WASHINGTON, D.C., December 1, –– Progressive Labor Party members celebrated World AIDS Day today at a rally demanding housing for people living with AIDS. Our central objective was to help our friends understand that capitalist politicians cannot give us what we need, that racism like that of the AIDS epidemic is inherent in capitalism, and that only developing a revolutionary party to destroy capitalism and racism can get us off the treadmill of begging our rulers for crumbs as our friends die.
We joined with 60 people from DC Fights Back, the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association, American Medical Students Association, Student Global Aids, Empower DC (a D.C. housing advocacy NGO) and the National AIDS Housing Coalition. We demanded immediate housing for the 278 people on the D.C. waiting list for the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) Program. This program is pitifully under-funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The noon rally outside the field office of HUD included a picket line around tents and cardboard houses with brightly-painted signs calling AIDS housing a life-or-death issue. We demanded that the HUD director speak to us. We chanted “Racism means, FIGHT BACK” and “AIDS housing is the name of the game, HUD and HOPWA, Shame, Shame, Shame.” One speaker declared that stable housing for people living with AIDS is an absolute necessity so that complex AIDS medical treatments can actually be implemented and maintained. After initially refusing to meet, housing officials finally responded by offering to schedule a meeting on the issue.
The strength of this event was its multiracial composition and its confrontational nature. The coalition challenged the power structure by demanding housing, the critical missing link in AIDS treatment, going beyond education and outreach efforts in the community. As supposedly “progressive” D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty cozies up to developers and closes homeless shelters like the downtown Franklin Shelter, the battle for housing will become fiercer. In fact, when real estate developers threw Fenty a lavish birthday party on December 6, over 100 furious housing advocates and union members confronted Fenty and his billionaire buddies, carrying a big angry sign saying, “Kill the Homeless—Vote Fenty”.
Recruiting our friends to the PLP’s revolutionary strategy remains challenging. PLPers working in the community and with students brought a contingent of 15 people to the World AIDS Day protest and its four planning meetings, but many still harbor illusions about pressuring politicians and hoping for good results. One friend told us, “I really felt more comfortable with this rally than at May Day. May Day was good but this is my struggle.” We have to win him and others to seeing that the real struggle is against the capitalist system even as we fight day to day for the working class.
CHALLENGE was distributed at the rally and several participants in this work read it regularly. As the battle with the city and federal government heats up, and as the economic crisis intensifies, the need for revolutionary action will become clearer to our readers. Today’s study groups and regular reading of CHALLENGE will help many see and join the road to revolution.