One person’s path to the Party

Excerpts from a talk by Elena Everett of Durham, N.C., to the WWP National Conference, Nov. 14.

Thank you for the opportunity to help open this beautiful conference where we have come together to celebrate 50 years of organizing and struggling for justice.

I have been a member of Raleigh FIST since 2004. As of April 2009, I became a candidate member of Workers World Party. The same weekend, we formed a new party chapter in Durham and five of us are here this weekend. We are honored and excited to have the distinction of being the newest party chapter.

I’m sure my story isn’t that different from many others here.

I was raised in a very conservative, very religious home. When the first Gulf War started, I vividly remember attending a “support our troops” rally and waving my American flag. Sometime around my teen years, that all fell apart for me and I turned into what could best be described as an apolitical hippie—like tens of thousands of other young people.

Then I discovered Ralph Nader and the Green Party, which turned something on for me, the idea that I could participate in working with others to reach for something different.

In college, I joined the campus Greens, which was multi-issue and exposed me to many different struggles. That was about the time the Bush administration started pushing us to war. I became a 24-7 activist. I started going to all of the big national demos. I met folks from the International Action Center, and I was turned on to the organizing around the Million Worker March.

All these experiences were life changing and have shaped my political development, but more than that, they have informed how I think and act in the world.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that while organizing can be incredibly exciting and invigorating, it’s also incredibly hard and often confusing, particularly as our group in North Carolina is comprised of other fantastic young people who are also struggling and finding their way. We make a lot of mistakes.

One of the central things that has helped me through is my relationships with comrades in the party—and their long view, of being able to have an intergenerational dialogue, of being able to put what’s going on in our little corner of the world into global and historical perspective, and feeling that I, personally—and the groups that I work with—are part of a long legacy and a tradition of fighting for justice.

I value being able to have intergenerational dialogues with my comrades in the struggle, and to be able to learn from their experiences and feel genuinely cared for as a person and as someone who’s joined the movement.

I want to talk a little bit about some of the reasons why, after working with many of you for five years, this party won me over.

First: Workers World does work. Y’all don’t just talk about revolution; you work for it every day. I met the party when Dustin and Imani came down with a vanload of organizers and activists to defend a gay Filipino marine who was one of the first conscientious objectors to the war. They had come to picket in Jacksonville, N.C., in one of the most conservative areas in the state at a time when the drumbeat to support this imperialist war was at its loudest.

Second: WWP works with principled unity with all organizations working for justice. You don’t waste time trashing other organizations and sowing division. You intentionally work to build unity on the left and to work in solidarity with oppressed communities, while respecting and defending the right to self-determination.

Third: WWP has a vision and a politic based on a material analysis of history and power that has helped me understand my role as a woman and as a white person and as a southerner who lives in a system of exploitation that feeds off patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism, and heterosexism—and that those systems of power and control damage everyone. And that only by uniting, by practicing solidarity, and by being actively engaged in struggle can we begin to heal as people and build the kind of work we all need and deserve.

So today, I am proud and honored to be among so many amazing fighters, people who not only act, but also take the time to be strategic and thoughtful about how we engage in this work. I honor my elders here. My hope, my dream, is that when I am 79—50 years from now—that I might again have the opportunity to speak to some of those gathered here, and look back at how we did it, how we worked and struggled together to build a workers world.

From my sisters and brothers in the immigrant struggle—Sí se puede!


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