We received this letter from Darnella Daley, a supporter of Militant Student and Labour Party member, who spent the Christmas period in the USA and had the opportunity to meet members of the Workers International League, the American Marxist tendency.
“Dear Militant Student,
“I have just returned from the USA, where I was put in contact with the American Marxists of the Workers International League (WIL) in New York and New Jersey. Whilst I was out there I also stumbled across an exhibition of Diego Rivera’s work at the Museum of Modern Art that I felt really expressed the nature of class struggle and which I thought particularly timely, both in the context of current American politics and the wider world.
“I managed to visit both the New York and New Jersey branches of the WIL during my stay, both of which have experienced a spurt of growth after the Occupy movement last year. Whilst I was there, I went to a fundraiser for their "Fighting Fund" - needless to say, as a Marxist organisation the comrades can only rely on themselves and donations from the wider Labour movement to help finance their activity. Many new faces turned out, and many people with whom I spoke expressed an interest in Marxism. This was a great reflection of how the movement over there is developing. I learned that during the Occupy movement they saw an overwhelming increase in interest, and that there was a massive increase in the amount of literature sold, including their paper, Socialist Appeal.
“The comrades were keen to hear news from the UK, and I was able to explain how the British Marxists have worked to promote the ideas of Marxism in the university through Marxist societies, such as the one I participated in whilst I was a student at the University of London. I explained that in the UK they have proved very successful at widening participation, particularly after the huge student mobilisations that we saw last year against education cuts and rising tuition fees.
“I was able to speak with the comrades at length, and they told me how the political arena has shifted and widened since the Occupy movement and that socialist ideas are gaining a wider credence in society in general. People I met seemed open to discuss socialist ideas, even if not openly supportive.
“During my stay I noticed the prevailing mood in American society was one of general unhappiness with, and even anger toward, the present capitalist system, and especially how it panders to the very rich.
“Although the media tried to focus their coverage away from the Occupy protests (news coverage was dominated by the Middle East and the Republican primaries) the sheer level of sustained interest in Occupy and the economy meant that coverage was given to the situation. I noticed that even the mainstream coverage became grudgingly more accepting as the level of participation widened throughout the country.
“It seems to me that along with an economic decline, parts of America’s ideological hegemony appears to be in remission. There is a definite feeling within America that they should get their own house in order before exporting their ideas (and "democracy") to other countries. I was also struck that with a downbeat economy and more and more competition from overseas, America is losing its economic supremacy, and that people are becoming increasingly aware of this.
“Even more striking to me is that there is a palpable shift in the opinions of the working class, who are worried not only for their own situation, but who are ready to stand up and be counted for the welfare of others too.
“Lastly, I have seen that the progress made in recent years has challenged the notion that to be Socialist was somehow ‘un-American’. This notion could not be further from the truth, but it seems to be the orthodox nature of American society and the divisions within it is breaking down, and that the national microcosm of Occupy attendees is a testament to this. People from all strata’s of society, celebrities, teachers, even the most revered of all Americans - war veterans - have given visible support to the movement.
“The defining memory of my visit will be witnessing how class awareness is increasing in the US, and crucially, people are getting behind the cause both ideologically and in deed. Occupy has been a massive success, despite an appearance of media shutout and falling numbers due to term ties (and the weather!).
“On my visit to the Museum of Modern Art, I was expecting an ultra-modernist, stereotypical environment, concerned mostly with “Art for Art’s sake”.
“What I saw however, was an exhibition that 80 years previously had mesmerised and startled viewers with its political subject matter which is still very much relevant today.
“The retrospective of Diego Riviera consisted of 8 large fresco murals depicting the class struggle on a revolutionary, portable format. (They were created especially for the original exhibition).
“It was the first time his work had been shown on this scale for 80 years
“Rivera's murals span Mexico's history back to the Spanish conquistadors and right through to 1930’s New York. They powerfully depict class inequality and social injustice. They show the drama of the protest and depict the class rebellion of an oppressed majority of indigenous natives, underclass workers, and the poor against a small dictatorial ruling class.
“My favourite of the murals was “Frozen Assets,” which caused a big stir when it was included in the popular exhibition. It’s a fresco in four registers (which is similar to renaissance frescos) showing, in descending order: A composite skyline of Manhattan; crowds in a subway tube; homeless workers sleeping on a wharf deck, overseen by a hydrant-shaped policeman; and, at the very bottom, a bank vault, with a few well-dressed citizens waiting to drop off their jewels.
“As I stood before the murals of struggle and class inequalities facing the society at the time, the thought that passed through my head, and I assume other peoples, was that nothing much had changed and if anything these murals and the stories they were telling were particularly evocative now.
“Long before Occupy Wall Street, artists took on social injustices. The Museum of Modern Art’s timing of this exhibition couldn’t have been better.
“It appeared that Diego Rivera had occupied the museum. Just as the Occupy Wall Street protesters had occupied Zuccuti Park.”