On March 20, longtime Peace & Freedom Party member and valued comrade Al Rojas passed away at the age of 82 years old. We mark his passing here with remembrances from The Organizer newspaper, the Sacramento Poor People’s Campaign and from his close friend Maria Estrada; all are reprinted with permission.

Below these tributes runs the text of his talk given at the Binational Conference Against NAFTA 2.0, the Wall of Shame and Deportations in December 2017. And click here for Al’s last piece for the Peace & Freedom Party website, an essay on the boycotting of Driscoll’s.

Al Rojas, Fighter for Workers’ Rights Until His Last Breath
A statement by Socialist Organizer

Our friend and comrade Al Rojas — a tireless fighter for the rights of workers and all the oppressed — passed away on March 20 at the age of 82. In the letter sent to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador [see below], the Rojas family recounts many salient features of the life of Al Rojas, underscoring why he was a “giant” in their eyes. He was a “giant” in our eyes, too.

Though he was a co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union in 1966, together with Cesar Chávez, Al never received the accolades or recognition that Chávez received. And there was a reason: Al spoke his mind at all times, refusing top-down directives that would hinder rank-and-file empowerment, organizing, and independence in relation to the twin parties of capitalism, the Democrats and Republicans. Al eventually was shunned and cast aside because he would not accept the UFW’s subordination to the Democratic Party. In all the glowing tributes, from full-length movies to California state holidays honoring Cesar Chávez, Al Rojas was air-brushed out of the picture and official UFW history.

This did not deter Al one bit. He kept organizing farmworkers, “guest-workers,” undocumented immigrants, youth, public-sector workers — and he always linked the struggle for workers’ rights in the fields and workplaces all over the United States to the fight across the border against the NAFTA and CAFTA “free trade” agreements [see article by Al Rojas below]. Al understood deeply that the capitalist system and U.S. imperialism were ultimately responsible for the destruction of the national economies south of the Rio Bravo that fueled the forced migration to Northern Mexico and into the United States.

This is what Al wrote in 2018 in support of Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP), of which he was a Continuations Committee member:

A “conspiracy” is a bad thing. It can be, depending on who is actually involved, seditious, evil, treasonous, fraudulent and, perhaps least of all, illegal. It implies a well-coordinated plot to manipulate circumstances for the betterment of an elite few while victimizing the innocent. Some conspiracies are small-scale, like the owner of a cockroach-infested restaurant bribing a health inspector to look the other way. Some actual conspiracies are much grander.

In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon conspired to keep the truth about Watergate a secret. Back in 1932 in Tuskegee, Alabama, the federal government and medical personnel conspired to keep black men with syphilis away from cures, so that they could be studied as they slowly died. The “study” continued for about 40 years. For generations, tobacco companies conspired to keep the serious health risks of cigarettes away from the public.

The history of the United States is full of corporations conspiring to fix prices, eliminate competition and control government and politicians for their own benefit. Real-estate agents have conspired to keep blacks out of “white” neighborhoods. Polluters have conspired to hide from their acts, allowing communities to suffer the ill effects of their negligence. Automobile manufacturers have conspired to keep dangerous equipment on our roads.

These were real and horrible conspiracies. Surely, some conspiracy theories are eventually proven to be actual conspiracies. No one leading a conspiracy wants to be found out. Likewise, no one (me!) wants to claim a conspiracy is false and eventually be proven foolishly incorrect. So I’ll avoid confronting specific conspiracy theories and focus more on the overall.

Some unproven conspiracies are much easier to believe than others. Was President John F. Kennedy killed by a sniper armed with a magic rifle loaded with free-thinking bullets? And some are so bizarre that they are beyond belief. Could the government actually be secretly working with alien lizard beasts?

While some conspiracy theories would make excellent science-fiction plots (or, actually, really bad science-fiction plots), many are far from benign. conspiracy theories were used by Hitler and the Nazis to enslave and exterminate the Jews. In the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy invented a conspiracy theory that disloyal communists had infiltrated the highest levels of government and society and used the ensuing panic to trash many a person’s career.

conspiracy theories are often used to gain political or financial power. People take advantage of existing prejudices and suspicions to compose intricate plots that appeal to some other people who lack the knowledge and reason to confront them effectively. The result of this is that many people are misled into shifting the blame for real problems from the actual source to imaginary enemies. This leads to a lot of time, energy and intellect being wasted that would be better spent on actually improving our communities and places of work.

