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Vol. 75/No. 2      January 17, 2011

Carol DeBerry: Decades-long
builder of SWP
SAN FRANCISCO—Carol Dobbs DeBerry, a longtime member and supporter of the Socialist Workers Party, died December 20 in Hayward, California. She was 83 years old.

During four decades of political activity—from the end of World War II to the mid-1980s—DeBerry was a stalwart builder of the Socialist Workers Party.

She was drawn to working-class politics at an early age, the oldest of three daughters of Farrell Dobbs, a leader of the Teamsters strikes in 1934 that made Minneapolis a union town and helped pave the way for the rise of the industrial unions. He was national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party from 1953 to 1972.

“We got a feeling of the solidarity, the power, the potential strength of the union movement,” DeBerry’s sister Mary-Lou Montauk recalls, describing how they both participated in mass rallies during the Teamster struggle, while still in grade school.

Carol was 14 years old when Farrell Dobbs and 17 other leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and Teamsters union were sentenced to prison under the thought-control Smith Act for their opposition to the imperialist aims of the U.S. government in World War II. Farrell Dobbs spent 12 months in federal prison in 1944-45.

At the end of World War II, Carol Dobbs joined the Socialist Workers Party’s youth group in New York. A strike wave was sweeping the country and the party was growing. An effective salesperson of the Militant, she participated in campaigns that greatly expanded the readership of the Militant during that period, going door-to-door in Harlem and other working-class communities.

After moving to Chicago in 1950, she joined the Socialist Workers Party and participated in antiracist struggles that were developing in the city’s Black community.

Segregated housing was a big issue. Migration from the South almost doubled the size of the Black community between 1940 and 1950. Yet Blacks were confined almost entirely to the South Side ghetto, leading to massive overcrowding.

When Black families moved into a previously all-white public housing project in 1953, Carol Dobbs and other party members joined the fight to defend them against violent attacks by racists seeking to drive them out. That same year, she participated in a strike at Leaf Brands, the candy factory where she worked.

While in Chicago, Carol met her life-long companion, Clifton DeBerry, a unionist and antiracist fighter who became a leader of the Socialist Workers Party. He was the SWP candidate for U.S. president in 1964, the first Black to be nominated and run for that office.

Carol and Clifton DeBerry moved to New York with their daughter Simone in 1960, a time when the triumph of the Cuban Revolution and the intensification of antiracist struggles were bringing new openings for revolutionary activity.

Carol DeBerry helped build activities in defense of the Cuban Revolution organized by the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. She joined the pickets in front of Woolworth department stores in solidarity with student sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters in the South. And from the early 1960s on, she took part in protests against the Vietnam War.

During the 1970s, after moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, DeBerry participated in the fight for women’s right to abortion, for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, and other women’s liberation struggles. As a member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, she fought to increase the involvement of trade unionists in the defense of women’s rights and to strengthen the struggles of women on the job.

DeBerry resigned from the Socialist Workers Party in 1984. Although no longer active, she continued to be a supporter of the SWP for the rest of her life.  
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