Chicago: FRSO celebrates International Workers Day
Chicago, IL – 40 people gathered in the office of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) to celebrate International Workers Day with Freedom Road Socialist Organization. Speakers included Maria Moreno, financial secretary of the CTU; Bassem Kawar, political director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; Frank Chapman of CAARPR, and Roni Thrailkill, the mother of Chaz Thrailkill, a prisoner in Menard Prison who is suffering abuse at the hands of the guards in addition to having been wrongfully convicted.
Dod McColgan of Freedom Road Socialist Organization delivered this speech:
Happy International Workers Day to all! I am so grateful that I get to stand up here and speak alongside these many working-class makers of history.
The blows the working class has been dealt in the past year are the desperate flailings of a dying empire that has shown its true face to the people of this country and the world. We are living through an age of genocide, mass death and heightened exploitation. The ruling class has used the weapons of the prisons, police and the pandemic to enact murder and torture on a mass scale. They increase the cost of goods while allowing wages to stagnate, while they steal our very lives by exploiting our labor.
U.S. prisons, jails and detention centers are used as slave labor and torture camps to hyper-exploit the oppressed peoples of this country. In the pandemic, they are used as death camps for attempted elimination. Nearly 3000 incarcerated people are reported to have died of COVID-19, and that is just what they’ve reported. They deny incarcerated people access to basic necessities like food, water and sanitation, allow guards to beat and kill them largely without consequence, and work together with the courts to keep innocent people locked up. They separate families and target all those who fight back, relying on the same impunity afforded the police by the system whose interests they protect.
In total, 992,000, nearly a million, people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, 6.23 million worldwide. And this is just who they’re counting. Pandemic deaths should include suicides, deaths resulting from domestic violence, deaths of those who could not receive medical care due to overwhelmed hospitals. All of these deaths were entirely preventable. Saying someone died by COVID-19 is like saying someone murdered was killed by the bullet. It was the choice of the government and the ruling class to prioritize profit over human lives that killed this many of our siblings, and it was the Black, indigenous, and Latine people in our communities who bore the brunt of this loss. The gap in life expectancy between Black and white Chicagoans has increased to 10 years, up from 8.8 in 2017.
The response of our exploiters has not been to offer real relief. Instead, Biden is leading us into a war. Lori Lightfoot and her friends further bloated the police budget have been illegally meddling in the election of the Chicago Teachers Union, seeking to weaken the organization of the working class at every turn.
The right wing is waging attacks on trans people and reproductive rights in state after state, and we had two Black trans women found dead in Chicago in the course of a week – Elise Malary and Tatiana Labelle. The ruling class would have us think these acts of aggression are symptoms of some kind of culture war, but we know these attacks on the democratic rights of families are part and parcel of the war on our class.
Internationally, five teachers, known as the New Bataan 5, who fought for quality schools for the Lumad people of the Philippines, were murdered by the Duterte regime, who have also engaged in the red-tagging and terror-tagging of activists, such as our own Joe Iosbaker on his recent trip. The new Duterte regime has joined forces with the old Marcos regime to put candidates forward for president in the elections coming up this week.
In Palestine, where ethnic cleansing by Israeli Occupation Forces is the norm, six Palestinian organizations were tagged as terrorist groups by the Israeli government this year. And more recently we saw another attack on al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan.
All of this suffering, all of these attacks reflect the desperation of the ruling class to grip a capitalist system the human race has simply outgrown. The president would have us believe Russia is to blame for all of this, while they manufacture a war to line the pockets of weapons manufacturers like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. But Russia didn’t open these prisons, Russia didn’t orchestrate nearly a million pandemic-related deaths in this country through neglect and profit-mongering, Russia didn’t gut our schools or our health clinics. The U.S. ruling class did that. As a result of this arrogance, demonstrated over decades with one manufactured war after another, the white supremacist, imperialist formation that is NATO is showing its weakness and losing its ability to determine global affairs.
