This statement was drafted by Jeff Crosby, who is president of the North Shore Labor Council and a long time labor activist and friend of Freedom Road. It provides a grounding context to address the atrocities of the last week and a half of October 2018 and offers a sense of hope about how to move forward.
I have been pretty freaked out about the right for a while. The last ten days—with the murders of two Black folks in a Kroger store in Kentucky, the slaughter of eleven Jewish people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, and the pipe bombs–haven’t helped. And now Brazil’s election is another indicator of the rollback of 21st century socialism. We don’t get to pick the period we are born into, and it’s a dark time.
The main thing I get out of this is how tired people are of the institutions that exist, the corruption, the failures to address people’s needs. The Democrat neoliberals offer no alternative, since they are the system. With some exceptions (the Bernie wing), they have no program to offer workers, and don’t talk to working class people. Our billionaires against their billionaires is not a strategy.
I still think we need to chart a path to power based on the strategic alliance of working-class and people of color movements–building independent political power with an electoral strategy as PART of the work. But it seems slow. We may be in for a long period of disruption and instability. Sometimes we on the left get too inwardly focused on our particular projects, and don’t realize what we’re up against. The right is far more unified than we are. I think it’s crucial to form a broad left trend based on the strategic alliance, organizing in our communities and workplaces, and also in the electoral arena, both inside and outside the Democratic Party.
I don’t have any easy answer to the pain in our hearts and souls. I am angry every minute of every day. Anger for me is a better motivator than fear. Fear in this circumstance is simply common sense, avoided only by those who are not paying attention.
I try to root myself in the history of our peoples. I have spent the last few days in Southern West Virginia, traveling with 7 people from my labor council. The majority of them are working-class people who have been fighting for decades, and we share a lot of history and struggle. We learned more about the efforts of the miners to organize unions in the face of company terror that was Jim Crow- like in its total control of their lives. Yet they continued–despite the courts, the murderous gun thugs, the evictions, the blacklistings, the hunger–for decades. Their leaders were tried in the same courthouses as John Brown, also for treason. A local historian told us that 40% of the 10,000 armed miners who marched on Blair Mountain in 1921 were Black.
I have also been learning (again) about the sense of abandonment that workers here feel towards their government, and the hold of right wing evangelical religion on the people (a key element, as in Brazil), and why they turn to Trump. And about the continuing struggle for democracy in the area.
These miners and the SNCC organizers in Mississippi are the two movements of our peoples that most inspire me and help me maintain my sanity and love. The young SNCC fighters and their brave elders and veterans among the sharecroppers, railway workers and others in the rural areas created hope and change where it was thought to be impossible, facing death itself. If they– humblest and poorest of the poor– persevered and eventually won in the face of what they dealt with, then we will also.
Finally, there are the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto rebellion against the Nazi occupiers. The Jews fought with little more than their hands, facing extermination, with only the hope of contributing to a longer resistance that would outlive them.
But there are no shortcuts or get rich quick schemes. I don’t think victory is inevitable. I can use my brains and energy and sweat to make the outcome as good as possible, during my time on this earth, and I will. And I will love what I do, and my comrades, every day of my life.