Young Fighters Toughen Up
The following three letters are from PL’ers and friends who participated in the Black Lives Matters Convention
The trip to the Black Lives Matter Convention opened my eyes to the realities of Black Nationalism. It was disturbingly clear throughout this event that ultimately Black-only spaces reinforce ideas of racism and dupe honest working-class people into the false promise of healing, and only served to open old wounds while igniting hostile nationalistic fervor. I’m now cognizant that the purpose of the Black Lives Matter organization is not the so-called liberation of Black workers, but their imprisonment under Black capitalists.
As a multiracial group, my comrades and I attended the Black Lives Matter (BLM) convention the weekend of July 24. Instantly, we were met with hostility by the organizers and were confronted for being a multiracial group by the founders and organizers of BLM.
The organizers wanted to know how we “identify” ourselves, stating this is a space for Black people to heal. They targeted our two white comrades. The coordinator asked if they could leave. We said, “Do you have a separate space for our white comrades to go to?”
“No, but we’re working on it,” they responded.
We said, “we’ve came together, we fight together, and we’re staying together.” We then headed to our first workshop.
The workshop we attended was titled “turn down on ourselves, turn up on the state.” It was going well until one of the “healers” of BLM led the attack against the white participants and then proceeded to attack our Black comrades who spoke up for multiracial unity. We held our ground, saying that if you are serious about fighting racism, you can’t operate under the laws of racism. We can never be a threat to the rulers if our class remains divided. The only way for workers to heal is by fighting back.
After feeling a bit dejected for getting kicked out, we still decided to have a rally the next day. We got into a scuffle with the BLM for having a rally against racism. We stood together and fought back when they tried to attack our female comrade and take the bullhorn. A few participants in the crowd assisted in physically defending us against the leadership’s attack. We left chanting, “Racism means, we got to fight back!”
We had a forum afterwards. Many of us were shaken up and wanted to cancel the forum, but the collective chose to stay. Out of frustration and fear, one comrade walked out before the forum began.
One hour later, we had five people join our forum. We openly discussed communism and the possibility of an armed revolution. We made great contacts. Some BLM participants said, “What happened to you was messed up.” Our new friends and then joined us at a town hall meeting of families who lost their kids to racist police terror.
This trip taught me that fighting back is healing. Also, we need to fight against individualism. We are stronger together than apart. This event only lit my fire for the fight for a communist future. If you’re not fighting racism, you are maintaining capitalism. Join the Fight!
I attended the Movement for Black Lives convention in Cleveland with Black Lives Matter (BLM) Gary. What I saw at this convention disgusted me. BLM Gary is a multiracial group that fights racism together. We were told via email that this was a “Black only convention,” that Black people needed “a place were they can feel safe,” and that white people need not come. “What kind of Jim Crow bulls--t is this?!” one member of our group said. We came to a collective decision not to honor the racist rule. Plain and simple, it is segregation and divides the working class.
Upon arriving, we attended the workshop “Whose World is This? The World is Ours.” At the start, there were six Black people and one Asian person in the room, plus our five multiracial members of BLM Gary. While we waited for the moderators, we all talked and had a lot of questions about fighting racism. When the moderators showed up, we started with an introduction before they asked if “everyone identifies as black.” One moderator asked the Asian worker and our white comrade to leave to create a “safe place for black people.” We stated that you can’t fight racism with more racism and that it is anti-working class to segregate people. BLM Gary stood our ground and fought for our comrade, so she stayed and we all tried to continue with the workshop.
However, instead of discussing the real issue, racism, the moderators continued to attack the idea of white workers in an “all Black space.” When the moderator stated that we needed a “cool down” session and asked all the “non-black people” to please leave, all BLM members just got up and walked out together.
In a nutshell, the so-called leaders of this movement are trying to take Black workers’ anger towards this system and pacify it with “safe spaces,” “speak-out sessions,” “healing,” and “attacking white people” instead of fighting racism and capitalism. The misleaders of the Movement for Black Lives will take good people, people who want to truly fight racism, and mislead them to the bosses’ politics and more of the same. We learned a lot at this conference: we MUST build a base in the working class, bring our ideas to more Black workers, and get them to join the Party.
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Bengali Shipbreakers Must Break Their Chains
This week a comrade and I went to a screening of a documentary about Bangladesh, called Iron Crows. The documentary is by a South Korean film director who follows workers known as “shipbreakers” in the Chittagong province of Bangladesh. One half of the world’s giant freighters and super-tankers come to Chittagong to be dismantled, and over 20,000 workers are employed doing this.
Most of the workers are barefoot and few have any equipment. When a new ship comes in to the bay, workers walk through knee-deep mud at low tide and attach metal cables to winch the ship closer to shore.
Then the workers climb over 20,000- or 30,000-ton steel ships with blow torches, severing the tankers into giant pieces while children as younger than twelve run about doing tasks. The workers compete to work here because poverty is so extreme in Bangladesh, they will die if they don’t.
One worker the film followed, Belal, is nearly killed on camera when he was trapped under a massive piece of the ship being broken down. Later that night, after the workers praise Allah [god] for sparing his life, Belal laments his situation, longs for his family, and dreams of a different future. Another worker suggests that Allah chose them for this work, and this was their destiny. Later we find out Belal’s wife just gave birth to a baby girl who was blind, because Belal didn’t make enough money shipbreaking and his wife was malnourished throughout the pregnancy. He makes the three-day journey to his home village, and breaks down crying when he finally holds his beautiful, blind daughter.
This is a perfect film to teach about capitalism. We see how the racist bosses of the shipbreaking company, who provide Bangladesh with 84 percent of all the country’s domestic steel, also make huge profits auctioning off the toilets, wiring, and any consumer goods salvageable from the ships. We see pay day, when workers who are owed money are told simply the company can’t afford to pay them. When one worker complains, everyone is kicked out.
I was born and raised in Sénégal, West Africa, and even though the poverty there isn’t always as extreme, I felt what these workers were going through. When I was growing up, eleven or more of us would eat from the same plate of rice. My mother would shove food to the side for me because I wasn’t fast enough and tell me to hurry, so many other kids had to eat. Kids have to fight with the cats who are hungry, too. As a teenager I immigrated to the U.S. for a better life and being an immigrant here has not been easy. In Bangladesh, many children simply do not eat. Immigrating is a distant dream.
As shocking as it was, the documentary also shows how invincible the spirit of these workers is. Through the worst conditions, we see workers joking and laughing, tenderly lying with their wives and husbands, sharing joy and despair, kissing away each other’s tears. Not one person in the audience had dry eyes by the end. And so it is also a perfect film to teach about the working class. Iron Crows is also about our strength. When we organize that, we will win.
★ ★ ★ ★