BY TONY LANE AND MEGAN ARNEY
MINNEAPOLIS - Protesting Buchanan. Joining pickets in defense of Cuba and against Washington's attacks on the island. Selling socialist literature.
From Atlanta to Seattle members of the Young Socialists are finding other youth in action who want to fight against the evils of capitalism and inviting them to the event they've been looking for - a national convention of Young Socialists to be held here April 6-7.
In the Twin Cities, the YS has met four people who are interested in joining the organization and nearly ten who are interested in attending the April convention.
Jason Drake, who recently joined the YS, bought a copy of the Militant at a YS table at the University of Minnesota and began attending Militant Labor Forums. Drake said he was attracted to the socialist youth group because "they had a lot of energy and were organized. I was looking for a way to effectively do politics," he said.
A student at St. Cloud State University picked up a copy of the Militant and also bought a copy of Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War by Che Guevara at a literature table during a student environmental conference.
He is now planning to organize tables and a report back on Cuba at his campus.
Members in the local YS chapter have also spoken at two high schools and a comalso spoken at two high schools and a community college in recent weeks. YS member Doug Nelson said that in the high school classes he took part in the discussion focused on Cuba and Buchananism. "One student said that socialism `may be good for Cuba, but we don't have those same problems,' " Nelson said. "So we pointed to the worsening conditions throughout the world, told him that the United States wouldn't be exempt from this, and that's why Cuba and socialism have relevance."
To help plan similar outreach in other cities and organize for the upcoming national gathering, a team of volunteers has come to Minneapolis. Diana Newberry from New York, and other convention coordinators Jennifer Banathy from Boston, and Megan Arney from Twin Cities, have been busy putting together a new national flyer that is being e-mailed or faxed to YS chapters and at-large members, convention organizing letters, and other materials.
Banathy came to town just after participating in a protest against ultrarightist presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan in Lexington, Massachusetts. She found out about the event when some high school students attended the Militant Labor Forum in Boston, hoping to be part of a discussion on Buchanan, and explained that they were organizing a protest for the next day. Banathy and three other YS members joined them. From Arizona to Massachusetts to Texas Buchanan has been met by protests - particularly from young students and workers.
In the Midwest, Young Socialists are organizing to be in Chicago for a protest against Buchanan when he speaks there on St. Patrick's Day. On March 13 socialist youth from Detroit joined with others in Toledo, Ohio, in a protest against the rightist politician.
Defending socialist Cuba
Across the country, YS members have also been at the center of activities to defend Cuba's socialist revolution in response to the provocations and threats by the U.S. government. In many cities Young Socialists were part of panels at special Militant Labor Forums held March 1 to speak out in defense of Cuba.
Defending socialist Cuba
The YS chapter in Bloomington, Indiana, called a picket against the U.S. provocations. The Indiana Daily Student reports that "twelve students, faculty and Bloomington residents" took part. At the picket, YS member Tom Alter explained that "the reason that relations between Cuba and the United States are bad is because of the United States' fear of Cuba. The U.S. fears the example Cuba sets for the rest of the world. Yes, there is an alternative to capitalism," Alter said.
Ivan Rosero explained the YS Statement of Principles includes defense of Cuba, so the Miami YS was helping to build a March 16 protest called by the Miami Coalition to End the Embargo to protest the passage of the Helms-Burton bill into law.
At York University in Toronto, Canada, YS members helped organize a meeting of 40 students to hear Arelys Santana, a leader of the Cuban Women's Federation. Santana explained the background to the recent U.S. provocations against Cuba, stating that there had been 25 attacks against Cuba from the United States in the past 20 months. She countered false news reports by stating that the planes had in fact trespassed Cuban airspace and added, "We are going to defend ourselves and we are not ever going to give up that right."
At the meeting, Mick McDonald from the Young Socialists reported on a youth brigade traveling to Cuba in August. Santana urged everyone to go. "It is difficult for me to tell you about Cuba," she explained, "the best way for you to understand is to actually experience it."
