“Movements don’t ask. Movements demand! Justice isn’t something you can beg and borrow. Justice is something you have to TAKE. You don’t negotiate justice.” -Frank Chapman
PYO-STL was honored to have been invited to send a delegate to Chicago, Illinois, to participate in the 2016 Conference of the International League of People’s Struggle, USA, with the slogan “Right to Resist, Right to Exist”. The conference marked the first anniversary of the police murder of LaQuan McDonald by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot him 16 times as he walked away. Van Dyke was on the scene for only 30 seconds before he opened fire on McDonald. The International League of People’s Struggle is the largest and most widespread formation of anti-imperialist organizations on Earth today, all members striving and struggling to realize the unity, cooperation and coordination of anti-imperialist and democratic struggles around the world. Attending this conference offered us the opportunity to learn directly from comrades with decades of experience and practice in anti-imperialist and democratic struggle, learn about how strong mass organizations function through witnessing the strength and power of organizations led by Filipino comrades who have been making revolution and waging a powerful and millions strong anti-imperialist struggle for decades, and also learn from comrades in Chicago who have been taking an active role in mass movements and conducting powerful mass work for decades. We were also able to link up with, learn from, and enjoy the company of both old and new comrades from across the country, coming from places as diverse as Los Angeles, Chicago, Kansas City, the Bay Area, and New York City, belonging to a variety of organizations, ranging from the Filipino women’s mass organization Gabriela to Anakbayan to Students for Justice in Palestine to our own sister branch, Progressive Youth Organization, Kansas City. All of us were united in our burning desire to learn from and assume our role in building a strong, powerful, and sharp anti-imperialist movement in the United States, the belly of the beast.
The conference opened with a song performance from two Black women comrades, KOStar, expressing the anger and rage of the masses at the continued genocide against the Black oppressed nation in the United States, a message from Palestinian national liberation hero Leila Khaled, and a reading of an address from ILPS Coordinating Committee Chairperson Professor Jose Maria Sison, titled “The People Have the Right to Resist Monopoly Capitalist Exploitation, State Repression and Racism”. Professor Sison expressed solidarity with the masses of the United States who suffer under state repression and set the tone of the conference as one where we, serious revolutionaries and mass organizers, would exchange strategies and advice regarding, as we say, “how to get free”. There were then addresses from Frank Chapman, a veteran Black mass organizer who was railroaded into prison at the age of 19 for robbery and first degree murder, beaten and tortured by the police until he was forced to issue a false confession. He now organizes as educational director and field organizer with the Chicago Alliance against Racist and Political Repression. His address was extremely well received. He linked up the oppression that the masses across the world face and the ramifications both at home and abroad, and taught about the struggle of the masses of Chicago, led by the Chicago Alliance against Racist and Political Repression, for CPAC, or Civilian Police Accountability Council, which is a democratic, popular, and mass demand that would place handcuffs on police in the City of Chicago, and curb the notoriously crooked city executive’s control over the police, placing more power over the police in the hands of the community. The experience of the CAARPR and the CPAC struggle against the police is a good example of effective organization of the masses. Organizers that are integrated into and residing in neighborhoods impacted by police brutality go among the people, investigate their concerns, and organize, mobilize, and struggle around these demands. This struggle is of the masses of Chicago, for the masses of Chicago, by the masses of Chicago. Chapman also expressed gratitude for the Filipino mass organizations taking part in the National Democratic Movement for joining the struggle in the United States against racist police oppression in a big, systematic, wilful, and organized way. This shows the power of internationalism and the ultimate necessity of seeing the struggles of our worker, student, national minority and peasant comrades overseas or from different groups at home as our own, and joining with them in their victories, standing beside them in their struggles, and mourning their martyrs alongside them.
