Bella Ciao, Kevin: A staunch fighter & builder for communism

29 March 2024 522 hits

Kevin Bayuk, a leading organizer and a generous, selfless mentor to younger members of Progressive Labor Party (PLP), died on March 3 in Calvary Hospice in Brooklyn after a long battle with malignant lymphoma. In the days before his death, Kevin was still visiting with friends and comrades and listening to Paul Robeson. He was a courageous and militant fighter who believed that the Party had to be a fighting organization to seize the moment. He would say that the three most important things in his life were family, friends, and communism.
Kevin was the youngest of four children born to working-class parents in the Bronx. He was an excellent swimmer his entire life and competed in citywide high school tournaments. Kevin was attending Colgate University when his sister Mary, a nurse at Mt. Sinai Hospital, became a Party member. Mary and her husband recruited Kevin to the Party. 

Kevin went on to Simmons College in Boston, where he graduated with a degree in social work. He then worked at a mental hospital, and was an active union organizer there and at his subsequent jobs. Wherever he worked, Kevin built a strong political base and brought colleagues and clients around the Party. 

Kevin made friends easily. His loyalty to the Party was matched only by his loyalty to his friends. He was nonjudgmental in his friendships, many of which lasted for decades. This same long-term outlook enriched Kevin’s base-building.

Bold antiracism in Boston

In the early 1970s, PLP in Boston was composed mainly of white middle-class college students who were attracted by the Party’s bold and militant anti-imperialism against the war in Vietnam. In the same period, a violent, racist, anti-busing organization, Restore Our Alienated Rights (ROAR) arose in Boston. The Boston PLP leadership was frightened and intimidated by these racist South Boston thugs and refused to engage in militant struggle against them. When pushed to do so by the central PLP leadership, they split from the Party, taking almost all of the student members with them. But Kevin and a few other mostly working-class and Black comrades remained loyal to the Party. 

In September 1974, the Boston school year began under a U.S. federal court ruling to integrate the city’s public schools. The ensuing opposition by racist white parents was every bit as violent as any seen in the U.S. South. Kevin and a few other Party members bravely stood up to the thousands of racists outside South Boston High School. They called for Black and white working-class unity in the fight for better schools and working conditions.

For the following May Day, in 1975, PLP’s national leadership organized a march in South Boston, the heart of the racists’ home turf. With thousands of Party members and supporters in the International Committee Against Racism converging on Boston, the Party organized a contingent of fighters to protect the march. When the racists prepared to launch their attack against the marchers, Kevin and his fellow fighters charged up a hill and caught them by surprise. The ROAR thugs were forced to retreat. While some PLP fighters were injured, the march was protected and proceeded without further incident.

That summer, the Party held a summer project in Boston. Although the Boston Party was still small, Kevin and the other remaining members provided an important nucleus of organizers for more than two hundred volunteers who came from around the country to participate. After a group of Black bible salesmen were savagely assaulted by racists at segregated Carson Beach, PLP and the Committee Against Racism were the first to call for a demonstration. During the violence that ensued at the march, Kevin played a leading role in protecting several comrades.

A compassionate caregiver

Kevin eventually moved to New York and became one of the first physician assistants, a pioneer in the healthcare wilderness. He was a compassionate caregiver who worked at the Morris Heights Community Health Center for thirty years and touched thousands of lives. He took his medical van to homeless shelters and to the boardwalk at Coney Island, where he would crawl underneath to coax homeless people to get medical attention.

In Kevin’s later years in the Party, he concentrated on building a base and mentoring younger comrades, working closely with a college club in the Bronx.

Kevin continued to swim regularly throughout his life and competed in senior swim races. He also included his family in his other favorite activity—fishing. A devoted parent, he took his children, nephews, and eventually his grandchildren on regular fishing trips and developed deep ties with younger family members.

Kevin’s internationalism

In 2011, Kevin went with his partner to Haiti, where the Party conducted a freedom school and a health clinic. He later returned to Haiti for the Party’s work with union members, and to meet with striking workers at a local hospital. As always, he infused his base-building with calls for action.

Kevin also went to Puerto Rico with the Party, where he was instrumental in organizing the PLP contingent after Hurricane Maria's devastation. There he continued his committed base-building and demonstrated by his words and deeds that the Party was an organization of action and participation in the mass struggles of the international working class.

He established ties with  organization led by a veteran communist fighter and close friend. With rare consistency and dedication, Kevin demonstrated what it means to build a mass communist party.

A fighter all his life

After Kevin was found to have two cancers, he continued meeting with his club and mentoring and nurturing the younger members. He always emphasized the importance of developing lasting friendships and base-building. He urged the younger members to have confidence in the working class. He taught them the importance of distributingCHALLENGE. He never wavered or compromised in advocating the fight for communism.

As one of his closest friends said, “Kevin exemplifies what a revolutionary and communist is and should be. If we want to pay tribute to Kevin, the best way to do so is by recognizing his courageous commitment to communism. We should emulate his fight for communism and continue fighting against all types of racism and exploitation. He was a noble, just, humble, and brave human being as well as a dedicated comrade.” Kevin, the friend said, was best described by this verse by Bertolt Brecht:

There are men who fight one day and are good.
Others fight for a year and are better. 
Some fight for many years and are very good. 
But some fight all their lives; those are the essential ones.