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How I Became a Socialist

By       Message Nancy Hanover     Permalink
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Upon joining the Young Socialists in the summer of 1984, I threw myself into supporting the election campaign of Ed Winn, a Trotskyist member of the Workers League and a New York City transit worker.

Ed Winn had a long a principled record of struggle within the labor movement for socialism. He was a very impressive intellectual figure, while clearly a genuine worker. He used his campaign to oppose the growing threat of imperialist war, denouncing Reagan's invasion of Grenada, the growing provocations against Nicaragua, the deployment of US Marines to Beirut, Lebanon and a massive military buildup. He was an internationalist.

Ed Winn

I learned that to be a socialist was to be an internationalist and defend the class interests of workers all across the world, and that the division of workers along national lines served the same purpose as the division of workers along racial lines.

In Detroit, tens of thousands of workers kept losing their jobs as more plants closedLynch Road Assembly, Huber Foundry, McGraw Glass, on and onsmaller shops went nonunion and a major recession eliminated jobs left and right.

The UAW was refusing to defend their members and instead attempting to divert workers' anger into a vicious campaign aimed at the Japanese. A young Chinese-American, Vincent Chin, was murdered by a Chrysler supervisor who was ranting about foreigners taking American jobs, and the UAW was sponsoring the bashing of Toyotas in company parking lots.

Leon Trotsky

As socialists, we fought for workers to unite together internationally, both in defense of jobs and in opposition to all forms of imperialist war. The Workers League election campaign pointed to the significance of the struggle of Leon Trotsky and educated those of us who were coming into struggle in the history of the socialist movement.

At this time, the Young Socialists were playing a leading role in the fight for the release of then 26-year-old Gary Tyler, a black youth from Louisiana, who had been framed up for murder.

D'Artagnan Collier visiting Gary Tyler in Angola State Penitentiary on July 10, 1985.

During a protest at his high school against desegregation, Gary and his black classmates were targeted by a racist mob. After a white youth was shot, he was framed for murder and faced the death penalty. The Young Socialists pointed out that this attack was an attack on the democratic rights of the whole working class.

We mobilized support for Gary throughout the working class and internationally, gaining the signatures of hundreds of thousands of workers and youth. The governor of Louisiana who refused to pardon Gary or review these petitions was Democrat Edwin Edwards. During this period, Jesse Jackson, who also refused to raise the Tyler case, paid Edwards a respectful visit. Moreover, again, the leaderships of the major unions failed to take action on Gary's case.

The treatment of Gary Tyler reinforced for me the need for the political independence of the working class, from both the Democratic and Republican parties, including the Black Congressional Caucus and other self-serving black politicians who clearly favored their careers at the expense of the working class, black or white.

During my senior year at Osborn High School, I organized students against the cuts in education by the Reagan administration. The school's funding for extracurricular activities as well as books and supplies was affected. While distributing a leaflet calling on young people to turn to the working class as the only force capable of stopping the attacks on education, I was suspended from school for three days. Despite the fact that I was an honor roll student with an unblemished record, the authorities attempted to intimidate other young people by disciplining me.

Today I am running for mayor to bring the perspective of socialism to a new generation.

I am still deeply troubled by the prevalence of poverty and the dismal prospects of a decent futurein fact, conditions today are far more urgent than when I joined the fight for socialism.

Over the past twenty-five years the working class has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to fight. Over this same period all the old organizationssuch as the UAW, the other unions and the civil rights establishmenthave abandoned the working class.

A new generation is coming into struggle and the question of revolutionary leadership is more crucial than ever. We say to young people: study politics and learn the scientific philosophy of Marxism. Read the Historical and International Perspectives of the Socialist Equality Party.

Young people today will find in the Socialist Equality Party the policies and program necessary for the working class to resolve this historical crisis, to end imperialist war and create a world based on the highest achievements of mankind and the principle of social equality.

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Nancy Hanover writes for the World Socialist Website which is published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI).

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