Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack!
Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Fightback is based in Illinois and Minnesota. It sprang from a 1999 split in the original Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Organizacion Socialista del Camino para la Libertad. While still calling itself the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, it publishes a magazine called FightBack! and is sometimes referred to as Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack!.
- Tom Burke
- Joe Iosbaker
- Mick Kelly
- Fern Figueroa
- Linden Gawboy
- Gregory Lucero
- Tracy Molm
- Jess Sundin
- Steff Yorek
- Stephanie Weiner
- Danya Zituni
- Chance Zombor
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack! Arizona
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack! California
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack! Florida
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack! Illinois
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack! Minnesota
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack! New York
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack! North Carolina
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack! Houston
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack! Utah
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack! Wisconsin
Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Fightback began as a doctrinal split in Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Organizacion Socialista del Camino para la Libertad.
In a December 19, 2005 statement, the new organization wrote;
- The attempt at counter-revolution in China in 1989 and the defeat of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe provided new challenges. Communists within FRSO were quick to assess the importance of the events. Some of our members were confused and got more confused with the passage of time. They finally left our organization in 1999. These were the folks who supported sanctions on Iraq, opposed the socialist countries, and think it’s far “too dangerous” to support national liberation movements like Colombia’s FARC. The only time they say they are Marxist-Leninists is when they visit other countries. Maybe time and reality will help them rethink things.
- Over the past six years, one of the many things we have done is work for the unity of Marxist-Leninists in U.S. We have had many meetings with comrades in other organizations to talk things over and more than a little work on common projects. That said, we recognize that the key to building a revolutionary movement in the U.S. and to building a new party of the working class - a new communist party - is to bring in new people. We need to build the people’s struggles, raise the level of knowledge and understanding and help the most active and foresighted become Marxists. Fusing Marxism and working-class movement is our central task.
- In a 1999 statement, we wrote: “FRSO realizes that the task of building communist organization is by no means easy or simple. We have much work in front of us. That being said, we have every confidence in the future. In one of his poems, the leader of the Chinese revolution, Mao Zedong, noted, ‘The world cries out for things to be done.’ We will continue to advance the ranks of the doers and shakers.”
FBI raids/Obama connection
In the early morning of Sept. 24, 2010, FBI agents raided homes in Chicago and Minneapolis, issued subpoenas to 14 activists, and tried to question others around the country, including prominent antiwar organizers in North Carolina and California.
At 7 a.m., according to documents and interviews, about a dozen armed federal agents used a battering ram to force their way into Mick Kelly’s second-floor apartment, which sits over an all-night coffee shop in a working-class neighborhood of Minneapolis.
The probe — involving subpoenas to 23 people and raids of seven homes last fall — has triggered a high-powered protest against the Department of Justice and, in the process, could create some political discomfort for President Obama with his union supporters as he gears up for his reelection campaign.
The apparent targets are concentrated in the Midwest, including Chicagoans who crossed paths with Obama when he was a young state senator and some who have been active in labor unions that supported his political rise.
Investigators, according to search warrants, documents and interviews, are examining possible “material support” for Colombian and Palestinian groups designated by the U.S. government as terrorists.
The apparent targets, all vocal and visible critics of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and South America, deny any ties to terrorism. They say the government, using its post-9/11 focus on terrorism as a pretext, is targeting them for their political views.
They are “public non-violent activists with long, distinguished careers in public service, including teachers, union organizers and antiwar and community leaders,” said Michael Deutsch, a Chicago lawyer and part of a legal team defending those who believe they are being targeted by the investigation.
Several activists and their lawyers said they believe indictments could come anytime, so they have turned their organizing skills toward a counteroffensive, decrying the inquiry as a threat to their First Amendment rights.
Those who have been subpoenaed, most of them non-Muslim, include clerical workers, educators and in one case a stay-at-home dad. Some are lesbian couples with young children — a point apparently noted by investigators, who infiltrated the activists’ circle with an undercover officer presenting herself as a lesbian mother.
All 23 of the activists invoked their right not to testify before a grand jury, defying U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, whose office is spearheading the investigation.
A spokesman for Fitzgerald, the Chicago prosecutor whose past work has sometimes riled both political parties, declined to comment.
It is uncertain whether Obama is aware of the investigation. A White House official referred questions to the Justice Department, where spokesman Matthew Miller said the agency will not comment on an investigation, but he disputed any assertion that people would be targeted for political activities.
“Whenever we open an investigation, it is solely because we have a reason to do so based on the facts, evidence and the law, ”Miller said.
The activists formed the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, organized phone banks to flood Attorney General Eric Holder.’s office and the White House with protest calls, solicited letters from labor unions and faith-based groups and sent delegations to Capitol Hill to gin up support from lawmakers.
Labor backers include local and statewide affiliates representing the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, two of the most influential unions in the liberal movement. So far, nine members of Congress have written letters to the administration asking questions.
The major national labor organizations have not gotten involved in the case and are considered likely to support Obama’s reelection next year.
