|75th Anniversary of the MILITANT|
BY ANITA ÖSTLING
STOCKHOLM, SwedenBjörn Tirsén described how the first issue of the Militant was published in 1928 as he kicked off the 75th anniversary celebration here November 23.
Every chair was occupied as a dozen and a half workers and youth gathered at the Pathfinder Bookstore. Tirsén, a meatpacking worker and leader of the Communist League, told how James P. Cannon brought Leon Trotskys critique of Joseph Stalins anti-revolutionary, bureaucratic course to the United States when he returned from the sixth congress of the Communist International. Soon after their expulsion from the Communist Party for promoting Trotskys defense of a Leninist, internationalist course, Tirsén related, Cannon and other founders of the Communist League were publishing the first issues of the Militant, featuring a serialization of Trotskys document later published as The Third International After Lenin by a forerunner of Pathfinder Press.
Tirsén also explained that the Militant, together with Pathfinder books, were instrumental in the process of founding the Communist League in Sweden in 1989. He described how he started reading the Militant some years later as a high school student, during the turbulent events in Yugoslavia that culminated in the overthrow by working people of the Stalinist dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic.
Tirsén introduced Joel Britton and Bill Schmitt from the Socialist Workers Party in the United States. Schmitt, also a member of the Young Socialists, pointed to the Militants campaign to get out the truth about the fight by the Co-Op miners in Utah for union recognition and decent pay and working conditions. Explaining why this fight by 74 minersmostly immigrants from Mexicois the most important labor battle in the United States today, Schmitt appealed to everyone present to work with others to help garner aid for the miners.
Britton, the SWP candidate for governor of California in the special election in that state in October, reported on steps being taken by the communist movement in Toronto, London, and New York to more effectively organize the distribution of Pathfinder books. He also discussed the meaning of the outcome of the California election and of recent moves by the U.S. rulers in their war against terrorism.
At a similar meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden, chaired by Catharina Tirsén, Britton and Schmitt were joined by Mehrdad Ahmadi, an immigrant worker from Iran who told the audience how important it was that he came upon a Communist League/Young Socialists literature table this past May Day. Getting acquainted with the communist movement was the culmination of more than a decade of reading and studying books by Leon Trotsky, V.I. Lenin, and others in Farsi, the main language of his country of birth.
Ahmadi first found some of these booksfrom The History of the Russian Revolution and My Life by Trotsky to State and Revolution by Leninin a small town library in northern Sweden where he spent several months at a refugee camp awaiting permission to get a job. He noted that Trotskys book on the Russian Revolution is by a participant in the revolution, and even the founder of the Red Army. He said this book helped me see that the Russian Revolution was more than what I knew about the Soviet Union. It also helped him understand the role of people who had called themselves communists in Iran, he said, referring to the Stalinist Tudeh party. Since getting a subscription last spring, he noted, I have deepened my understanding on many issues by reading the Militant, Pathfinder books, and discussing with communists here. You have to have a bigger perspective than only one country. The Militant gives such a perspective and links struggles around the world to each other.
I can say now that the only thing more important than reading the Militant is selling it, he concluded.
Veteran Socialist Workers Party leader Tom Leonard described how the Militant advanced his political understanding while he was a merchant seaman in the late 1940s and early 50s. After describing some of the revolutionary struggles he encountered while at sea, as well as the working people who fought in them, Leonard said, Seeing these struggles and some of the political people involved is not the same as understanding what is really going on. I only began to do that in a serious way from reading the Militant…. and Ive been learning from the Militant ever since. Its really a fact that truth can burst on cunning falsehood like a storm of wrath divine. The Militant fights to write the truth and makes corrections when it errs.
Also speaking was Tony Dutrow, former SWP candidate for Houston mayor who recently returned from a trip to the western coal fields, selling the Militant to working people and getting out the truth about the struggle of coal miners at the Co-Op mine near Huntington, Utah.
