PHILADELPHIA — The Socialist Workers Party here announced July 12 it was launching a drive to gather 2,300 signatures to put Osborne Hart on the ballot for mayor and John Staggs for City Council at-large. The petitions have to be filed by August 3.
“Workers need our own political party, a labor party to unite us in action to defend ourselves against the capitalists’ attacks and to chart a course to take political power out of their hands,” the socialist candidates, who both work at Walmart, said in a statement July 13.
“The decision by the South Carolina state government to take down the Confederate battle flag, a rallying symbol for racist thugs and opponents of Black rights since it was unfurled over the Statehouse in 1961, is a powerful victory for all working people,” they said.
In the first two days of the drive 171 people signed to put Hart and Staggs on the ballot.
“These politicians — I don’t care if its Democrats or Republicans — all talk down to us,” George Bagby, a musician, told Staggs as he signed the socialists’ petition in Germantown July 14. “The way they talk to us about the economy, for example — telling us long explanations about how ‘it’s working.’ We know how the economy is working — it’s not.” He volunteered to perform at campaign events.
“I can’t believe how people can get by today, especially younger people,” Joanne Welch told Hart when he knocked on her door in the Port Richmond neighborhood the same day. “After 18 years I was laid off by Thriftway. Everybody spends time worrying about how they’re going to pay their bills each week.”
“The capitalist system is in a crisis, and they don’t see any way to get out,” Hart said. “They try and make us pay for it, put the burden on us.
“At Walmart we’re fighting to defend ourselves. We demand ‘$15 an hour, full-time work and a union,’ just like people at McDonald’s and other places are fighting for,” the socialist candidate said. “The victory in South Carolina helps to unify the working class, it makes us stronger, better able to fight.”
Socialist campaigners also discussed the crisis workers face around the world. From Greece to Ukraine to Puerto Rico, the rulers are squeezing working people, in the name of “paying debts” as their response to the contraction of capitalist trade and production. Working people in the U.S. need to stand with the toilers in these countries, up against the same class enemy.
Deep attacks on educationMany workers wanted to discuss the disaster in Philadelphia’s school system. Because of federal and state government refusal to fund the schools, over the last four years the school district has eliminated 5,000 jobs, closed 31 facilities and slashed programs, cutting $1 billion from the budget. The schools are run by a state-ordered School Reform Commission, with three members assigned by the governor and two by the mayor.
The teachers’ contract ran out in 2013, but they continued to work under its terms. Last October, the commission voted unanimously to throw it out and impose health care costs on teachers. The union sued and won, reinstating the old contract provisions, in January.
The cuts would be even deeper, but the rulers imposed new, anti-working-class taxes — a 1 percent sales tax jump and a $2 per pack cigarette tax increase.
“We are campaigning against these attacks on the teachers and the rulers’ assault on the schools,” Hart said. “I also explain that the capitalist rulers have no interest in working people becoming truly educated. The most meaningful education we get comes when we fight together, in the process transforming ourselves.” He recommends the pamphlet The Working Class and the Transformation of Learning: The Fraud of Education Reform Under Capitalism, by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes, to anyone thinking about these questions.
The socialist campaign plans to field petitioners every day for the next two weeks to meet their goal. Volunteers gather at the campaign headquarters, get their boards, campaign literature and copies of the Militant, books about revolutionary history and politics from Pathfinder Press, and head out. At the heart of the effort is knocking on doors in working-class neighborhoods all across the city.
To join in, come to 3701 Pulaski Ave., or call (215) 225-1270, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Removal of Confederate battle flag is victory for working class’
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