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Occupy Wall Street, Stamp Money Out Of Politics protest, New York. Photo/Scott Lynch,
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By Andi Sosin and Joel Sosinsky, The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition

NEW YORK CITY—Attending two very different events on the same day provides striking similarities and contrasts: Hofstra University students and faculty re-enacted scenes from historic labor struggles one day before hosting the second presidential debate between Obama and Romney, and the Green Party presidential candidates rallied in New York City. While very different in tone and content both events addressed the problems of America’s working class—how capitalism and corporations beat down workers then and now, and what solutions are offered to us today.

Hofstra’s preparation to host the presidential debate was an educative production called “Expressions of Democracy,” in which dramatic and musical performances and a social realism art exhibit tackled abolition, industrial capitalism, immigration, the Great Depression, up through the struggles for Civil Rights in the 1960s. In a tableau, the Bread & Roses strike of 1912 was brought to life by speeches from International Workers of the World (IWW) leaders “Rebel Girl” Helen Gurley Flynn and “Big Bill” Haywood. A costumed Rose Schneiderman eloquently condemned the moneyed classes following the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire of 1911. The audiences, mostly of college students and faculty, supplemented by middle school social studies classes, participated loudly and vigorously, shouting “strike!” as Clara Lemlich had when she incited female shirtwaist makers in the 1909 Uprising of the 20,000.

The Green Party rally concentrated on how present day American politics has become a contest of which of the two “corporate” political parties can marshal the most money, rather than which candidate has the best ideas to help the country and the world. Excluded as a third party candidate, Jill Stein, who is running for the presidency on the Green Party ticket, gave a convincing stump speech that outlined their platform for economic revival based on a New “New Deal” and environmental conservation. The Green Party had to spend most of its time this year in qualifying to get on the ballot in each state because of the US two-party system. Stein spoke optimistically about how, if the Green Party can achieve 5% of the national popular vote in this election, it will qualify for matching funds and could become a contender in the next presidential election.

Comparisons of history to present day conditions expose the timeless nature of unfair economic and political systems. Educators, like the ones at Hofstra who produced the historical vignettes, help youth understand how the labor and civil rights movements stood in solidarity for righteous beliefs in equality and fairness. Current day politicians like the Green Party’s Jill Stein show courage and conviction for the same beliefs. As the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition advances the cause of a memorial to the fire’s victims and the social activism of its aftermath, we are encouraged to see educators who teach about historical labor struggles and politicians who focus on our most pressing social and environmental problems, meet on common grounds. See the rememberthetrianglefire.org website for details about the planned memorial.

By Pedro Angel Rivera

Just two months ago, on the 6th of August of this year, we lost our compañero in struggle, Ricardo Campos Orta. The loss of Ricardo is also a moment to recall the benefit that his life meant for many. It is an extremely fertile occasion to harvest the lesson that his living legacy leaves in the heart of all comrades that shared with him the happiness and problems of a struggle, that like a ray of light does not cease. This is the principal lesson that the compañero Ricardo bequeathed to us—the struggle from all the trenches and at all times, as an antidote to the unfeeling nature of the capitalistic system of life that imprisons us daily.

Ricardo was a tireless striver from the trenches of the political party of the "people at the bottom,” fighting against the colonialism of his motherland Puerto Rico in the archipelago island as well as from the imperial bowels of North America. In that same spirit of struggle, Ricardo fought shoulder to shoulder with women and men of all social strata and nationalities, in the noblest spirit of communist and proletarian internationalism, staunch to his own roots from a proletarian father and mother.

From his motherland he became known as a militant of the Puerto Rican Independence Party and as an outstanding member of groups of advanced communists such as the Revolutionary Socialist Party. From such organizations, he worked as much in the area of street protest demonstrations as in the field of ideological struggle as a writer, historian, university teacher and debater, always in defense of the proletarian struggle against capitalist exploitation and domination.

He was obligated to migrate to the U.S. due to political persecution and by his own need to search in other areas of struggle, to meet revolutionary fighters of other nationalities in the space opened by the then newborn Communist Labor Party (CLP). Within that political space he succeeded in becoming connected as an intellectual proletarian to the class struggles in which the CLP was active. In Rally, Comrades! and the Tribuno del Pueblo, the writing and revolutionary analysis of Ricardo are linked to the proletarian intellectual collectivity of the CLP to popularize the ideas, tactics and strategies developed in the heat of the struggles of the homeless, the migrant agricultural workers and the industrial proletariat in decline—all exploited and dispossessed by capitalism in its new phase of destructive re-creation.

Today, it moves many compañeros and disciples in struggle to celebrate his legacy in the one and only way which Ricardo would want us to: continuing in the struggle that as the ray of light does not cease, against a capitalist system which is dying but each day becomes more dangerous and more obsessed with pushing us toward the struggle of all against all, instead of toward humanity without slavery to which we all aspire.
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In memory of a compañero in struggle, Ricardo Campos Orta who passed away August 6, 2012.
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