Jim Branson

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Jim Branson


Jim Branson was a Texas activist. He was assistant organizing coordinator for the Texas State Employees Union, Austin Texas, from 1998 - 2013.

He was the partner of Anne Lewis. He died in August 2019.

Father of Jacob Branson, brother of William Branson.

Education

  • Went to Ravenswood High School

Career

  • Former Assistant Organizing Coordinator at Texas State Employees Union (CWA Local 6186)
  • Former Appalshop Center Program Director at Appalshop
  • Former Organizing Coordinator at W.Va. State Employees Union/CWA
  • Former section mechanic, machine operator at us steel mining
  • Former Shuttle Car Operator at Bethlehem mines
  • Worked at CLINCHFIELD COAL
  • Worked at Pontiac Motors, Ford Motors, Mead Paper, Atlantic Steel, Fulton Cotton Mills, Western Electric

Maoist life

Anne Lewis August 16 2019.

Dearest friends and comrades,

Jim Branson, far left in China
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My partner Jim Branson died early this morning from Lewy Body Dementia. He was a lifelong socialist fighter and a trade unionist. Jim was an open member of the Georgia Communist League, the October League, the Communist Party USA (Marxist-Leninist), and most recently DSA and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (now Liberation Road). He went to China as part of a workers delegation in the eighties. They ate feasts of sea cucumber and talked about the mines.

He worked in slaughterhouses and steel mills; underground coal mines and as a grassroots, cultural, and union organizer in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas. Always physically courageous and an organic intellectual, he committed body and mind to the Mead Paper Strike, the Brookside Miners Strike, the Massey Strike, the Pittston Coal Strike, the Southern Organizing Committee’s work on environmental justice, the campaign for single payer health care, the March to Save Blair Mountain, and union organizing drives in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas.

Jim wrote poems and pamphlets. His last job was with the Texas State Employees Union TSEU-CWA 6186.

He learned from Jack O'Dell, Jim Garland, Anne Braden, and Don West. He disliked bosses and authority figures. He stayed in jobs long enough to struggle with them and never long enough to move ahead. In a more just society he would have been a leader. In this one he was proud to be a foot soldier.

Thanabantu Iverson connection

M. Thandabantu Iverson‎‎ in Liberation Road.

The oppressed, exploited and resistant peoples of the United States have lost a remarkable working-class activist and intellectual, James Branson. I knew Jim for over twenty years, and it was one the abiding honors of my life to work with him in political organizations as well as the coal mines of West Virginia. As an Irish American of the working class, Jim was one of the most sincere, thoughtful, bold, and fearless embodiments of anti-racist humanity I have ever known. In this despicable and dispiriting time of white supremacy, misogyny, and liberal political reaction, we will do well to pause and reflect on a few aspects of Jim’s life.

During the 1970s I learned about a fearless worker named Jim Branson when I was working in the Southern Conference Education Fund. This political organization had actually been a fundraising arm of the Southern Conference on Human Welfare, a crucial organization begun during the 1930s by Blacks and Whites dedicated to bringing together “Black and White Toilers of the South” to help dismantle segregation across the South. Largely because of the virulent campaigns of McCarthyism, radically-minded members of that organization decided that it was important to separate the Education Fund from the more visible and aggressively-targeted SCHW. Anti-racist leaders like Anne Braden and Carl Braden, who had disrupted the racist normalcy of Louisville, Ky. by selling their home to a Black family, continued in SCEF the work of the SCHW to inspire and join forces with new generations of social change activists. I met Jim when I had become a fledgling writer for the Southern Struggle, the SCEF newspaper.

SCEF was supporting Jim at that time because he was under indictment for having defended other coal miners and their families who had been threatened by the goons working to destroy trade unionism and workers¹ resistance in Harlan County, Ky. Jim believed, quite simply, that workers have a human right to self-defense, as well as the human right to build unions to improve our lives and livelihoods. He boldly armed himself, and exercised those rights. We were following his legal case at the time, as we were trying to clarify the details of Harlan County conditions and resistance for a broader Southern audience. Jim was facing serious jail time; yet when I met him, I was struck by his consciousness and composure, as well as his humility. He had a quiet, courageous demeanor emblematic of many workers in the mines. Jim’s attitude toward bosses and goons said it all: “If you feel froggy, leap.”

