SEATTLE — Over 40 people attended a meeting here Aug. 1 to celebrate the rich political life of Socialist Workers Party member Cecelia Moriarity. A 45-year cadre of the communist movement, Moriarity died July 23 at age 74.
Over 30 messages from comrades and friends in the U.S. and around the world were sent to the meeting, including letters from the leaderships of Communist Leagues in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“Cecelia was an excellent SWP candidate for public office. She ran for governor in Utah and Pennsylvania, and was a local candidate in Washington state,” explained Mary Martin, organizer of the branch here over many years. “She was effective in presenting the program of the party to working people, and she never hesitated taking on the attacks by the state against the SWP campaign.”
This included the “successful fight last fall to prevent the state, prodded by liberal forces, from disclosing the personal information of electors who had signed up to put the SWP presidential slate on the ballot in Washington state,” she said. A fight that won the support of the state teachers’ union, which is under attack by anti-union forces using similar “disclosure” laws to force out personal information on union members.
Martin also worked with Moriarity in Charleston, West Virginia, in the late 1980s. She said Moriarity always drew together workers’ experiences and struggles in this country with the fight of workers abroad. “Cecelia gave a forum on the Bhopal chemical plant disaster in India where hundreds of people died as a result of Union Carbide bosses’ criminal neglect,” she said. “Cecelia carefully studied what led up to the disaster in order to be able to explain in detail what had happened and draw the parallels with the fight for safety and workers control of production on the job in this country.”
There were attractive displays prepared for the meeting on the activities of the Socialist Workers Party and Moriarity defending the Cuban Revolution; mobilizing solidarity with the toilers in Nicaragua, Grenada and Iran from 1979 through the 1980s; and on involvement in labor battles and social movements like the fight for women’s rights. These events in the class struggle profoundly influenced Moriarity in her decision to join the SWP. The last 20 years of Moriarity’s political activity was in the Seattle branch of the party. She participated in many battles by working people and was well-known by longshore workers, farm hands and packinghouse workers because of her long record building solidarity for labor struggles.
Confidence in the working class
“Cecelia Moriarity had an unshakeable confidence in the working class,” said Paul Mailhot, who spoke at the meeting on behalf of the Political Committee of the SWP. “To be a communist you have to be inspired by the capacities and potential of the working class — the only class that has no material interest in the exploitation of others; the only class that is capable of leading the struggle of all toilers to overthrow the exploitative system we live under and take power into our own hands.”
Moriarity joined the SWP as the party was turning to developments in the labor movement and among the oppressed around the world that opened new possibilities to build a communist party in the United States deeply rooted in the working class.
She went to work as an aircraft machinist and helped get her union, the International Association of Machinists, to educate its members on affirmative action, especially around the Weber case. Brian Weber was a Caucasian worker in Louisiana who challenged the United Steelworkers union in court to try and stop programs it had fought for to open up jobs to Black and women workers that had previously been denied them. The SWP championed the union’s actions, explaining they helped unify working people.
In the early 1980s Moriarity moved to Price, Utah, to help set up a branch there and get a job in coal mining. As part of the Coal Employment Project, a trailblazing organization that helped women to break into the coal industry, Moriarity was part of strengthening the United Mine Workers of America union.
Wilberg coal mine disaster in Utah
In a message to the meeting, Joel Britton from Oakland, California, who helped lead the party’s work in the unions at the time, wrote, “Members of the Socialist Workers Party aspire to be ‘blood and bone’ with fellow working people in struggle. I know of no better example of this than that of Cecelia Moriarity when faced with the disastrous fire in 1984 at the Wilberg mine in Utah where she was employed.
“Cecelia joined with members of her UMWA local and other miners in the rescue and relief efforts as the deadly fire raged.
“Along with another miner, she wrote articles for the Militant that have stood the test of time, having been reprinted several times as part of insisting, ‘No miner has to die’ as a result of mine bosses’ criminal disregard for safety.”
Mailhot said the SWP recently held a national conference in Ohio under a banner that read “Leading the Working Class to Take Power,” and urging workers to “Join the Socialist Workers Party!” and “Build the Communist Vanguard!” This is the only way forward for humanity, he said.
“The Wilberg mine disaster is one of the consequences of capitalist rule. An unrelenting drive for profits cost the lives of 27 people in that fire,” said Mailhot. “Capitalism is an entire system built on that same life-destroying course.
“It is a system that sent more than 100,000 miners to their deaths in coal-mining accidents over the past century. It is a system that sent millions to be slaughtered in the first and second imperialist World Wars; it is the system responsible for the annihilation of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.”
“I remember listening when Cecelia was selling the Militant to someone who questioned the paper’s name,” wrote Charlene Adamson to the meeting. “She said that we call it the Militant because ‘being militant simply means being uncompromising in your principles, and that she was.
“She lived with strength, grace and conviction.”
Meeting organizers asked participants to contribute generously to the Socialist Workers Party in Moriarity’s honor. It had been a matter of pride for Moriarity that she was able to contribute a government “stimulus” check of $600 to the Militant in February. Her note with the check said, “I am so happy to be sending this donation, to help make sure nothing stands in the way of the Militant’s unparalleled coverage of the working class.”
Party supporters organized to lay out some delicious main course dishes, deserts and refreshments, which contributed to the success of the meeting. Over $2,200 was raised in the collection, a testament to Moriarity and the Socialist Workers Party, the party she dedicated herself to build to the end of her life.