This year is the centennial of the Freedom Socialist Party’s indomitable founder, Clara Fraser. Fraser was a groundbreaking theorist of socialist feminism. Today it’s not unusual for folks to say they are socialist feminists. But in 1966 it was heresy, vilified in both the left and feminist movements. That didn’t stop Fraser or the comrades in the newly formed FSP from carrying their banner into the historic movements of the 1960s and ’70s.
The Seattle/Puget Sound FSP local decided to honor Fraser’s 100th year by hitting the streets. Comrades and supporters celebrated the 4th of July by holding a “Revolutionary July 4th Speak-Out.”
What? A statue of Lenin in Seattle, the home of international capitalist behemoths like Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing? Yep. The 16-foot sculpture was installed in the artsy, hipster neighborhood of Fremont, after being found in a scrapyard in Slovakia and shipped to Seattle as a curio.
Fraser, a proud Leninist, wrote, “Now wouldn’t you think that the presence of this magnificent statue would spur a spirited debate about Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, socialism, the USSR’s collapse, and like that? Forget it. Most liberals insist on viewing this bronze bombshell as pure art, devoid of political meaning.” But Fraser knew the statue provided the perfect place to hawk the Freedom Socialist newspaper and engage in lively discussions. “People are amazed to find live, homegrown Leninists right here in Latte Land.” The speak-out on the U.S. revolutionary holiday carried on this tradition.
Armed with signs, banners, music and revolutionary enthusiasm the group set up in funky Fremont on a sunny July 4th. A quote from Lenin’s Women and Society hung from the statue: “Down with the liars talking of freedom and equality for all while there is an oppressed sex, oppressor classes, private ownership of capital, while there are well-fed who keep the hungry in bondage.”
Rebel voices spoke out in defense of reproductive justice, affirmative action, queer and trans rights. Speakers included Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS), members of the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Professional and Technical Employees Local 17 (ProTec17), Radical Women, and the National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice.
City workers denounced the Seattle mayor’s insulting offer of a 1% cost-of-living wage increase in the face of double-digit inflation. A King County public health worker stunned the crowd with news of the county’s budget proposal to cut funding from $30 million to $6 million for the few remaining public health clinics, forcing more people to go without access to healthcare.
Gina Petry spoke for Radical Women, demanding an end to all attacks on LGBTQ+ rights from the Supreme Court to the over 500 anti-queer bills introduced in legislatures across the country. “In spite of these attacks there is hope,” she stated. “Recent polls show the majority of people support LGBTQ+ rights and think queer and trans people should live free from discrimination.” She added, “Polls show the same support for abortion rights. The courts and politicians are out of touch with the American people.”
Jared Houston, organizer of the speak-out, took the microphone to ask the crowd to support the workers at Puget Consumers Co-op (PCC), a local organic boutique grocery store chain. “The pandemic showed us who the essential workers are — us. We are demanding a raise so we can afford to buy food at the place where we work.” He added that Fraser’s writings taught him “what it means to be a worker, what it means to stand up on the job and how to get ready for a strike.”
The speak-out had an unexpected epilogue. Though FSP contacted local news outlets promoting the event, only the Seattle Gay News covered it (see “Freedom Socialist Party calls for a new revolution this 4th of July.”). Days later, the Seattle Times featured a full-page editorial attacking the presence of a Lenin statue in Seattle. The paper’s brand new red-baiting editorial board member blamed the crimes of Stalin on Lenin. Comrades and friends pelted the paper with letters and phone calls. After the right-wing author of the hit piece tweeted that Lenin was worse than Hitler, the editorial board showed him the door.
Another victory for Fraser and Lenin!
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To learn more about Clara Fraser, check out her book Revolution, She Wrote, available at RedLetterPress.org.