Those present at the celebration barbecue had just completed two days of volunteer labor. Participants in this Red Weekend hailed from Charlotte, North Carolina; Houston; Miami; New York; and Tampa, Florida; as well as Atlanta.
By the afternoon of Labor Day, the volunteers had completed setting up the distribution center for Pathfinder Press, previously located in New York. After a ribbon-cutting ceremony to formally launch the new facility, close to 30 orders of Pathfinder books were prepared for shipping.
"We’ve now turned a corner," said Harkness, "toward increasing sales of Pathfinder books many-fold over the coming months and years."
Harkness, organizer of the Atlanta-based steering committee that will centralize the work of the new distribution center, headed up the three-day effort. The other members of the committee are Bob Braxton, Maceo Dixon, and Linda Joyce, also supporters of the SWP in Atlanta, and party leader Paul Mailhot.
The August 31–September 2 effort followed a Red Weekend in New York one week earlier, in which 130 volunteers from across the country packed the books, shelving, and other material into more than 1,200 boxes and readied them for their southern journey. There they also accomplished other tasks in the ongoing transformation of the facilities in New York where revolutionary books and pamphlets, along with the Militant and Perspectiva Mundial, are published (see "Expanding communist propaganda and political education of working people" in September 16 issue of the Militant).
A public meeting on the evening of August 31 helped the Atlanta volunteers place their collective effort in the broader context of the sharpening international class struggle, and the steps by socialist workers and youth to take advantage of the political opportunities they face today. The distribution center, located near the city’s international airport, made an appropriate venue.
On behalf of the Atlanta hosts, SWP National Committee member James Harris welcomed the 90 participants and introduced SWP leader Norton Sandler, who chaired the event.
"The double Red Weekend that we are in the midst of here tonight is a real turning point for the party as we have transformed ourselves and the entire movement over the last four years," said Socialist Workers Party leader Mary-Alice Waters in the feature presentation.
"We are creating the printshop and publishing house that we need today--one that is sustainable with the forces and resources we have, without having to give up a single one" of the books in Pathfinder’s ambitious publishing program," she said. "In fact, quite the opposite. We have transformed the books into much more attractive, readable, and usable tools, and expanded significantly our capacity to produce new literature."
Waters illustrated her point by referring to three books whose blown-up covers were displayed at the front of the meeting. They were the new French-language edition of The History of American Trotskyism, 1928–38: Report of a Participant, by James P. Cannon, just printed with a new preface after the first edition sold out within three months; the upcoming, first-ever Spanish-language edition of Malcolm X Talks to Young People; and October 1962: The ‘Missile’ Crisis as Seen from Cuba, by Cuban author Tomás Diez Acosta, scheduled for publication in October.
Key to this successful effort, Waters said, is the supporters of the communist movement, "a disciplined organization that is marching in lockstep with the party" and helping to "qualitatively transform the leverage and outreach" of the revolutionary party today.
These supporters are now taking responsibility for a campaign to increase the sales of Pathfinder books, she noted. With such an effort, they will help to "begin to reverse what is probably the single biggest discrepancy between the potential of our movement and what we have actually realized"--the level of sales and distribution of Pathfinder books. She stated that sales of these revolutionary titles can be rapidly multiplied by at least four or five times.
"What we are entering into now in the world is a period that will last for years," Waters said, "an extended period of capitalist economic crisis and of depression conditions that are intertwined with accelerating wars by imperialism. The preparation for war against Iraq is the sharpest"--but not the only--"assault on the horizon," she said, emphasizing that the imperialists themselves can’t predict the broader scope and outcome of this offensive.
At the same time, Waters explained, "the giant speculative bubble that ended the upward part of the cycle of the long waves of capitalist development has burst." The weakening of the giant debt structure that was built up through the 1990s, she said, "threatens to bring down the entire house of cards for the imperialists. The capitalist equilibrium established by the imperialist victors in World War II is now, at an accelerating pace, becoming destabilized."
How this crisis, unfolding over years, will be resolved depends on the class struggle, Waters said, and on "the capacity of communist forces to play a leadership role in those struggles that are coming."
