A Collection of Socialist Essays
By Sylvia Weinstein

Cuba: Land of the Free, Home of the Brave (1991)

The United States v. Cuba (1992)

Malcolm and Fidel in Harlem (1993)

Hands Off Cuba! (1994)!.html

Adrienne Rich, Poet of Honor (1997)

Dorothy Day: A Saint? (1997)

If We Are United, We Cannot Lose (2001) (speech)                                                                                                                                                                                                        

PHOTO: Walter Lippmann

Carole Seligman and Roland Sheppard
First Edition. March 2005.

You have in your hands a wonderful book. It is a complete collection of the monthly columns written by Sylvia Weinstein for Socialist Action newspaper from 1984 through February of 2001, and for the first four issues of Socialist Viewpoint magazine, May through September, 2001. She engaged in revolutionary socialist journalism until she died at age 75 on August 14, 2001. This collection also includes the transcript of a presentation Sylvia gave to a university women’s rights celebration in Baltimore, Maryland in 1993, in which she reviewed her personal history as a fighter for women’s rights.

She was born Sylvia Mae Profitt in 1926, on the outskirts of Lexington, Kentucky. Fifty-six of those years, her entire adult life since she was 19 years old, was spent as an active participant in the revolutionary workers movement: 38 years in the Socialist Workers Party, and 18 years in Socialist Action, of which she was a founding member and full-time worker. During the last few months of her life, she was a founder and leader of Socialist Workers Organization and Business Manager of Socialist Viewpoint magazine.

During her 38 years in the Socialist Workers Party, she took assignments as secretary of the New York City branch of the party, as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement in the Brooklyn branch of the NAACP, and as a full time worker in The Militant newspaper office, among many others.

She was arrested for sitting in at Coney Island Hospital at an NAACP action there to force the hiring of Black workers in the construction of more hospital buildings. She picketed at Woolworths in solidarity with the southern sit-ins. Like many socialists during the McCarthy era witch-hunt she was visited at home and harassed many times by the FBI. Of course that never stopped her. She not only increased her activism, she even ran in socialist election campaigns for public office in New York City and later in San Francisco.

Sylvia was a staunch defender of the Cuban Revolution and an activist in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. When Fidel Castro came to New York City to address the United Nations after the victory of the Cuban revolution, Sylvia was a key organizer in the committee that arranged a big reception for Fidel and the Cuban delegation to meet with their U.S. supporters and Black community leaders at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem. Sylvia remained very proud of that experience.

But it was the feminist movement of the 1970s that inspired Sylvia to take a leadership role, especially in the struggles for abortion rights and childcare. These issues had a deep personal meaning for Sylvia. In those struggles, Sylvia was an organizer and activist. She did countless mailings and handed out hundreds of thousands of flyers. But the feminist movement also brought out Sylvia’s tremendous leadership talents.

Sylvia made her own experiences as a young mother who was forced to obtain illegal, terrifying, and unsafe abortions the property of the movement as a whole. She testified at speak-outs to legalize abortion, and later, when it was legal, she organized to defend the clinics from the attacks of the rightwing anti-abortion terrorists. She became a spokeswoman and teacher. In the 1970s she was the main leader of the movement for childcare in San Francisco. She became known throughout San Francisco as the “childcare lady,” and as an advocate for all human rights.

She set an example of unalterable opposition to the capitalist government which stood in the path of women’s liberation. Her campaign for Board of Education in San Francisco was run on a financial shoe string, but Sylvia got about 10,000 votes. She came up against powerful politicians—representatives of the rich— in the course of her work for women’s rights. S.F. Mayor Willie Brown, who was then speaker of the California State Assembly, tried to elbow her off the stage in the middle of her speech at a Day in the Park for Women’s Rights. That was an annual demonstration that Sylvia had helped initiate during the struggle for childcare in San Francisco. Sylvia also found herself face to face in opposition to Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was then president of the Board of Supervisors of the City of San Francisco. Feinstein tried to use the childcare issue to gain political power for herself but not to expand childcare services for families. Sylvia fought her on this, and fought successfully against the S.F. chapter of the National Organization for Women endorsing Feinstein for mayor.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, Sylvia was both the main spokeswoman for the militant wing of the feminist movement and also the most respected feminist speaker among the masses of working women who demonstrated for women’s rights. Behind the scenes, powerful politicians moved in to try to isolate Weinstein and her collaborators from the NOW members by initiating a public red-baiting campaign in the San Francisco media. To Sylvia, this campaign only showed how effective militant independence in the feminist movement was.

