity of organizing their forces for the struggle against the exploiters. The proletariat of all countries has shed much of its blood to win bourgeois-democratic liberties and will naturally fight with all its strength to retain them.

How easily this can be translated into our own conditions. The struggle to end slavery and Jim Crow, the struggle to form and join a union, for the right to vote itself, were all won with much blood and struggle. History does not repeat itself and the GOP are not the Nazi Party incarnate, this is true. But to deny their growing fascist character does not make you more radical, it makes you naive to what is happening.

Voting in elections is a tactical choice, not a moral one.

There is a faux-Maoist and ultra-left tendency to reject political action in favor of vague adventurism without ever presenting an alternative strategy to stop fascism. They substitute moralizing for clear-eyed analysis of the political forces at play in any given moment. In their view, “both sides are the same” and one’s soul is tainted for voting in an election for bourgeois candidates. Voting in elections is a tactical choice, not a moral one.

Ultimately, the reason some on the left reject electoral struggle is they don’t agree with the concept of the all-people’s front. They view sectarianism as a virtue and take pride in their insular nature. This reflects a lack of confidence in the multiple people’s movements — for voting rights, against police brutality and mass incarceration, and for a livable planet, to name a few — and in the working class itself. The need for an all-people’s front is grounded in actual experience and the scientific formula of Marxism-Leninism, not moralistic idealism.

But there are others who rightfully ask: where are our candidates? And the answer that is: wherever there are clubs and districts. Run for office, run as a Communist, be a loud and proud red. We are starting to dip our feet back into the water of electoral work. We need Communist city council members, Communist union leaders, Communist mayors. Run and vote, comrades! Challenge Republicans where the Democrats are too callow to fight, and challenge the Democrat obstructionists Manchin and Sinema. We need more politicking and less sloganeering.

So this November I will vote against fascism and I encourage all my friends, family, and comrades to do the same.

Communist Party USA, August 4, 2022, https://www.cpusa.org/

Supreme Court guts Clean Air Act, puts every government regulation in jeopardy / by C.J. Atkins

Emissions rise from the smokestacks at the Jeffrey Energy Center coal power plant as the sun sets, Sept. 18, 2021, near Emmett, Kan. The right-wing-dominated Supreme Court says the EPA has no power to regulate emissions by power plants, setting the stage for a speed-up of climate change. | Charlie Riedel / AP

Continuing a right-wing rampage that has already seen abortion rights gutted, the open carrying of guns given free rein, eviction moratoriums killed off, and coronavirus controls eviscerated, the Supreme Court on Thursday gave big fossil fuel corporations the freedom to fill our air with more planet-warming carbon dioxide.

In a 6-3 ruling, the conservative majority announced it was stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate emissions from power plants. The move destroys the core of the Clean Air Act of 1970 and puts the Biden administration’s plans for fighting climate change in jeopardy.

And with its broad denunciation of the power of government agencies to enact rules and standards without specific and down-to-the-last-detail instructions from Congress, the court has also potentially put every regulation on the chopping block—not just when it comes to emissions, but also things like safety conditions in the workplace, fair wages, exposure to toxins, environmental protection, what bathroom transgender students can use, which people can cast a ballot and how, and more.

The decision is a preview of what the far-right and its corporate backers envision for the country.

Victory for fossil fuels, loss for life on Earth

The ruling is a major win for polluting energy corporations. EPA data shows that the power sector is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, but now it will be largely beyond the reach of environmental regulation.

A mechanized shovel loads coal onto a haul truck at the Cloud Peak Energy’s Spring Creek mine near Decker, Mont. | Matthew Brown / AP

Corporate energy giants will be able to fatten their profits by saving on costly emissions control measures in their plants and offload the cost of environmental contamination onto the rest of us—via dirtier air, increased respiratory health problems, and a speed up in climate change and all the problems it brings.

The decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, sides with big energy producers and Republican attorneys general at the state level who have been trying for years to tie the hands of the EPA.

The court declared that the EPA is severely limited in its ability to regulate the fossil fuel sector as a whole and that it can only deal with major pollution issues that crop up at specific individual plants. It also rules out pursuing other climate change-combatting measures through the EPA, such as a carbon cap-and-trade market.

Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the dissent of the three Democratic-appointed justices, warned, “Today, the court strips the Environmental Protection Agency of the power Congress gave it to respond to ‘the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.’”

She wrote that right-wing justices had appointed themselves, “instead of Congress or the expert agency [EPA],” to be the “decision maker on climate policy.” Kagan said she “cannot think of many things more frightening.”

Climate change activists and environmentalists expressed outrage—but no surprise—at what the right-wing majority did.

The executive director of Food and Water Watch, Wenonah Hauter, characterized the ruling as “part of a broad-based assault on the ability of regulators to protect our air, water, and climate.” She said the decision has been “long-sought by corporate polluters, industry-backed think tanks, and politicians who serve monied fossil fuel interests.”

“A Supreme Court that sides with the fossil fuel industry over the health and safety of its people is anti-life and beyond broken,” John Paul Mejia, a spokesperson for the youth-led Sunrise Movement, said immediately after the decision was announced. “We cannot and will not let our Democratic leaders stand by while an illegitimate court and the GOP go on the offense.”

The Biden administration’s promise to put the nation on a path toward 100% clean electricity by the middle of the next decade may be sunk because of the ruling, as the president’s plan hinged on using tougher regulation to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels like coal.

It was a continuation of moves made by the Obama administration under its “Clean Power Plan,” which never went into effect thanks to endless lawsuits by power companies and Republican-run states, an earlier Supreme Court block, and a repeal by the Trump administration. The current court decision stems from one of those previous lawsuits.