A couple years later, after Jim¹s case had been won and I had moved to Charleston, West Virginia, I took a job at Carbon Fuel Mining Co., where Jim had been working for a while. Since we already knew each other, Jim wasted no time in taking me under his wing and giving me a primer on how to survive the work and the racism and anti-worker hostilities in the mines. We didn’t yet know each other well; but Jim told we about the conditions I would encounter and the challenges I would meet especially as a politically-conscious African American new to the opportunism and backwardness that stifle workers every day across Appalachia. He told me who the most deadly bosses were, always distinguishing between the White workers who were sold out to the company from the White workers who had not yet awakened fully to the need for working-class unity and struggle against capitalist greed. I have no doubt that if Jim hadn’t schooled me before I entered the mine, I would not have survived, and I certainly wouldn’t be writing this brief remembrance of my friend and comrade.

To me, Jim Branson will always stand as one of the most clear-sighted and humane anti-racists who ever worked to build principled unity between workers of different racial-ethnic groupings. Jim was not only a worker, but also an incisive intellectual deeply passionate about saving and celebrating the rich culture of workers in the Appalachian regions. Long before I met him, he had dedicated himself wholly to the organization and liberation of members of the working class across this country and the world. Jim was a wonderful husband, an amazing father, and the kind of brother who’d be standing next to you facing a group of Klansmen on a dark Southern road. I knew him as he survived the tragic losses of two wonderful women when death ended their marriages. Anne Lewis, his wife at the time of his passing, is also a brilliant working-class organizer and educator, who uses film to tell the stories and win the minds of working people to the ways we can make and live our lives better. We will have to keep going without Jim, but the lessons of his humble visionary activism will shed light as we press on through these dark times. Comrade James Branson, ¡Present![1]

Recruiting Salma Mirza

Salma Mirza told Liberation Road:

Jim Branson was a true working class hero, long time trade unionist and socialist/ communist. He was my mentor and friend, who brought me into Liberation Road as my district organizer and mentored me when I was volunteering for the Texas State Employees Union.[2]

Jared Story remembers

Last night I learned that one of my greatly respected elder comrades, Jim Branson, passed. I had a lot of feelings of guilt, shame, and alienation from the culture I grew up in as I became fully conscious of the system and history of white supremacy. Jim was one of the people whose example and comradeship pointed me to the legacy and continuity of white Southerners, and Appalachians specifically, who fought the bosses and the Klan. He was born at the base of Blair Mountain where thousands of miners of many nationalities joined together to wage armed struggle against the coal companies and their hired thugs. In that tradition of his birthplace, Jim lived his life organizing his fellow workers to join hands and struggle together for a better workplace and a better world. Along with the names of John Brown, Anne Braden, Bob Zellner, and many others, Jim Branson’s name should be in the hearts and minds of white people struggling against capitalism and white supremacy. Jim Branson, ¡Presente! [3]

USAS conference

Jared Story August 17 2019.

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United Students Against Sweatshops National Conference 2010 — with Tom Smith, James Branson and Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson.

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Karly Safar, Sendolo Diaminah and Thomas Wayne Walker were in the audience.

2013 CCDS conference

Nearly 100 delegates, observers and friends gathered in Pittsburgh, PA for the 7th Convention of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism over the July 18-21, 2013 weekend.

One panel was a discussion on how to use the Anne Braden film for radical education in organizing efforts. Presentations were made by Jim Branson, Janet Tucker, Frank Chapman, Ted Pearson, and the maker of the film, Anne Lewis.[4]

Now What? Defying Trump and the Left's Way Forward

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Now What? Defying Trump and the Left's Way Forward was a phone in webinar organized by Freedom Road Socialist Organization in the wake of the 2016 election.

Now what? We’re all asking ourselves that question in the wake of Trump’s victory. We’ve got urgent strategizing and work to do, together. Join Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson of the Movement for Black Lives and Freedom Road, Calvin Cheung-Miaw, Jodeen Olguin-Taylor of Mijente and WFP, Joe Schwartz of the Democratic Socialists of America, and Sendolo Diaminah of Freedom Road for a discussion of what happened, and what we should be doing to build mass defiance. And above all, how do we build the Left in this, which we know is the only solution to the crises we face?

This event will take place Tuesday November 15, 2016 at 9pm Eastern/8pm Central/6pm Pacific.

Those invited, on Facebook included Jim Branson.[5]

References