BY STEVE WARSHELL
HOUSTON — “Millions of workers are facing attacks similar to those you are today,” Michael Fitzsimmons, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor, told longshore workers at an Oct. 12 meeting of Latino members of the International Longshoremen’s Association at the union hiring hall here. “The bosses are pushing harder and harder against us to make the working class pay for the deepening crisis of capitalism.”
Fitzsimmons is one of two dozen socialist candidates running in city elections across the country. With a week to go before the Nov. 5 vote, candidates and supporters of the SWP campaigns are taking advantage of a range of opportunities to talk with working people about the need to organize and chart a fighting course independent of the bosses’ Democratic and Republican parties.
Fitzsimmons and Steve Warshell, SWP candidate for City Council at-large, took part in the union meeting on the invitation of ILA member Andrés Peña, who works at the Port of Houston and met Fitzsimmons at an Oct. 5 march downtown against deportations and criminalization of immigrant workers.
The informal meeting took up a number of questions, from the bosses’ denial of lunches and breaks, arbitrary firings and suspensions, and unsafe conditions on the job. “Members of the ILA invited us to join in their discussion and to say a few words on the campaign,” Fitzsimmons told the Militant.
Fitzsimmons, a mechanical assembler, and Warshell, a forklift operator, spoke about their experiences in working-class struggles, including the 2006 May Day political strikes in defense of immigrant workers, on-the-job skirmishes with the bosses, protests against imperialist wars from Iraq to Afghanistan, and support to the Cuban Revolution and the international campaign to free the Cuban Five.
Fitzsimmons encouraged ILA members to extend solidarity with the “more than 250 workers on strike against Maximus Coffee up the street from the union hall against bosses’ drive to cut wages by as much as 50 percent, eliminate overtime pay, and wrest concessions in health care and retirement plans.” The strikers, most of whom are members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 455, have been on the picket line since Oct. 10. They haven’t received a pay raise since 2009.
At the end of the meeting Peña asked what the longshoremen could do to help spread the word about the campaign.
“Help expand support for the Cuban Five,” Warshell said. “Talk with others you know about the campaign and join candidates and other campaign supporters taking the Militant and revolutionary literature to workers in neighborhoods, on picket lines and in social protest actions throughout the city.”
SEATTLE — “I’m going to stand in solidarity with the working people of Egypt who are doing the same things people are here. They’re fighting against the effects of the capitalist system,” Mary Martin, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor, told radio host Florangela Davila when asked why she was joining a fact-finding and SWP campaign trip to Egypt after mass mobilizations led to the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood regime of Mohamed Morsi.
The radio program aired in July on KPLU, the local affiliate of National Public Radio.
“During an interview that is supposed to be about her, she talks about the longshoremen in Portland, the coal miners in Kentucky, the striking workers at Belshaw Adamatic in Auburn,” Davila wrote in a KPLU news article.
Martin, 60, works at a popcorn factory and previously worked in a steel mill, the article points out.
“I’ve worked in sewing factories. I’ve worked in meatpacking plants. All kinds of basic industry,” Martin said. “You know, working people make all the wealth in this country, but we don’t get to decide how it’s utilized.”
Martin became politically active while attending college in Georgia in the 1960s and ’70s. “We were looking for ways to change the world, not just accept the conditions we were born in,” Martin said.
In 1972, she joined a campaign to fight for the right of African-Americans to register to vote.
“We would go down to the Statesboro courthouse on Monday,” Martin said. “And we’d say, ‘We’re here to register to vote.’ And they’d close the window in our face, and say, ‘We don’t vote. We don’t register on Mondays.’ We’d go back Tuesday, they’d say ‘We’re shorthanded today.’”
They kept getting the same response day after day, until their numbers got larger and larger, attracting press coverage and authorities gave up trying to prevent the registration.
“It was an important victory for the working class,” said Martin.