Environmental groups were already skeptical of the scheme even before the Supreme Court’s ruling, however, because the government, even under Biden, has also approved many new oil and gas leases on public lands recently—moves seemingly at odds with the goal of reducing fossil fuel reliance.

Regardless, the entire plan now faces a rethink. Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that “capping carbon dioxide emission at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity” might sound sensible, but that the law does not allow it.

The impact of the court’s decision could go far beyond just emissions controls and sets a precedent for destroying the power of government to regulate almost anything.

Part of a bigger corporate offensive

Among legal and constitutional scholars, the EPA case has been called the “administrative state” case.

The term “administrative state” is a somewhat obscure one outside the circles of political science and public administration scholars, but it’s one Republicans use regularly in their meetings with disdain.

Dwight Waldo, a professor and former government price control official, first coined the term “administrative state” in 1948. He wrote that public servants should be informed, active agents of change dedicated to improving people’s lives and strengthening democratic participation.

He asserted that the orthodox notion of bureaucrats who just mindlessly follow orders from the top was incompatible with democracy. Bureaucrats had a responsibility to serve the public, not just their political masters.

The most important principle of the administrative state idea was that government cannot be run like a business. Democracy, the Constitution, and public interest required adherence to higher criteria than simply watching out for the bottom line or following orders.

Republicans have long detested the notion of such a government and have systematically set out to destroy it. The Trump administration, in particular, took steps to undermine the ability of agencies (like the EPA) to pursue the public interest, and instead wanted them to follow edicts issued by the president or his appointees—essentially, a more dictatorial arrangement.

At the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference, top Trump advisor Steve Bannon laid out plans to strip apart the power of federal government agencies to regulate big business by reshaping executive branch cabinet departments and the courts.

Enumerating all the cabinet appointments that the incoming President Trump had made at that time, Bannon stated that the people chosen were all “selected for a reason…deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Bannon continued: “Every business leader we’ve had in is saying it’s not just taxes, but it is also the regulation… the way the progressive left runs, if they can’t get it passed, they’re just gonna put in some sort of regulation in…in an agency.” He vowed, “They’re all going to be deconstructed.”

What followed was a shock-and-awe campaign of rapid-fire executive orders, policy guidance memoranda, and a directive to drop two regulations for every new one implemented. Demanding adherence to presidential authority and extreme loyalty on the part of cabinet secretaries and other officials, the Trump White House made it clear that it viewed the entire American government as an instrument to be wielded by the man at the top.

Bureaucrats that don’t obey? They were shown the door. Courts that won’t validate decisions? Pack the judiciary with the most pro-business judges you can find so that you win next time. Total authority and unrestricted executive power was the goal.

Think tanks like the Heritage Foundation provided the intellectual ammunition, publishing claims that the “growth of the administrative state can be traced, for the most part, to the New Deal (and subsequent outgrowths of the New Deal like the Great Society).” Any pro-people policy that has come about since the 1930s was lumped into the trash pile.

And because presidential administrations come and go (though Jan. 6, 2021, showed that the Republicans wanted to do away with even that reality), the ultimate weapon in this war was to be the Supreme Court.

Speaking of Trump’s appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch at the 2017 CPAC meeting, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the Republicans would use the courts to cement their policies in place for a long time to come: “We’re not talking about a change over a four-year period. We’re talking about a change of potentially 40 years of law.”

Republican strategy comes to fruition

Thursday’s decision to gut the power of the EPA is proof that the GOP-corporate offensive against all government regulations is well underway. This ruling is a goalpost along the route that the extreme right ideologues and servants of big capitalists in the Republican Party want to take the country down.

Today, it is the struggle to reverse climate change which is under attack, but so many other things will follow.

The situation calls for massive mobilization at the polls in November and immediate pressure on elected officials to use the power of new legislation to codify regulatory power and make it resistant to elimination by the courts.

Youth activists march in the “No Climate, No Deal” rally in Lafayette Square in Washington, June 28, 2021. The rally, held by the Sunrise Movement, called on President Joe Biden to uphold his climate commitments in his infrastructure proposal and pass more climate and justice initiatives. The Supreme Court’s anti-EPA decision has made presidential action even more urgent. | Caroline Brehman / CQ Roll Call

When it comes to the climate, a coalition of over 1,200 environmental groups, People vs. Fossil Fuels, is calling on Biden to use the authority he still has to “declare a climate emergency and stop new fossil fuel leases, exports, pipelines, and other infrastructure today.”

It pointed to the powers of the presidency under the National Emergencies Act and the Defense Production Act, saying Biden could “also halt crude oil exports, stop offshore oil and gas drilling, restrict international fossil fuel investment, and rapidly manufacture and distribute clean and renewable energy systems.”

Hauter, of Food and Water Watch, said that “while this ruling intends to hamstring the federal government’s ability to regulate dangerous emissions, it does not signal the end of climate action.”

State-level regulatory action now moves to the frontline, especially where Democratic governors and legislative majorities prevail. There, in alliance with growing climate justice movements, progress is being made to achieve carbon neutrality. Such efforts now have to expand further.

Hauter vowed that the climate movement “must and will continue to pressure agencies and elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels to enact policies that ensure a swift reduction in climate pollution and an end to the fossil fuel era.” She said not even the Supreme Court can “stand in the way of the fight for a livable planet.”

It won’t stop the right-wing majority on the court from trying, though. Still expected in the coming days is a decision on a major immigrant rights case, and the Supreme Court has also announced it will hear a case that could give Republican state legislatures unchecked power to suppress votes via gerrymandered districts—setting the stage for widespread election fraud in 2024.

It all makes getting out the vote for this fall’s midterms even more essential.

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. C.J. Atkins es el editor gerente de 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 ProudPolitics.

