FIGHTING AND LEARNING IN FERGUSON
During the Ferguson October weekend, we practiced building with the working class. We learned so much from each other, but more from the workers in Ferguson. We learned from the courage of the youth in Lost Voices, who lead hundreds in daily marches to the Ferguson police station with PLP chants like “Mike Brown means we’ve got to fight back,” and their own “Who do we want? Darren Wilson! How do we want him? Dead! He left Mike Brown? Dead!”
On Saturday, we watched a documentary about Lost Voices with the members of the group, and had a sharp conversation with some of them about the direction of Lost Voices. One member thought we should vote, but we struggled with him over the need for a violent revolution for communism because the capitalist ruling class will never allow an election to overthrow a system that works for them! They listened.
In the middle of this, we suddenly heard that someone was being harassed by the police outside. They were harassing a black member of Lost Voices who had pulled up in a car driven by a young white worker. The car had an out-of-state license plate. Dozens of us poured outside, surrounded the police cars and started chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” That became “FTP! F*ck the police!” and “Hey hey! Ho ho! These racist cops have got to go!” We sent them packing. The cops saw our strength and took off in a full retreat.
The working class has power and once we flex our muscles, the rulers don’t stand a chance.
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My morale about this weekend was low before we went door-to-door selling CHALLENGE, because I was cynical about the effectiveness of going door-to-door. I was wrong.
The police harassed us within 30 seconds of arriving at the first apartment complex of almost completely black workers. When we spoke to a black Vietnam veteran, he told us some things about life in this apartment complex.
Children can’t even bounce any type of ball without police harassment;
People can’t leave their porches without the police stopping and asking where they were going;
St. Louis County Police began really moving in after Mike Brown’s shooting, so now they get harassed by the Ferguson PD AND the St. Louis County PD.
We talked with several more workers and everyone was happy to receive CHALLENGE and thanked us. When we went to a nearby apartment complex, the reaction to CHALLENGE was awesome, and people were even more receptive to our ideas. One of the conversations we had was with a young mother and her child, a high school student. They were excited when we articulated our vision of communism, especially when they thought about life without the police and landlords.
Everyone we spoke to was very turned on by our ideas.
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The trip to Ferguson that I made with my comrades taught me about commitment to our Party, and what commitment to the international working class means.
Almost everyone in our PLP contingent was fighting off some type of fever or respiratory infection, but no one complained. Not once. We knew the work we were doing this weekend was important for the international working class. We marched in the whipping rain and we called for armed revolution loudly and proudly. In between the sharp discussions analyzing our objectives and our plans, we marched, chanted, distributed our literature and CHALLENGE. We engaged other workers and students politically with so many positive reactions it even surprised us a little. And then we regrouped, took care of each other, bought more medicine, made criticisms and self-criticisms, and did it again. And again.
The person that taught me the most about commitment, however, was one of the leaders of the Ferguson rebellion. This 24 year-old male black rebel from Ferguson, who has two children, had this to say: “We got to fight back. Is that even a question? We don’t have the guns and tanks like they do but when we were all in the street together, confronting them you know, we felt like we could take over the world. And you know what? All of those people who came in and told us to calm down, they ain’t fighting. And then we saw people like y’all from all over the world coming and supporting us and we knew we were right... I’m doing this for my kids so they don’t have the life we had. I want my kids to grow up proud of me. I want them to say “daddy was a freedom fighter.” That’s what this is. We fighting for freedom.”
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PLP’s actions in Ferguson October reminded us of the power of internationalism. Along with CHALLENGE, we delivered a hand-written letter. Youth respected that veterans from the U.S. Navy sent a letter of solidarity to Ferguson rebels. They respected that comrades sent the message, “All the way from Haiti, we understand what your struggle is all about. Just like in Ferguson, the criminal cops massacre youth.” They respected that comrades from Mexico wrote, “We honor Michael Brown and all youth terrorized and murdered by capitalism.” To win the fight against cops and capitalism, the fight must cross, and finally demolish, national borders. These greetings and their reception show how potentially powerful PLP’s line “Smash All Borders” and “One world. One class. One Party” can be.
Too often, we underestimate the power of our politics. Ferguson October was as much a test of PL’s line as it was a test of PL’s young comrades. PL youth have learned a lot from the masses this weekend, mainly that workers are willing to fight for communism. Two Chicago students actively defended us when pacifist Unitarians tried to attack our bullhorn. In another case, students took up the chant, “They can’t stop the revolution. ‘Cause the only solution is communist revolution!” Upon hearing it for the first time, one woman-student replied, “Oh, I guess I can get down with that,” and co-led the chant with the PL’er.
These fightbacks aren’t just happening in the streets. For six days, protesters occupied the St. Louis University’s clock tower. Hundreds had turned a march into a sit-in, which turned into an occupation. Students and residents connected the racist cops in the streets to the racist policies on campus. Antiracist fighters clashed with racist pro-Darren-Wilson Cardinal fans and outside Busch Stadium.
In a flashmob, a dozen of mainly black and white protesters sang “Which Side Are You On” and unfurled a banner of Mike Brown at a St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. In the words of the flashmob fighters, “justice for Mike Brown means justice for us all.” Justice for Mike Brown requires an overthrow of not only the cops, but the masters of this state: capitalists. Ferguson is polarizing everyday people — including our friends, classmates, co-workers — to choose between siding with workers’ struggles to siding with the bosses and their ideas. Ferguson has set a new standard for what fightbacks should look like in the States. We are eager to bring these lessons back to our campuses, workplaces, and mass organizations!
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The Ferguson October Weekend of Action was a great opportunity for us to show our solidarity with the people of Ferguson. It was great witnessing the movement happening there. The major players behind the protests understand that the system is not working — and it never will. It was our job and will continue to be our job to make it known that only a communist society can put an end to police brutality, wars, poverty, all the ills that capitalism breeds.
Despite what the ruling class often portrays, people were generally receptive to what we had to say. The working-class youth in particular listened to us, collected CHALLENGE and joined in our chants. They encouraged our presence. The tide is indeed changing.
This trip also provided great opportunities for myself and my comrades to learn the ins and outs of organizing. At times we were frustrated but we challenged and supported each other to make this trip a success. For me, our involvement in the Ferguson Weekend of Action is just a glimpse of what our Party can do to bring forth a communist society.
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Last Saturday, three busloads of workers from Chicago joined the anti-racist protest in St. Louis against police brutality. On the bus and at the march, we distributed CHALLENGE and supported the enthusiastic chants.
CHALLENGE and the idea that we need a communist revolution were well-received, especially by the young workers and students. In fact one of the popular chants included “the whole damn system is guilty as hell”. Some, but not most, joined our chant, “the only solution is communist revolution.” We have a lot more work to do before that is a popular chant, but we will get there.
The PLP “Wanted for Murder” poster was quite popular. It is possible that the Ferguson Weekend will mark the beginning of a new anti-racist movement, but it’s too soon to tell. We do know that PLP will continue to immerse itself in and help lead these and other anti-racist, anti-capitalist struggles. I feel lucky to have been there.
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