The spirit of internationalism was present all throughout our time in Chicago, with Palestinian, African-American, Indian, Latin American, and comrades from all across the world joining together in the spirit of righteous outrage and anger at our common enemy and determination to struggle against and build a firm and solid movement against the continued oppression and exploitation of our peoples at home and abroad. We also heard from a representative speaking on behalf of Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian freedom fighter and victim of political repression who was kidnapped, incarcerated, and subjected to merciless torture by agents of the fascist state that calls itself Israel. She came to the United States, only to face political repression and be threatened with revocation of her citizenship, prison time, and deportation to Jordan for supposedly lying on immigration documents. Odeh’s case is still being struggled out in court, and it is essential that we mobilize to not only defend the democratic rights of this veteran people’s fighter and hero, but also continue to participate in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that the Palestinian masses have demanded of us in the West and also continue the struggle against American support of Israel and oppression of those who organize in solidarity with the Palestinian people, on and off college campuses. We also received an address from Sarah Chambers of the Chicago Teachers’ Union, one of the most advanced, militant, integrated with the masses, and powerful unions in the country, and learned of their vicious and long struggle against the crooked Chicago mayor (and former Obama Chief of Staff) and “schoolyard bully” Rahm Emanuel and his administration. The CTU and others brought not only teachers, but black and brown parents and students into the struggle against the racist, neoliberal school system, organizing mobilizations against racist standardized tests and school closures. The struggle for CPAC, the struggle for Justice for Rasmea Odeh, and the struggle in the Chicago schools all have one thing in common: they are mass struggles, they are struggles not only for a petty interest of a certain few, or for trifling demands, these are direct confrontations and class struggles that involve thousands of people. In Saint Louis, the oppression is just as sharp, the struggle against racist administrators, cops, gentrifiers, and all that which would seek to destroy us requires just as much mass organization and leadership. We have a duty as revolutionary youth. Our duty, as laid out by our comrades at home and abroad, is to build the organized, militant and powerful movement against capital-imperialism, against police terror, against all that causes hunger, war, and want, right here in this city. These addresses were followed by a panel session in which all were welcome to ask questions directly to these veteran organizers, and the responses had the same tune: build struggle, oppose imperialism, always remain linked to the masses and orient to them to grow the anti-imperialist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, popular revolutionary mass movement in your city. Do not just mobilize, organize and build the mass movement, the mass organization, and raise political consciousness to prepare for higher forms of struggle. Do not just organize for reforms in a sporadic fashion, take every opportunity to point out and tie in these problems to the greater system of capitalism-imperialism that loots, kills and robs our comrades in the Philippines, Mexico, India, Nepal, and all over the world, and constantly struggle to practice working class internationalism of the oppressed and exploited. Following this, there was a second panel and addresses from Abayomi Azikiwe of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice, Lyn Meza of the ILPS International Coordinating Group, and Paul Quintos, ILPS Research Director, on the importance and methods of building a strong anti-imperialist solidarity movement in the United States.
We then separated into breakout groups, where we struggled with the questions: “How can we link and raise our issues towards building anti-imperialist solidarity in the US?” and “What suggestions do you have for the ILPS CC in strengthening ILPS US?” On the first, our group agreed that we must develop forums and educational activities that are lively and mass based, build coalitions of mass based groups and organizations are necessary to involve the broadest segments of the masses in our campaigns at all levels, link our individual and local struggles to capitalism-imperialism in a palatable and tangible way, struggle to bridge the “generation gap”, and avoid heavy-handed, dogmatic, and inaccessible language in our dealings with the masses of our people. All of these must be used to truly organize the masses, not just appeal to those who are already activists, because we know that a small clique of activists can never hope to accomplish much. It is the masses that make history. The coalitions and campaigns in Chicago involve churches, community groups, student organizations, and other groups that are integral parts of the lives of the masses of people. On the second question, we agreed that ILPS must have materials in different languages and ensure that the materials are digestible by the broad masses of people. ILPS organizations must also work among and build struggle the masses of youth, not just students but all youth. Our group’s findings were then summed up and presented before the conference.
Our delegate volunteered for security duty at the 600 person strong community mobilization for CPAC later that evening. This provided more practical experience in our arsenal in regards to effectively planning and handling large demonstrations, mobilizations and protests, and preventing our comrades from being injured or arrested because of negligence or slipshod organizing/poor planning. We had what we had already known regarding the necessity of maintaining open lines of communication, maintaining contact, knowing the location of the nearest hospitals to the protest route, the location of police precincts, and assigning roles and duties to ensure the mobilization goes well to comrades who have experience or skills that would ensure that situations do not get out of hand and comrades have a strong as steel support network in place should anything happen. We also learned the importance of developing a strict protocol of discipline for organizers and security detail in regards to avoiding or de-escalating potentially dangerous situations.
Chicago is a city of struggle, as is Saint Louis. Both cities have long and proud histories of liberation struggle, both cities have masses of disenfranchised, nationally oppressed, poor people who are, daily, driven deeper and deeper into poverty and new forms of hellish exploitation. Our involvement in the ILPS conference and our linking up with our comrades from across the country gifted us with several valuable practical experiences, lessons, and stories that have sharpened our ability to do our duty to the masses of the whole world, which is to build an organized, disciplined, and anti-imperialist mass movement here in the Saint Louis Metropolitan Area.
Long Live International Solidarity!