People’s World, June 30, 2022, https://www.peoplesworld.org/

Communist Party condemns Roe reversal: ‘All out to defend abortion rights’ / by Special to the People’s World

Members of the Communist Party USA and Young Communist League protest in New York City on Friday, June 24, 2022, immediately following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. | Courtesy of CPUSA

The following statement was released by the Communist Party USA on June 24, 2022.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a horrific setback for women their partners, their families, and society overall. As expected, the Court overturned Roe v. Wade, making abortion rights susceptible to the whims of extreme-right state legislators.

A woman may not get an abortion in Texas, but a resident of New York can. Just as where you live determines whether you can vote with ease, breathe fresh air, access Medicaid, or have your children attend a well-funded school, the same is now true regarding abortion rights.

Human rights in this country have never been universal, and the Dobbs decision highlights this fact even further.

The Supreme Court decision surely ranks high among the worst, anti-human decisions in its history, such as the Dred Scott decision of 1857 or Plessy v. Ferguson of 1896. The first decision, made by a Supreme Court dominated by slaveholders, eliminated all restrictions on slavery in the Republic. Adding insult to injury, the Court stated that the Constitution’s authors never intended any Black person to have citizenship rights. Plessy held that racial segregation was constitutional, enshrined in the “separate but equal” doctrine. We all know how the “equal” part went.

Like the 19th-century justices, today’s right-wing Supreme Court has determined that certain people, in this case women and trans men, are even less equal than they were before the Court ruled on June 24.

What will be the impact of the ruling? The Southern Poverty Law Center writes that it will:

“have serious, long-term consequences for women and others. This terrible ruling also endangers other fundamental rights, putting many other communities at risk. The constitutional rights in jeopardy include the right to contraception and equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. . . . The decision is particularly harmful for those people living in poverty because they lack the resources to travel to a state where abortion is legal or pay for necessary medical procedures.”

Members of the Communist Party USA and Young Communist League protest in New York City on Friday, June 24, 2022, immediately following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. | Courtesy of CPUSA

We must fight back to prevent this from becoming reality.

Today, we mourn this horrific setback. Tomorrow and beyond, we organize. Everywhere—in our communities, unions, schools, places of worship, and workplaces. We must help build a backlash against the right, one in the same spirit as the women who rebelled after Trump’s election and helped take the House of Representatives away from the GOP in 2018; the millions who marched for Black Lives after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others; and the teachers, auto workers, and nurses who went on strike these past four years.

As big as these movements were, the current situation demands a much larger movement, one that’s more inclusive, broader, more militant. Civil disobedience is in order. By inclusive we mean the involvement of a wide range of society, genders, classes, and ethnic backgrounds.

We also mean inclusiveness in terms of tactics. Some may only be willing to make phone calls to their elected officials. Some may want to work in the electoral arena to vote out anti-abortion politicians. Others may demonstrate and engage in civil disobedience and risk arrest. All tactics are on the table. We must engage with people who have never carried a picket sign or called their members of Congress.

This is the kind of unity needed to turn the Court’s decision into a temporary setback. The Communist Party USA is committed to helping build unity to restore women’s right to an abortion.

Special to People’s World

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.

Supreme Court kills abortion rights, sets target on marriage equality, contraception, more / by John Wojcik and C.J. Atkins

A tear rolls down an abortion rights activist’s cheek as they speak outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022.

As expected, the Supreme Court of the United States has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion across the nation nearly 50 years ago. The decision was already revealed in an unprecedented leak reported by Politico in early May, but now the nation has the final version of the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito and circulated among the other justices in February.

The ruling marks the first time in U.S. history that a constitutionally-guaranteed right has ever been removed by the Court. But the extremists on the Court do not appear content with just killing abortion rights. Justice Clarence Thomas, a signatory to the decision, called for the Supreme Court to overturn other past rulings protecting same-sex marriage, gay sex, and the use of contraceptives.

The destruction of Roe is having immediate impact. In the state of West Virginia Friday morning, the last clinic in the state providing abortion services closed its doors. The sole clinic in Mississippi continued to provide services but was expected to stop at any time as right-wing protesters gathered outside. In Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood issued an order to stop abortion services at both of its clinics. Similar scenes are playing out across the country.

The scene outside the Supreme Court, Friday, June 24, 2022. | Jacquelyn Martin / AP

The decision strikes down both Roe v. Wade, the Court’s 1973 ruling that enshrined the constitutional right to an abortion, and a decision in 1992, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that essentially upheld that right.

Alito wrote: “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have inflamed divisions in the country.”

Joining him in tossing Roe were Thomas and Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. The latter three justices were appointed by former President Donald Trump. Thomas first voted to overrule Roe 30 years ago.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan—the last remaining Democratic appointees on the Court—dissented.

“With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent,” they wrote, warning that right-wing abortion opponents would now try to impose a nationwide ban “from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape or incest.”

Though he did not sign their dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the liberal wing.

Protected by Roe no more

At least half the states in the country are expected to quickly make abortion completely illegal, with poor and working-class women and women of color in Republican-governed states having their rights stripped away first.

Abortion rights advocates say this will result in desperate people traveling to get abortions in states where the procedure remains legal, such as Illinois or New York. Some 13 states have “trigger laws” on the books which outlawed abortion the minute Roe was officially overturned.

In those places, the ruling marks a return to the time before Roe v. Wade, when abortion was a crime everywhere.

As late as the early 1970s, for example, police departments and governments around the U.S. were conducting crackdowns on what they called the illegal “abortion industry.” Almost totally forgotten these days are the vicious attacks against women in government-led terroristic campaigns.