In Minneapolis, as well as joining protests at the Federal building, YS members took part in a campus discussion at the University of Minnesota organized by the La Raza Student Cultural Center. At this event six students volunteered to work on upcoming Cuba activities, like speaking tour of Cuban youth leaders on U.S. campuses in April and the US-Cuba Youth Exchange being organized by the National Network on Cuba July 24-August 5.
Building interest in the Young Socialists convention here has been part of the same effort to get out the truth on Cuba. YS and Socialist Workers Party members have been making a special effort to sell the Militant at campus tables, political events, and at plant gates.
In the past week they've sold 115 copies of the Militant and 54 Pathfinder books and pamphlets. One team at the St. Paul campus sold 12 copies of the paper and signed up five students for more information on the YS convention. Another team at a meeting for speakers from the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo group in Argentina sold eight Militants, a copy of Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War, and through asking a question, helped initiate a discussion on Cuba.
A similar response was reported in Brooklyn where Young Socialists and SWP members sold over $400 worth in Pathfinder literature last weekend and met a number of young people interested in the YS convention and the speaking tour of Cuban youth. "We've doubled our sales and we've seen more interest in communist politics. Young people we have met through these activities have been coming to classes, forums, and are getting involved in Cuba defense work" said Lisa Rottach from Brooklyn. "And in Newark, a young woman just joined the Young Socialists!"
Convention coordinators here are helping to organize regional teams to build the YS convention. They will be speaking at high schools and colleges, setting up tables to sell Pathfinder literature and sign-up young students and workers to come to Minneapolis on April 6-7.
Tami Peterson from San Francisco and Tom Alter from Bloomington, Indiana, are heading to Chicago to join a team in that region. They'll start off by joining YS members and others from Peoria and the Twin Cities at the Chicago St. Patrick's Day protest against Buchanan.
Veronica Půses of Miami will be traveling to Greensboro for a few days and then to Atlanta where she will speak at a Militant Labor Forum on March 22 to help publicize the national youth meeting. A convention-building team is also planned to Des Moines, Iowa March 25-31. Diana Newberry explained that the convention coordinators are working with YS chapters to organize regional work in their own area to build the convention.
One of the first people to call the convention organizing office here was Mark Curtis. Curtis is a political activist and unionist jailed in Iowa after being framed up in 1988 on attempted rape and burglary charges. Last November he was granted parole, but authorities in Illinois, where he requested to be paroled to, have refused to accept his release there so he remains in prison.
Curtis called to see how the convention organizing was going. "He said he would be calling back to see how things were coming along," Newberry said. "We also discussed the efforts of the Young Socialists to get out Che Guevara's book, Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War. He said it's like a handbook for the YS. He also said that it's important to understand that this book wouldn't be there if Che hadn't taken the time to write down his experiences. We wouldn't have it to read and learn from."
The Young Socialists are campaigning to win Curtis's release. The YS National Committee has called on all YS members and friends to write Curtis in prison showing their solidarity (see article on page 5 for address).
A recent meeting of the Young Socialists national committee and leaders of YS chapters around the country adopted a set of political and organizational principles. These will provide the basis for discussion at the Young Socialists convention. Another part of the weekend's events will be an organizing conference where all participants can join in discussions at classes and workshops.
The YS will also be discussing the central campaigns it will be involved in - opposition to the U.S.-NATO war drive against Yugoslavia, defense of the Cuban revolution, joining protests against Buchanan, and joining all resistance of workers and youth around the world against the horrors of capitalism. Supporting the Socialist Workers campaign in the 1996 elections will be at the center of these efforts. The first public rally of the campaign will be held during the YS convention.
Newberry explained that YS members need to act now to build the convention. "Now is the time to draw up a battle plan," she said, "to raise the money, organize the transportation, and help organize to get other young fighters to the convention and organizing conference by any means necessary. We must link up," she concluded, "with the revolutionary-minded youth who we are meeting as we go out to the fights, and who want to join us in the fight for socialism."
Rita Simonetta in Toronto, Canada, contributed to this article.
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