The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 35           October 13, 2003  
Socialist Workers candidate for governor of
California says: ‘Nationalize the energy industry!’
(front page)
SAN FRANCISCO—“What do you mean by your demand to nationalize the energy industry?” was a question posed to Joel Britton, Socialist Workers candidate for California governor, at a September 24 meeting at California State University, Monterey Bay.

The socialist candidate’s speaking engagement on the campus was part of a day of campaigning by a team of Young Socialists for Britton that included Ryan Scott, the Socialist Workers candidate for San Francisco District Attorney. A dozen youth came to hear Britton that afternoon, including three from the Black Student Union who had heard a presentation about the campaign at their business meeting earlier that day.

“Working people should say, ‘Because the big power companies won’t provide power at reasonable rates, and without blackouts and brownouts, then the industry should be taken out of private hands and run as public utility,” Britton said in response to the student’s question.

He added, “The bosses have proven they aren’t competent to provide the most basic services. They are in business not to provide energy but only to make profits. And on top of that, they outright loot these businesses.

“We’re not for nationalizing the energy and power companies in order to get them into shape to turn back over to the capitalists, as was done with the steel industry in Britain in an earlier period. Rather, the demand to nationalize these companies must be part of a bigger fight by working people to take state power out of the hands of the capitalists—that is the only way to guarantee the energy industry is run in the interests of the vast majority,” Britton concluded.

“The Democrats and Republicans do have a hold on our people,” said Virginia Guerrero, a second-year student who is Chicano, during the discussion. “The media doesn’t include information on any other candidates, but we need to be more open.” Ten students signed up to stay in touch with the campaign; eight bought copies of the Militant, the campaign newspaper. Several are looking forward to a return visit by socialist campaigners to continue the discussions.

Earlier that day the team of Young Socialists for Britton campaigned on the campus and publicized the “meet the candidate” visit by the Socialist Workers candidate, who is on the ballot for the special October recall election in California. The socialist literature table in front of the student center was buzzing with discussions for several hours as students came by to find out what that campaign stands for. The Young Socialists for Britton team included, in addition to Scott, Mike Ellis from Chicago, Arrin Hawkins from New York, and Paul Sanger, one of the newest campaign volunteers, who goes to school at City College in San Francisco.

The next day another team of Young Socialists for Britton campaigned at San Francisco State University (SFSU). They set up a campaign table in front of the student center and engaged students in discussions about the revolutionary working-class perspective, inviting those who like that perspective to join with them in campaigning. They distributed copies of the “Vote Socialist Workers!” statement by Britton to GIs abroad. Twelve people purchased the Militant.

That day Britton spoke at a candidates’ forum at SFSU sponsored by the campus newspaper, the Golden Gate [X]press, which was attended by some 80 students. The 18 gubernatorial candidates present were divided into panels by issue. Britton, along with two other candidates, fielded questions from the moderator on immigrant rights, the USA Patriot Act, and Proposition 54, an initiative on the California ballot that seeks to limit government collection of racial statistics.  
Part of an international working class
“Don’t the majority of people in California support the war in Iraq?” moderator David “Davey D” Cook, of KPFA radio, asked Britton. In opposing U.S. military interventions around the world, “Wouldn’t you be putting yourself in opposition to them?”

“No,” Britton replied. “I don’t consider myself a ‘Californian.’ I am part of an international class of working people, whose interests lie in opposing imperialism’s wars. Millions of working people around the world opposed the imperialist war against the people of Iraq.”

One feature of Britton’s visit to northern California was a September 25 stop at the Sara Lee meatpacking plant in San Lorenzo, near Oakland. Many workers in the plant are originally from countries in Asia. Some moved to the United States recently, while others have been here many years. The campaign team included Deborah Liatos, Socialist Workers candidate for mayor of San Francisco and a worker in the plant, which is organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

A number of workers leaving the plant at the afternoon shift change came over to meet Britton and Liatos. Many were pleased to see the new campaign leaflet in Chinese and Vietnamese.

“The company wants us to work harder and longer,” one worker told Britton, who is a retired meat packer and longtime unionist and leader of the Socialist Workers Party.

“I used to work at the American Meatpacking Corporation hog slaughterhouse in Chicago, ” Britton responded. “There, the bosses increased the line speed as much as they could with the equipment they had, and when that wasn’t fast enough, they started hanging the hogs closer together.”

The socialist campaigners explained why bosses everywhere are driven by their system, capitalism, to intensify labor, drive down wages and benefits, and cut jobs in order to maintain their profit rates and beat out competitors. They pointed to the Socialist Workers campaign program calling for jobs for all by reducing the workweek while maintaining union-scale wages, a raise in the minimum wage, and other measures around which to organize a fight to protect working people from the ravages of the capitalist economic crisis.

Three Sara Lee workers bought the Militant and one purchased the Spanish-language Perspectiva Mundial.

Earlier in the day Ben Hawkins, co-editor of the Laney Tower, held a lengthy interview with Britton. Laney College, which has a large Black student population, is located in downtown Oakland. Britton also appeared that morning on the KPFA Pacifica radio “Morning Show,” a public affairs program hosted by Philip Moldavi.

Supporters of the Socialist Workers campaign throughout the state are on a drive to raise $5,000 and more to cover the costs of the working-class campaign—for travel, printing, media work, and other expenses in the last few weeks of campaigning. Volunteers have been phone banking during the evenings and, as of September 27, almost $3,500 had been raised.

Contributions can be sent to the Socialist Workers Campaign offices at either 4229 S. Central Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90011 or 3926 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94112.  
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