BY FRANK FORRESTAL AND SALM KOLIS
PITTSBURGH - Socialist workers from Birmingham, Houston, and Atlanta were among those who participated in two days of solidarity activities for the Catfish Workers of America in Belzoni, Mississippi, April 9-10. Nearly 70 workers were fired from the Freshwater Farms catfish processing plant last November for protesting inhuman working conditions inside the plant. Since then, they have been fighting to regain their jobs and bring attention to the oppressive conditions under which thousands of catfish workers labor. They are in the forefront of solidarity actions with striking workers around the South and farmers who are Black fighting to regain their land and against government discrimination (see article on front page).
A Steelworker strike activist from Titan Tire in Natchez, Mississippi, along with his wife, drove up to be part of the weekend's activities. He has been reading the Militant off and on for several months and decided to subscribe. He also looked over Capitalism's World Disorder: Working-Class Politics at the Millennium and decided to get a copy. He was very interested in learning more about how the working class, and the unions in particular, can build more strength and unity, in the face of growing economic uncertainty. He also wanted to learn more about the danger to working people posed by ultrarightist politician Patrick Buchanan. Several catfish workers are also interested in getting the book, and began working out payment plans.
Socialist workers have taken a goal of selling 1,500 copies of this book by May 31, including 500 copies to their co- workers and through collective work in the trade unions.
At the April 10 African-American Heritage Buffalo Fish Festival in Belzoni, several other Pathfinder titles were sold off a socialist campaign table. One catfish worker, Lillie Williams, also sold nine copies of "A Sea Change in Working- Class Politics." This talk by Jack Barnes, printed in the February International Socialist Review supplement to the Militant, is the first chapter of Capitalism's World Disorder. Fifteen copies of the Militant newspaper and two introductory subscriptions were also sold.
At the end of the day, as socialist workers were packing up to leave, a young worker from Newport News, Virginia, came by and bought a copy of the Militant. "I pulled out a copy of Capitalism's World Disorder," explained Dan Fein, "and explained the strike at Newport News shipyard was an example of labor's increased resistance today to the sacrifices demanded by the capitalist class. We are campaigning to sell this book because it is a book fighting workers need to read and study in order to be more effective in politics."
He bought the book and said, "I hope you have approached everyone here today as you talked to me!"
Fein has also sold two copies of the book to co-workers at Hormel Foods in Atlanta. One co-worker, who is a subscriber to the Militant, bought the book and a membership to the Pathfinder Reader's Club because he was particularly interested in where capitalism is heading and its consequences for workers. "I support Clinton," he explained, "but this book sounds important." Another young worker got the book, in large part because of his interest in changing the unions in the United States.
Stephen Bloodworth, a rail worker from Birmingham, reported that several farmers who held a protest April 12 at a meeting in Memphis, Tennessee, on the consent decree in the Black farmers' lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, thumbed through Capitalism's World Disorder. "They were all struck by the photos in the book," said Bloodworth. Although no one bought a book this time, a leader of the farm movement in Tennessee signed up for a Militant subscription; another farmer bought the Pathfinder pamphlet Farmers Face the Crisis of the 1990s and New International No. 4, featuring "The Crisis Facing Working Farmers." Four farmers picked up copies of the Militant and two more copies of Farmers Face the Crisis of the 1990s were sold.
Two rail workers at New Jersey Transit bought copies of Capitalism's World Disorder from Jane Harris, an engineer and member of the United Transportation Union. "One of my co- workers just renewed his subscription to the Militant for a year. I told him that I wanted to stop and show him an important new book. As he began looking through it, a picture of a young Palestinian caught his eye. `What's with the slingshot?' he asked. So we discussed the intifada -the Palestinian uprising - and the struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination. I told him this was an example of what Malcolm X meant when he said, `By any means necessary.' As he was purchasing the book and a Reader's Club membership, another worker walked by and looked at the book and promised to get it soon.
"A few days later I ran into a conductor I rarely see, but who has purchased Pathfinder books over the years. He looked through the book before buying it, and we began discussing Yugoslavia. He really was having a hard time believing that Washington had no progressive role to play. I met his next train, showed him The Truth About Yugoslavia, in particular the chapter `Will military intervention stop the slaughter?' and he bought that book too."
Next week's Militant will also include a listing of the quotas adopted and sales in local areas - which will include books sold as part of the effort in the trade unions as well as through the Pathfinder bookstores, on campuses, in working- class neighborhoods, and elsewhere. Reports on sales totals should be sent to the Militant by noon each Tuesday; reports on the campaign in the trade unions should also be sent to the Pittsburgh-based team that is organizing coverage of this campaign.
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