ILPS: Taking a stand against imperialism

Discussing community work the International League of Peoples Struggles has done in the Seattle-Tacoma area focusing on the exploited. 

The Ledger had the privilege to speak to Secretary-General Katie Juhnke and Education Propaganda Officer Stuart Heslop about the International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS) chapter based in Seattle and Tacoma. 

ILPS is an organization that was formed back in 2001 and works against exploitative measures produced by imperialism as defined by Lenin’s five characteristics of imperialism. Although it’s an international organization, it didn’t start this way.

“We’re in the belly of the beast of imperialism. We see the US wage wars of aggression, extract and exploit natural resources from the global south and perpetuate serious acts of violence,” said Juhnke. “This organization was formed to create a united front against imperialism.” 

“Jose Maria Sison started this organization and created an analysis of the Philippines that sees the country as semi-feudal and semi-colonial. And one of the root problems of this is imperialism,” said Juhnke.

Because of this analysis, more chapters began to form outside the Philippines and  spread to other countries, like the United States. Here, the Seattle-Tacoma ILPS was formed in 2004, following a regional ILPS conference with the same goals and criticisms in mind. 

Like many other organizations that typically hold formal meetings for more in-person events, ILPS meetings have moved to an online platform to continue to work and organize more safely during the pandemic.

“We have a general meeting every second Wednesday of the month. So, only once a month. Usually, they go from 6 to 8 p.m. The next one we’re having will be on April 14th,” said Heslop.

These online meetings are fluid, and those who attend can find that it won’t be a difficult meeting structure to follow. 

“It varies from meeting to meeting. Normally, we have a check-in and have introductions. Then, we have a check-in on what organizations are up to and what needs they have. Frequently, we’ll have discussions on relevant political topics,” said Heslop.

Although these online meetings have been met with success, there are still some difficulties about only organizing around an online space.

“It’s understandably hard to organize something collectively when people are still struggling to get by in their daily lives. It’s especially difficult to engage with people online and retain the information,” said Heslop. 

Besides these drawbacks, there has still been strong support amongst the community members that participate in ILPS.

“For the executive committee, which is the secretariat plus organization representatives, there are about 25 people. But, if I had to guess, 150 is a safe number for how many members we have,” said Juhnke.

Even with this many members, ILPS still accepts and is open to all students, staff, and faculty at UW Tacoma that are interested in becoming official members of this organization. 

“We can schedule an orientation and match you with a member organization. For individuals in other groups, there’s an application form that gets centralized to our national committee and gets voted on for membership approval, ” said Juhnke.

However, for students, staff and faculty that don’t have the availability to be full-time members or feel hesitant to join ILPS, you can still participate in events they hold. 

“Even if people aren’t able to join fully as members, we still really welcome and encourage people to show up to those events that we have. And for organizations, we welcome partnerships with different groups,” said Juhnke.

With an expanding chapter here in the Seattle and Tacoma area, both Juhnke and Heslop look forward to the future and have aspirations to create a stronger knit community. 

“I think something that feels exciting would be doing more work in Tacoma since we definitely have stronger relationships to establish with organizations there and even hearing about what workers like farmworkers in eastern Washington are doing,” said Juhnke.

With these goals in mind, it’s easy for both Heslop and Juhnke to be inspired by past work. With last month being women’s history month, the two reflected on women that are significant to them. 

“Ida B. Wells. She was an incredible journalist, abolitionist, and out-spoken woman on behalf of Black women. Ida B. Wells is very staunch and unapologetic. Her work and legacy are often overshadowed, especially around discussions of the suffrage movement,” said Heslop.

Equally as significant, Juhnke brought to light a figure that is a conjunction of being a figure for women and reflective of the work ILPS aspires to do.

“I think the first person that came to mind was Gabriela Silang. She was a militant warrior in the Philippines, who worked to free her people from Spanish colonizers. She’s such a strong symbol of uplifting the women’s movement, specifically,” said Juhnke.

The work ILPS does is not only centered around figures like these, but rather the community members that inhabit the Seattle-Tacoma area as a whole. 

Instagram:  ilps_seattle_tacoma
ILPS and NARPR t-shirts: