Boston activists map fightback strategy

There’s a lot of talk and confusion about Main Street versus Wall Street these days. But there was no confusion on Feb. 28 at the Boston fight-back conference about what side people need to be on. The 60 leaders, all veterans of many years of struggle, came to organize a response to the unprecedented crisis of capitalism ravaging their communities.

Miya X
Miya X, FIST Boston
WW photos: Liz Green

Frantz Mendes, president of the hosting Boston School Bus Drivers Union, Steelworkers Local 8751, welcomed the multinational assembly to the union hall. “I don’t understand why there is any confusion about how wrong it is to bail out the banks and not the people. We are here to battle the government,” declared Mendes.

The conference was co-chaired by Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, Miya X from the Women’s Fightback Network and Fight Imperialism Stand Together (FIST), and Bob Traynham, a longtime Boston school bus driver and member of Local 8751.

Larry Holmes, a national leader of the Bail Out the People Movement, opened the meeting with an analysis of the current crisis: “The banks have money but they don’t want to lend it out because they can’t get the level of profit that they want. They are holding us hostage. Class conflict is right on the horizon.

From left, Padma, Ahmad Kawash,<br>Sandra McIntosh, Dorotea Manuela,<br>Chuck Turner, Larry Holmes.
From left, Padma, Ahmad Kawash,
Sandra McIntosh, Dorotea Manuela,
Chuck Turner, Larry Holmes.

“Obama got elected because the establishment knew that it was in serious trouble and that the people were angry and wanted changes,” said Holmes. “The system is actually afraid of the people! They are afraid the people will stop fighting over inadequate ‘stimulus’ crumbs and focus on the trillions of our dollars that the banks are sitting on. That is why we want to focus on the Wall Street demonstration on April 3 and 4.”

City Councilor Chuck Turner exemplified this new approach. Because of four decades of fighting for the needs and rights of all of Boston’s oppressed communities, Turner was prosecuted by the Bush Justice Department last year and indicted by U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan in a racist frame-up based on testimony of a government informant, Ron Wilburn, who recently declared he would not cooperate with the FBI investigation.

The heavy weight of this unjust and retaliatory prosecution has had no repressing affect on Turner’s fighting spirit, however, as he declared to his fellow activists: “There are two Americas and our people have been in a depression for decades. The founders of this country created a system that worked for white males of property. The stimulus is about propping up businesses to keep the system alive. We need to organize the unemployed and cut $100 billion out of the war budget every year!”

In the free-flowing discussion and exchange of views that followed the opening panel, all agreed on the need to band together the various struggles and focus on the trillions of dollars going to the banks.

Participants talked about their own experiences of being homeless, unemployed or unable to work because of discrimination based on past conviction records. They told of losing their homes and of homeless people not being able to get into HIV housing programs because of budget cuts and lack of resources.

The gathering heard from students and workers fighting massive layoffs at Harvard University and the Harvard bosses’ anti-lesbian/gay/bi and trans harassment. Leaders from the Boston School Bus Drivers Union described the Boston city workers’ fight to resist a wage freeze. They talked about a struggle against the Harbor charter school, which is forcing seventh graders to perform lavatory cleanup jobs, displacing union custodians, as a condition to remain in school.

All agreed to meet again and to mobilize for a demonstration at that charter school on March 5, at school hearings to save desegregation on March 10, at the WFN’s International Women’s Day “Sistah Summit” on March 14, and at the April 3-4 march on Wall Street.

Many different community organizations, hit hard by the current economic collapse, sent leaders to the conference. Some of the participants included: Sandra McIntosh of Boston’s Work for Quality; Bishop Felipe Teixeira, OFSJC, Catholic Church of the Americas; Dorotea Manuela and Indian activist Padma of the Boston May Day Coalition; Maggie Brown and Leonora Periere from Boston Workers Alliance; Kathy Riley-Jones of Peoples Assembly, Providence, R.I.; Ahmad Kawash from the Palestinian Club of Boston; Remeilke Forbes of the Harvard Student/Labor Alliance; Josue Renaud, director of New England Human Rights for Haiti; and Brian Majka of Stonewall Warriors and the International Action Center.

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