- Former co-chair of United For Peace and Justice
- Former coordinator
of the U.S. Peace Council
- Member of the Communist Left since the 1960s
- Co-founder of the Committees of Correspondence, a splinter group of the Communist Party USA
- Co-founder of Iraq Occupation Watch
- Supporter of the Free Gaza Movement
See also: United
For Peace and Justice U.S.
Occupation Watch Free Gaza Movement
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
Sue Cagan was born in 1947 to a Jewish couple in the Bronx, New York.
Her grandmother, a
seamstress, was a founding
member of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, which was known
for its far-left politics. In 1979, Cagan, reflecting upon her youth, would write
that she had been a “red diaper” baby whose
parents at one time belonged to the Communist Party. Years thereafter, however,
Cagan would say
that she had been a “pink diaper” baby because her
never in the party,” though “they were active and obviously
influenced by the politics of the era.”
In 1964 Cagan enrolled at New York
where she joined an activist group which she described
as “sort of a Friends of SNCC [Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] chapter,”
and “sort of an SDS [Students
for a Democratic Society] chapter.” In 1966 she became involved
in the antiwar movement and developed what she termed “an
consciousness.” Contending that “the nature of U.S.
capitalism and imperialism” had “created
[the Vietnam] war,” Cagan was filled with “outrage
and disgust at what our government was doing to the Vietnamese
people and their country.”
In the spring of 1968 Cagan
traveled to Bulgaria to attend
the Ninth World Festival of Youth and Students, an event
organized by (mostly Soviet-oriented) Communist Parties around the
world, and attended by all manner of leftists and revolutionaries.
That same year, Cagan graduated
from NYU with a degree in art history.
Cagan started to explore a number of additional activist
anti-nuclear, LGBT rights, and feminist
movements. As a result of the latter, she began “to understand
sexism” as well as the “power dynamic” that defined male-female relationships.
In the summer
of 1969 Cagan attended several national conferences held by SDS
and the United Front Against Fascism, the latter of which was a
of the Black
Panthers. Indeed, Cagan proudly described herself as a “Panther
In the winter of 1969-70, Cagan spent
more than two months with the First Venceremos Brigade, which
transported young Americans to Cuba to help harvest sugar
cane and interact with Havana’s Communist leadership.
Castro's Cuban intelligence agency, these Brigades trained their
participants in guerrilla warfare techniques. In Cuba,
Cagan saw what she described as “not an abstract idea of socialism or revolution,” but a
society whose hallmark was a type of “humane interaction among
people” that she “had never witnessed” in the United States.
During her seven years as director of the Cuba Information Project,
Cagan led numerous demonstrations demanding that America end its
economic embargo of, and travel ban to, the island nation.
the spring of 1970, Cagan, back in the U.S.,
active in the effort to free Joan Bird, one of the “Panther
who had been
charged with attempted arson, attempted murder, and conspiracies to
blow up police stations, school buildings, a railroad yard, and the
Bronx Botanical Gardens.
Throughout the 1970s, Cagan established herself as an influential activist. She would proceed, over the decades that followed, to mobilize millions of demonstrators in rallies denouncing America's
foreign policies and its purportedly virulent racism, sexism,
militarism, and homophobia.
On June 12, 1982, Cagan was a lead
organizer of a massive anti-nuclear rally held in New York City's
Central Park, attended by hundreds of thousands of activists. In 1987
she co-chaired one of the largest-ever rallies for gay and lesbian
a featured speaker at the U.S.
Tenth Anniversary National Conference in 1989, along with such
notables as John
In the early 1990s, Cagan was the official coordinator
of the U.S. Peace Council. In 1992 she was
an original co-founder
of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS), a
splinter group rooted in the Communist Party USA (of
which Cagan has been a longtime member). She went on to become co-chairman
In 1998 Cagan endorsed
a Brecht Forum celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Communist
Manifesto at Cooper Union's Great Hall, New York. That same year, she condemned America's "daily assaults and attacks on poor and
working people, on women, people of color, lesbians/gays and other
sexual minorities, the disabled and so many others."
was elected chair of the Pacifica
Foundation's interim board of directors. In 2002 she became
co-chair of the newly formed anti-war coalition United
For Peace and Justice (UFPJ), a post she would hold until 2008.
was a signatory of the 2002
In Our Name (NION) statement denouncing America's war
against terror and its “stark new measures of
strongly opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, which
she characterized as nothing more than a thinly veiled oil grab. "Oil
is not worth war!" read Cagan's UFPJ Website. "How much is
the Bush administration's push for war with Iraq motivated by its
desire to gain control of Iraq's oil fields?"
2004 Cagan blasted America's Middle East policy, particularly the U.S. funding
that “goes to help maintain the
deadly Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.” “Our
position’s very clear,” Cagan said.
“We oppose military occupation. We oppose the U.S. occupation in
Iraq; we oppose the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian
territories.” By Cagan's reckoning, Israel is an “apartheid”
Around the same time, Cagan described the far-left political orientation of her UFPJ coalition:
are communists in the coalition, there are socialists, there are
Marxists, there are radicals, revolutionaries, there are liberals,
there are Democrats, there are anarchists, there are people who don’t
have political labels. It is a very broad coalition, and we welcome
that. We hope that this country has moved beyond the awful
anti-communism of its past.”
2004 Cagan co-founded -- along with Global
Exchange founder Medea
Benjamin -- the organization Iraq
Occupation Watch, whose mission was to encourage
widespread desertion by "conscientious objectors" in the
In February 2004 Cagan was a guest
speaker at a Young Democratic Socialists conference in New York
titled “Life After Bush.” Fellow speakers included Cornel West,
Frances Fox Piven, Steve Max, and Bertha Lewis.
Also in 2004, Cagan, a lesbian,
was included in Out
magazine's annual list of the 100
most influential LGBT people.
reference to peace activism, Cagan said
in 2007: "We have so much to learn from the history of the
Communist Party about how this work has been done."
2009 Cagan served
on the advisory committee of the Independent Progressive Politics
same year, she was a member of the Committee to Celebrate the Life
of Luis Miranda Rivas, a strong supporter
of Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution.
In 2011 Cagan was the
Audacity of Hope, an American boat (named after Barack
that was scheduled to participate in a Free Gaza Movement flotilla in
June of that year. “We’re sending a message to our own
government that we think it could play a much more positive role in
not only ending the [Israeli] siege of Gaza, but also ending the
whole occupation” of Palestinian land, Cagan said.
figures who were slated to make the journey with Cagan included
Alice Walker and Hedy Epstein. The trip, however, was ultimately canceled.
Cagan is a member
the New York Committee to Free the Cuban Five, a group of individuals convicted in 2001 by a U.S. jury for their participation
in a brutal Castro spy ring and now serving time in American prisons.
Another of Cagan's pet causes is her objection to the
incarceration of the convicted cop-killer and former Black Panther,
Cagan is also an endorser
for Peace and Democracy,
along with Stanley
West, among others.