The story of one such campaign, in Chicago, gained wide circulation again following the Politico leak. In the early ’70s, police came crashing down on “Call Jane,” a feminist collective of young women who, since 1965, had provided safe but then illegal abortions to roughly 3,000 Chicagoans per year. The collective, led by the famed civil rights and human rights activist Heather Booth, was raided after two Catholic women told police their sister-in-law planned to have an abortion provided by the group.

A homicide detective assigned to the case traced “Jane” to the South Shore neighborhood. There, police raided an apartment, arrested nearly 50 people for questioning, and tore three women who were actively undergoing abortion treatment away from their procedure and hauled them off to the hospital.

Members of the Jane Collective, arrested by Chicago Police. | Chicago Police Department

Seven women were charged with 11 counts of performing an abortion and conspiracy to commit abortion. They would soon be known in Chicago’s newspapers as the “Abortion Seven.” Members of Call Jane protected the women they served and prevented many of them from being arrested by eating the index cards that bore the details of the patients’ information.

There were similar cases across the country where working-class women went to incredible and dangerous lengths to access abortion or to protect those who needed them.

A woman working for the Parks Department in Brooklyn found a woman who performed her own abortion bleeding and dying in a ravine in Prospect Park. She was able to get the woman to the emergency room at a nearby hospital where her life was saved.

In 1973, the Abortion Seven had to be released by prosecutors when the Supreme Court issued Roe v. Wade. With the decision, the Court affirmed that access to safe and legal abortion was a constitutional right. It said that states could not ban abortion before 24 weeks into the pregnancy.

The nightmare of state harassment suffered by women in Chicago in the early 1970s may pale in comparison, however, to the level of surveillance and repression that will be deployed against women, non-binary people, and trans men seeking reproductive services in those parts of America where abortion is again illegal.

The data produced by cell phones, internet browsers, search engines, and social media could be used to prosecute those who seek abortions, and the heaviest crackdowns would undoubtedly descend on poor women and women of color.

Many people in the states where abortion is now illegal are unlikely to make, nor can they afford, the long, expensive, and health-endangering journeys that will be required. The poor, the young, and people of color will more likely be forced to turn to illegal methods, creating another racist feature in the already racist criminal justice system.

Now, stunned women’s rights activists fear prosecutions like that of the “Call Jane” collective will become business as usual.

Women as criminals

A national organization for defense attorneys has published a report that lays out a future in which the U.S. could undertake “rampant criminalization” and “mass incarceration on an unprecedented scale” in the name of “defense of the unborn.”

“States are laying the groundwork now, and have been laying the groundwork for criminal penalties that are completely different,” than the pre-Roe era, says Lindsay A. Lewis, a New York criminal defense attorney who co-authored a report on abortion for the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys (NACDL).

Abortion rights advocates marched in the 1970s. | AbortionFilms.org

“They are so much more advanced and so much harsher than what existed before Roe was enacted.” State legislatures have spent recent decades “modifying their criminal codes” in ways that “completely change the calculus when it comes to what it would mean to go back to pre-Roe times,” according to Lewis.

Lawyers warn that the states where the procedure is illegal are laying the groundwork to go after even those women who travel to other states where it is legal in order to get abortions denied in their home states.

Criminal charges could come from specific abortion laws, but also from criminal codes that penalize “attempted crimes, conspiracies, and accomplices to crime, all relics of laws developed during the U.S.’ so-called ‘war on drugs.’ Those laws could subject a wide range of individuals to criminal penalties if Roe is overturned”, the NACDL report says.

They would include prosecuting people from states where the procedure is illegal who attempt to seek abortions in states where it remains legal.

For example, Louisiana law defines an “accomplice” to a crime as “anyone involved in its commission, even tangentially, whether present or absent if they aid, abet, or even counsel someone.” Lawyers say this could be used against a wide range of spouses, partners, friends, loved ones, or counselors, such as clergy or abortion fund networks, which help direct people or help transport them to clinics in places where abortion is still legal.

Turning dissent into action

The Court’s decision opens the way for a future Republican Congress and president to ban abortion entirely across the whole country. In the immediate weeks and months ahead, the decision is expected to set off an avalanche of legal challenges as the fight over abortion moves to state capitals and as Roe becomes a central issue in the November midterm elections.

President Joe Biden addressed the nation after the ruling was made official, calling Friday “a sad day for the Court and the country.” With Roe gone, he said, “the health and life of women across this nation are now at risk.”

The reaction from abortion rights, women’s equality, and other movement leaders was more stinging.

“The hands of time have once again been turned back,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Joyce Beatty. “In the midst of a Black maternal mortality crisis, restricting access to abortion will disproportionately endanger the lives of Black Americans,” Beatty declared. “Let me be very clear: Government-mandated pregnancy is not pro-life, it is pro-policing of women’s bodies.”

In a statement sent to People’s World, Working Families Party spokesperson Nelini Stamp said: “Make no mistake, white Christian nationalists have been working towards this moment for 50 years. They have exploited the most anti-democratic features of our political system, from the courts to the Electoral College to the United States Senate. They have engaged in outrageous power grabs, bulldozed basic norms, and can’t be bothered to justify their hypocrisy. They know their views are unpopular, so they rig our democracy to enshrine minority rule, trampling our rights.”

Members of the Communist Party USA march for reproductive rights. | via CPUSA

Opinion surveys show a majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe and handing the question of whether to permit abortion entirely to the states. Polls conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and others also have consistently shown that only about 1 in 10 Americans want abortion to be illegal in all cases. A majority are in favor of abortion being legal in all or most circumstances.

Laura Dewey, a leader of the Communist Party USA’s Michigan district, pointed to the 2022 elections as a frontline in the battle to stop the anti-abortion assault. She said, “We must help build the biggest backlash against the far right, one far larger than the right-wing backlash against Obama’s election, one comparable to the women’s uprising after Trump’s election. We need to be in the streets in the coming months and at the polling booths in November.”