Her last important political work was in founding the Socialist Workers Organization after the demise of democracy within Socialist Action. She continued the regular monthly column, “Fightback!” that she had written for Socialist Action newspaper for the first three issues of Socialist Viewpoint magazine.

Sylvia Weinstein had the unique ability to make masses of people feel justified in their anger at their oppression and in the justness of their cause. She also imparted a strong sense that masses of oppressed, working together, could exert their power and change things for the better. She believed that the working class was fully capable of taking control over society and ruling in the interests of themselves and all humankind. She was sure that eventually masses of people would join with her to change things, to make a socialist revolution. Perhaps it was because she exuded a deep belief in the goodness of her fellow workers, that people gravitated to her and were so affected by her.

In the women’s movement, during its ascendancy, Sylvia was able to impart that attitude of class consciousness to thousands of women. In the socialist movement she was able to impart that confidence to her comrades. Her legacy is as a partisan fighter for human rights and advocate of a socialist future for humanity.

Sylvia’s columns are infused with revolutionary spirit, optimism, respect for the potential of the working class, love for the working people of the world, and hatred for the oppressor class. The columns exhibit the very essence of Marxist political analysis— a deep understanding that society is divided into social classes with diametrically opposed social, political, and economic interests. But they are in no sense dry or academic. Sylvia spoke and wrote with a colorful style full of invective for the brutality and arrogance of the capitalist class and the stupidity of its stooges in government.

Many of the columns also reveal the strong personal motivation for Sylvia’s tireless revolutionary work—her personal background of extreme rural poverty, her childhood experience in labor organizing, her two dangerous illegal abortions, her active participation in the working class, Civil Rights, antiwar, and especially the women’s liberation movements. Because Sylvia played a leadership role in the campaigns for child care, the Equal Rights Amendment, and abortion rights, her columns on those topics are especially fierce.

This book will be useful for all who oppose the horrors the capitalist system is perpetrating upon the peoples of the world today. It provides a revolutionary socialist perspective on the last two decades of the 20th century U.S. empire. It contains useful history on some of the most important developments of those two decades, such as the several wars waged by the U.S. on developing countries, on the status of women— particularly with respect to women’s reproductive rights— on the growth of the prison-industrial complex and America's political prisoners, on the first Palestinian intifada, and the major events of the end of the 20th century.

Sylvia had the gift of finding and re-telling the stories of ordinary people that reveal great truths about our society. She found stories in the daily newspapers, such as the story of the Russian mother who went to Chechnya to bring her soldier son home, and let the readers see how this strong act of love and personal sacrifice applied to all mothers and all working people. Through this story she showed how reactionary wars against national liberation were not only against the interests of workers and soldiers of the oppressed nation, but against those of the oppressor nation as well.

The book does much more than provide a useful history of this period. The basic politics of these columns is very relevant today. These writings advocate policies of complete working class independence from ruling class politics. They advocate working class methods, strategies, and tactics, such as mass street demonstrations to oppose war or to support important reforms such as reproductive rights for women and the Equal Rights Amendment. The columns are particularly useful in understanding capitalist electoral politics. Many are scathing attacks on the reformist policy of supporting so-called lesser-evil, pro-capitalist candidates in elections, and the de-railing of important social justice movements in the process. These columns are particularly useful in understanding the present predicament of the antiwar movement in the aftermath of U.S. wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, current continuing occupations of both of these countries, and a presidential election approaching with no genuine working class political party in place to contest capitalist political power. In this context, Sylvia Weinstein’s writings are not only interesting but prophetic.

The series of articles in this book are indicative of her compassion for the oppressed and her unswerving confidence in the power of the working class to construct a socialist world humanitarian society in harmony with nature. Sylvia was a rebel woman who knew how to fightback. “Fightback!” was the name of her monthly column, and therefore, it is the title of this book.

—Carole Seligman and Roland Sheppard

FIGHTBACK! A Collection of Socialist Essays
By Sylvia Weinstein

Socialist Viewpoint Publishing Association
ISBN: 0-9763570-0-3    
360 pp.

To order your copy of FIGHTBACK!
Send a check for $25.00 plus $5.95 for shipping and handling to:

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333 Valencia Street, Suite 407
San Francisco, CA 94110

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