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Home > IV Online magazine > 2008 > IV405 - October 2008 > Bill Banta, 1941-2008

USA

Bill Banta, 1941-2008

Revolutionary socialist all his adult life

Wednesday 1 October 2008, by Patrick M. Quinn

BILL BANTA, A member of the Chicago branch and founding member of
Solidarity, died of pancreatic cancer in a Chicago hospice on August
20th. He was 67. Bill was a revolutionary socialist his entire adult
life. Born on February 6, 1941 in Portland, Indiana, he joined the
Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL) as an undergraduate at Indiana
University.

Bill Banta, 1941-2008
Image: Solidarity

There will be a memorial meeting for Bill at 1:30 PM Saturday October 25th at the 2nd Unitarian Church, 656 West Barry Street in Chicago.

Upon graduation in 1963 he moved to Chicago, where, as a social
worker, he became involved in the civil rights movement and was an
active trade unionist. He soon became an organizer in the American
Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), where,
among other accomplishments, he organized the blue collar employees of
the city of Evanston, winning them a contract which, after 40 years,
remains one of the best contracts negotiated by municipal workers
anywhere in the United States. Bill also served as an organizer for
the Furniture Workers and the United Electrical Workers in Louisville,
Kentucky, and worked in Chicago as a taxi cab driver.

In 1968 Bill joined the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Chicago. He
had become very involved in the movement against the war in Vietnam.
He then secured a job as a switchman on the Chesapeake and Ohio
Railroad in Chicago and quickly became a militant mainstay of the
large group of members of the United Transportation Union (UTU)
organized by the SWP. He remained a militant in the UTU until 1982
when he lost his lower right leg in an accident on the railroad.

In the SWP he was a member of two opposition tendencies, the
Proletarian Orientation Tendency (PO) in 1971 and the Internationalist
Tendency (IT) in 1973-74. With 160 other oppositionists in the SWP who
supported the political poitions of the majority of the Fourth
International led by Ernest Mandel, Bill was expelled from the SWP on
July 4, 1974. About one third of those who had been expelled,
including Bill, were readmitted to the SWP in 1976. In 1982, however,
he and more than a hundred members were expelled from the SWP by the
undemocratic and dictatorial regime that ran the SWP. Bill became a
founding member of Socialist Action and then, in 1986, a founding
member of Solidarity.

From 1984 to 1989, Bill was a key activist in the Evanston Committee
on Central America, which had been organized to oppose U.S.
intervention in Nicaragua and El Salvador. During the 1990s and into
the beginning of the new century, Bill devoted many hours as a
volunteer at the New World Resource Center, an independent progressive
bookstore and gathering place for the Left in Chicago.

Bill came from a working-class background in Portland, Indiana. His
father, a U.S. Marine, had been severely wounded on Iwo Jima during
World War II. A member of the Church of Christ, a Boy Scout who
enjoyed camping, and a high school football player, Bill had also
early in his life developed a keen sense of social justice, and when
in college he encountered socialism for the first time, it was a
natural fit.

Bill had a great many friends and comrades in Chicago and he will be
sorely missed. He was an exemplar of those of his generation who had
embraced the vision of a socialist world and devoted their lives to
transforming that vision into a world without war, injustice, racism,
oppression, and capitalist exploitation — a world in which economic,
political and social equality will prevail.