Dutrow, who had lived in the area in the late 1980s, noted the continuity of readers who had been part of union struggles in that period and are now supporting the UMWA struggles today. Dutrow described meeting miners in Orangeville, Utah, who knew about the papers accurate coverage of the 1984 Wilberg mine disaster that killed 27 coal miners. It didnt take long before our team ran into an ex-Wilberg miner who remembered and appreciated the papers coverage of the mine accident, he said.
Former Militant staff writer Brian Williams, local university professor Tom Kleven, new Militant subscriber Jason Wattley, and radio show host Henry Cooper also spoke on the panel.
Jacquie Henderson, Houston chairperson of the SWP, appealed to the participants to contribute to defray the costs of setting up a Pathfinder Press booth at the International Book Fair in Guadalajara, Mexico. More than $1,200 was raised at the event.
Musa served on the Militant staff in the 1970s and was one of the contributors to a column titled By Any Means Necessary, which covered the struggle for Black freedom. He described those battles from the 1940s to the 60s.
Seth Galinsky, also a former Militant staff writer, described his experiences as part of the papers bureau in Managua, Nicaragua, in the 1980s when a workers and farmers government was in power in that country.
Nicole Sarmiento, a University of Miami student and Young Socialists member, also spoke. You cant understand politics if you dont read the Militant, she said. I first saw the paper at a rally against the U.S. assault on Iraq about a year ago, and it was the only paper that provided a real answer to what was going on. That same day, Militant supporters invited me to go to Georgia to meet Cuban revolutionary Víctor Dreke, who was on a speaking tour in the United States and was meeting with Black farmers in southern Georgia fighting the U.S. government to save their farms. I got a subscription as soon as I got up there. Later, when Dreke spoke to a packed room of hundreds at Florida International University North campus here in Miami in November 2002, the Militant provided the only accurate coverage of the meeting.
The Militant is not just an aid. Its a weapon to understand the world and to realize that there is a revolutionary movement in the United States. I had started to think that I would have to leave to go to Bolivia, where part of my family is from, to fight alongside brothers and sisters there. The Militant is about building a revolutionary party to fight imperialism from here.
John Benson, the first speaker, explained the papers origins in the October 1917 Russian Revolution and described its history through the momentous labor struggles of the 1930s through World War II.
Dave Wulp, a partisan of the Militant for 43 years, said he began to read the paper in the fall of 1960 because it was the only place in the country to get news of the Cuban Revolution, including entire speeches by Fidel Castro, even when they had to be continued week after week after week in the four-page paper.
He described a Militant subscription drive in August 1963 that began on the day of the civil rights March on Washington. We heard all of the speeches going from house to house in the Black community where everyone was watching the march on television, he said. We sold our entire quota for the drive that first day, showing the importance of having the Militant as an upsurge takes place. And you will have that experience too.
Wulp is a volunteer in the Pathfinder Printing Project. He announced that one of the goals of volunteers like him is to convert the entire 75 years of the Militants bound volumes into digital form, making them easily and permanently accessible to all.
Other speakers included Rachele Fruit, organizer of the SWP branch here, who described the Militants coverage of labor struggles from the 1970s to today, and Karl Butts, a farmer.
Butts described the impact of the Militant on his political development, including coverage of a trip by U.S. farmers to rural areas in Cuba in February 2000. When I returned from Cuba, he said, I decided that I wanted to work here in imperialisms bastion to make a revolution for which I believe the Militant not only has been but will be an indispensable weapon.
Juan Blandon, a student at the University of Florida in Gainesville, sat down before the program began and read every one of the 45 Militant front-page reproductions. At the end of the program, he said he planned to go out on campus with a can and begin collecting money for the Co-Op miners to support their strike.
Willie Evans, a leader of a three-year strike against Titan Tire in Natchez, Mississippi, and member of United Steelworkers of America Local 303L, sent greetings to the event.
What a great milestone! Evans said in his message. The Militant is the real McCoy of all the papers in that it is very candid in expressing the whole stories and truth hidden behind the facts in todays events, whether they are economical, social political, religious, ethical, or civil matters. Lets support the papers work, Evans concluded, by buying it, reading it, becoming knowledgeable of its truths…passing it along to someone who is not aware of its existence and wholesome information. I wish its future well, for another 75 years.
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