She said that “a strike by women and trans men should be considered.”

Dewey called the decision “fascistic” in nature and connected it to other aspects of extremist Republican policy. “Along with the police violence against and the mass incarceration of Black and brown people and the wave of anti-voting laws, the reversal of Roe v. Wade signals the right’s determination to control and suppress human beings. It may very well be a sign of fascism to come unless we the people halt this frightening trend.”

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. John Wojcik es editor en jefe de People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and ’80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. C.J. Atkins es el editor gerente de 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 ProudPolitics.

People’s World, June 26, 2022, https://www.peoplesworld.org/

PRIDE 2022: A season of celebration, a season of struggle / by C.J. Atkins

Reclaiming Pride: Queer liberation, not rainbow capitalism. | Leandro Justen / via Reclaim Pride Coalition

After a pandemic-enforced two-year hiatus in many parts of the world, Pride is back this summer. Pageants, parties, and parades are in full swing once more, putting the vibrancy and diversity of the LGBTQ community front and center. From longtime gay sanctuaries like San Francisco to small towns like Seward, Alaska—population 3,000 and hosting its first-ever Pride parade this year—the community and its supporters are out on the streets embracing one another again.

Also back is the phenomenon of “corporate pride.” Almost every big company imaginable now slaps a rainbow across its logo on social media every June. There are exceptions, of course. Like Chick-Fil-A. One of the fried chicken firm’s franchisees recently tweeted out “priDEMONth,” a Christian fundamentalist take on “Pride month.” Or oil giant Exxon Mobil, where executives still ban LGBTQ employees from flying the Pride flag at company facilities. Or the dozens of other major corporations and thousands of small businesses that deny their queer employees equal rights, protections, and benefits.

As for the corporations that do participate, however, the multi-colored marketing blitz is surely a sign of our community’s growing normalization, but it’s right to remain skeptical of big business motives. Especially when retailers proceed to peddle merchandise bearing generic themes like “Love wins” in the hope of scoring some pink dollars while remaining just inoffensive enough to avoid catching the attention of the enforcers of heterosexist norms.

Left: Gay Liberation Front members marching on Times Square, Fall 1969. | Diana Davies / NYPL. Right: The illuminated Stonewall Inn sign. | Wikimedia Commons

A welcome antidote to this capitalist co-optation, though, is the long tradition of Pride as protest, which is gathering fresh recognition and support thanks to groups like the Reclaim Pride Coalition.

For generations, queers had to fight just to exist and be seen, let alone be welcomed or celebrated. As an old button slogan goes, “The first pride was a riot,” and indeed it was. Stonewall 1969, the protest widely seen as launching the modern queer liberation movement, was an uprising against racist and homophobic police repression in New York City—led by trans women of color. (By June 2024, visitors will be able to learn about this uprising at the new Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center being opened by the National Parks Service.)

When coronavirus canceled most of the official festivals and corporate sponsorships in 2020 and 2021, the movement to return Pride to its protest roots garnered more of the spotlight it’s been denied for years. A part of the growing progressive and left consciousness sweeping the nation and a companion to other people’s movements like Black Lives Matter, the fight for women’s lives, and others, this trend has put the call for “Queer liberation, not rainbow capitalism” into wide circulation.

With the victory of marriage equality in 2015, too many upper-income and (especially) white gays and lesbians concluded the struggle was over and directed their political donations accordingly. Long-overdue court rulings against discrimination on the job and in housing, while certainly welcomed, reinforced the notion that the community could hit the cruise control button.

Of course, the struggle never ended for working-class queers, queers of color, and particularly the trans community. In reality, it didn’t end for those upper-income professional types among us, either.

A quick survey of the political landscape right now confirms that. Though corporate pride may have taken a break during the pandemic, the Republican apparatus of hate and division remained highly active.

  • An avalanche of anti-trans legislation is pouring out of Republican-controlled statehouses across the country. Over 300 bills targeting trans athletes, gender-neutral or non-binary restroom facilities, health and gender-affirming care for trans youth, gender-accurate IDs, and more are in various stages of the legislative process, with some having already become law.
  • Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the homophobic equivalent of the right wing’s racist crusade against Critical Race Theory, is prompting copycat efforts in several states. It bans even letting schoolchildren know that LGBTQ people exist and is the kind of legislation that paves the way for the suffering of LGBTQ kids and violence for years to come.
  • In the face of an epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings, the GOP in Texas thinks it’s more important to keep young people out of drag shows than gun shows. It’s a diversion tactic to keep the focus off the Republican-gun manufacturer-NRA triple axis turning the nation’s schools and streets into killing fields in pursuit of profit.
  • The Supreme Court’s ruling to throw out Roe v. Wade directly impacts queer women, non-binary people, and transgender men who need the abortion providers and reproductive health clinics that will shutter as a result of the ruling. Further, it puts many other LGBTQ rights in jeopardy that rest on Roe’s protections of privacy and personal autonomy. As Kierra Johnson, director of the LGBTQ Task Force, recently said, “There’s so much about LGBTQ liberation and reproductive justice that connects us…and connect our movements. The foundation of our movements were built on sexual freedom.” And now Justice Clarence Thomas admits that the overturning of Roe will allow the Court to next target marriage equality and gay sex.
  • On top of these political and legislative assaults, there’s also the open and direct violence targeting the LGBTQ community, such as the white supremacist band of fascists in Idaho who were stopped just before attacking a Pride parade or the Texas pastor who wants to round up every gay person in America and shoot them in the back of the head.

