Far from the “change” promised by President Obama and his new administration, 2009 reinforced capitalism’s status quo. It was a year of suffering for workers and poor people.
The greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression rocked the working class, as banks and corporations fell. But the banks had an advantage―the capitalists and their government managers engineered the largest bailout in human history: $11 trillion and counting!
Because 2009 was a year where the capitalists heightened their attack on workers, it was a year of fightback for the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
The PSL was founded five years ago as a working-class party in the United States to fight the racist, bigoted, parasitic capitalist ruling class. Our ultimate goal is to do away with capitalism and reorganize society to meet people’s needs. All of the PSL’s activities―large and small―build toward this goal―socialism.
Socialism and City Hall
Dynamic mayoral campaigns in New York and Los Angeles were major areas of work for two of the PSL’s largest branches in 2009.
The PSL has no illusions about the class character of bourgeois elections. Just as the PSL did in 2008 when it ran candidates for President, Vice President and various state and local positions, the PSL uses the elections as a tactic to fight the capitalists in their own arena.
The PSL ran student and working mother Frances Villar for mayor of New York against billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg. Villar was the first woman of color to run for mayor of the country’s largest city.
Frances Villar speaks out against police
brutality in Harlem
The PSL’s Villar campaign of “putting poor and working people first” reached tens of thousands of New Yorkers. Villar received a higher percentage of votes than any socialist on the ballot since 1981.
Through hard work and dramatic actions, the Villar campaign was able to break through the corporate media blockade. The campaign was covered in all the major Spanish-language newspapers, on television, and even in the capitalists’ paper of record, the New York Times.
Months earlier in Los Angeles, the PSL ran student and grocery worker Carlos Alvarez for mayor. The PSL campaign fought vigorously for workers’ rights and defended undocumented immigrants in debates and town hall meetings across the vast city.
Alvarez espoused a socialist platform on Good Day LA, a television show with millions of viewers. PSL members and friends spent countless hours going door-to-door in oppressed neighborhoods to talk to people about the necessity of fighting for socialism. Alvarez garnered more votes than any socialist candidate for L.A. mayor since 1957.
Spreading the written word
A central task of the PSL as a revolutionary Marxist party is to spread socialist ideas. In 2009, the PSL continued to build its publishing apparatus.
Liberation newspaper, the PSL’s biweekly organ, celebrated its second anniversary in June. Last year, many thousands of copies of each issue were distributed on subways, in the streets, and at demonstrations, political meetings, schools and workplaces.
The party’s website, pslweb.org, has grown in popularity, drawing an increasing number of readers for articles on issues important to workers.
In addition, the party published its first book, “Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire,” by PSL member Richard Becker. It focuses on the Zionist colonization of historic Palestine and Israel’s role as a watchdog for U.S. interests. “Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire” was written, edited, designed, published and distributed by PSL members. A 30-city tour to promote the book lasted from October to December. The tour will continue into 2010.
Protests ring in the New Year
Another key aspect of the PSL’s program is participation in mass work.
Days before 2009 began, the PSL mobilized with tens of thousands of people across the world to oppose Israel’s murderous bombing of Gaza. The first day of coordinated actions, called by the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), of which the PSL is a leading member, and Palestinian and other Arab American allies, resulted in over 100 protests demanding an end to the attack.
On Jan. 10, after the ground invasion of Gaza by Israel, the PSL mobilized for a worldwide day of coordinated rallies that brought 20,000 people to the streets of Washington, D.C., and 10,000 each in L.A., San Francisco and Chicago. The PSL organized dozens more Gaza solidarity actions from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Florida to Boston and beyond.
D.C. Gaza protest, Jan. 10, 2009
Other Palestine solidarity actions organized by the PSL and ANSWER included the June 6 Gaza Solidarity Day protests across the country.
PSL members also traveled to Gaza in July to break the siege on the Viva Palestina caravan, led by British M.P. George Galloway.
Renewed anti-war struggle
Less than two months after the Gaza protests, the PSL helped ANSWER spearhead the first national anti-war protest after Obama took office, on March 21, the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. In Washington, D.C., tens of thousands marched to the Pentagon and then delivered mock coffins to the doorsteps of defense contractors. Thousands more marched in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle on the same day.
As many sectors of the movement were “waiting to see” what path the Obama administration would take, the PSL was in the streets demanding an end to colonial war and occupation.
March 21 also marked the initiation of March Forward, a new, anti-imperialist organization comprised of veterans and active duty service members founded by PSL members.
ANSWER organized the first national day of protest against the Afghanistan war in October. After Obama ordered a dramatic escalation of the war in December, the PSL and its allies responded with emergency protests on the day after the announcement.
Around the country
PSL offices around the country are centers of activism and Marxist study. The PSL is growing. New layers of committed organizers have entered our ranks. Branches located in cities like Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Florida, Chicago, New Haven, Conn., Boston, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore have experienced significant growth.
New branches are being formed, like in Philadelphia. Members have joined in Kentucky, Ohio, Louisiana, Georgia, Michigan, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas and elsewhere.
PSL members are fighting for workers’ rights, doing community organizing, struggling against racism, sexism, anti-LGBT bigotry, immigrant bashing and police brutality, working to stop the war, and holding socialism conferences, public forums, cultural events and film showings.
In Washington, D.C., the PSL joined community members in a struggle to stop the cutoff of gas and electricity to hundreds of thousands of working-class people.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, the PSL helped organize protests following the outrageous police killing of Oscar Grant, an African American man, at an Oakland transit station.
Riverside Anti-Nazi demonstration, Oct. 24, 2009
Photo: Bethany Malmgren
In Los Angeles, the PSL mobilized thousands for mass rallies on April 4 and May 1 to demand immigrant rights. The actions were organized by the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition and the ANSWER Coalition. A socialism conference drew over 200 people in November.
In Chicago, the PSL campaigned against the city’s ploy to increase parking meter fees, and launched a campaign to oppose transit rate hikes.
In New York City, the PSL organized to win justice for Kenny Lazo, a young man beaten to death by the police in Long Island.
In Boston, the PSL played a leading role in a community coalition to fight against transit fee increases.
And the PSL organized and supported student actions against tuition hikes across the country. Students Fight Back, an organization founded by PSL members, led student actions in California and participated in the mass demonstrations that brought the University of California system to a halt.
The PSL is highly integrated into the democratic struggle for LGBT rights. In Washington, D.C., the PSL mobilized for the National Equality March, a demonstration of 250,000 people demanding same-sex marriage rights and LGBT equality.
Just months before, the PSL organized for actions that drew tens of thousands after the California Supreme Court affirmed bigoted Proposition 8. PSL branches marched in LGBT pride events in their area.
These are just a few examples of the vibrant organizing going on every day out of PSL branches and organizing centers around the country.
The PSL is very active in the movement in solidarity with Latin America.
Following the June coup against the government of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, the PSL worked in coalitions to organize actions supporting the anti-coup resistance.
Defending Cuba’s socialist revolution is a key part of our internationalist work. In September, the PSL mobilized for a day of action to demand freedom for the Cuban Five―Cuban nationals held unjustly in U.S. prisons for preventing U.S.-sponsored terrorism against Cuba.
PSL members provide leadership to the work of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five. We have initiated and participated in activities supporting other prisoners, including Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Angola 3, Troy Davis, Kevin Cooper and the San Francisco 8.
The PSL also sent delegates to Cuba, Belgium, Japan and El Salvador over the past year to participate in international solidarity events.
As we move into 2010, the PSL will continue to forge working-class consciousness. We seek to build a new, popular movement for socialism in the United States.
Join us in the fight for revolutionary change. Join the struggle for socialism.