We know the truth, that at the helm of each of the attacks is none other than the U.S. empire, and so we continue to struggle against imperialism and for socialism. The ruling class narrative is that we, the working class of this country, are accepting of this mass death and genocide, that it results from our individual failings. They blame the sick for their sickness to cover up their eugenicist aims. But I don’t see that acceptance. I see people fighting back.
Incarcerated people and their families are organizing across prison walls to tackle the torture throughout IDOC, to free their loved ones from prisons and detention centers across the country. A prison guard who beat 65-year-old Larry Earvin to death in Western Illinois Prison was finally charged with his murder. Anthony Gay, who suffered 22 years in solitary confinement in Illinois prisons and authored a bill to limit its use in IDOC, just managed to achieve a hung jury in a federal trial while representing himself.
Through the strategic alliance between the labor movement and the Black Liberation movement, we passed ECPS, and we are preparing for a fierce struggle to elect District Councils in each police district. These District Councils will be a source of real power for those living under police occupation, we will continue to fight until we have full community control of police, and our ECPS referendum will be decisive in the 2023 elections. Chicago is ready for new leadership.
The CTU and CPS students formed a wall of protection for families in this city, standing up for health and safety as the ruling class strips the most basic protections from schools and workplaces. Despite the attacks on the CORE caucus, they have a strong slate and are organizing to win their election.
The labor movement as a whole is also growing and developing. With new leadership in the Teamsters, Amazon workers and Starbucks workers across the country unionizing, people are not taking these attacks lying down, but are uniting and fighting for the multinational working class. This age of unprecedented tragedy is also one of unprecedented organization.
In Kansas, organizers were able to pressure the governor to veto anti-trans legislation, and mass movements for trans and reproductive rights are forming and strengthening everywhere these rights are under attack.
The extent of the repression in the Philippines reflects the strength of the people’s democratic movement there, which will not be stopped. People are uniting to demand justice for the New Bataan 5, uniting and fighting to defeat the legacy Marcos and Duterte, and in the U.S., continuing to fight for the Philippine Human Rights Act.
This time last year, thousands of people hit the streets across the country in support of Palestinian liberation, and mass rallies have been organized in response to the terror-tagging of Palestinian organizations and the attack on al-Aqsa mosque, all while continuing to push for the Palestinian Children and Families Act. The Palestinian people fought to bring Ata Khattab home and won, along with several other political prisoners, and will continue to win, until Israeli occupation forces are gone for good.
And the working class of the U.S. is not taking the bait on another war, as we see the consequences mounting around us in the rising costs of goods and failure of the government to fund the services and relief we need. And it is our responsibility here in the core of the U.S. empire to always be pointing out the fault of our government in harmful intervention after intervention, and to build the mass movement necessary to strip our government of its power and build socialism. But the rest of the world has grown impatient with our government policing the world and will not wait for us to catch up. The George Floyd rebellion was a Black-led unprecedented mass rebellion not accomplished by waiting. The oppressed nationality workers of this country demonstrated that they don't have to wait on white workers but are quite capable of leading white workers and uniting all workers in the fight against racist-driven national oppression. The earth itself may expel human life if things go on as they are. There is no waiting to be done. The clock is ticking. The fire is under the ass. We will build a socialist future or follow our exploiters into the dustbin of history.
And so the U.S. empire and the ruling class become increasingly desperate, and have to attack the working class at any point where we unite – in our unions, our organizations, our associations, and in our families. They attack our families – those we are born in and those we assemble – because they know unless we look out for each other, we cannot build the mass movement necessary to accomplish our task. We need to know that too. So, I’m doing my best to look out for you. Are you looking out for me? Are you looking out for your siblings, your sisters, your brothers, your comrades? Good, because we need to.
If I can say one last thing, and at risk of sounding like a preacher, I was speaking to a friend of mine the other day, and he said something I can’t forget. He said what working-class people understand is faith; we understand the importance of faith. And not faith as belief, but faith as commitment. Faith in the people is commitment to the people. And unless we have faith in ourselves, how can we ask anyone to have faith in us? So if you don’t mind, please join me in some chanting. Repeat after me: “On to a socialist future. Workers of the world unite!”