For all these reasons and more, it’s important to keep in mind that Pride is a season of celebration but also a season of struggle. When the parades are over, we have to keep our marching shoes on because we are in the midst of a many-sided fight that will determine whether not just our community, but indeed our country and our world, progress or sink backward.

Jose Rodriguez, of Orlando, center, walks with the Equality Florida group at the Stonewall Pride Parade, Saturday, June 18, 2022, during Pride Month in Wilton Manors, Fla. The state of Florida has become a central arena of the resistance to Republican homophobic and transphobic policies. | Lynne Sladky / AP

The November elections have the potential to shift the balance of forces in Congress, breaking the Republican filibuster in the Senate and sidelining renegade Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Stopping the right-wing’s blockade in Washington would open the pathway for passing key priorities for LGBTQ people and all working people in our country like the Equality Act, the Build Back Better Act, the PRO Act, and making abortion rights permanent and irreversible.

And with at least 104 LGBTQ people running for Congress in races across the country, there are even more reasons to vote.

The LGBTQ community has never known a moment when it wasn’t struggling, and the current period is no different. It’s time to act up and fight back, just like previous generations.

March now, love now, vote now.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.

Related Stories:

Stonewall anniversary: Rainbow capitalism or LGBTQ liberation?

Republicans prepare transphobic offensive for 2022 elections

Before Stonewall: Queer liberation’s Communist Party roots

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. C.J. Atkins es el editor gerente de 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 ProudPolitics.

People’s World, June 24, 2022, https://www.peoplesworld.org/

150,000 bring Poor People’s Campaign demands to D.C.: “We won’t be silent” / by Mark Gruenberg

Members of the Communist Party contingent at the Poor People’s Campaign mass mobilization in Washington, June 18.

WASHINGTON—Demanding an “end to policy murder” that slams poor and low-wealth people, Poor People’s Campaign Co-Chair the Rev. William Barber II and more than 150,000 allies took to the streets of the nation’s capital in a mass rally Saturday.

Their goal: Massive changes in federal policy away from enriching the rich, corporations, and the capitalist class and towards ending the plight of the nation’s 140-million-plus poor and low-wealth people.

Attendees, including a large contingent from the Service Employees and members of other unions, insisted lawmakers and Democratic President Joe Biden redirect federal money away from war and toward domestic needs, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, strengthen workers’ rights, and battle against systemic racism, among other goals.

Poor People’s Campaign Co-chair Rev. William Barber speaks to a crowd of  150,000 in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, June 18. | @unitethepoor via Twitter

As a handwritten sign carried by Madeline Stanczak read: “$7.25 an hour x 40 hours a week = less than $20,000 a year. Livable for who?” At age 14, she said, she earned even less. “I didn’t know I was being screwed,” she told a reporter.  The current federal minimum, $7.25, hasn’t risen since 2009.

Marchers and leaders laid the blame for refusing to act for the poor and for workers at the feet of the corporate class and their political minions, especially in the evenly split U.S. Senate. Barber singled out the entire Republican caucus plus renegade Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W. Va.

Blacks, whites, and Latinos/Latinas all “are suffering from poverty due to bad tax policies, the war economy, and religious nationalism,” among other scourges, Barber added. In opposition to those ills, “This is what moral fusion politics looks like,” he said.

“As long as the Chamber of Commerce and 49 (actually 50) Republicans and two Democrats deny people a living wage, and as long as they keep asking ‘How much will it cost to do it?’ rather than ‘How much will it cost not to do it?’, then we will not be silent,” Barber said.

Added Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry: “Workers—especially frontline, low-paid workers of color—are speaking up. It’s past time they’re respected, protected, and paid.”

The marchers and the Poor People’s Campaign also demand the passage of laws to preserve and strengthen voting rights while concentrating on extra aid to poor and low-wealth people of every race, creed, and heritage. Another hand-drawn sign declared: “Jim Crow must go.”

And a large banner had a message for the right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, too: “Overturn Roe? HELL, NO!” The justices are expected to eliminate the constitutional right to an abortion, disproportionately hurting poor women and women of color, by the end of this court’s term.

The Communist Party USA and the Young Communist League endorsed the Poor People’s Campaign’s goals. Including D.C.-area and out-of-town groups, the Communist contingent numbered approximately 500 people. With their red flags and banners waving in the sun, they stood out among the rally crowd.

But the campaign won’t stop on June 18, Barber declared to the gathered masses, which stretched for blocks, curb-to-curb, down Pennsylvania Avenue. Now it’s on through November’s election and beyond, marching and educating voters against economic and political repression.

“We are resolved not to stop until we no longer have to fight,” Barber stated. “We are the Poor People’s Campaign, and we won’t be silenced anymore.”

The campaigners and their leaders realize the struggle will not be easy, given the political, corporate, and financial might arrayed for the oppressive status quo. The rich and powerful “want nothing more than to stop this kind of movement,” campaign co-chair Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis said.

“It’s why they spend so much time and money trying to deny the right to vote, why they attack protesters, spread lies meant to narrow our vision and limit our aspirations, divide us up by issue, region, race, gender, and sexual orientation, immigration status, political party.

“But we’re here, we’re poor, we aren’t going anywhere, we have come together, and we will stay together. We will transform this nation from the bottom up.”

Many marchers had individual stories to tell. Besides the CPUSA-YCL brigade, their numbers included large contingents from the Service Employees, plus Communications Workers members campaigning for the right to unionize at Maximus call centers in the South.

“When I was 14 years old, I began working in agriculture” for a conglomerate, said Luke Jacobson of Toledo, Ohio. That conglomerate was Dow Chemical, which also makes Agent Orange, he noted—the dangerous defoliant of the U.S.’ wars in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

To try to find something better, Jacobson said he now works for a small chain of smoke shops. And he’s applying for a job at Amazon, despite its vast record of mistreating workers and keeping them poor. So is his colleague Jacob Neidt, who’s had only one employer so far in his life: Low-paying FedEx.

