Mike Patrick

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Template:TOCnestleft Mike Patrick is a member of the Milwaukee branch of Solidarity.

Activist life

In my sophomore year at the state college, I took a political science course taught by a young faculty member with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. As I listened to his lectures, especially those that he gave explaining socialism, a whole new vista began opening for me. I had never read any books by Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg or Trotsky, nor had any of these books been assigned as class readings. The class readings that I can recall included C. Wright Mills’ The Causes of World War III and Seymour Melman’s The Peace Race. But my professor’s lectures explained the limitations of the economic system under which we all lived — capitalism — and the virtues of another type of political and economic system called socialism.

My professor also established a new campus “club” called the “Peace Studies Club” that met at his and his wife’s home. I entered a whole new world. On their record player, my professor and his wife played songs by Woody Guthrie, The Weavers, Pete Seeger, and Joan Baez. The book shelves in their apartment were filled with books by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky. On the walls were hung prints of paintings by Monet, Manet, and Renoir. Lit candles stuck in Chianti bottles cheerfully brightened up the rooms.

Four other students besides myself had come to the first meeting of the “Peace Studies Club.” One of the students was from nearby Janesville, Wisconsin, where his father was an official in the United Automobile Workers Union at the huge GM plant located there. I later learned that his father was member of the Communist Party USA. He and I soon became close friends. I also later learned that my political science professor had been a member of an organization at the University of Chicago called the “Young People’s Socialist League” (YPSL). Much, much later I learned that a good friend of his in the YPSL chapter at the University of Chicago was named Bernie Sanders, who would become very well-known a half century later.
Over the course of the school year while participating in weekly discussions at the meetings of the “Peace Studies Club,” the ambivalence of my attitude toward the rich began to dissolve. I realized that I would never become rich unless I won the lottery, and that being rich was not a meaningful way to live a life. I learned why the rich were rich, why capitalism was a very bad political and economic system and why it had to be replaced by a better political and economic system, a system called socialism.
Eventually I transferred to the University of Wisconsin in Madison where I became involved in the movement against the war in Vietnam. In 1965 I dropped out of the University of Wisconsin and went to Alabama where I became active in the Civil Rights movement. I later taught high school in Racine, Wisconsin. Upon returning to Madison, I got a job and became active in the labor movement as an officer of and a steward in a public employees union and a delegate to the Madison Federation of Labor. Later I worked in construction and became a member of the Laborers International Union.
I joined the Young Socialists Alliance and became the leader of the Madison local of the YSA. After I got a job in Evanston, Illinois, I became a founder of and an activist in the Evanston Committee on Central America as well as an active member of the Socialist Workers Party in Chicago.

In 1986, I became a founding member of the socialist organization, Solidarity, and am still a member of Solidarity. And I am also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

As I approach the age of 80, I find myself frequently reflecting on the political experiences of the life that I have had. I recall listening with fascination to accounts of their lives by veteran members of the Socialist Workers Party, including Ray Dunne, who was one of the leaders of the 1934 General Strike in Minneapolis, Farrell Dobbs, Fred Halstead, Dorothy Schultz and Hedda Garza, among many others. While the half century that I have been a socialist has not been as propitious a time for socialists as the 1930s were it was nonetheless an interesting and occasionally, exciting time.[1]

References

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  1. [https://solidarity-us.org/mike_patrick_socialist/ SolidarityHow I Emerged from the Working Class and Became a Socialist Mike PatrickFebruary 18, 2019]