The 1970’s were a time very similar to today. Steeped in class inequities and frayed politics, white supremacist ideology reemerged from the fringe, protecting those in power while scapegoating the most marginalized and oppressed. Many innocent lives were lost because so many people chose to turn a blind eye to white supremacist rhetoric, organizing, and violence. Conversely, we’ll never know how many lives were saved thanks to the numerous inspiring grassroots anti-racist and anti-capitalist organizations and actors who took a stand to oppose and drive out white supremacists from their communities.
We write this article to talk about one of the many brave people who lost their lives in this fight, César Cauce, and what his life and actions can teach us about our current struggles against white supremacy. Mistakes were made, and we must learn from these mistakes, but that article has already been written. We write this article to free César’s legacy from his sister Ana Marie Cauce, whose has time and time again used her brother and her identity to justify her feeble neoliberal ideology and actions. Ana Marie continues to use her power as the University of Washington president to oppose faculty unionization, allow the university to become a platform for a resurgent white supremacist movement, work with the campus police and their reactionary union to oppose oversight and reforms, and ultimately stood against everything her brother lived and died for.
This article will “TELL IT LIKE IT IS”.
Our story begins in the early 1950’s Cuba, under the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Fearful of the approaching revolutionary forces, Vicente Cauce and Ana Cauce fled the island with their five-year-old son César and three-year-old daughter Ana Marie. Vicente Cauce had been the Education Minister for the brutal dictatorial regime, and feared reprisal from a liberated Cuban people. Settling in Miami, Vicente and Ana were forced to toil in a shoe factory to make ends meet. Vicente remained staunchly anti-communist and immersed himself in activism to preserve a reactionary nationalist cultural identity he feared would be lost under Castro’s “communist” regime. [source]
As César Cauce grew older, he excelled at school and attended Duke University, aspiring to one day become a professor of Latin American studies. It was because of César’s unquenchable curiosity that he was drawn towards activism on campus. This activism led him to understand the plight of the working-class and the importance of anti-capitalist left-wing politics to bring about a more equal, just, and free world. César graduated from Duke in 1976 and was offered a scholarship to study history at UC Berkeley. Instead of taking the scholarship, César chose to remain in North Carolina and support an AFSCME union drive at the Duke University Hospital. César joined the union by getting a job as the hospital data-terminal operator and joined the Worker’s Viewpoint Organization – a U.S.-based Communist organization involved in supporting the worker’s unionization. César and his fellow union organizers published a newsletter for the hospital staff entitled “TELL IT LIKE IT IS!” which focused on speaking truth to power, exposing workplace exploitation and inspiring their fellow workers and community members to join the struggle for a union. [source]
César supported many union efforts throughout North Carolina and the U.S. South, such as a campaign to organize poultry factory workers. César documented these labor struggles in articles he wrote for the Workers’ Viewpoint Organization newspaper. In June 1979, César married his comrade Floris Canton, who he had met at the African liberation demonstrations in 1977, in Washington D.C. [source]
Unfortunately much like today, the 70’s saw a rise in white supremacist terrorism. In 1971 the Klu Klux Klan (referred to as “The Klan”) bombed 10 school buses in Pontiac, Michigan. By 1975, the Klan had chapters on many college campuses. In 1979, the Klan had over 10,000 active members, and close to 75,000 sympathizers. Understanding the growing threat posed by white supremacy, César, Flores, and their fellow comrades in the Community Workers Party (formerly the Worker’s Viewpoint Organization) helped to organize a protest against white supremacists in Greensboro, N.C.. Greensboro had been the site of famous sit-ins almost twenty years prior, when black students sat at segregated lunch counters while they were attacked by violent mobs of racist whites. Understanding the need to “drive the Klan out of town” for communities of color to be safe in Greensboro, they named the march “Death to the Klan”, emphasizing the need to destroy the white supremacist organization. [source]
On November 3, 1979 in Greensboro, North Carolina, the Communist Workers Party (CWP) and many community members gathered for the “Death to the Klan” march. The procession was scheduled to begin in a public housing, predominately black working-class community called Morningside Homes. As the marchers were gathering, a group of white supremacists (neo-Nazis & Klan members) drove through the protest site in a nine-car caravan. Upon protesters confronting their vehicles, the Klan and neo-Nazis jumped out of their vehicles with guns and bats, beating and shooting protesters as they lay wounded, ran away, or hid. Five protesters were killed that day, including César, and many more were wounded. [source]
It is worth noting that previous marches and rallies that had been organized by the Communist Workers Party had all been accompanied by a defensive armed wing (openly carrying firearms), specifically to protect participants from violence at the hands of the Klan. This had been approved of in the permits for these previous rallies by the Greensboro Police Department. However, this march was different, and the local police demanded that the CWP lay down their arms if they were to be granted a permit for the march. One CWP member had a concealed handgun which he brandished in an attempt to ward off the ruthless violence being carried out by the Klan and neo-Nazis. None of the white supremacists were injured. [for a more in-depth discussion on CWP tactics and anti-Klan organizing strategy]
The uniform police arrived on the scene after the shooting, arresting CWP members and allowing the Klan and neo-Nazi’s to leave. Later, it was discovered that there was explicit collaboration between the police and the Klan to set up this attack. Despite the massacre being captured by media crews that were filming the march, an all-white jury acquitted all of the Klan and neo-Nazi shooters, claiming they had acted in “self-defense.” [source, source, source]
One the side of César’s gravestones reads:
“On November 3, 1979 the criminal monopoly capitalist class murdered Jim Waller, César Cauce, Mike Nathan, Bill Sampson, and Sandi Smith with government agents, Klan, and Nazis. Heroically defending the people, the 5 charged gunfire with bare fists and sticks. We vow this assassination will be the costliest mistake the capitalists have ever made, and the turning point of class struggle in the U.S.