But some state and local union organizations are expressing alarm about the case, saying that the government appears to be scrutinizing efforts by workers to build ties with trade unionists in other countries.
“I am so disgusted when I see that so many union people have been targeted in this,” said Phyllis Walker, president of AFSCME Local 3800, which represents clerical workers at the University of Minnesota, including four members who are possible targets.
The union’s statewide group, which says it represents 46,000 workers, called on Obama to investigate and passed a resolution expressing “grave concern” about the raids. Similar resolutions have been approved by statewide AFSCME and SEIU affiliates in Illinois.
If there are indictments, the case could test a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that found the ban on material support for designated foreign terrorist groups does not necessarily violate the First Amendment — even if the aid was intended for peaceful or humanitarian uses. The ruling held that any type of support could ultimately help a terrorist group’s pursuit of violence.
The probe appears to date from 2008, as a number of activists began planning for massive antiwar demonstrations at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
After the convention, the FBI’s interest continued, apparently focused on the international work pursued by many of the participants. Several activists said they had traveled to Colombia or the Palestinian territories on “fact-finding” trips designed to bolster their case back home against U.S. military support for the Israeli and Colombian governments.
In 2009, a group raised money to travel and deliver about $1,000 to a Palestinian women’s group, but the delegation was turned back by officials at the airport in Israel, organizers said.
Search warrants, subpoenas and documents show that the FBI has been interested in links between the activists and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hezbollah.
Kelly, 53, a cook in a University of Minnesota dormitory and a member of the Teamsters, said he was at work and his nightgown-clad wife, Linden Gawboy, was slow to answer the door.
Apparently by accident, the agents left something behind: a packet of secret documents headlined “Operation Order,” laying out detailed instructions for the FBI SWAT team to find clues of Kelly’s activism, including personal finances or those of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack!, a far-left group he works with. The documents point to the FBI’s interest in Kelly’s foreign travel.
“We’ve done absolutely nothing wrong,” Kelly said. “We don’t know what this is about, but we know that our rights to organize and speak out are being violated.”
Tom Burke, who received a subpoena Sept. 24, had in 2004 discussed the plight of murdered Colombian trade unionists with then-state senator Obama.
“He was a sympathetic ear,” Burke said, recalling that Obama told him the murders were a “human rights problem.”
In Chicago, the raid at the home of Stephanie Weiner, 49, also targeted her husband, Joe Iosbaker, 52, a University of Illinois-Chicago office worker and a union steward for his SEIU local. The couple are among the grassroots activists close to the world once inhabited by Barack Obama who have been caught up in the investigation.
Like others, Weiner and Iosbacker have been fixtures on the local liberal political scene, protesting police actions, attending antiwar rallies, leading pay equity fights and even doing some volunteer work for Obama’s past campaigns.
Hatem Abudayyeh, one of seven Palestinians to be subpoenaed in the investigation, recalls encountering Obama in the community during his years as a state legislator. Abudayyeh, 40, is executive director of the Arab American Action Network, a Chicago advocacy group that hosted then-state senator Obama for at least two events.
Solidarity with WWP
Fight Back News Service is circulating statement from Standing Committee of Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack! (FRSO) to the Workers World Party National Conference. The statement was delivered to the conference on Nov. 18 2017, by Tom Burke, the Organizational Secretary of FRSO.
- The Freedom Road Socialist Organization salutes the Workers World Party National Conference and your successful year in advancing the people’s struggle and building your party. We appreciate the leadership of 1st Secretary Larry Holmes and the WWP Secretariat in promoting revolutionary politics and unity in action.
- Our unity in the struggle sets a good example for others to emulate. We memorably joined together to lead the two big protests outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. People around the world heard our message opposing Trump and the Republicans agenda, taking a stand against racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attacks. Then we helped ruin Trump’s inauguration on January 20 in Washington D.C., rallying outside Union Station and marching through the streets.
- The bond between our groups is precious. The FRSO will never forget the concrete solidarity the WWP provided when the FBI raided the Anti-war 23 in 2010. You lifted us up, and by gathering others, we defeated the U.S. government repression of the anti-war movement and stopped the attempted imprisonment of FRSO leaders.
- Like you, we look forward to another year of fighting back! Our movements can defeat Trump without waiting for an election. Together we are strong. We cheered when the WWP comrades tore down the Confederate statue in Durham, NC! We will never allow Nazis to march in our streets, not in Charlottesville, nor anywhere else!
- Comrades, more and more working-class and oppressed people are awakening and looking for a new society. Support for socialism among younger people is growing by leaps and bounds. Now is the time to spread revolutionary ideas, combined with action!
- Comrades, we raise our fists in solidarity and unity!
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization: 20 Years of Struggle, FRSO website, accessed December 21, 2010
- [https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/activists-cry-foul-over-fbi-probe/2011/06/09/AGPRskTH_story.html?utm_term=.d0a671c9e372WaPo Activists cry foul over FBI probe By Peter Wallsten June 13, 2011]
- FB News, The Freedom Road Socialist Organization salutes the Workers World Party National Conference 2017 By staff | November 20, 2017