These days, bred by the events of 9/11, there is a rash of conspiracy theories. In the beginning, the conspiracy theories about 9/11 being a plot by the Bush administration to make war against their enemies and make money for the friends were promoted by, mainly, people on the left. And the behavior of the radical Bush/Cheney administration lent a lot of evidence to prop the thinking up to the point that it has become an industry. Many people who began their belief in conspiracy theories with 9/11 now adhere to many more conspiracy theories. The original idea that 9/11 was planned by Bush/Cheney has often been morphed into a theory that a worldwide cabal of evil-doers (led by communists, or Jews, or pod people, whoever) is plotting global dictatorship. Everything from financial crisis to new roads to comments made by otherwise obscure sources are fit into the theory until believers become so cultishly caught up in the whole thing that they can no longer relate to non-believers. What generally began as a left-wing suspicion,has been turned into right-wing propaganda.

So, how the fuck did this happen?

It is no coincidence that the conspiracy theories about a New World Order date back much farther than most modern adherents realize. It was in 1958 that the John Birch Society (JBS - which can also stand for “Just BS”) was formed by Robert Welch. JBS began to compile numerous conspiracy theories into one, big conspiracy theory with the basic premise that international communism, financed by wealthy bankers, was slowly taking control of the planet.

Gary Allen came along shortly afterward and began writing books that attempted to fit all the little pieces together. In 1968, he wrote Communist Revolution in the Streets, which tried to tie Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement into this international conspiracy. Later, and most famously, he wrote the 1971 book None Dare Call It Conspiracy, which became incredibly popular among the far right (millions and millions of copies sold). Allen, a spokesperson for JBS, included all kinds of “facts” that would be familiar to conspiracy theorists today. These included alleged plots by bankers, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Bilderbergers as well as targeted rants against the Federal Reserve and the United Nations (which was claimed to be planning to build a worldwide communist government when actual observers of that group know they could not agree on how to build a sand castle).

Welch and Allen accused noted conservatives Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and John Foster Dulles of being communists (Henry Kissinger got more of a pass as a “liberal” and therefore only a communist sympathizer). While I wouldn’t necessarily categorize JBS as anti-Semitic or racist (many would), the anti-Semitic Nazis and the racist Klans grab hold of and revise these theories for their own ends. For example, neo-Nazis might claim that the “bankers” involved in a global conspiracy are, actually, “Jewish bankers.”

It wasn’t as though these ideas didn’t exist before or without JBS, but this group was able to get a fairly large and energetic band of extremely paranoid patriots together and then get their works widely distributed. And that distribution continues today.

Today, the most widely known personality to speak, pretty directly, from the older works of the John Birch Society is Republican Congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul. Paul seems to state very little of his own design, rather relying on the more baseless and ridiculous conspiracy theories of Welch, Allen and other Birchers. More, he has rewrapped these theories and called them a form of libertarianism, which many actual libertarians have a real problem with.

While I’m no fan of libertarians, actual or otherwise, the libertarian icon Ayn Rand, in a 1964 interview with Playboy magazine, had this to say about JBS: “...What is wrong with them is that they don’t seem to have any specific, clearly defined political philosophy. Therefore, some of them may be crackpots, others may be very well-meaning citizens. I consider the Birch Society futile, because they are not for capitalism, but merely against communism. I gather they believe that the disastrous state of today’s world is caused by a communist conspiracy. This is childishly naïve and superficial. No country can be destroyed by a mere conspiracy, it can be destroyed only by ideas. The Birchers seem to be either nonintellectual or anti-intellectual. They do not attach importance to ideas...”

However a popular conspiracy theory begins and whatever it involves, one can be absolutely sure of one thing. JBS, the Klans, the Nazis and other residents of the ridiculous right will attempt to fit that conspiracy theory into their own, existing conspiracy theories.

