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The Militant this week
El Militante
Meat packers in Iowa sign petitions
D.C. socialists go into final stretch
Key parts of Arizona immigrant law blocked
Imperialists’ challenges in Afghan war stir debate
Black farmers demand redress for USDA loan discrimination
U.S. military exercises and sanctions threaten N. Korea
Oil bosses disregarded work safety on Gulf rig
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 74/No. 30      August 9, 2010

(lead article)
Socialist ballot drives
gain workers’ interest
Militant/Diana Newberry
Rebecca Williamson, left, SWP candidate for U.S. Congress in Iowa, campaigns at shopping center. Socialists in Iowa collected more than 2,100 signatures to place candidates on ballot.

Meat packers in
Iowa sign petitions

DES MOINES, Iowa—During a shift change at the JBS Swift plant in Marshalltown, Iowa, 89 meat packers signed petitions to put Socialist Workers candidates on the statewide ballot. Margaret Trowe and Rebecca Williamson, SWP candidates for secretary of agriculture and U.S. Congress in the 3rd District respectively, used to work at the plant.

Iowa socialist campaigners have now gone over the top, with 2,133 signatures collected, well over the 1,500 required.

JBS workers readily signed when told the Socialist Workers program put safety first on the job. “Not the ‘safety’ the company talks about while they continually push for more production,” Trowe explained at the plant gate. “My program is for the workers controlling the line speed and all aspects of health and safety on the job, including no forced overtime.”

While campaigning here, Helen Meyers, SWP candidate for lieutenant governor, met Billy Byrd, a worker who is Black. He said his son had been killed by the police in 2007. Byrd signed the petition and bought a Militant. “As long as no one says anything, it stays the same at best, or gets worse,” Byrd told Meyers.

A panel of SWP candidates from the Midwest spoke at a victory celebration for the petitioning effort July 24.

John Hawkins, SWP candidate for governor of Illinois, said, “You had to be joyous when you heard about the conviction of Johannes Mehserle,” the Bay Area transit cop who killed Oscar Grant, a young Black man, more than a year ago. “This was a victory for Blacks and a victory for all workers.”

Hawkins pointed to the June 28 conviction of Jon Burge, a former Chicago policeman fired 17 years ago for using suffocation, electric shocks, and beatings to force confessions out of suspects. He was convicted of lying about torture in a civil lawsuit.

Pointing to the indictments of four New Orleans cops for killing Black people crossing the Danziger Bridge to get groceries after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hawkins said, “These developments are significant for working people. They don’t happen by accident. They happen because of changes that have taken place throughout society, the weakening of racism, and because people, like those involved in Burge’s conviction, courageously continue to speak out.”

“No way can workers win justice in the capitalist courts,” continued Hawkins, “but these recent developments that went against the cops sends a message. It slows down their actions and gives encouragement to those who have been abused by the cops to stand up and speak out.”

Anthony Lane, SWP candidate for U.S. Congress in the 5th C.D., in Minnesota, also spoke at the rally.

Trowe, in her talk, began by denouncing Congress’s denial of a $1.2 billion payment to Black farmers for discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Black farmers have been waiting decades for this partial redress of the racism the government has subjected them to.

She explained that working farmers throughout the country face the constant threat of losing their land, or not making enough to cover their costs. Iowa is the number one state in production of corn, hogs, and eggs.

As an agricultural state, the crisis of capitalism affects workers and farmers alike. The alliance between exploited producers in the city and on the land is crucial to working people being able to advance.  
Guarantee farmers use of land
The Socialist Workers platform, Trowe said, calls for “the government to guarantee the costs of production to working farmers. This includes access to government-financed affordable credit and a halt to farm foreclosures. Farmers must be guaranteed use of the land they rent or hold title to without fear of eviction.

“David Rosenfeld, our candidate for governor, and I attended a rally of dairy farmers in Manchester, Iowa, last year, when milk prices had fallen below the cost of production,” continued Trowe. “We attend conferences and protests organized by farmers, and discuss the worker-farmer alliance with our coworkers in industry, some of whom are farmers or come from farm families.

