James Raines was born near Detroit on May 1, 1974. A long-time member of the Communist Party, USA, “James lived Marxism to the core,” said Tony Pecinovsky, head of the Missouri-Kansas district of the Communist Party.
Like many of his generation, James was born in a Cold War education vacuum. It was his life experiences – the economic hardship and decline of the post-industrial era – that led him to socialism and compelled him to care for those around him.
As he moved around the nation from Detroit to Houston to Fairbanks to Memphis to Kansas City, James threw himself tirelessly into the work of organizing for social and economic justice.
His talent resided in coalition building, bridging organizations together around common issues. An absolute natural at organizing, his specialty was asking the difficult questions. In fact, James was the common thread holding many local activist groups together.
He organized the Marxist Student Union at the University of Memphis, bringing well-known communists, including Communist Party’s Jarvis Tyner, to that campus for speaking engagements. He worked for the Missouri State Workers’ Union (CWA 6355). He was a leader of the Missouri/Kansas District of the Communist Party USA and an activist with Jobs with Justice. James connected all of his organizing – for students and adjunct professors, for state workers and for other comrades – seamlessly. James brought folks together.
As a union organizer, he worked the most difficult beats, almost with relish. As the southwest Missouri organizer for CWA 6355, he spent many a night in a small town hotel planning site visits and the following days knocking doors. James was a fearless organizer. His life should not only be celebrated for the impact he had on those close to him, but also for the lonely, grinding work of building a union in far-flung small towns taking on racism, sexism, and anti-union sentiment.
Every action was a strategic movement for James. He would find the perfect moment to stage a work action, an introductory handshake, or a verbal bombshell in debate. James loved to debate – a lifetime of study of history and theory was readily accessible at a split second’s notice, delivered with relentless attack – as all of his friends will attest.
James was a practicing Buddhist. For James, this philosophy extended to the people’s movement. He was also a talented poet.
Towards the end of his life, James worked for his favorite publication, the Peoples World. He had always wanted to work for the PW and the Party, and had spent much of the past four or five years regularly volunteering for both the PW and Party.
After the non-indictment of police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo., James wrote first-hand accounts of that struggle. While reporting, he was on the front lines, standing between riot police and protesters. He was pepper-sprayed and hit with a truncheon. He took photos with one hand, while with the other arm he protected protesters.
For fifteen years, James was married to the love of his life, Wendy Raines-Grew. Those years were an endless string of adventures across the U.S., bound by a romantic and humorous celebration of life. The visible electric bond they shared was impossible to ignore.
James was 40 years old at his passing in January. He is also survived his daughter, Emmaline, his parents, Sue and Jim Raines, brothers Brian, John, and Eli, and countless grieving comrades and co-workers.
Photo: James Raines’s Facebook page