The other members of the panel at the meeting took up different aspects of the book publication and distribution program, and the efforts by socialist workers to capitalize on political openings that have been around for several years.
A transit point, not a warehouse
"This distribution center is a transit point, not a warehouse," said Sandler. "Books will come here from Pathfinder’s printshop in New York to be shipped rapidly to all parts of the world to reach working people and youth involved in struggles."
The work done by supporters of the communist movement in Atlanta over the last 18 months played a big role in the city’s selection as the site of the new distribution center, he said. At the same time as they have made solid contributions to Pathfinder’s Reprint Project, which began as an effort to digitize all Pathfinder titles and has expanded as the supporters have taken on increasing responsibilities, they have made advances in selling Pathfinder books and pamphlets to commercial bookstores and libraries.
"Volunteers in the Reprint Project have risen to the challenge of producing new books, not just reprints," said panelist Jim Altenberg, a member of the project’s San Francisco-based steering committee. "We are now producing books in languages other than English--and not just in Spanish and French, but in Icelandic, which has a different alphabet. I look forward to Farsi."
Altenberg elaborated on the plans to increase sales of revolutionary books through major outlets. The steering committee has launched a campaign to place Pathfinder books and pamphlets in dozens of bookstores and libraries across the country, he said. Volunteers have set a goal of 200 promotional visits by October 15, the publication date of October 1962: The ‘Missile’ Crisis as Seen from Cuba, sales of which will be at the center of this stepped-up work. Supporters will also promote the new Spanish-language edition of Malcolm X Talks to Young People and the French-language edition of The History of American Trotskyism.
Campaigning for socialism
Panelist Lawrence Mikesh, the Socialist Workers candidate for lieutenant governor of Florida, described efforts by campaign volunteers to reach out to working people and young fighters and draw new supporters into activity.
Other socialist candidates in Florida are Rachele Fruit, who is running for governor, and Karl Butts, the candidate for commissioner of agriculture.
Among other activities, the socialist candidates have addressed a rally of striking garment workers in Oakland Park, Florida; participated in protests by carpenters in Miami fired for seeking union recognition; campaigned in the streets of downtown Miami; taken part in two candidates’ forums that resulted in press coverage; and set up weekly morning literature tables outside the International Longshoremen’s Association union hall.
In the course of these activities, a youth from Miami asked to campaign with the Young Socialists for Fruit, Mikesh, and Butts and drove up to Atlanta for the Red Weekend. He was one of about 10 young people present over the weekend who are campaigning with young socialists for Socialist Workers candidates in their local areas.
Olympia Newton spoke on behalf of the leadership of the Young Socialists. A resident of Los Angeles, she is the Socialist Workers candidate for secretary of state in California.
Not only in the United States are socialist youth campaigning for working-class candidates, she said; in Sweden, for example, YS leader Daniel Ahl is running as the Communist League candidate for the national parliament. She herself has joined other Los Angeles campaigners in soapboxing in working-class districts, outlining to passersby the main programmatic demands of the Socialist Workers campaign.
Books unpacked, organized, ready to go
Volunteers had accomplished a great deal the first day of the Atlanta Red Weekend, said Harkness in her presentation to the meeting. One of the first big challenges, successfully met, was to unload and assemble shelving weighing a total of almost 36,000 pounds. The next day’s unpacking and storage of the books had depended on the successful completion of that task, she said.
The construction of a swing-out door to the loading dock from the "pick and pack" department--where books will be boxed ready for shipping--along with a paint job and a thorough cleaning helped to transform the warehouse into a professional-standard distribution center.
Early next morning, the books arrived from New York. That day, the remaining shelves were erected, and the books were organized and stacked onto them. Through their collective efforts, volunteers had transformed what was once a showroom for a major hotel in the area into a launching pad for Pathfinder books.
While this work was under way, several Reprint Project volunteers in the city worked to finish proofreading and formatting the Spanish-language edition of Malcolm X Talks to Young People. By September 2 their work was also done.
"It was impressive to see the collective work of 80 people here this weekend and how quickly everything was finished," volunteer Linda Joyce, who had also taken part in the New York Red Weekend, told the Militant. "We didn’t slap anything together just to get it done either. The distribution center is now a place where we can be proud to work."
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