SWP candidates offer working-class proposals
Socialists call for a fighting labor party,
independent of capitalist 2-party system
Militant photos by Willie Cotton
Socialist Workers Party campaigners hit New York streets January 6 to discuss 2008 elections and offer working-class perspective. Left, SWP vice presidential candidate Alyson Kennedy speaks with cab driver Arvar Pimenter while campaigning in Bronx. Right, Ben OShaughnessy, SWP candidate for U.S. Congress in 8th Congressional District, invites worker to attend socialist campaign event.
BY SARAH KATZ
AND LUIS MADRID
NEW YORKCandidates and campaigners for the Socialist Workers Party have been on the streets here, engaged in the discussions among working people on the outcome of the recent Democratic and Republican primaries. They are introducing people to the proposals the SWP candidates are putting forward in the interests of workers and farmers.
As the presidential election campaign unfolds, major questions confronting working people are being discussed, said Martín Koppel, SWP candidate for U.S. Congress in New Yorks District 15, speaking at a campaign forum here January 4.
Rising food and fuel prices, joblessness, stagnant wages, war, and immigration policythese are issues workers and farmers are concerned about, Koppel said. He and other speakers for the SWP campaign discussed the results of the previous days Iowa presidential caucuses and the proposals the socialist candidates are putting forward in the interests of working people.
Similar Militant Labor Forums featuring SWP candidates were held across the country the same day. The socialist campaign has launched as its national ticket Róger Calero for president and Alyson Kennedy for vice president.
At the New York forum the speakers also included Norton Sandler, director of the SWPs 2004 presidential campaign; Olympia Newton, SWP national campaign director; and Ben OShaughnessy, spokesperson for the Young Socialists for Calero and Kennedy.
The capitalist candidates all call for change, Koppel noted. The Iowa victories for Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Michael Huckabee were votes against the status quo in the two main capitalist parties.
Some of the big-business candidates use demagogy to gain support from workers squeezed by the economic crisis. Democrat John Edwards, for example, denounces corporate greed as responsible for unemployment and the rising cost of health care. Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, contrasts his own backgroundas the son of a fireman who worked two jobswith that of his wealthy rival Willard Mitt Romney and others he dubs Country Club Republicans.
The Democrats and Republicans, however, represent the ruling rich, Koppel said. Thats why the Socialist Workers Party candidates explain the need for working people to break with the Democrats and Republicans, and any other capitalist party, and organize independently in the political arena. We need a labor party based on a fighting union movement that can mobilize the potential power of our class to defend our interests against the bosses and their government.
Newton noted that Democrat Hillary Clinton lost votes to Obama and Edwards in the Iowa caucuses because of the negative association many have with the Clinton legacy, the record of the William Clinton administration of the 1990s.
She explained that all the Democratic and Republican candidates support Washingtons wars abroad under the banner of the war on terrorism. Obama and Clinton talk about shifting U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Clinton has pushed for a more aggressive policy against the Iranian government, voting to label its Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Obama has called for sending U.S. troops to Pakistan.
In contrast, she said, the SWP candidates call for the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Korea, and every other country where they are stationed.
Iraq surge and McCain
Sandler noted the praise in the big-business press for the military successes of Washingtons surge of troops in Iraq under the command of Gen. David Petraeus. The British Telegraph named Petraeus its Person of the Year, noting that in Iraq today Sectarian killings are down. Al-Qaeda is on the run. And the two million Iraqis who fled the country are slowly returning.
Sandler said the popularity of the surge helps explain why John McCain has been leading the polls among the Republican candidates since mid-December. The Arizona senator is most associated with criticizing President Bush for not increasing the number of troops in Iraq, and now most associated with Gen. Petraeus and the acceptance by millions of what is being accomplished on the ground.
Ben OShaughnessy spoke about the activities of the Young Socialists for Calero and Kennedy, through which young people are getting involved in the socialist campaign. This includes street canvassing, helping set up events for the candidates at campuses and in house meetings, and joining in campaign debates.
The Young Socialists for Calero and Kennedy, he said, explain the socialist campaigns perspective of the need to build a revolutionary movement of working people that can follow the example of the Cuban Revolution by taking on the ruling rich and taking political power, establishing a workers and farmers government that will be part of the worldwide struggle for socialism.
Sandler reported that the SWP campaign will petition to put its candidates on the ballot as widely as possible. He urged those who support the socialist ticket to join in these efforts.
BY ILONA GERSH
CHICAGOAt a January 4 campaign forum here, Betsy Farley, the SWPs candidate for U.S. Senate, introduced her three running mates in Illinois: Dennis Richter, John Hawkins, and Laura Anderson, who are running for U.S. Congress in the 7th, 1st, and 4th Congressional Districts respectively.
All of the Democratic and Republican party candidates say they are change candidates, said Richter. But none offer change in the interests of working people. They will all continue to look after the interests of the rich.
Richter reported that in a speech following the Iowa caucuses, Barack Obama said that his electoral victory was a victory for the unity campaign. But there can be no unity between the working class and the capitalist ruling class, Richter explained. Thirty-two coal miners died last year as a result of the bosses stepped-up profit drive. Can there be unity between the coal miners and the coal bosses?
Our candidates are campaigning for legalization of all undocumented immigrants. That will help forge unity among working people in struggle, Richter said.
Hawkins spoke about the world capitalist economic crisis, and pointed to the effects of rising food prices, the threat of unemployment, and other aspects of the economic grind on working people in this country. He explained the socialist campaigns demand for a sliding scale of wages and hours. This means that as joblessness grows, work hours are reduced with no cut in pay, in order to spread around the available work. And as prices go up, wages, Social Security payments, and other social benefits increase accordingly.
In the lively discussion period, forum participants discussed a range of questions from the audience. One was on the campaign of the rightist Ron Paul, who in the Iowa caucuses received 10 percent of the vote. Paul has received support from middle-class layers who feel threatened by the economic insecurity. He presents himself as a total outsider who cuts across bureaucratic government red tape, Richter noted. He rails demagogically against the IRS and the banks, added Hawkins.
The following day, socialist campaigners here were on a busy intersection on the South Side of Chicago with the Militant, books, and leaflets for the January 11 forum to discuss the elections after the New Hampshire primaries. Campaigners plan to participate in an immigrant rights conference in South Bend, Indiana. Staunch defenders of a womans right to choose abortion, they will also attend a hearing on a new Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Aurora, Illinois, that the Pro-Life Action League and the American Life League want to shut down.
U.S. elections highlight worries over economy, war
For a sliding scale of wages, hours
SWP candidate across the United States