Leadership Across Difference

An interview with leaders from Put People First! PA

The following interview was conducted with Put People First! PA’s Nijmie Dzurinko, Phil Wider and Borja Gutiérrez. PPF is a statewide membership organization among poor and working class people in Pennsylvania. It is leading a “health care is a human right” campaign and has been involved in the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. In this interview we discuss PPF’s role in the Poor People’s Campaign and how they are building unity among the working class. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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The Capitalist Class & the Council on Foreign Relations

The University of the Poor seeks to identify and develop leaders of the poor and dispossessed in order to build the unity of that class. By dispossessed, we mean those who do not own private property: factories, plants, stores, banks, farms, etc. All we own is personal property: cars, TVs, furniture, perhaps a house, etc. The poor – if you count everyone at or below twice the “official” poverty line – are about 48 percent (nearly half) of the population of the United States. Four out of five – 80 percent – of the population will experience poverty at some point in their lives. Those are the people we aim to unite.

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You Only Get What You're Organized to Take!

John Wessel-McCoy: In your experience of the poor organizing the poor, where do we begin?  

Willie Baptist: Like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed out, “”The prescription for the cure rests with the accurate diagnosis of the disease.”

Any approach to social change, organizing and leadership development has to be based on an accurate assessment of the situation, on an accurate analysis of the problem you aim to solve.  If you have one assessment or a certain diagnosis of the disease to be cured, you’re going to have a particular prescription and a particular approach to the solution. Either we’re dealing with a teddy bear or we’re dealing with a grizzly bear, and either estimate will determine a different set of tactics and correspondently a different organizing approach.  If you think you’re dealing with a teddy bear and in reality it’s a grizzly bear coming at you, you’re going to be in trouble. So an exact estimate of the situation has to be where you begin. This involves a tremendous amount of intellectual work to effectively and efficiently guide the practical work of particularly the poor organizing the poor.

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The 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution

November 7, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. This revolution is significant because it was the first time in history that the property-less, the most oppressed and exploited people of a country, seized and held political power for an extended period of time. That political power was used to seize the wealth and property of the capitalists and landowners who had been driving the people of the Russian empire into semi-slavery. Those of us who possess nothing, and are forced to fight every day just to survive, look to the lessons of the Russian Revolution and other instances in history where the poor have risen up in revolution and won political power. The poor have made history in the past. We need to study that history and use what we learn to make history again.

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Anarcho – Syndicalism or Class Struggle

The influence of Anarchism and Syndicalism has a long history in the American Left. Anarchism as a doctrine has been in existence since the early 1800’s. As capitalism evolved into imperialism in the late 1800’s a new anarchist trend developed: Anarcho-Syndicalism, a fusion of anarchism and trade unionism, which relegated the working class to the economic arena and denied a role for political struggle.

Today syndicalism is once again very strong in the revolutionary movement, witness identity politics and single-issue organizing for example. This doctrine obscures the class struggle and confuses it. Thus hindering the working class from utilizing its best weapon against the system of capitalism – the class struggle.

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The Revolutionary Process Today: Science and Doctrine

As the crisis of international capitalism continues to develop, and a growing number of countries enter into political crisis, revolutionaries around the world turn to the body of knowledge known as Marxism for guidance in the fight of the working class. However, the confusion and merger of various aspects of Marxism has led to a disorientation of many revolutionaries. Some “Marxists” live in a world of abstractions, with little connection to the revolutionary process. Other “Marxists” run after every protest and expression of the “class struggle” without any strategic conception of the general motion and goals of the revolutionary process.

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EssayLenny BrodyComment
U.S. Conjunctural Analysis

Edited March 2017 - We are in a new phase of imperialism ushered in by the 2008 financial crisis. US power is in decline. The most stalwart voice for Western Imperialism, The British magazine The Economist, noted in its September 17, 2016 Leader, that today’s rise of tech oligopolies and their avoidance of taxes etc. has cast the shadow of “1917 and all that”! How fitting that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Great October Revolution!

The workers and dispossessed of the world suffered a defeat and crisis that was symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The international agenda of 1990’s was dominated by US capitalist hegemony under the guise of neoliberal globalization. There were subsequent critical articulations against the US proposal to dominate the South: most notably the World Social Forum and subsequent People’s Movements Assemblies (fully supported, it should be noted, by Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution). The rise of popular movements and progressive governments in Latin America altered the balance of forces and were a beacon of hope everywhere. Brave and heroic Cuba endures!

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