The conspiracy theory of 9/11 is the prime example. Again, I won’t debate the particulars of this theory. Though I will admit that my general feelings about conspiracy theories are akin to my feeling about fast food and rug burns: Avoid them whenever possible. But the 9/11 conspiracy theory pretty much began as an assault against the Bush/Cheney administration. It was a product of some leftists who were horrified by the actions of the US government after the events.

But this conspiracy theory has, for many people, morphed into much more than that. In fact, no one can possibly believe in every tendril that this particular theory has grown, as many of them offer conflicting views. But with every aberration, the theory branches off into a more conservative direction.

So far the result has been that many people who leaned left were attracted to this theory because of their predisposed political view. Then, slowly, as more fluff and foolishness was added to the theory, they followed along. Many people who were once leftists, and still consider themselves leftists, now spout the words of JBS conspiracy theories without realizing their origin. And, certainly, without realizing that these theories were designed to attack their own ideals.

This is the conspiracy theory version of Six Degrees of Separation. conspiracy theories rarely exist on their own without some connection to other conspiracies. Fall too deeply into one and you may become buried and blinded by many more. There are many people out there who are completely engulfed by conspiracy theories.

The best conspiracy theories are nearly impossible to disprove. They can be discussed, debated and even ridiculed, but they can’t be made to go away. Like disgraced politicians, some rise up again after decades of public hibernation. But people inclined to believe in these should, at the very least, apply some rationale when selecting which theories to believe in and which ones to discard. Below are a few suggestions.

ORIGIN: Where did the theory come from? Use your computer skills to track down the earlier versions of the theory. Note how it may have changed over time and try to figure out why the changes were necessary. Was the theory so outdated that it was proven silly and, therefore, needed to be altered? For example, earlier forms of a conspiracy theory may have called for something to happen on a particular date. When that date passed without incident, the theory needed to be revised. Who was the originator of the theory? Was it a conspiracy theory mill like JBS? What political leanings does the originator (and subsequent spreaders) have? Do you suspect that they have ulterior motives for promoting this conspiracy theory and others like it?

WHISTLEBLOWERS: The larger and more complex that a conspiracy theory is, the more people must have actual personal knowledge of its existence. It would be pretty impossible to disprove a conspiracy theory that included only a few people. But, for example, a conspiracy to dominate the planet and turn us all into pod people would most likely require many participants. Eventually, some of these people would come forward. A conspiracy theory without witnesses is usually a fantasy.

FINANCIAL ADVANTAGE: How much money are people making on the conspiracy theory? Of course, we live in an economy that values the making of money. But, be assured, that if a person or group’s main source of income is through the promoting of a conspiracy theory they will NEVER give it up. Never. No matter how many times or ways it is shown to be false.

PARADOXES: Look for paradoxes within conspiracy theories. These paradoxes are often invisible to the uneducated person as they rely on common misconceptions - misconceptions possibly held by the original, uneducated starter of the theory. Example, does it really make sense that rich bankers would finance socialism when that ideology calls for taking the wealthy’s money and power away?

BEWARE THE OBVIOUS: Similar to paradoxes, some conspiracy theories are so complex that simple and obvious questions go unasked. If a person claims that all-powerful alien pod people have secretly invaded the planet, why the hell wouldn’t these alien pod people assassinate this big-mouthed, tattle-tale first?

LOGIC: Unfortunately, not much logic is taught to Americans unless they enter college. But there are long lists of “logical fallacies” available on-line. Some of the ones most present in conspiracy theories include; the False Dilemma (you are given a choice of two but they are both false), Circular Reasoning (the bible is the word of god; therefore, god exists because the bible says he exists), Post Hoc (it rained today because I washed my car yesterday) and Appeals to Fear, Pity, Popularity and Tradition. There are many, many more (and I’ve probably even used a few in this work). Learn logic and apply it to conspiracy theories.

