Willamette Reds

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Willamette Reds is a working collective of Socialists, Communists, and independent Leftists in Oregon's Willamette Valley.

Several of its members have been affiliated with the Communist Party USA.[1]

Since circa 2014 it is known as Oregon Socialist Renewal.

Origins

In 2007, scheduled speakers include Vice-Chair of the Communist Party USA Scott Marshall who has been active in labor and anti-globalization issues and community activist Juanita Rodriguez from Corvallis.

One of the organizers of the Willamette Reds, Chuck Wynns said it all started when he and a group of his friends started meeting informally to discuss social issues.

“We’ve always identified with the left politically and we saw a world increasingly going in a direction that stratifies wealth and creates a lot of poverty,” Wynns said. “So we said if we’re serious, we need to start doing something.”

The group has since sponsored talks and events and occasionally donates funds they raise to local organizations. Wynns says they are not looking at running candidates for public office at this time; they are more focused on labor and immigration issues.

“We are open about who we are and we hope to start a public dialogue. We want to make socialism relevant again. These are viable viewpoints and the political views I believe in.”[2]

Communist affiliation

For a time many members of the Willamette Reds were also in the Communist Party USA.

2007 - By Bob Rossi, Salem Club chair

Our new Communist Party Club in Oregon has eight members, centered in Salem but including people living in the Portland area.

Our club grew out of a still-existing socialist group called Willamette Reds. Willamette Reds formed in 2006 with the idea that we could talk directly to other workers about socialism. In fact, we saw this as a necessity in our political environment. We centered the group in members and staff of SEIU Local 503 and we now include four members in WR who are not involved in Local 503. Our group has within it an amazing wealth of union, Palestinian solidarity, community and issue-oriented organizing.

People

"Whose World Is It?"

The Frederick Douglass School/Willamette Reds sponsored a talk by community solidarity activist Juanita Rodriguez and Communist Party USA leader Scott Marshall on Saturday, October 6 in Salem, Oregon. The event was held at Salem’s First Congregational Church, 700 Marion St. NE. The title of the event was: Whose World Is It? Global and Local Communities In Action.[4]

Supporting Barack Obama

Promoting Obama at an Oregon socialist meeting, 2008
Campaigning for Obama, Oregon 2008

In 2008 Communist Party USA leader Jarvis Tyner criss-crossed America, rallying party members, converting wavering Democrats and building support for Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama.

From the West Coast, the Communist Party USA led Willamette Reds of Oregon reported[5];

The Civil and Human Rights Committee of SEIU Local 503, Oregon Public Employees Union sponsored and hosted a talk by Communist Party Vice Chair Jarvis Tyner, Local 503 retiree activist Ann Montague and union organizer Bob Novick on Friday, August 8 in Portland, Oregon...
The Friday meeting was one of four events held in Oregon featuring Jarvis Tyner and discussions about the Party and the elections. A Thursday night dinner brought together CWA, SEIU and AFT members. A Saturday educational discussion involved the Oregon club and several friends, and was followed by a reception which brought together a mix of union and gay activists and some people from a West Salem neighborhood...

Future of the peace movement

Nov. 8: 2009, Salem, 2 p.m. “If Peace Broke Out, What Would It Look Like?” Peter Bergel (Oregon Peace Works) and Will Seaman (Pdx. Peaceful Reponse Coalition) spoke at Salem Public Library on the future of the peace movement. Sponsored by Willamette Reds. Contact Bob Rossi.[6]

Cuba caravan

Forty activists and community members gathered in Bush's Pasture Park the afternoon of July 3 2012, to greet the Friendshipment Caravan, a humanitarian aid convoy originating in Canada and bound for Cuba. Attendees enjoyed a picnic dinner and a performance by local musicians, before hearing speakers from the Caravan, and from the Willamette Reds, a grass-roots progressive community organization in Salem, which hosted the event.

The 23rd annual Caravan, operated by Pastors for Peace, an international community organization, is bringing humanitarian aid donated across Canada, the United States, and Mexico to Cuba in a "disciplined act of civil disobedience" against the US embargo of that country, now in its 52nd year. The aid includes medical equipment, wheelchairs, educational materials, and sporting goods, items difficult for Cuba to import under the embargo.

The caravan is made up of over seventy activists from many nations, including the UK and Germany as well as Canada, the US and Mexico, according to Jen Wager, an organizer with the group. The caravan members, who call themselves "Caravanistas," advocate for the immediate lifting of "el bloqueo," the blockade, and normalization if US relations with Cuba. They travel to Cuba along with the material aid as goodwill ambassadors, to show solidarity with people who, despite being separated from the United States by a bare seventy miles of ocean, see relatively few Americans.

Nine separate caravans will visit over ninety US cities throughout July, before converging in McAllen, Tex., to cross into Mexico before flying to Cuba.

The event in Salem collected several hundred dollars for the Caravan, in what Charles Wynns, a member of the Willamette Reds, described as "the way social justice movements have been funded from the start; by passing the hat!"[7]

Committees of Correspondence connection

In 2013, Courtney Childs of the Oregon Committees of Correspondence wrote;

As you may know, our annual activist effort is to support the Pastors for Peace caravan to Cuba. We also collaborated with the Willamette Reds in Salem to host a talk by Bill Fletcher in Salem. Now four of the Reds have joined our chapter also. Bob Rossi is one of those Reds. He is a real burst of energy for our group. He has close ties with leftists in Turkey and Turkish and Syrian Kurdistan, was there this past November, and has returned determined to educate folks about the situation there. To that end, he has now published two newsletters, the title of which is Harvest.

References