PHILADELPHIA – An enthusiastic crowd gathered here Oct. 27 for the annual People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo Banquet. This year two public school student organizations were honored: Philadelphia Student Union and Youth United for Change.

These groups have been in the forefront of the struggle here to keep public schools public and to stop the state from taking over all of the city’s schools and turning them over to Edison Schools Inc. Because of the militant actions of these students, not one high school was privatized.

Diane Mohney, banquet chairperson, presented awards to the two organizations. Larese Hinton accepted for Youth United for Change and Andrew Esser-Haines accepted for Philadelphia Student Union. Thanking the crowd for their support, Esser-Haines said, “This fight is not over.”

Debbie Bell, chairperson of the Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware District of the Communist Party USA, recalled taking part in a student sit-in at the School Board the night before the state take-over of the schools. “We didn’t get any sleep and the floor was cold,” Bell said. “We couldn’t stop the state take-over but we did resist.”

The event’s featured speaker was Sam Webb, CPUSA national chairman, who called attention to the present upsurge of a fighting spirit and a spirit of resistance in the U.S. and around the world. “Only one person in Congress voted against the war in Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, but 133 voted against a U.S. war on Iraq,” said Webb. “This is an important development.”

Webb gave many reasons why the outcome of the elections is very crucial, saying it will be a referendum on Bush’s policies, including the war drive. The troops will come from working families, not from the ruling class, like the Bush and Cheney families, Webb said. He also noted that an increased military budget will have a devastating effect on education, health care and housing. War will also affect union contracts, such as the ILWU contract.

“The aim of a U.S. war on Iraq is oil control,” said Webb. “There is no connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda, nor is there any evidence that Iraq posseses weapons of mass destruction. It’s the OIL!”

Webb said he was glad to hear about students’ resistance to privatization and encouraged everyone to join the struggle to build a better future for our children and youth. “Capture the Wellstone spirit and never give up!” said Webb.

Steve Quelet, a local folk singer and guitarist, and an electrician at the Budd plant, added a cultural touch with his songs about the union.

The event raised a total of $1,500 for the PWW/Mundo 2002 Fund Drive.

The author can be reached at phillyrose1@earthlink.net

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