Workers. Youth. Detroit. Boston. These are now in the forefront of the consciousness of many of the political activists who attended this year’s Workers World Party annual national conference. It was a life-changing experience. Not just the words, but the electric atmosphere sparked early in the Nov. 16-17 weekend meeting here in New York. More than 300 attended from 20 states and dozens of cities
As the party prepared to grapple with strategy for this period of dead-end capitalism, Boston school bus unionists arrived. In the midst of their own life-and-death struggle against the Veolia transnational monopoly, a busload of Boston school bus drivers, mainly of Haitian and Cape Verdean origin, walked into the meeting hall to the cheers and shouts of the hundreds of participants, many of them young people attending their first WWP conference.
When Veolia’s management and Boston officials attacked some Steelworkers Local 8751 leaders and baited them as WWP members, it seems unlikely they had in mind strengthening solidarity between the union and the party. But that’s what happened. The drivers listened attentively to a Marxist analysis of the capitalist crisis.
At the end, conference participants approved a resolution to battle Veolia wherever possible and help the union defend its leaders and win.
From Garrett Dicembre’s introduction Saturday morning to the open-mike session on Sunday, participants could hear and feel the change in consciousness of the working class. Youths, themselves in low-paid and insecure jobs, described their own moment of realization that the U.S. “American dream” had turned into their nightmare of abuse, racism, sexual harassment and job loss — and led them to commit to a life of organized class struggle.
Minutes after the bus drivers filled three rows of seats at the front of the hall, the delegation from Cuba’s U.N. Mission arrived. This sparked another round of cheers. WWP and its friends have felt close solidarity with socialist Cuba since the Cuban Revolution first confronted U.S. imperialism.
As Ariel Hernandez Hernandez, first secretary of the mission, described Cuba’s measures to defend its socialist gains against the U.S. blockade, cheers and chants of “Free the Cuban Five” and “Cuba sí, bloqueo no” filled the room and set the mood for the conference.
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