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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I was a stringer for the People's Daily World - Part 3 and conclusion

This is the third part of a short story and an excerpt from My Otto Biography, which is still a work in progress. For the fist part click here. for the second part click here. For the rest:

By SJ Otto
Along with the People's Weekly World I also wrote an article for The Wichita Eagle,[1] on their travel page. The information I had seem good enough to them that I was able to put a large article together. I put a little about the politics in it, but I had to mostly focus on what it was like in El Salvador's peasant communities. I had written an article about developing solidarity ties with El Salvador. The article was called "Solidarity with El Salvador enters a new stage."[2] I wrote:

"This is an exciting time to go to El Salvador. The war seems over. I was told by most people I met that no one in that country wants to return to war. We now are in a new phase of solidarity work. Rather than focusing only on the military aspect, we can now directly aid popular organizations in Central America. By doing this we also strengthen ourselves."

It seemed like a good idea. And there still is a Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) which works on that issue explicitly. But keeping in contact with people in the third world used to be real hard before the internet. It just wasn't practical. I never heard from the friends I made in El Salvador. So over time this idea just didn't work.
Today we have the internet and I can stay in touch with all kinds of political parties from all over the world. That wasn't possible until after about 2005, when I started to make use of the internet and learned what we could do with it. Today I am in contact with several Maoist and other left political parties from nearly every country in the world. There are some really good things about modern computer technology.
It was about 1991 that the abortion wars started to heat up in Wichita. The Anti-abortion crowd was made up of cult-like religious people. The way they talked everything was in "us vs. them" and it was the Christians vs. Satan. We were all considered Satanists. Most of us were atheists. But they considered all of us to be "dupes of Satan."
The anti (short for anti-abortionists) crowd, as we called them, wanted to make abortion completely illegal and they wanted to put Dr. George Tiller on trial and executed as a war criminal for performing abortions.
Dr. Tiller was shot twice. The first time he was wounded in his arms. So I wrote an article about that for the People's Weekly World:

"Pro-choice activists have perfected methods to protect the clinics and their patients. In response, anti-abortion activists, consisting mostly of rightwing fundamentalist Christians and some activists from the local Catholic Church, have focused on harassing doctors at their homes. Tactics have included picketing outside doctors' home, harassing family members at their jobs and sending letters to friends and family members of the doctors."[3]

And for the next 10 years, I was deeply involved in the defense of abortion. In 1991 the "Summer of Mercy" was staged in Wichita. I was living in the town of Hutchinson at the time. I couldn't really do anything in response to that. Also the local pro-choice groups had told their constituents not to come to that. They wanted everything to be controlled by local people and they wanted to let the police handle everything. That was a mistake.
Anti-abortion activist from all over the US came to take part in this action. The police were not well equipped or trained to deal with this kind of protests. These people decided they were going to shut down Wichita's three main abortion clinics and they did.  
After it was all over I came to Wichita to talk to Peggy Jarman, spokesperson for the Pro-Choice Action League.

"We have an anti-choice president, governor and mayor," she said. "Gov. Joan Finney spoke at an Operation Rescue rally, although she later said she does not condone breaking the law. And the Justice Department's brief support of the demonstrations has led many here be believe the Bush administration is not willing to see the laws enforced when the laws are not in Bush's political interests."[4]

It was shortly after that, that more vocal pro-choice groups began to show up in Wichita. I covered a rally where about 6,000 to 10,000 people showed up at Price Woodard Park in Wichita. The crowd carried signs that read "Abort Randall Terry (an anti-abortion activist and leader of Operation Rescue)," and "Catholics for choice."[5]
But shortly after I interviewed her, a new group formed calling itself Freedom of Choice Action League (FOCAL). This group was way more vocal and militant than the Pro-Choice Action League. FOCAL believed in getting in the antis people's face. They believed in vocally challenging them every time they showed up for an anti-abortion rally or when they showed up to our women's clinic on North Market Street in Wichita. We were hard on them and the Pro-Choice Action League did not approve of that. They preferred that their clinic defenders remain silent when they worked on the grounds. Despite being told to just ignore them, the anti side kept up a barrage of constant taunts. The antis did not like coming to the clinic guarded by FOCAL. At our clinic the taunts were returned and the antis hated coming their and taking the abuse.
One of my last articles was about a rally that the antis had that failed. They called for a "Lifeweek" of closing down the abortion clinics in Wichita. They wanted a rerun of the "Summer of Mercy." It fizzled and fewer than expected people came. While FOCAL couldn't really take all the credit, my article focused on FOCAL's role in stopping them and discouraging them.[6]   
One of the last articles I wrote was about right-wing Republican stealth candidates who used a lot of dirty tricks, mostly organizing and using churches, to take control of the Kansas Government. They succeeded.[7] They have been winning elections ever since. These activists were before the Tea Party. They were a little different also. They were mostly evangelicals who organized in certain churches in Wichita. They have been winning elections in Kansas since that time, although the Tea Party Republicans now dominate and they are slightly different.   
For several years I got real cheap bundles of the People's Weekly World and put them in Libraries. But one day I got caught and was told I had to go through some board (a form of censorship for our Wichita Public Libraries) to explain the news paper. I really didn't want to support a pro-soviet party, so I just gave up and quit. That was the whole idea behind the board and their policy—to keep people like me from putting such newspapers into the library.
Then about a year later I wanted to put in a May Day ad for my new book, War on Drugs /War on People.
I was told I couldn't do that because they had a lot of older Marxist who opposed challenging the war on drugs. So that was the last of my days as a stringer. I don't regret working for them, because it gave me an outlet for my writing. I never felt I had to agree with all the publications I work for. I often wrote for publications I didn't agree with.
Today we have Marxist and Maoist blogs more in tune with what I want to write about. Since computers I have my own Marxist blog where I can still write about the progressive things going on in town as well as things going on in the rest of the world.
Today the party behind the People's Weekly World, the Communist Party USA is a mere shell of its former self. The party goes clear back to the 1919 and was the main communist party for many years. But then came the split between the Soviet Union and China. Then there was the New Left movements from the 1960s and the new communist parties of the 1970s. Then came the fall of the Soviet Union and a factional split after that. Today the party mostly supports Democratic candidates for office. Their newspaper still covers Marxism, but as with most formerly pro-Soviet groups, they have lost a lot of ground. They paper is now on-line and called People's World.
So today I write mainly for my blog. It seems that Maoism has grown a lot in the last 10 years and it seems to be spreading today, while the formally pro-Soviet parties are still trying to find their own relevance.

The end.

[1] Steve Otto, "A visit to a sister city in El Salvador," Travel, The Wichita Eagle, (February 21, 1993), PP. 1D, 5D.
[2] Steve Otto, Solidrity with El Salvador enters a new stage," People's Weekly World, (July 3, 1993), p. 18.
[3] Steve Otto, "Shooting of doctors sparks defense of abortion rights," People's Weekly World, (September 11, 1993), p. 10.
[4] Steve Otto, "'Operation Rescue' galvanizes pro-choice forces," People's Weekly World, (August 24,1991) p. 4.
[5] Steve Otto, "Choice supporters rally, assail Operation Rescue," People's Weekly World, (August 31, 1991), p. 7.
[6] Steve Otto, "Anti-Choice forces soundly defeated," People's Weekly World, (August 15, 1992) p. 10.
[7] Steve Otto, "Right wing runs stealth candidates in Kansas," People's Weekly World, (November 5, 1994).

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