EXPERT WEIGHT: Balance the number of experts for a conspiracy theory versus the number against. We can’t all be learned in everything. Often, we have to rely on experts to give us important information and, even, conclusions. But the mass media requires that two sides of an issue be shown. This often means that discredited ideas are given equal weight during debate no matter how lopsided the experts stand on the issue. Global warming is a good example. Most people educated in the issue insist that it is a man-made phenomenon while a handful suggest otherwise. Of course, this doesn’t mean that global warming is necessarily a product of humans. What it means is that the great majority of learned people who look at the scientific facts conclude that it is. They might be wrong, but the odds are in their favor.

UNDERSTAND THE TERM: A conspiracy is hidden. People aren’t supposed to know about it. Don’t confuse a conspiracy with a lie or even public policy. Several decades ago there were lots of claims from the far right that fluoride in our drinking water was a communist plot to brainwash and subjugate our population (actually, reality-television programs do that). But this was done in full view of the public with all the scientific details available. So, it couldn’t possibly have been a conspiracy. Unless it was a sinister plot to make people’s teeth less prone to cavities.

DESTINATION: Where does the conspiracy theory lead? Don’t subscribe to any one of them until you’ve followed it along. Often, you’ll find that the whole idea has been hijacked by people you don’t want to be associated with. Be especially careful of the ones that lead to worldwide conspiracies led by Jews – neo-Nazis already have too many friends.

– witten by Bob Maschi
originally published April 2009

In a letter sent to key state lawmakers, the Peace & Freedom Party is asking legislators to introduce the PFP’s proposed 2021 legislation because smaller parties have “no representation” despite “receiving up to a million votes” in each recent election.

Noting the Peace and Freedom Party was formed more than 50 years ago and has run over 400 candidates in efforts to provide alternatives to the two larger parties,  Peace and Freedom  Party legislative liaison C.T. Weber charged that “election laws are made by those in power and structured to maintain a ‘two-party system.’”

Weber, in the letter to lawmakers, stated that “Peace and Freedom Party has been an early advocate for voting rights for those who are non-citizens, under 18 years of age, and in prison or parole for a felony conviction ... a proponent of decent housing for everyone: including homeless solutions and renters and homeowners protections from unjust evictions.”

The  Peace and Freedom Party said it is requesting “support [from] fair-minded legislators to introduce one or more of our proposals in bill form,” including political party representation in the California State Legislature; legislation to allow non-citizen parents and guardians the right to vote in school district elections; and matching the rental exemptions of Costa-Hawkins with those in AB 1482.

A summary of the proposed legislation follows. Click on the appropriate header for a PDF copy of the letter submitted. 

On Wednesday, July 1, Peace & Freedom members put in some good work communicating the party’s message on crucial issues of our day, including the continuing pandemic, police brutality and prison reform. After all, these times call for solidarity and action.

C.T. Weber of PFP Sacramento participated in the All of Us or None rally and remembrance held on Wednesday. Speakers included family and friends of police killing who called upon the crowd to call out the names of their family members and friends. In the below picture, C.T. stands in front of pictures of the nearly 600 people of color who have been killed by the police in California in the last five years. (Photo by Steven Payan of PFP Sacramento)

The role of the police is to maintain order. Their tools are the billy club, the gun, and other means of brute force. When you call 911 because of any crisis, including mental health emergencies, the police are the first responders. The consequences are often fatal, especially when the subject of the call is a person of color or gender non-conforming.

The Peace and Freedom Party State Central Committee voted at its June 14, 2020, meeting to support AB 2054, the CRISES Act, which would create pilot programs so that  community agencies could replace the police as first responders in certain situations. The bill passed the California State Assembly on June 18 and has been sent to the State Senate Rules Committee.

The portion of the bill explains its rationale:

The complexities of emergency issues surrounding crises in mental health, intimate partner violence, community violence, substance abuse, and natural disasters can, at times, be addressed more safely, with greater impact, and more cost-effectively and efficiently with community organizations, which often have deeper knowledge and understanding of the issues, trusted relationships with the people and communities involved, and specific knowledge and relationships surrounding the emergency.

