Remarks of John Stanford at the recent 20th anniversary dinner of Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, San Antonio, Texas.
I really appreciate being honored along with Ruth Lofgren, Nickie Valdez, T.C. Calvert, and María Antonietta Berriozábal; but I’m not sure I deserve the honor the same way the other four honorees do. Wednesday’s Express News had an article noting the accomplishments of the honorees. But when it came to me, the article did not mention any accomplishments. It said: “The longtime activist is best known for Stanford vs. Texas….” This was an important case argued by Maury Maverick, Jr., American Civil Liberties Union attorney, before the U.S. Supreme Court. His arguments won from the Court a unanimous reaffirmation of the liberties guaranteed by the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. I had little to do with the case except to discuss with Maury what Communists believe. The case came after a raid on my house and the seizure of thousands of books and papers. I was away at work. The real hero was my wife, who was at home at the time.
Actually, I did have a little bit more to do with the case. John J. McAvoy — a conservative, Wall Street Republican, according to Maury — was also an ACLU attorney on the case. After reading some of the changes made in the brief, I insisted on filing a supplemental statement of my own with the Court. Maury said the ACLU was afraid the case might be thrown out if I insisted on filing a separate statement. I was very careful with what I said, and the case was not thrown out.
I appreciate what Laura Codina and the Coordinadoras of Fuerza Unida, Petra Mata and Viola Cásares, said about me. But in all honesty I have to say that whatever I’ve been able to accomplish has been built on the legacy of Communists here in San Antonio before me.
In October of last year there was a symposium held at the Tamiment Library of New York University on “James and Esther Jackson, the American Left and the Origins of the Modern Civil Rights Movement.” James Jackson was a big influence in my life. At that symposium Percy Sutton, former Manhattan borough president, took the floor and spoke of his long association with and appreciation of the Jacksons. This began in San Antonio where Sutton grew up in a family of twelve, half of whom became Communists.
The six Suttons; Emma Tenayuca and John Inman, both of whom were chairs of the Communist Party of Texas; Hattie Mae Inman, who raised a family and was an inspiration to others while bedridden with five types of cancer; Manuela Soliz Sager and her husband James Sager; Luisa Moreno, and many more — these are people to whom I’m indebted. I think this honor belongs to them also. And to my wife, Jo, whose support enabled me to be involved in struggles for peace and justice.
I consider the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center one of the most important promoters of art, culture, peace and social justice in our country.
The vision statement of the Esperanza starts off with the words: “The people of Esperanza dream of a world where everyone has civil rights and economic justice, where the environment is cared for, where cultures are honored and communities are safe.” Many of you may not agree with me, but if you take the words literally, I think the world these people of Hope — we people of Hope — are dreaming of is Communism. It is not a world that can be achieved under today’s capitalism.
When Dr. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois joined the Communist Party in October, 1961, he stated: “Capitalism cannot reform itself; it is doomed to self-destruction. No universal selfishness can bring social good for all.”
Earlier this month, Hugo Chávez, president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, echoed this same thought on one of his weekly broadcasts of the program Aló presidente. In the course of a telephone exchange with Fidel Castro during the program, Chávez said: “Only socialism can save humanity. The only options we have left are socialism or barbarism.”
The people’s forces are gaining strength, and reasons for hope abound. Yet here in the USA we have Jena in Louisiana; racial profiling, an increase in police brutality and even killings by police here in San Antonio; continued attacks on Roe v. Wade; continued neglect of the needs of the victims of Katrina; attacks on the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgendered people; increasing raids on immigrants and the breakup of families; degradation of the environment; children behind bars at the Hutto Prison (renamed the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility) in Taylor, Texas; attacks on Palestinians, Arabs, and others. And on a world scale continued waste of billions of dollars monthly on wars; increased inequality between rich and poor nations; dangers of nuclear warfare; inaction in the face of global warming.
What stands in the way of building the unity of working people and of the many groups oppressed by modern capitalism, imperialism — the unity that’s needed to put an end to this madness?
Xenophobia (including anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian movements and sentiments)
Dogmatic religion (Here I’m speaking of the religion of the far Right, not the religion that calls on people to unite in the struggle for peace and social justice.)
Failure to see the role of the individual in history, which results in a lack of involvement.
How do we fight these roadblocks to progress?
We need to use every means at our disposal. I hand out the People’s Weekly World, with its weekly appeals for solidarity in the building of a better world, a world of peace and brotherhood. If you don’t have the most recent issue, you can pick up a copy on the table downstairs on your way out. Others use calaveras (like those in the new Voz de Esperanza) , song, music, dance, art, poetry, telling stories, writing novels, making movies. All forms of sembrando conciencia, spreading awareness and understanding — concientización, to use an old term — are important.
Hugo Chávez said: “Hagamos el socialismo, con amor y con pasión, y estaremos salvando a la humanidad del imperialismo, del capitalismo, de la destrucción de la especie humana.
“Let’s build socialism, with love and passion, and by doing so we will be saving humanity from imperialism, capitalism, and the destruction of the human species.”
When he applied for admission to membership in the Communist Party, Dr. Du Bois said: “I have been long and slow in coming to this conclusion, but at last my mind in settled.”
If you are not yet ready to join the Communist Party, take your time. Study The Communist Manifesto. It’s old but still good.
And there are still many other things you can do to build a better world. There is Esperanza. Start by reading the Esperanza’s remarkable Vision and Mission Statement.
This article was previously published in La Voz de Esperanza by the Esperanza Center in San Antonio, Texas.