The CWP 5 were among the strongest leaders of their times. Their deaths marked an end to capitalist stabilization (1950s-1970s) when American workers suffered untold misery, yet as a whole remained dormant for lack of its own leaders. In 1980 the deepest capitalist crisis began. The working class was awakening. The CWP 5 lived and died for all workers, minorities, and poor; for a world where exploitation and oppression will be eliminated, and all mankind freed; for the noble goal of communism. Their deaths, a tremendous loss to the CWP and to their families, are a clarion call to the U.S. people to fight for the workers’ rule. In their footsteps waves of revolutionaries will rise and join our ranks.
We will overthrow the rule of the monopoly capitalist class! Victory will be ours! November 3, 1980 Central Committee, CWP, USA FIGHT FOR REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALISM AND WORKERS RULE.” [source]
Similar to César, Ana Marie excelled at school, earning a B.A. in English and psychology from the University of Miami and a Ph.D. in psychology from Yale University. After many years of teaching at the University of Washington (UW), Ana Marie became the president of the university, raking in an annual salary of $697,500 to become possibly the highest paid female president of a public university in the US, and receiving many additional financial perks. This position has provided Ana Marie with a platform to talk about her trials and tribulations including mourning the loss of her brother César and coming out as gay to her mother. As far as public documentation shows, Ana Marie never shared her brother’s class-politics, or revolutionary spirit. In fact, many of her actions since becoming UW president have gone completely contrary to her brother’s legacy: she opposed the UW faculty unionization; worked with far-right groups to provide police security paid for with tax dollars; supported their use of UW campus facilities to recruit, organize, harass and intimidated students of color, creating a dangerous environment for students, staff, and the community at large.
For example, on January 20th, 2017, alt-right pedophile Milo Yiannopoulos gave a speech at UW, invited by the sanctioned student group UW College Republicans. Even after ample student activism to protest the event and receiving ample warnings from across the campus that the event would result in violence, Ana Marie allowed it to move forward. That evening, supporters and protesters gathered outside the building. Clashes erupted as white supremacists and anti-racists met head-on in the center of the square, while police watched from the sidelines. In the chaos that ensued, an anti-racist protester was shot at nearly point-blank range by a Milo supporter, who fled the scene. The event was allowed by the UW administration to continue, even with a shooter on campus. The shooter would later turn themself in to the police hours later, only to be released after claiming “self-defense.” Videos of the conflict would prove otherwise, and the parallels between the murder of César and the present-day would become disturbingly clear. [source, source]
While Ana Marie did not invite Milo and his supporters to campus, she allowed the university to be used as a platform for this event. And would do so again, a little over a year later.
On February 10th, 2018, the same student group responsible for bringing Milo to campus, which faced no administrative consequences for their past actions, organized a “freedom rally” at UW, featuring Joey Gibson and his group Patriot Prayer, notorious for attracting neo-Nazis and other white supremacist groups. In typical liberal fashion, Ana Marie attempted to charge the UW College Republicans $17,000 for their own security rather than take a public stand against the event. Maybe her actions reflected a veiled attempt at preventing the event from going forward, but if so, not only did she fail to use her privileges to help the least privileged, she also quickly retreated as soon as the UW College Republicans threatened a lawsuit. A few days before the event was to take place, Ana Marie sent an email to the university community talking about how she had worked closely with the “hosting organization” (i.e. UW College Republicans) to “ensure the Patriot Prayer event unfolds as peacefully as possible” and that “for the safety of campus visitors and others not associated with the events, several organizations have cancelled or postponed their campus events that day”. [source]
Some of the organizations that were forced to cancel their events due to UW administrations pandering the far-right included a Black History Month “Young, Gifted, and Black” conference for high school students, and “Everybody Every Body” an annual event aimed at health and body positivity, which regularly draws around 500 people, multiple campus libraries were closed. This once again exemplifies that providing a platform for the far-right ultimately silences the voices of the most marginalized and oppressed individuals and communities, while creating a campus environment that stifles the very purpose of the university: to learn. [source]
Ignoring Ana Marie’s call to, “avoid Red Square, and the surrounding area from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m…to ensure your own personal safety,” anti-racist protesters converged on Red Square to oppose the blatant displays of white supremacy by the College Republicans, Patriot Prayer, and the Cascade Legion Neo-Nazis in attendance. Greatly outnumbered, the president of the UW College Republicans, Chevy Swanson, whined about how campuses should be safe spaces for conservatives, all the while UW police assaulted and arrested several anti-racist protesters. [source]
Ana Marie Cauce is actively emboldening a racist-social movement to take hold on the UW Campus. We cannot allow Ana Marie to pervert the legacy of her brother, a revolutionary anti-racist martyr, for her vapid liberal agenda. We must “TELL IT LIKE IT IS!” every time she brings up her brother in the same breath that she condemns unions, condemns anti-racist action, or paternalistically declares that she “understands” us. Until she takes a stand against white supremacy and the capitalist monopoly class, she will remain a part of the system which killed her brother.
Down with capitalism!
Death to white supremacy!
Victory will be ours!