“Don’t Mourn, Organize!” (And Still We Mourn)Posted: March 28, 2016
Sandy Boyer, socialist fighter, died recently. His death is a loss to working class and social justice movements in the US, Ireland, and indeed, the world, that he supported.
Whether it was teamsters or teachers in the US, political prisoners in Ireland, Puerto Rican activists, Palestinian solidarity campaigners, or the BlackLivesMatter movement, Sandy tirelessly exercised his brilliant organizing skills on their behalf. Just last summer he joined Peoples Press members in supporting Verizon workers here in Binghamton.
Sandy came from a family who ancestors participated in the American Revolution. His parents went on to become revolutionaries of a different sort, supporting the working class and Black struggles in the US by joining the American Communist Party, which they remained members of until the Khrushchev revelations of Stalin’s crimes in 1956.
His parents were writers, his father, Richard Owens Boyer, co-author of Labour’s Untold Story and author of The Legend of John Brown. His mother wrote a biography of Kwame Nkrumah.
His family paid dearly for their political activity, as did many others. His father was blacklisted, losing most of his employment. Although he had been employed by the New Yorker to write political profiles, he found great difficulty finding work after he refused to testify at the McCarthy hearing in 1955.
Sandy began his own political activity while he was still in high school, in the 1950s, when he organized protests supporting the civil rights struggle. By 1962, aged 18, Sandy had moved to New York City where he became immersed in labor struggles. He worked for an independent union – SSEU (Social Service Employees Union) – which in 1964 led a strike of caseworkers in the NYC Welfare Department. They won!
Sandy was also in the forefront of a new socialist movement, rejecting the legacy of his parent’s generation. The new movement rejected both the USA and the USSR, and argued for the need for democracy from below – saying that workers and other oppressed groups had to organize in order to take control and reorganize society to meet their needs, not the needs of the rich and privileged. They argued that simply electing a new president or supporting an army to make these changes would not be sufficient. Sandy recently continued that argument in “Can we vote in Sanders’ political Revolution?” published by SocialistWorker.org.
Sandy went on to join the International Socialist Clubs and then the International Socialists, working as NY organizer for several years. He brought his excellent organizing skills and political acumen to help build rank and file union movements, working with teamsters, postal workers, teachers, communication workers.
In the 1970s, Sandy joined Irish Americans in building support for civil rights in Northern Ireland. As the Troubles intensified in the North, Sandy was there through it all – anti-internment, hunger strikes, political prisoners.
The South African solidarity movement was another area where Sandy made a vital contribution. During the 1980s working with the American Committee on Africa’s labor solidarity campaign, Sandy promoted US labor solidarity with their South African counterparts by promoting direct union-to-union links and touring black South African labor leaders throughout the US.
Since 1996, he worked on the popular weekly critical Irish radio program, Radio Free Eireann. Sandy and co-host, John McDonagh, have provided a provocative analysis of the continuing struggle of people in the north of Ireland for justice.
Working with the Brooklyn Green Party, Sandy recently was instrumental in organizing a meeting on the BlackLivesMatter Movement, building support for the Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones’ NY state election campaign and for James Lane’s congressional run against the district attorney who made sure that Earl Garner’s killer was not indicted.
Sandy’s written work leaves a legacy for the future. His review of recent works on slavery and capitalism, Puerto Rican freedom, and asking ‘shouldn’t New York City’s liberal mayor be focused on honoring his promises around affordable housing’ are among the issues he covered.
Sandy looked forward to building the successful American revolution, which he insisted had to encompass the working class organizations and the black liberation movements confronting the current issues of criminal and social justice. We can all appreciate the contribution that he made. But more important is to continue to build and support the movement, extend his commitment and put into practice the lessons that we have learned from him.