“People tell me they’re working four days a week for 10 hours a day” or more at Amazon added Jacobson. Its HR people “make it all sound nice and pretty. They’re lying.”

Amazon Labor Union organizer Justine Medina said in an informal talk that the company’s latest gambit—after the union won a vote at  Staten Island’s JFK8 warehouse—is to call in a worker for a two-hour shift, forcing two-hour commutes each way. If the worker misses the call, it’s noted on the record.

The contingent of the Communist Party USA and Young Communist League, estimated at over 500 people, was easily visible among the crowd with their bright red flags and banners. | Taylor Dorrell

“We started an organization, the Bronx Support Committee For The Homeless, to feed the homeless on the subway trains,” explained Susan DiRaimo, a Teachers Union (AFT) member from New York. They became known for their “midnight run” for meeting the homeless on the last run of the IRT’s Broadway-Seventh Avenue line to 242nd Street in Riverdale.

They ran a temporary overnight shelter, too, for 15 years, “until the Parks and Recreation Department said ‘no.’”

“Policy violence is devastating to New York,” one speaker explained on a video beamed between speeches from the podium. It affects “2.4 million kids” and is “undermining our neighbors’ rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” she added, quoting the Declaration of Independence.

Rural poverty is a major issue, too, said Mark Froemke, chair of Minnesota’s West Area Central Labor Council, which also covers North Dakota. “It’s like Charles Dickens’ Tale Of Two Cities.

“In the smaller towns, wages are low, there are no benefits, and everybody’s having trouble saving. Issues such as housing and child care are crushing the working class. Minnesota’s done a good job on all of them, but cross the Red River” west into Republican-dominated North Dakota “and they’re not being dealt with.”

Decent affordable housing and federal child care subsidies are among the domestic programs the Poor People’s Campaign demands funding for, too. They’re also in Democratic President Biden’s Build Back Better bill, to expand and improve the frayed U.S. social safety net. The Chamber of Commerce, the Republicans, and the two renegade Democratic senators have prevented even debate on the BBB.

Union members in lower-rung jobs struggle, too. DiRaimo, a member of Teachers (AFT) Local 2334 at the City University of New York, said that after decades of supporting staff jobs, she still makes only $40,000 yearly. That’s not enough to live on in the Big Apple, and there’s “a two-tiered pay system at CUNY, too.” She actually made more per hour as a nurse, but that was a temp job.

“We don’t get” health care “benefits to cover the whole family,” just her, DiRaimo said. “And some adjuncts (non-tenured faculty) have to get food stamps to live on” during the school year “and live in their cars during the summer.” They don’t get paid then.

The AFL-CIO agrees with the campaign’s analysis. “We all know that we should not have to be here. We should have to join together in the streets and march to end poverty because poverty is a failure,” said its Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond, days after the federation’s four-day convention.

“It’s a failure of the system and not of the people. Being poor is not a failure. Being poor is not a crime. The crime is in accepting a system that allows for poverty. Poverty exists because we allow it to exist.”

Attendees at the D.C. mobilization. | @unitethepoor via Twitter

Barber reiterated the campaign’s demand for a face-to-face White House meeting between poor and low-wealth people and Biden. So far, the White House has been silent, though staffers have occasionally met with campaign leaders.

“I know the phones work and emails work. We demand a White House poverty summit with President Biden, to allow this administration to meet with a delegation of poor and low wealth people, religious leaders, and economists—now!” he said.

So the campaign and its allies will hold politicians’ feet to the electoral fire unless they move fast and forcefully to help solve the problems bedeviling poor and low-wage people in the U.S.

“We are here today fighting for every worker, fighting for unions for all, and a government that works for all. Our votes this November are not a show of support. They are a demand. And we demand that every corporation and every elected official hear us,” Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry said.

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People’s World en Washington, D.C. Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

People’s World, June 21, 2022, https://www.peoplesworld.org/

Today’s Poor People’s Campaign carries on MLK’s fight for economic justice / by Cameron Orr

Participants in the southern leg of the original Poor People’s Campaign march through Atlanta, May 10, 1968. The group was on its way to Washington, D.C. On June 18th this year, today’s Poor People’s Campaign will again bring a message of economic justice, voting rights, and anti-racism to the nation’s capital. | AP

Co-chaired by Rev. William J. Barber II and Liz Theoharis, the Poor People’s Campaign began in May 2018 with 40 days of coordinated action at statehouses across the U.S. to confront systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism, and the war economy.

Now mobilizing for a massive June 18th “Mass Poor People’s and Low Wage Workers’ Assembly,” today’s Poor People’s Campaign is reviving the work of the original Poor People’s Campaign led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968.

Billed as a “moral march on Washington and to the polls” for the November elections, the event next weekend will target lawmakers and push them to address what the Poor People’s Campaign calls the “moral, economic, and political crisis” facing the nation.

From the west coast to the east and at all points in between, people are signing up for spots on buses and joining in the organizing. And they’re bringing co-workers, family, friends, and neighbors with them to the nation’s capital. The massive march will occur, appropriately, on Juneteenth weekend, which celebrates the democratic revolution that ended slavery and established Black Reconstruction in the South.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., displays the poster that was to be used during the Poor People’s Campaign, March 4, 1968. | Horace Cort / AP

The original Poor People’s Campaign was the last big effort led by King before his assassination, the capstone to all his work on behalf of the racially and economically oppressed. King was instrumental in bringing together the labor and civil rights coalition that defeated key planks of the Jim Crow counterrevolution after Reconstruction. Then, as now, the forces of democracy and the extreme right were in sharp confrontation.