“Workers and farmers have a common exploiter, a common enemy in the dictatorship of capital. Their exploitation and all the misery and insecurity resulting from it can be eliminated only by a revolution that overturns capitalist rule.

“Along that road workers and farmers need to break from the capitalist parties—Democrats and Republicans, alike—and through the course of struggles throw their energies into building and supporting a labor party that is based on the unions.”

D.C. socialists go
into final stretch

WASHINGTON, June 27—Twenty-one volunteers for the Socialist Workers Party campaign were out in working-class communities around the city this weekend gathering nearly 1,600 signatures to put Omari Musa, SWP candidate for mayor, on the November ballot. This brings the total number of signatures in hand to 2,442, toward a goal of 5,500. The petition drive will wind up August 1.

Despite record-breaking heat, petitioners got a good response from many workers and young people they spoke to. Several people brought petitioners ice and cold drinks to help them keep going.

“I’m interested,” said Katherine Gill, 50, an early childhood teacher who stopped to see what the socialist campaigners were doing at a Safeway supermarket in the northwest part of the city. “Tell me more.”

Gill was angry over the firings of 241 teachers by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. After further discussion, she decided to subscribe to the Militant and bought a copy of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power. “This is what I’ve been looking for,” she said.

So far during the petition drive campaign supporters have sold six copies of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power, three subscriptions to the Militant, and 59 single copies of the socialist newsweekly.

Luis Chiliquinca, 60, originally from Ecuador, joined a campaign team in the Columbia Heights area, where many Spanish-speaking workers live. The team went store to store, talking to customers about the socialist campaign. He is also helping produce a Spanish-language copy of the campaign platform.

Keith Blue, 40, who works as a cook in a big hotel in Crystal City, Virginia, campaigned both Saturday and Sunday and plans to go out again during the week. “I’m learning a lot,” he said, “and I appreciate the opportunity to be part of this effort.”

Campaign supporters filled the Socialist Workers campaign offices Saturday night to discuss the first big day of petitioning and hear talks by Musa and Paul Pederson, SWP candidate for chair of the D.C. City Council.

“The working class in the United States and around the world is living through the opening stages of the greatest capitalist crisis in over 75 years,” Musa said. “We are being hit by the capitalist class and its twin parties—the Democrats and Republicans—on all sides. Many of us are beginning to see our problem is not good or bad politicians. Rather, as one woman put it today, ‘It’s the system that’s the problem.’”

“I’m often asked, ‘what would you do if you were elected?’ or ‘how are you different from other politicians?’” Musa continued. “I explain that we are not interested in administering the capitalist system. We are about helping to build a revolutionary movement whose goal is educating and organizing the working class to take power and begin the process of expropriating the capitalist class, in order to put the wealth created by working people to use meeting our needs. As a first step, we need to break with the Democratic and Republican parties and begin to organize our own party, a labor party based on a fighting union movement. The working class can’t fight effectively while we support the Democrats and Republicans. Those parties are the enemies of working people.”

“The capitalists use their control of jobs to pit workers against each other and break down solidarity,” Pederson said. “In this election, for example, Leo Alexander, who is running in the Democratic primary, is demagogically appealing to Black workers by saying ‘immigrant workers are stealing our jobs.’”

“Today, I talked to two Black workers who at first refused to sign the petition because our campaign calls for legalization of undocumented workers,” Pederson stated. “I discussed with them how the bosses use immigrant workers’ ‘illegal’ status to drive down wages, keep people from fighting for their rights, and deepen divisions among workers, allowing the capitalists to generate more profits. I pointed to the massive May 1 demonstrations for immigrant rights that have taken place since 2006.”

“There’s a new privately run detention center being built in Virginia. The capitalists are trying to make immigrant workers appear as criminals, in the same way Black workers are stigmatized as ‘criminals’,” Pederson said. “After our discussion, both workers signed the petition. ‘I used to be a militant,’ one of them said. ‘I let them beat me down, but you’re right.’”

The socialist campaign is fielding teams every day through the final weekend of petitioning July 31-August 1.

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