Sue Mi Ko – Why I joined the Freedom Socialist Party

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I first came across the Freedom Socialist Party at an anti-war rally in New York City in the spring of 2011 where I got into a discussion with a party member selling the Freedom Socialist newspaper. We talked about fracking, an issue I was actively protesting at the time, and he suggested that we organize a screening of the documentary Gasland at the party’s NYC hall. I remember how assured he seemed in his political beliefs and how quick he was to address my individual concerns.

After reading the Freedom Socialist at home I was struck by how the organization’s 10-point program expressed solutions to the same wide-ranging societal ills that I also cared about. Solutions like taxing corporations, redirecting war spending, and mandating a sustainable energy policy resonated with me and I felt fortunate to have bumped into an organization that had a comprehensive perspective of the many injustices plaguing our society.

This world view, a revolutionary feminist perspective, took a while to seep into my consciousness and gradually override my faith in our present system of governance. As the daughter of Korean immigrants with businesses in the United States, I grew up believing in the American Dream.  I had also witnessed the material and emotional hardships that followed my father from the days of the Korean War. Learning about the oppression in North Korea, I thought capitalism should always trump communism.

In hindsight, my belief in capitalism had already begun to erode. My involvement in the anti-fracking movement revealed the wanton actions of corporations seeking profit over public health and safety. As an animal rights supporter, I couldn’t ignore the capitalist greed manifested in factory farms.

When I moved to Maryland to work at my parents’ store, I saw how hard the employees worked, all of them immigrants. One worker had clocked in 68 hours a week for 20 years straight. I saw that most immigrants don’t attain the dream, that there are a huge number of obstacles preventing them from better-paying jobs, despite their high levels of industriousness.

Fortunately, I met an FSP member in Baltimore, where I live. Together, we began to read and study socialist classics, including Engels and Trotsky. I learned about the origins of private property and the state, the transition from matriarchy to patriarchy, and the relentless commodification of everything natural on our planet — land, oceans, animals. I eventually understood the regime of North Korea as a deformed, Stalinist workers state, not genuinely communist. I began to see how a real labor party can help confront and dissolve the capitalist state that chokes us all. I learned that Marxism is a powerful, clarifying tool to understand history and all the current social and political ills I cared so much about.

When I think about capitalism now, I’m reminded of a portrait at the National Portrait Gallery, painted by an anonymous artist. Unlike traditional renditions of George Washington crossing the Delaware River, this piece of art depicts him as a malevolent transgressor with eyes gouged out by thick black scrawl. And as Malcolm X once said, “Colonialism or imperialism creates an international power structure which is used to suppress the masses of dark-skinned people all over the world and exploit them of their natural resources.”

These illustrations throw into relief the FSP’s perspective of the deceptive and toxic nature of capitalism. I became a member soon after making this connection. When you understand that fundamental change is so necessary, joining a revolutionary organization is the logical way to help that happen.

Send feedback to suemiko@gmail.com.

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