Party for Socialism and Liberation candidate Nicholas Powell: ‘Why I joined the PSL’

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Transcript from April 10 conference presentation

On Saturday, April 10, over 100 people attended a Socialism Conference sponsored by the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Washington, D.C. Participants traveled to D.C. from Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, North Carolina, Kentucky and elsewhere to participate in a day of panels and discussions.

My name is Nicholas Powell and I am a candidate member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Baltimore. As a candidate member of the PSL, I have begun a six-month program that all new members go through to help them learn the PSL’s political program and what it means to be in a revolutionary party in the United States.

Let me share some things about myself and why I decided to join the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

The area where I grew up was very working class oriented, but it was more farmland than anything else. When I was in middle school I had an oral English project that I needed to complete. The project was to portray a character in a book in a presentation acting as that character. This is when I found Malcolm X’s autobiography on my grandmother’s book shelf and decided to complete the project as Malcolm upon returning from his hajj. This was an important time for me, after discovering Malcolm X, I would go on to discover the Black Panther Party, Che Guevara, and many more. But those played the most prominent role in my education.

During my last semester of High School I began working with the United Workers Association, a human rights organization led by low-wage workers and focused on leadership development through education, reflection and action. I volunteered with them throughout the year of 2007 working with them on the “Living Wages at Camden Yards Campaign.”

The Living Wages at Camden Yards Campaign resulted in raised wages for cleaners at the stadium from a flat rate that averaged less than $4.50 an hour in 2003 to the state’s living wage rate of $11.30 an hour. As a result, each year more than $300,000 has shifted to meeting the needs of low-wage workers and families, instead of profiting exploitive temp agencies paying poverty wages. After a three-year struggle, workers announced that a hunger strike of 14 workers and allies would commence without a living wages solution by September 1, 2007. On the day of the deadline, Governor Martin O’Malley called on the publicly owned stadium to shift policy and pay cleaners a living wage.

This experience showed me what an organized working class can achieve, and opened my eyes to the real and very alive energy the working class has to provide. I realized, even more than I knew before, that oppression can only end at the hands of the oppressed.

After the hunger strike was called off, I went on my quest to get more involved, and in different areas I felt strongly attached to. One of those being the anti-imperialist movement here in the U.S., which I was introduced to by seeing information about the ANSWER coalition’s September 15, 2007 action in which 100,000 people came together in front of the White House to demand an immediate end to the wars. I was mesmerized by ANSWER’s ability to mobilize so many people for this day of action. As a member of the PSL, now I know how critical the members of this Party are to the organizing efforts of the ANSWER Coalition.

After participating in a civil disobedience action with 200 others that day that resulted in arrest, we were greeted with food outside of the holding center by members of the ANSWER coalition and the PSL. And even in the D.C. court appearance we had to make following the demonstration, Brian Becker, National Coordinator of the ANSWER coalition and a leading organizer of the PSL was right there getting to know us. This personal appreciation of the on-the-ground activists made quite the impression on, not just me, but the other folks who were due to report in court that day that I spoke with.

I became acquainted with the PSL this same year when a new branch in Baltimore was formed. I found an instant attraction to the PSL because of the work that they put into the ANSWER coalition and the way that they uphold the ideology of revolutionary Marxism by putting in the work to organize a truly revolutionary working class party.

Last October, I made the decision to join the PSL. I began to think more of the importance of a revolutionary working class force right here in the heart of world imperialism.

With the help of comrades, I was guided into the candidacy program, which has helped me get a better understanding of revolutionary concepts and history. The candidacy program is an important process for equipping all members with the knowledge and history that will help them become better revolutionaries in the immediate and distant future. We study issues and topics such as the history and development of China, LGBT oppression, as well as basic concepts of capitalism and socialism.

The D.C. branch of the PSL also holds a number of regular events aimed at enhancing the political education of those interested.

Every other Friday, we hold a community forum on topics that affect our class—the working class. Our next community forum will be commemorating May Day, otherwise known as International Workers Day. We will also be discussing an important local issue—D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s proposed budget for 2011 that may result in drastic cuts to a number of vital social programs and layoffs. This presentation will be given by a PSL member who is also a D.C. government worker and a union organizer who will be discussing in detail the proposed budget, and how we will be fighting back. A flyer for this event that contains information about the time and place is in your conference packet.

We will also be holding a Marxism Class entitled: “Socialism 101: Myths & Facts.” This Marxism Class is held in seminar-style, and it is great opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the Marxist-Leninist view of socialism. A flyer regarding this class is also in your conference packet.

I hope everyone here has gotten a better understanding of socialism, class struggle, and the need for building and carrying out revolutionary change. I strongly urge all of you to talk to a member of the Party, to read our publications, come to our events, to visit our webpage,, and—most importantly—to consider joining, the Party and becoming a candidate member like me.

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