Interview with FRSO student leader Chrisley Carpio
Fight Back! interviewed Chrisley Carpio, a student activist and leader of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) Student Commission. Carpio organizes with campus activists across the country from a variety of student groups. She is an experienced and tested leader who others can learn from. Fight Back!: How did you get involved in student activism?
Chrisley Carpio: I joined Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Florida in 2010. I still remember the flyer that drew me out. It boasted that student protests won greater pay for the undocumented farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida. They worked for Aramark, our campus food company. I couldn't believe it.
Then I attended my first SDS meeting, and after that I could believe it. That day I learned that ordinary people could change things.
Then, in 2012, Trayvon Martin was killed in cold blood and we shut down the Sanford Police Department with student comrades and hundreds of protesters. That day showed me that people could not go on living in the old way under imperialism, and that people, including me, would risk a lot to change this. Within SDS were the first Marxists I ever met. FRSO gave me the tools to make change, build a movement, and become a leader.
Fight Back!: What is the FRSO Student Commission?
Carpio: The Student Commission is where students and youth activists, members of the FRSO, get together to discuss and debate current issues. Based on our conclusions, we make plans to organize the student movement together. Students compose a large part of the FRSO and actually distribute Fight Back! newspaper on more than 15 campuses.
Besides helping to lead campus protests, we also mobilize for national protests, like the ones against Trump on Inauguration Day. FRSO students are part of the Students for a Democratic Society, progressive student unions, immigrant rights groups, African American, Chicano, and other groups at universities, community colleges, and high schools.
Fight Back!: What are the issues in the student movement today?
Carpio: Today’s students are hard at work organizing against the Trump administration’s attempts to defund public education, to deport more immigrants, and to militarize and go to war. As part of SDS, we support “Education For All”, winning in-state tuition for undocumented students. Now we are demanding support and funding for greater numbers of African Americans and others to obtain a college education.
We are demanding sanctuary campuses that protect immigrants and Muslim refugees driven here by U.S. wars. We want an end to U.S. wars in the Middle East, and in Syria especially. We want free tuition everywhere for anyone seeking an education. We also organize against police crimes and support Black Lives Matters on campus and in the communities. FRSO comrades participate in and help lead these fights with our revolutionary goals in mind.
There are big issues on campus today, where women continue to be the majority. We fight to defend and expand the rights of women and LGBTQI people, demanding equality and improving things like health care and ending sexual assault. This helps everyone. We are determined in our fight for liberation.
Fight Back!: How do you see students’ role in society?
Carpio: In school, young people are taught that great men are the motor of world history. This is false. As Marxists we understand that the masses are the makers of history. And the working class is the revolutionary class that can advance human history. It’s the people who labor and produce everything. Students challenge the ruling class through organizing protests and marches, by supporting strikes by workers like the one at Harvard, and showing solidarity with the African American uprisings like in Ferguson and Baltimore against police killings. Students can show people their power, and their ability to change society by building a movement in solidarity with workers and the oppressed. This is the first step. It can then open people’s minds to learn about socialism, which we must consciously facilitate and encourage.
We live under the rule of the most violent and exploitative class in the world today. The capitalist class, the billionaires and multi-millionaires, besides privately owning most of the means of production, also control the police and military, the courts, the media, and they fill Congress in the U.S. The rich use these institutions to oppress African Americans, Chicanos, and other oppressed nations and nationalities within the U.S., attempting to keep workers of all nationalities divided and disorganized. They also make endless war on other countries, killing ordinary working people using drone strikes, Special Forces raids, missile attacks and they also arm, fund, and run death squads. We need to do away with this system called imperialism. As a first step, we must build resistance to Trump and make the country ungovernable.
Fight Back!: Why should students join FRSO?
Carpio: I meet plenty of young people who wanted to organize, but they do not have the structure, channels, or scientific perspective to find their bearings. They are alone as communists. Even if they have a reading or study group, they are still without a long-term plan. We are united by a plan as outlined in the FRSO document, “Class in the U.S. and Our Strategy for Revolution” found at www.FRSO.org.
Our goal is socialism, to put the multi-national working class and its allies in charge of the government, the economy and our society. Especially with the alarming election of Trump, students and young working people are contacting us every week and asking to join. It is an exciting time to be part of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
Fight Back!: What should students do after campus activism?
Carpio: Stay in the struggle for life. Join the working class and organize to build lasting movements. With the FRSO, we collectively research and develop plans to join unions, organize in oppressed nationality communities, and build mass groups that fight for power. We work to bring Marxism-Leninism to the many angry, fed-up people we live, study, and work among. It can be done, but not without belonging to a group like the FRSO.