Furthermore, young people of color, people with disabilities, people who are gender nonconforming, people who are formerly incarcerated, people with immigration status issues, and people who are unhoused or homeless, face significant barriers to engaging with law enforcement and other first responder personnel….Community organizations that specialize in working with these populations, understanding their issues, and maintaining deep relationships in their communities have a more successful track record of engaging and supporting them.

This bill would establish a commission to select up to 12 community agencies in California to receive grant funding to carry out the mission of the act. It does not specify where the funding will come from, and if the money is not raised, the programs will not be funded.

The Peace and Freedom Party stands with the slogan "Tax the rich and their corporations." As socialists we want society as a whole to cooperatively own and manage industry, resources, and financial institutions. But as we point out in our article "Why Socialists Say 'Tax the Rich...'", we support efforts to increase taxes on the corporations and the wealthy to provide the services that people need now.

The California Budget and Policy Center has a new article on how the State of California has given corporations increasing tax breaks over the last few years entitled “Corporations Pay Far Less of Their California Income in State Taxes Than a Generation Ago – Even Amid COVID-19”, which is reprinted below.

Former members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the leading Vietnam War era peace organization in the US, recently circulated an open letter warning today’s young activists to – as the adage goes – do as I say and not as I did. Back in the 1960s and 70s, these former leaders led the way in opposing the ravages of US imperialism and exposing what they called the “death culture.” Today, they are admonishing the new generation not to follow in their footsteps, but to go all out for what they call the “capitalist democrat” Joe Biden.

The big chill
When I was first becoming politically aware, these SDS folks were my heroes and mentors. They helped me break from the illusion that the USA was fighting for democracy and freedom, rather than imposing an empire where the U.S. controls 50% of the world’s wealth for only 6.3% of its population.

They were the ones – chanting “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” – who pulled no punches, criticizing Democratic President Johnson and Republican President Nixon alike for genocidal injustices. And they especially warned about “selling out to the establishment.” That was then.

Today, they are variously tenured professors, attorneys, or working at comfortable NGOs. Who would have known that they would become fundraisers for multi-billion dollar Democratic Party PACs? While I don’t for a moment begrudge them financial or social achievement, the shift from independent direct action to boosterism within the Democratic Party is unfortunate.


If you reside in Santa Monica and love the city as much as I do, I urge you to contact your Council members, the Mayor, and the new City Manager immediately. There is very little transparency happening with The City of Santa Monica.  They have eliminated ALL part-time (as needed) employees from City run facilities.  The City is also eliminating 40% of full time employees. What this means is the services you enjoy and pay for with your tax dollars will no longer exist. This includes the Santa Monica Public Pool, Santa Monica Public Library, Housing and Economic Development, Community and Cultural Service Department, among many other vital City services available to the elderly, at risk youth, disabled people, etc. 

Full time City employees are being forced out. Full-time city employees are being offered a "buyout" that is not adequate.  If a City employee takes the latest proposed deal, they will NOT be rehired for 3 years. Their spouses and family will lose their healthcare benefits. This "buyout" deal is being rushed through. City employees are being forced to make an irreversible decision that will affect their families and future by MAY 1, 2020. The City Council will not vote on this proposed deal until MAY 5, 2020. So, City employees are being forced to make a life changing decision on proposed information that is NOT certain and has yet to be voted on by City Council. 

You as Santa Monica residents and tax payers have the right and responsibility to have your voices heard. Let the City of Santa Monica leaders understand that you do NOT want these vital services cut and City employees who provide these services reduced.

Cassandra Devereaux, Peace and Freedom Party candidate for California State Assembly in district 14, weighs in on the PG&E monopoly’s tyrannical stranglehold on Northern California citizens and communities. The following piece originally ran on Fighting-Words.net.

On Tuesday, October 9, Pacific Gas & Electric, the publicly traded monopoly that supplies most of Northern California’s power needs, announced that they would be shutting off power for much of their service area due to the risk of wildfire posed by dryness, heat and high winds. These shutoffs would affect over 800,000 of their customers.

This announcement came scant weeks after the utility settled the second batch in a series of claims against it brought by insurers for its culpability in the wildfires that destroyed millions of acres over the past few years.