When King declared, “I have a dream!” to more than a quarter-million people in D.C. in August 1963, KKK and police terror in Alabama was still a fresh wound. As many as 1,000 children in Birmingham had walked out of school the previous May to protest segregation, only to be greeted with fire hoses, police dogs, batons, and arrests. But that action forced the Birmingham Truce Agreement, a set of anti-segregationist measures, followed by white supremacist bombings, civil unrest, and heavy repression.

“We have…come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now,” King declared then. “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

The current Poor People’s Campaign says it’s that time again. Today’s demands have echoes of the past.

By the time of King’s 1963 speech, President John F. Kennedy had already been pushed to propose the Civil Rights Act. But it was blocked by a filibuster in the Senate. By November—three months after the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), NAACP, United Auto Workers (UAW), Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and other civil rights and labor organizations had gathered along the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pools—Kennedy had been assassinated.

Nonetheless, one year later, the movement behind King won the Civil Rights Act and anti-poverty “Great Society” legislation. In August 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. But ten days before pen was put to paper launching the War on Poverty, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, escalating the U.S.’ war on Vietnam. That’s when King increasingly began to highlight the connection between racism, poverty, and militarism.

“It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both Black and white, through the poverty program,” he said in 1967. “Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated.”

In November 1967, King announced the Poor People’s Campaign, with a plan to descend on Washington the following May. The campaign demanded $30 billion for a program of full employment, guaranteed income, and more low-income housing.

Four weeks before the scheduled mobilization, King was assassinated in Memphis. He was there for a march with mainly Black sanitation workers, striking against unequal wages and working conditions after a horrific incident in which two sanitation workers were crushed to death.

The movement mourned, but it pushed forward. The Poor People’s Campaign carried on under the leadership of King’s successor at the SCLC, Rev. Ralph Abernathy.

The leaders of today’s Poor People’s Campaign: Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. | Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP

Corretta Scott King led a Mother’s Day protest in D.C., beginning two weeks of demonstrations for an Economic Bill of Rights. A six-week tent encampment named “Resurrection City” was built on the national mall. The UAW brought 80 busloads out for the 50,000-strong protests on “Solidarity Day,” held on June 19th—Juneteenth.

On June 4th, as thousands occupied the national mall, Robert Kennedy, the candidate most aligned with the civil rights movement, won the California Democratic Party primary. Later that night, he was shot and killed. Twenty days later, over one thousand police came to the national mall to evict Resurrection City, arresting hundreds of people. Six months later, the ultra-right forces behind Nixon, who railed in his campaign against “rioters” and promised more policing and to protect segregated schooling, would come to power following the November elections.

Four decades later, organized labor and civil rights organizations across the country united to elect the nation’s first Black president, Barack Obama. What followed was both the racist Tea Party reaction that gridlocked Congress in 2010 and brought Trump to power six years later.

But a broad labor and left-wing struggle also arose to push a democratic agenda forward—from Occupy Wall Street in 2011 and the #Fightfor15 and a Union to Black Lives Matter, the 2017 Women’s March, and more recent fights to defend abortion rights. LGBTQ equality struggles have escalated, especially in defense of trans people, and a new rising militancy in the labor movement, increasingly led by young workers, is pushing forward union drives across the ountry. The small-d democratic and socialist-oriented electoral struggles that supported Bernie Sanders, AOC, and Stacey Abrams are a part of that mass democratic movement, too.

That’s the context for today’s Poor People’s Campaign.

Its leaders come by their activism naturally. Barber was born two days after the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. His parents moved to North Carolina when he was in kindergarten to participate with the school desegregation movement, and he’s been a fighter ever since. The church he pastors, Greenleaf Christian Church Disciples of Christ, is a “123-year-old congregation founded by former slaves.”

“If you follow the James River from this city down to the sea, you will find the place where my African American ancestors first set foot on these shores,” Barber told marchers in Richmond, Va., in 2016 for the Fight for $15 convention. They were in “the capital of the former Confederacy,” he reminded the crowd.

Behind him loomed a statue of Robert E. Lee statue, since removed and cut up in pieces after the enormous 2021 Black Lives Matter demonstrations. “My African American ancestors were brought here to work the land, to build this nation, but they were paid nothing for their labor.”

He spoke of the reversal of the democratic gains of Black Reconstruction after the Civil War: “When African Americans served in the Southern legislatures for the first time, they built a movement with poor whites. … They rewrote the constitutions of every southern state,” and “banned work without pay, demanded equal protection under the law … This wasn’t in the 1960s, this was in the 1860s!” Barber noted that they wrote into those constitutions the right “to the enjoyment of the fruit of your labor.”

“They knew that labor without living wages was nothing but a pseudo form of slavery.”

Theoharis began her activism in college fighting homelessness in Philadelphia after moving there from her hometown of Milwaukee. As a student she became involved in a group called Empty the Shelters, a local affiliate of the National Union of the Homeless. After leading the establishment of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice, together with Barber she became a co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign in 2017.

“We cannot return to normal,” Theoharis wrote in a statement to President Trump and Congress amid the early days of the COVID-19 emergency. “This is not the time for trickle-down solutions. We know that when you lift from the bottom, everybody rises. There are concrete solutions to this immediate crisis and the longer term illnesses we have been battling for months, years, and decades before,” she said.

“We will continue to organize and build power until you meet these demands. Many millions of us have been hurting for far too long. We will not be silent anymore.”

The massive mobilization in Washington, D.C., on June 18th will be proof of that refusal to remain silent.

Cameron Orr is a musician and writer living in Brooklyn, New York.

People’s World, June 13, 2022,