“The event taught her about the power of speaking out,” Davila wrote, “and the importance of mobilizing in order to effect change. She hasn’t stopped agitating since.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to just think about yourself?” Davila asked at the end of the interview.
“Well, but what’s the point of that?” Martin responded.
— John Naubert
“Trowe, a member of the Socialist Workers Party, is one of three candidates on the November ballot running to promote development of a large government jobs program and a substantial increase to the federal minimum wage,” the Des Moines Register wrote Oct. 17, describing an interview with Margaret Trowe, a 65-year-old auto parts worker who is the party’s candidate for City Council at-large, running on the socialist ticket with David Rosenfeld for City Council in Ward 3 and Ellen Brickley in Ward 1.
Trowe explained that the SWP candidates and their supporters regularly knock on doors to talk with working people about the party’s fighting perspective to confront the growing assaults by the bosses and their government and to sell the Militant and books on revolutionary working-class politics.
“Last night a woman invited me and a campaign supporter into her living room,” Trowe said. Her situation is typical. “‘Here’s my problem,’ she said. ‘I’ve worked for several years for a big medical instrument manufacturer on the south side, but I’m only making $8 an hour. I can’t support myself and my four children on that.’”
“Workers need to fight for a far higher minimum wage from the current starvation level of $7.25 an hour,” Trowe said. “I support union organizing and mobilization and would use the mayor’s office to support workers’ struggles.”
“We oppose the FBI dragnet in the Somali community in Minneapolis in the wake of the al-Shabab attack in Kenya,” she said, referring to the group’s massacre at the Westgate shopping mall there. “We have been campaigning in a big apartment complex full of workers born in Somalia and other African countries. One Somali-born worker who signed up for a subscription to the Militant said he hates al-Shabab and what they do, but thinks it’s no excuse for the FBI to treat all Somalis in the U.S. like criminals.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with workers everywhere fighting to defend their rights,” Trowe said, “from Somali workers in Minneapolis to Syrian toilers facing imperialist threats of military intervention as they fight for political space against the repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad.”
— Helen Meyers
Editorial: Vote Socialist
(lead article, editorial)
Socialist Workers Party candidates are running for a wide range of municipal offices as tribunes of the working class and its allies. They are joining strike picket lines, opposing deportations of immigrant workers, protesting killings by cops, standing for women’s right to choose abortion.
The socialist candidates have been raising the need for workers to fight for a government-funded public works program to put millions of jobless to work building and repairing the things we need — schools, hospitals, day care centers, libraries, and deteriorating infrastructure. And to fight for a big increase in the minimum wage to raise the living standards of all working people being chipped away by the bosses’ offensive and by rising prices.
These immediate demands are aimed at putting us in a stronger position to fight back against the bosses’ drive to restore their profit rates on our backs and at breaking down divisions and competition among working people and raising our self-confidence and combative spirit.
The bosses are backed by the cops, the courts and government agencies at every level. Just as the unions need to be transformed through struggle into organizations that can push back the bosses and champion the interests of all working people, the workers’ movement needs to break politically from the bosses’ parties, the Democrats and Republicans, and set out on an independent, revolutionary course toward workers power.
The candidates point out the need for working people in the U.S. to see ourselves as part of an international working class, with the same interests and a common enemy. They oppose U.S. threats of military intervention in Syria as part of backing the struggles of workers there against government repression and for political space to act in their interests. They stand in solidarity with garment workers fighting in Bangladesh for the right to a union and safety on the job.
They point to the example of the socialist revolution in Cuba for workers everywhere. Workers and farmers there, under the leadership of Fidel Castro and the July 26 Movement, were drawn by the millions into the battle to throw off the dog-eat-dog values and social relations of capitalist society — and transform themselves in the process. The SWP candidates help build support for the international campaign to free the Cuban Five, themselves products of the Cuban Revolution worthy of emulation by working-class fighters in the U.S. and throughout the world.
Vote Socialist Workers! Pull the lever or write in the SWP candidates running in your city listed on page 6.