The night of the announcement, supermarkets were flocked by anxious shoppers preparing for the outage. Californians who were unsure whether they would be in an affected neighborhood frantically tried to get information from PG&E’s website, but their gravely overburdened servers made connecting impossible much of the time. As dread and fear spread, PG&E workers prepared to turn out the lights. Executives, however were otherwise busy; they were enjoying fine wine and decadent hors d’oeuvres at an exclusive Sonoma County winery in a modern analogue of Nero fiddling while Rome burned.

PG&E’s self-interest is matched by callous disregard for the people under their thumb, forced to pay them in exchange for electricity and gas. They neglected their budget devoted to routine maintenance and such measures as trimming trees around power lines in order to pay investors $4.5 billion in stock dividends. It was chided for lack of upkeep by a judge at a hearing related to a lethal 2010 gas line explosion. This judge threatened to deny them their ability to pay dividends should they continue to neglect such upkeep. It is now clear that this has had no effect on them. But then, a privately owned utility holding a monopoly puts it in the role of hostage taker, and is rendered essentially above the law. It is a chilling case of capitalism’s ethos: Profits for the powerful before people.

How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States
by Daniel Immerwahr

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019

Picture in your mind a map of the U.S. It probably shows the continental states, with Hawaii and Alaska somewhere off to the side. Does it have Puerto Rico? How about Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, etc.?

In How to Hide an Empire, the author attempts, and succeeds I believe, in introducing us to the United States Empire.

A great deal more of this empire existed in the past, but there are bits, big and small, still out there that we give very little thought to. Puerto Rico is the big bit. Its “Commonwealth” status obscures the fact that it really is a colonial possession. There are other little bits left over from the time that the U.S. had a much larger empire.

The United States Empire has a long history and Immerwahr takes us along for the ride as the U.S. expands through the designated “Indian Territory” that eventually results in many new states, states that were originally colonial possessions. The last continental state to lose its colonial status was Arizona in 1912. Hawaii and Alaska only ended their colonial status in 1959.

Prior to World War II, empires needed overseas possessions in order to supply and resupply their far-flung military. The U.S., like the other colonial powers, held many overseas places in its colonial/military grip. But post-war air power changed that: No longer were ships the major military and transportation mode. No longer were ports-of-call of supreme militarily importance. What matters now are airbases, and we don’t need whole territories for that, just compliant governments to grant long-term leases. The U.S. empire is now one of “points,” in the author’s wording.

This is an important book, a fitting companion to A People’s History of the United States.

On June 14, 2019, a judge in London ruled in favor of an extradition hearing for Julian Assange. Assange is set to appear before a British court in February 2020 in a hearing on whether the WikiLeaks founder should be extradited to the U.S. on 18 counts of espionage. He is currently serving a 50-week sentence in Belmarsh Prison in southeast London for bail violations after taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations in 2012. At that time, Assange claimed that Sweden’s real motivation was to send him to the United States for criminal prosecution in retaliation for his exposure of U.S. government activity.

For more on Julian Asssange’s work, see the section entitled What is Wikileaks? below; for more on the rape allegations against Assange in Sweden, see the section entitled Manipulation of a Serious Offense.

Following the June 14 hearing, officials at Southwark Crown Court, where Assange was jailed for a bail breach, confirmed an appeal had been lodged against the sentence. Assange had spent seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London before being handed over to British authorities. On April 11, 2019, the Ecuadorian government allowed British police to enter its embassy and arrest him. He is now in a hospital inside a British maximum-security prison due to his failing health, the result of seven years under de facto house arrest inside the Ecuadorian embassy. Under direction of the U.S. government, British police denied medical care to properly treat Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy and denied him the freedom to seek medical treatment. As of this week, Assange’s condition has not yet improved.

Meanwhile, a friend of Assange, Swedish programmer and data privacy activist Ola Bini, was arrested in Ecuador, where he currently resides, on April 11, the same day Assange was taken by British authorities from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Bini has been jailed ever since without charges. For more about Bini, click here.

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