Detroit reds celebrate Red Books Day

BY: Detroit Club, CPUSA| February 21, 2023
Detroit reds celebrate Red Books Day


International Red Books Day falls on Tuesday, February 21, marking 175 years since the English publication of the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Designated by the International Union of Left Publishers (IULP) in 2020 as the annual commemoration of Marx and Engels’ legacy, the purpose of Red Books Day is to “encourage people from around the world to go into public places, from the street to cafés and union halls, and read their favorite red books (including the manifesto) in their own languages.”

Now, in 2023, socialist organizations across the globe host events in their communities to bring Red Books Day into public spaces. This movement has not stagnated in the US. Organizations like the People’s Forum in NYC and Red Ink Community Library in Providence, R.I., have planned a lineup of festivities—from art workshops and exhibitions, to community readings of the Manifesto and other educational events—in honor of Red Books Day.

In Detroit, Michigan, community organizations came together on Feb. 19 to celebrate and consider what the legacy of the Communist Manifesto means to them. Initiated by a grassroots literature distribution called Nox Library, and hosted at the historic Swords Into Plowshares Peace Center and Gallery, Detroit celebrated Red Books Day in light of its own legacy of working-class struggle. Nox Library arranged a book exchange in which people were encouraged to bring a book from their personal collection and exchange it for one of the “red” books collected by Nox. Included in the exchange were writers such as Clara Zetkin, Claudia Jones, Vijay Prashad, Vladimir Lenin, Charisse Burden-Stelly, and more.

To tie in the daily struggles of the working people of Detroit, a number of local organizations set up tables to provide resources and information about their work. These groups included the Michigan Peace Council, Detroit Tenants Association, Young Communist League (YCL) Detroit, International Publishers, Labor Notes, Hey Y’all Detroit, and the Women’s + LGBTQ Committee of the Detroit Club, Communist Party USA. With the range of community members and organizations involved, Detroit’s Red Books Day celebration shined a light on issues ranging from tenants’ rights and labor organizing to the right-wing attack on LGBTQ rights and the terrors of U.S. imperialism.

Dr. Charisse Burden-Stelly, editor and author of Organize, Fight, Win: Selected Writings by Black Communist Women, paid tribute to the long list of Black communist women that have shaped progressive movements throughout history. Dr. Burden-Stelly read a passage of her book and emphasized the link between anti-communism and white supremacy—a relationship fostered by the same extreme-right that is currently working to hinder progress in the struggle for LGBTQ and Black liberation, and other democratic movements.

The Detroit Club of the CPUSA further echoed this point by bringing attention to current anti-trans legislation introduced in the Michigan Legislature in October of 2022. House Bill 6454 seeks to charge parents and guardians with child abuse in the first degree should they consent to or assist with a gender transition procedure for a child. The party club made the following point:

“The LGBTQ community is among the groups of people especially oppressed by the capitalist ruling class. Trans rights are human rights, and we cannot achieve true liberation of all oppressed peoples without the liberation of trans and queer folks.”

It is issues like these facing our working class and people which brought these groups together under the banner of Red Books Day.

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” — Communist Manifesto

The working people of Detroit are trudging forward more and more with mass action against the ruling class. The Detroit Tenants Association (DTA) is one example. DTA was formed in 2022 by tenants in the New Center neighborhood of the city in response to their landlord’s persistent pattern of evictions and neglect of deteriorating building conditions. The group expanded to become a city-wide resource for all Detroit renters, providing education on tenants’ rights and existing housing law, in addition to providing eviction defense support. It’s a grassroots cohort of working-class people defending and empowering themselves against predatory landlords.

The Detroit chapter of the Young Communist League, also present at Nox Library’s Red Books Day event, is another example. The YCL Detroit ardently carries on the legacy of Marx and Engels’ call to action. The group of young workers has a continued relationship with community initiatives like the DTA, and works to bridge the gap between civic issues facing the working class and mass political action. They do this through educational events, rallies, and commentary at city council meetings. In 2022, they campaigned for voting rights and helped people in Detroit register to vote and learn about the process of voting.

The coming together of these organizations for the Red Books Day Event in Detroit served as an example of the developing struggle and unity of our working class and people. This was especially apparent during a brief reading of the Communist Manifesto, when the words of Marx and Engels resonated with listeners because of their common experience of exploitation and oppression. Both participants and attendees walked away with a newfound appreciation for each other and the Communist-inspired movements they are building on. To walk away with a new book was an added bonus!

As stated in the Communist Manifesto:

All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air.

Images: Red Books day by Detroit club, CPUSA (photos 1-2); Michigan CPUSA (Twitter)


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