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Letters to the editor

May 21, 2004 | Page 4

Struggle is the key to change
Laid off because of their sick priorities

Don't let Davis honor racism

Dear Socialist Worker,
A six-year-old controversy has been revived in Davis, Calif. It is about a street named "Sutter Place" after John Sutter, one of the supposed founders of modern Northern California.

It has come to light that Sutter kept Native Americans as slaves and was a sexual predator of Native American children. Often in financial trouble, he would pay off his debts by giving away young Indian children.

The conditions under which he kept his slaves were horrible. He fed them in troughs as if they were animals. He kept young girls in a special anteroom adjoining his office. There is evidence that he even killed one of the children.

The recent controversy was kicked off when American Indian activist Steven Jerome-Wyatt declared at a Davis city council meeting that he was going on a hunger strike in protest of the street name. At a following Davis city council meeting, University of California (UC)-Davis student activists from the Native American Student Union, the International Socialist Organization, MEChA, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community organized to demand that this be made an agenda point for the city council to take up.

Students from all of these groups spoke to the racist nature of honoring John Sutter with this sign. Soon after, the UC-Davis student government passed a resolution calling for a name change.

On May 4 one of the city council members put forward a resolution to change the sign name. At the city council meeting, community members spoke out against the street name, calling it a racist street sign that is hurtful to Native Americans. Only a handful of people spoke against changing the sign--including business people from the community.

But after all was said and done, the resolution failed three to two, with the lame excuse being the cost to Sutter Hospital for changing their stationary and business cards. This was just an excuse, since the resolution was calling for the change to take place after the current stationary was already used up. Community activists are determined not to let this issue go until the street name is changed.
John Howell, Davis, Calif.

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Struggle is the key to change

Dear Socialist Worker,
I disagree with Bill Anderson's (SW, May 7) assertion that "voting is the most fundamental exercise of working-class solidarity." He takes voting, as a tool of democracy, completely out of any context and then criticizes Socialist Worker for being "corporatist" and having an "anti-voting" agenda.

In the sense that Anderson means, voting in the U.S. for public officials has been the least effective mode of solidarity and struggle. Don't take it from me, look at history.

Voting for Woodrow Wilson didn't keep us out of the First World War, voting for John F. Kennedy didn't get us civil rights, and voting for Lyndon Johnson didn't pull us out of Vietnam. Note that they were all Democrats.

Struggle won those things, and struggle will always win the things that matter to working people. Socialist Worker stands in the tradition that looks to break this vicious cycle of voting for this or that candidate in order to change society for us.

We argue that ordinary people can change society. These are hardly "un-leftist" or "corporatist" principles. In fact, they are the core of what remains of a left in the U.S. and the foundation from which an effective and fighting left will stand on and win.
Brian L., Rochester, N.Y.

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Laid off because of their sick priorities

Dear Socialist Worker,
I am being laid off from my job at the University of Washington due to "lack of funds" and "lack of work." This, at a university that just hired a new president who will be making $470,000 a year--along with bonuses and "golden handcuffs" which he will receive if he stays a certain number of years.

There is a clear lack of priorities in our system to provide decent wages and working conditions and affordable education for all. The money being spent on tax breaks for corporations, the war on terrorism and the war on and occupation of Iraq have to be opposed by building mass movements in the streets to fight the messed-up priorities of the system.

There is also a possibility that, due to the fact that I am a vocal union activist and shop steward, this is being used as an excuse to force me out of the department I work in. These attacks on our wages, working conditions and rights have to stop. We must rebuild rank-and-file militancy and a socialist presence in our unions.
Patrick Switzer, Seattle

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