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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 68/No. 39October 26, 2004

lead article
SWP candidate for president Róger Calero
Break from parties of the employers!
For a labor party, based on the unions,
that fights in the interests of workers!
Back right of oppressed nations
to electrification for economic development
Militant/David Rosenfeld
Róger Calero, Socialist Workers Party candidate for president (center), campaigns October 7 at plant gate at the Swift & Co. slaughterhouse in Omaha, Nebraska. Meat packers there won representation by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 271 and their first contract two years ago after long struggle.

OMAHA, Nebraska—“The only way to defend ourselves on the job from the bosses’ offensive against our wages and working conditions is to organize unions where we don’t have them and to make them stronger where we do have them,” said Róger Calero, Socialist Workers Party candidate for president.

Calero was speaking to a group of workers here October 7 outside the Swift & Co. slaughterhouse.

“It’s also high time that we not only fight on the economic level, but organize on the political level as well,” Calero told the workers. “We have to break from the parties of the bosses—the Democrats and Republicans. I urge you to vote socialist.” The SWP campaign, he said, is for a labor party based on the unions that fights in the interests of workers and farmers.

Calero said he is also for the right of semicolonial countries to develop full electrification, including through nuclear power if necessary, to achieve economic development.

For two hours Calero and campaign supporters exchanged experiences with workers as they streamed out of the plant that afternoon. Lisa Rottach, SWP candidate for Congress in Nebraska’s 2nd District and a meat packer at Swift, joined Calero in campaigning at the plant gate.

If you look at the dispute between Boeing and Airbus over who will sell more airplanes around the world, you can see the intensifying competition between the bosses, Calero said. This dispute had made the news the previous day (see article in this issue). Driven by this capitalist competition, Calero said, the employers are speeding up production, lengthening the workday and workweek, and lowering real wages to shore up their declining profit rates. “The wealthy families that rule this country will continue this offensive against the working class in the United States and workers and farmers around the world regardless of whether Bush or Kerry wins in November,” Calero continued.

“That’s why workers need to organize unions and strengthen those we have, now and after November 2. Mobilize union power. Solidarity—one for all and all for one! These should be the watchwords of the day,” he said.

“Together we can do it,” responded a kill floor worker in Spanish. “That’s what a union is.” She and other workers pointed out that two years ago meat packers at this plant won a lengthy struggle for union representation by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 271 and their first contract. They have since continued the fight on the job to enforce the contract.

Another worker told Calero that 20 years ago he worked at a union plant and made more money than he does now. “The company told us to take concessions and promised to stay open,” he pointed out. “Six months later, they closed the doors. Two years ago we got the union in this company and now things are getting better little by little.”

The socialist candidate replied that what this meat packer described and similar experiences he has gone through point out that working people can never base what they do on what the employers claim. “Anytime the boss cries poverty and we listen to that, we deserve what we get,” he said. “If a company can’t give decent wages and benefits it doesn’t deserve to be in business. That should be our answer to the boss.”

As the working class gets stronger and gets its own political party, Calero said, it can fight to take control of the entire process of production, nationalize the factories, mines, mills, and banks, and run society not for the profits of the few but for the benefit of the large majority.

Calero told the meat packers that the socialist campaign starts with the world. “Washington and its imperialist allies have divided the world’s markets and resources among themselves and are competing on how to redivide this wealth produced by our brothers and sisters in oppressed nations,” he said. “Imperialist domination means underdevelopment, which drives millions of workers like us to emigrate to the United States and other imperialist countries. From Paraguay to Mexico and Turkey, workers and farmers need economic development.”

Later in the day, Calero spoke at a campaign rally at Creighton University.

“From the Indian subcontinent to huge parts of Africa to Central Asia, more than 2 billion people—one-third of humanity—lack any access to modern forms of energy,” Calero said. “They are forced to use straw, wood, or other primitive means for cooking or heating. After sunset they are in the dark. That’s why we support the efforts of semicolonial countries to expand electrification by any means necessary, including nuclear power. Without electrification there can be no economic development. Economic development is necessary to close divisions between city and countryside and to forge unity among working people so they can fight effectively for their interests.”

But under the banner of “nuclear non-proliferation,” the only power on earth that has ever used nuclear weapons against humanity—Washington—and its imperialist allies are trying to prevent countries like Brazil, India, Iran, and north Korea from developing their capacity to generate enough electricity by developing a nuclear industry, he noted. The imperialists accuse these states of violating international treaties because they are trying to enrich uranium. This is the case right now with Brazil and Iran. But uranium enrichment is necessary to generate electricity through nuclear power. The governments of France, the United States, and many others have been doing this for decades, he pointed out. “That’s why we oppose and expose the drive by Washington and its allies to prevent oppressed nations from developing the sources of energy they need.”

Eighteen students and workers attended the campaign event on campus and engaged the presidential candidate in a lively exchange.

“Workers won’t change in a significant way how effective we are in fighting the bosses without the transformation of the trade unions into fighting instruments of the working class. There is a modest but important number of class-conscious workers today who are resisting the employers’ attacks under the existing leadership of the labor movement, which promotes the illusion that workers and bosses have common interests, rather than irreconcilable interests. These struggles point toward the future.”

Calero pointed to the Co-Op miners’ fight for a union in Utah as one such example (see article in this issue).

“How do you propose to gain support for transforming the unions?” asked Joe Azer, an international relations student. “Will it happen from the top down or from the bottom up?”

“As workers begin to resist in the factories and other workplaces, they come up against obstacles,” Calero said in response. “They begin to learn things. For instance, government agencies like the National Labor Relations Board are not neutral. They serve the interests of the bosses. Workers learn quickly that the cops and courts are on the side of the employers too. In the course of these struggles, an increasing number of workers will also begin to understand the necessity to fight not only for economic demands. Workers need to have our own political voice, our own political party, a labor party based on the trade unions, a party of the toiling masses that can lead working people to take state power out of the hands of the bosses and begin the struggle for a socialist society.”

Several of the seven meatpackers attending the campus meeting had helped to make Calero’s plant gate campaigning a success. They had distributed about 100 quarter-page flyers in the company lunchroom and locker rooms saying, “Calero will be campaigning outside the plant as we leave work on Thursday. Stop by and meet him before you go to your car.” Three kill floor workers joined the campaign team to encourage their co-workers to step outside the company’s gate to meet and talk with Calero. Scores of campaign brochures were passed out as workers mixed it up with Calero and Rottach.

Throughout the afternoon, individuals and groups of up to five or six workers gathered around Calero to learn about the SWP campaign.

Omaha’s main daily paper, the World-Herald, reported on Calero’s campaign stop in Nebraska. “Calero and his party overcame a high hurdle this summer by just making the November ballot,” the article noted. “This will be the first time a Socialist candidate has done so in Nebraska as volunteers collected the signatures of 5,000 residents needed to make the ballot.”

The campus newspapers at Creighton University and the University of Nebraska at Omaha also conducted interviews with Calero and published articles on his visit.
Related articles:
Socialist candidate for Senate in N.Y. debates Green, Libertarian opponents
Calero meets with students, meat packers in Twin Cities
Socialists campaign in Texas, Louisiana
Calero stumps in Tampa
New Jersey socialist candidates join debates
SWP vice-presidential candidate meets farmers, unionists in D.C.

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