‘Everything we have won
comes from mass struggle’
SWP candidate talks with fighting sugar workers
Militant photos, left, Frank Forrestal; right, Tom Baumann
Left, Paul Dahlman, Clayton Bronson, Wayne Netterlund—workers locked out by American Crystal Sugar—and James Harris, SWP candidate for president, at picket line in Drayton, N.D., July 30. Right, Maura DeLuca, SWP candidate for vice president, talks with cab driver Pierre Paul Kesler July 25. Kesler was beaten and arrested by cops while working at Miami airport.|
BY FRANK FORRESTAL
TRAILL COUNTY, N.D.—James Harris, Socialist Workers Party candidate for president of the U.S., was warmly greeted at the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union picnic in Belmont Park July 29, marking the one-year anniversary of their fight against American Crystal Sugar’s lockout.
One of the first people Harris met at the event was Steve Lech, president of United Steelworkers Local 7-669. “I have been reading about your campaign in the Militant and have been looking forward to meeting you,” said Lech, who was a leader in the Steelworkers’ battle against a 14-month lockout by Honeywell in Metropolis, Ill.
Nathan Rahm, a locked-out sugar worker from Hillsboro, also heard about the campaign from the Militant. “I’ve learned a lot in the past year,” Rahm told Harris. “One of the things is how to approach the lockout. Some take a political position of supporting politicians and lobbying, while others are more interested in organizing from the ground up. I’m more of a ground up person, it works better.”
“You’re right and we can prove it,” Harris responded. “Everything we have won, whether in the civil rights or labor movement, has been through organizing working people to fight. The big battles were waged in the streets and on a massive scale.”
“Today, what’s important,” said Harris, “is not just to reach out to other unions, but to anyone who is fighting, whether it is the unemployed, or those in fights against police brutality. We have to think and act on broader terms, that’s how we will build the movement we need.”
“This past year has been a year of changes for me,” Becki Jacobson, who is locked out from American Crystal’s plant in Moorhead, Minn., told Harris. “I never was really active in the union. But this past year I got behind the union and was one of those who traveled on the Journey for Justice campaign with locked-out workers from American Crystal and Cooper Tire in Ohio. I didn’t realize how popular we were. I also saw how we need lots of support to win.”
“You were popular because you were part of leading a real fight,” said Harris. “That’s what working people like to see. It shows what we are capable of. This is what we are starting to see across the country.”
The following day Harris went to a meeting organized for him in Drayton, at the picket shack near the American Crystal Sugar factory there. He was greeted by locked-out workers Paul Dahlman, Wayne Netterlund and Clayton Bronson. The discussion lasted for three hours.
“This is my first time up here, but I have been closely following your fight in the pages of the Militant,” Harris told them. “I was struck by how focused and determined you are, even after being locked out for one year.
“One of the points I make as I campaign around the country is that more fights are taking place than you think,” Harris added. “Some are small and some are big, like yours. We talk about the lessons of these fights, bringing your experiences to others. We talk about linking up with other workers, as part of preparing for bigger fights we know are coming.”
Bronson said he sees the world today as a place where “more and more workers are unemployed, with goods priced way out of our range, and where they have conditioned us to accept that.”
“Exactly,” Harris responded. “You are describing the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism. And it’s going to get worse. The crisis of capitalism on a world scale is only going to deepen. The enemy is capitalism.”
Bronson signed up as an endorser for the SWP campaign and donated $20. (See endorser card on this page.)
The evening before, Harris joined Frank Forrestal, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate in Minnesota, and Helen Myers, the party’s candidate for Iowa’s 36th House District, in opening a new campaign headquarters in Minneapolis.
Over the weekend, more than 1,100 people signed up on the streets of Minnesota to put Harris and vice presidential candidate Maura DeLuca on the ballot there, kicking off a two-week drive to get 3,000 signatures.
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