[Marxism] Kshama Sawant meeting

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jan 12 19:19:26 MST 2014

David MacDonald just posted a photo on FB with this comment:

"Full house for Kshama Sawant's leadoff rally for $15 Now at the Labor 
Temple in Seattle. About 400 or maybe more in attendance. Close 
observers will note 80-year-old Rita Shaw and Bruce Lesnick in the 
audience, although Brucie suffers from the crappy lens on my phone. 
Sorry, Brucie!"

Rita was a long-time member of the SWP. She was married to Ed Shaw, who 
was the national secretary of the party before Jack Barnes so there is 
poetic justice in her being there in light of the sectarian swipe the 
Militant took at Sawant's campaign. Bruce was in the Kansas City branch 
of the SWP in 1978 during my swan song. He used to tell me that my 
morale would pick up after I got a job like his--he was a welder. Two 
years after I quit, so did he. He then got a job as a programmer.

Out of curiosity, I checked to see if there was any info on Rita on the 
net and came up with an interesting oral history interview at 
http://www.washingtonhistory.org/files/library/Shaw.pdf. Here's an excerpt:

Dilg:	I‘m sure there were just a lot of things going on around Los 
Angeles during the Second World War.

Shaw: Right. This was towards the end of the war. One of the things that 
happened is that there was an American-bred fascist, basically, the 
Silver Shirts, Gerald L.K. Smith, I don‘t think I‘ll ever forget his 
name, who was scheduled to speak in Los Angeles for his beliefs. He was 
going to be speaking at a public high school auditorium. At that point, 
I remember there were discussions [about him raised by different groups 
and] going on amongst students and amongst this club that I was in. It 
came down to two questions. Should we call for organized, visible 
opposition to him? There were a lot of veterans who were out already of 
the military, and union people, and other people saying, we oppose his 
ideas, and nobody else has the right to use the public school 
auditorium, how come he got it? Or should we just keep quiet, and say 
that, well, it will go away if you don‘t pay too much attention to him. 
Nobody pays any attention to those ideas.

So there was a big discussion in this club that I was in. I took the 
position that we should have a big demonstration. Well, it turned out 
that at the next meeting, I was asked to step outside of the meeting 
group. They spoke and voted and I was called in and told that I was 
being expelled from the group. I asked why. They said, ―Because you‘re a 
Trotskyite. What‘s a Trotskyite?‖ I had no idea. Well, it turns out that 
the Trotskyist movement had been supporting the side of having the 
demonstration. The Communist Party movement was, you know, the Stalinist 
side, was saying, ―Keep quiet! I didn‘t know that I had lined up on 
political sides. It took me the next year to realize and to find out 
what was going on.

I ended up agreeing with the Trotsky side, which was the Socialist 
Workers Party. Became an active supporter and member of the Socialist 
Workers Party for practically all of my adult life, until 1984.

Dilg: So you were still in high school, then, when you joined the 
Socialist Workers Party.

Shaw: Yes.

Dilg: Okay. So it sounds like you were pretty engaged in a lot of 
political activity from that time forward. Did you continue on with 
that? Or when you graduated from high school, where did you go with 
that? What was the next phase of your life?

Shaw: Well, a lot of what I did was driven, I guess that‘s a good word 
to use, by my commitment to be politically active as a socialist. The 
Socialist Workers‘ Party, in 1948, mounted its first ever campaign to 
put up candidates to run for president and vice president. I became 
active in that. Which meant, also, leaving Los Angeles, which I was 
happy to do to get away from my parents, who did not agree with me and, 
needless to say, did not approve of what I was doing. That‘s how my life 
was directed.

I, at some point not too long after that, met the man in the Socialist 
Workers Party that I married. We both lived our lives focused primarily 
around being politically active.

Dilg:	Who was the person that you met and married?

Shaw: That was Ed Shaw. So, yes, I did take his name, kept it when we 
divorced. He was a merchant seaman at the time and worked at that during 
part of World War Two. He was trained by the Coast Guard to be a 
merchant seaman, and was on dangerous runs into Murmansk and being 
torpedoed and everything.

He was originally from a small town in the Midwest, a very religious 
community called Zion, Illinois, where they were set up as a church 
town, and their basic belief is that the earth was flat. [laughs] That‘s 
what he was taught in school until the schools disintegrated when he was 
thirteen during the Depression, because the head of the church had 
invested too much of the church money in stocks that went belly up 
during the Depression. But they believed in things like faith healing also.

So we came, both of us, from a very religious family background. But 
totally different. Totally different. Except that it was interesting. 
His family, because they had a belief in support of both the Old and the 
New Testament, they did not eat pork, they didn‘t eat shellfish, they 
followed some of the old Jewish dietary laws. They really believed that 
because I had been born and raised Jewish that I had one foot in the 
door of heaven already as God‘s chosen people, and that I would 
influence their son.

Well, neither one of us was religious, and I‘ve never taken on any other 

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