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, 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." I wrote:
"This is an exciting time to go to
. 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 El
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
Salvador. So over time this idea just didn't
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
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."
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."
It was shortly after that, that more vocal pro-choice groups began to show up in
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."
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
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
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.
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. 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
They have been winning elections in Kansas
since that time, although the Tea Party Republicans now dominate and they are
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
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.
 Steve Otto, "A visit to a sister city in
El Salvador," Travel, The
Wichita Eagle, (February 21, 1993), PP. 1D, 5D.
 Steve Otto, Solidrity with
Salvador enters a new stage," People's Weekly World, (July 3, 1993),
 Steve Otto, "Shooting of doctors sparks defense of abortion rights," People's Weekly World, (September 11, 1993), p. 10.
 Steve Otto, "'Operation Rescue' galvanizes pro-choice forces," People's Weekly World, (August 24,1991) p. 4.
 Steve Otto, "Choice supporters rally, assail Operation Rescue," People's Weekly World, (August 31, 1991), p. 7.
 Steve Otto, "Anti-Choice forces soundly defeated," People's Weekly World, (August 15, 1992) p. 10.
 Steve Otto, "Right wing runs stealth candidates in
Kansas," People's Weekly World, (November 5, 1994).