In 1972 Holmes served time in a military prison as a GI resister and was subsequently thrown out of the U.S. Army because he was actively organizing against the Vietnam War. In 1972-73 he became a leader of the American Servicemen’s Union, which attempted to form a labor union inside the ranks of the military.
In May 1976, Holmes co-sponsored a Chicago conference in support of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), a radical socialist initiative supported by the Soviet Union and Communist Cuba – and opposed by the United States.
When WWP co-founder Dierdre Griswold ran for U.S. president on the WWP ticket in 1980, Holmes was her vice presidential running mate. In 1984 and 1988, Holmes was WWP’s nominee for U.S. president. And in 1992, he again ran for vice president.
Beginning in the late 1990s, Holmes was a leader of Millions for Mumia, a movement that sought to exonerate the Marxist icon and convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal, whom Holmes lauded as “our revolutionary brother.”
At a December 5, 1998 conference commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto‘s publication, Holmes delivered a speech in which he described capitalism as a “war on the working class and the oppressed”; a “system [that] is beyond reform”; “the cause of unimaginable misery, social devastation, [and] imperialist war”; and “a threat to the planet’s ecology.” “As long as capitalism is around,” Holmes elaborated, “society cannot progress. Capitalism is a brake on the progress of civilization.” Explaining that the only way “to get rid of this system” would be to “organize the workers and prepare for the final revolutionary conflict that expropriates the capitalists,” he identified the Manifesto as “a program of action” that “explains what you have to do.”
At a Black History Month event in February 2001, Holmes, depicting the United States as a racist wasteland, said: “It is hard to celebrate Black History Month with more than 2 million people in U.S. prisons, 35 percent of them African American, with more than 3,600 people on death row, more than 50 percent of them African American or Latino.”
Holmes has been a harsh critic of Israel and the American aid it receives. Conversely, he has expressed admiration for the combative spirit of Palestinian extremists and terrorists. According to a March 2001 report by WWP, for instance: “Just days after the Israeli election of Ariel Sharon [as Prime Minister], Holmes saluted the Palestinian people who maintain their struggle in the face of such brutal repression, before and after the elections there.” “It was good,” said Holmes, “to see the demonstrations in Gaza and West Bank the day after the elections, where they had both Sharon and [Ehud] Barak’s pictures in a kind of equal sign, like they’re both the same.”
In the run-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Holmes spoke at numerous antiwar demonstrations. Among the major ones was a January 18, 2003 rally in Washington, sponsored by International ANSWER.
On March 20, 2004, Holmes was a featured speaker at a Global Day of Action demonstration where some 100,000 people marched and rallied “against Pentagon wars and occupations.” The event was initiated by the International ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice. Other notable speakers included Brian Becker, Mahdi Bray, Teresa Gutierrez, Rep. Major Owens. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Dorothy Zellner, and, in a taped recoding from his prison cell, the incarcerated Mumia Abu-Jamal.
In 2008, Holmes signed a Partisan Defense Committee statement calling for the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, praising him for being a “former Black Panther,” lamenting that he had been “framed” as a murderer by a racist U.S. justice system, and denouncing capital punishment as “a legacy of chattel slavery and a barbaric outrage … the lynch rope made legal.”
On September 17, 2008, Holmes spoke at a Michigan rally sponsored by the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions, which was run by the WWP.
On September 20, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Holmes spoke to a crowd of more than 1,000 fellow activists in a demonstration organized by the Bail Out the People Movement. Also speaking at the event was the civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart.
At the Warwick Hotel in New York City on September 21, 2010, Holmes was one of more than 100 American activists and journalists who attended a gathering with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad had repeatedly articulated his desire to destroy the state of Israel, and was in town to attend the annual United Nations General Assembly. According to a WWP report, Holmes and his comrades “consciously rejected a well-funded campaign to demonize Iran and whip up a pro-war climate.” “After an Iranian-style dinner,” the report added, “the gathering moved to a conference room where representatives from various organizations spoke on the plight of people inside the United States. The displacement of African Americans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the burgeoning prison-industrial complex, conditions facing political prisoners, the crisis in U.S.-Iranian relations, and the overall economic crisis[,] dominated the discussion.” Other noteworthy attendees included Cynthia McKinney, Amiri Baraka, Sara Flounders, and Ramsey Clark.
At Occupy Chicago’s headquarters in May 2012, Holmes addressed a Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda rally. The goal of this event was to “give people a place to have their voices be heard and to share a vision of what the world could be when people are put before profit; when money goes to jobs, healthcare, education, pensions, housing and the environment, not war; [and] when we say no to war and austerity.”
During the week of August 12, 2012, Holmes led two instructional classes and spoke at a public forum at the WWP-sponsored “Marxist School of Theory and Struggle” conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. Among the topics discussed, said a WWP report, were “the role of state repression; Marxist economics; national oppression and racism; the bourgeois elections; women’s oppression; a class view of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer oppression; [and] the tasks of a Marxist-Leninist Party.”
In late July 2013, Holmes led a seven-day, three-person WWP delegation to Communist North Korea, where he and his fellow delegates held political meetings with leading members of the Workers’ Party of Korea. During the trip, Holmes delivered a report in which he condemned American “imperialis[ts]” for “threatening to bomb” his “DPRK comrades” into “oblivion” and “starv[ation].” He also denounced American “propaganda” peddlers for engaging in the “demonization and dehumanization” of the Koreans. Holmes ended his report with the exclamation, “Long live the DPRK!”