The Escuelita Óscar Romero, a program of the Philadelphia branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation which primarily serves recently arrived Central American children, just concluded its first summer camp. What started off as a tutoring service done two to four times a week quickly became a holistic summer program, involving daily breakfast and lunch, enriching activities, education and even a field trip. What we lacked for in funds we made up for in creativity, study and organization. Many lessons were learned and still others reinforced. A concrete testament of people’s power was born and a tight bond has been established between the PSL and the neighborhood it serves.

For this program, a personal connection with a local church was the beginning. Spanish speaking Party members first helped with English learning and homework. After soliciting Spanish speaking volunteers from a local university student organization, more regular and frequent service became possible. The hard work of volunteers was essential — it would be impossible for PSL members to take on all the tasks ourselves, nor would we want to exclude the many people who were excited to hear about the EOR.

This not only made the program function more smoothly, but also served as an opportunity to build the movement for socialism, bringing people with popular hearts — a sincere and deep desire to fight for the people and better their conditions — closer to the PSL. Furthermore, the volunteers have brought their own connections. For instance, our free field trip came about as a result of volunteers spreading the word about this program.

Eventually, we were able to secure a deal to receive periodic donations from a local grocery store. Food that is perfectly fine to consume but would have been thrown out due to the irrationality of the capitalist system was collected and used for the program, as well as for a food pantry for community members. A similar system was set up with clothing, in which we solicited donations from friends and family and delivered them to the church.

Who is Óscar Romero?

Saint Óscar Romero came to prominence upon assuming his position as Archbishop of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. Originally conservative leaning, Romero tended towards liberation theology as the government’s ruthless repression of the revolutionary movement intensified.

His regular talks on the radio captivated thousands throughout the country, quickly making him one of the government’s most outspoken enemies. For this, he was assassinated by a U.S.-backed death squad lead by Roberto D’Aubuisson, the founder of the far-right Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party.

Even after his death, Romero remains a force to be reckoned with. Monseñor Romero’s words still echo around the world, especially in El Salvador and all of Latin America where he is revered as a champion of the poor.

EOR field trip

Escuelita Óscar Romero builds the movement for socialism

EOR is very clear that it is not a non-profit or a charity. We aim to lay the foundations for a truly mass movement for socialism rooted in the working class by building relationships and trust. On the one hand, by demonstrating our commitment to the community by providing services unjustly denied by the capitalist system the PSL is earning a reputation as an organization sincerely interested in improving the lives of the people. On the other hand, we are combating the isolation, individualism and fear that capitalism seeks to impose on working class neighborhoods — especially immigrant communities — and build the solidarity and unity needed to wage successful political struggles.

Having a party like the PSL as the anchor of the project is essential because the struggle demands vast organizational and political work. One thing that made this program so important was the campaign of terror targeting immigrants in the form of ICE raids and concentration camps; this is an objective condition (outside the influence of any person or organization) in U.S. society which has been building up over the past few years. However, the spontaneous outrage against abuses by ICE and Border Patrol alone cannot defeat the ruling class, and it is the job of an organization composed of steadfast cadres to channel this into long-term organization (taking subjective action based on the objective conditions).

EOR required many different functions to run and there were people with different strengths, resources, and schedules, meaning that peoples’ ability to help out with the program varied. If we had run this program solely on goodwill and the hope that people didn’t burn out, we would have made many mistakes and its revolutionary content and direction would have been watered down. Instead, because the PSL is a Leninist party able to deploy and redeploy its cadres where needed and centralize their political activity, we were more effectively able to concentrate our forces and retain the political character of the program.

Now, based on the success of EOR, community members and the PSL are forming a rapid response network to alert the neighborhood about the presence of ICE agents and resist their attempts to tear families apart.

Fuera Yanquis y Fuera ICE!

Far right politicians and the outright white supremacist fascists who they energize want to divide working people and convince those born in the United States that immigrants are the cause of the suffering they experience. But no one should be surprised that people are leaving El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in the tens of thousands after the U.S. government waged brutal wars of attrition in the region for the past several decades and installed repressive client regimes. It was only 10 years ago that the Obama administration (with Hillary Clinton serving as Secretary of State) aided in the ousting of Manuel Zelaya, bringing the country’s right wing to power. The current president, Juan Orlando Hernández, who has so far been wildly corrupt and unpopular.

The same big banks and corporations that pillage the wealth of the Central American countries people are fleeing from are the ones who are truly responsible for declining living standards in the United States. The people are fighting back all across Central America, in Latin America and the world against U.S. imperialism, and we support their just struggle. We can do our part here in the belly of the beast by building the movement against our common oppressors.

As U.S. capitalism continues to offer working people nothing but deepening poverty and repression, the ruling class is increasingly turning to overt racism and anti-immigrant hatred to distract from its decay, as it has done time and time again throughout history. In this period of intense repression, it’s important to extend solidarity, study and struggle with one another. This means being organized and disciplined and having a heart for the people.