The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 68/No. 34           September 21, 2004  
Mississippi: Socialist Workers
beat back red-baiting attack
SWP ticket also on ballot in Louisiana
lead article
JACKSON, Mississippi—The Mississippi State Board of Election voted on the morning of September 7 to place the Socialist Workers presidential ticket on the state’s ballot. The socialist candidates will appear along with those of the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Reform, and Constitution parties.

“This is a big victory for workers and farmers in Mississippi and around the country,” said Norton Sandler, SWP national campaign director. “Not only because we are on the ballot but because how this happened. The SWP candidates beat back a serious red-baiting attack on the socialist campaign to get here.”

Sandler also noted that the same day state officials said that the SWP ticket has been placed on the ballot in Louisiana too.

The victory in Mississippi came after three months of campaigning by supporters of the SWP ticket of Róger Calero for president and Arrin Hawkins for vice president in this southern state. It marks another step in the successful nationwide effort to get the working-class alternative to the parties of capitalism on the ballot in the most states since 1992.

Since June, supporters of Calero and Hawkins from Mississippi and surrounding states worked to bring this to fruition.

In June and early July, volunteers petitioned in Jackson, Meridian, Natchez, Pascagoula, and Tchula to gather nearly 2,200 signatures for the socialist candidates. They campaigned at shopping centers in working-class communities, at Jackson State University, at meetings of farmers, in the Delta, and elsewhere. Workers, farmers, and young people took a serious look at the socialist candidates and what their party stands and fights for and many liked what they heard. Even more agreed with the socialists’ right to be on the ballot.

In Meridian, where petitioning started, a team of campaigners was threatened by a Klan member who red-baited them and attempted to prevent others from signing their petitions. Despite the efforts by the ultrarightist to drive people away by hollering they should not be “signing for communists,” a worker and a farmer who witnessed the incident made sure they signed the petition and helped demoralize the Klaner and drive him away instead. (See “Mississippi: 2,200 sign to put SWP on ballot” in July 6 Militant.)

After completing the necessary paperwork, signatures were submitted to the individual counties for validation. Toward the end of July, officials from Hinds County, which includes the state capital Jackson, notified the socialist campaign they had validated only 231 of the 843 signatures the socialists had collected there. Supporters of the SWP campaign challenged that decision. After a visit to the Hinds County clerk’s office July 28, the socialists quickly uncovered evidence that at least 200 signatures had been declared invalid for no good reason. The county clerk changed the previous ruling on the spot, certifying 435 signatures. (See “SWP certified on Iowa ballot, confronts Mississippi challenge” in August 10 Militant.) That put the total over the state requirement.

Registrars from 27 counties certified 1,028 signatures valid, over the 1,000 registered voters required by the state. These signatures were then filed with the Secretary of State in Jackson on August 2. Arrin Hawkins, who was in Mississippi that week for a campaign tour that took her to Tchula and Jackson, was present during the filing.

The seven electors—one more than the six required—for the socialist ticket include two farmers from Tchula, a small town in the Mississippi Delta; a Steelworkers union member from Natchez; and three workers who took part in an earlier strike at the Freshwater Farms catfish plant in Belzoni.

Socialist campaigners faced another major challenge on the road to the September 7 victory.

In early August, an article by Barbara Harris peddling a red-baiting smear against the SWP campaign appeared in the Jackson Advocate, a weekly newspaper published in Jackson aimed at the Black community. Titled “Vulnerable Voters Deceived by Socialist Workers Candidate,” the article tried to smear the campaign and block readers from giving the socialists’ platform serious consideration.

Sandler sent a response to this article on behalf of the SWP campaign to Charles Tisdale, editor of the Advocate. The paper has not printed the reply. (See “Socialist Campaign Responds to Red-baiting Smear in Mississippi Paper” in September 7 Militant for the letter by Sandler and the article by Harris.)

On September 5, Marty Michaels, associate editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Chronicle of Philanthropy in Washington, D.C., sent a letter to the Militant with copies to the Jackson Advocate and to Herbert Lowe, President of the National Association of Black Journalists, assailing Sandler’s rebuttal and siding with Barbara Harris. The Chronicle of Philanthropy describes itself as “the No. 1 news source, in print and online, for charity leaders, fund raisers, grant makers, and other people involved in the philanthropic enterprise.”

“I am writing to express my personal and professional disgust with your recent article SWP campaign answers red-baiting smear,” Michaels wrote. “To this reader, it appears that everything Ms. Harris writes is factual, and that when her sources are inconclusive she duly notes this.” Michaels concluded by saying, “As Mr. Sandler writes, this type of smear is used against civil rights advocates, democrats, dissidents, and freethinkers of all varieties, as well as socialists and communists. When leveled against a black newspaper in the rural South that has been firebombed and viciously threatened numerous times in its pursuit of civil rights and justice, I can only ask: Have you no shame?”

In an interview, Sandler said the tactic of trying to use the prestige of the civil rights movement to back red-baiting slanders is not new in ruling-class attacks on working-class parties. “The letter to the editor by four supporters of the SWP campaign from Tchula responding to the slanders in the Harris article, which the Advocate has not published either so far, is another good refutation of these smears,” he added (see letter printed in this issue).

These attacks notwithstanding, the Mississippi elections commission agreed that the socialists had met all the requirements and put the SWP ticket on the ballot.

Mississippi election law requires presidential and vice-presidential candidates meet the constitutional requirements of being at least 35 years old and a U.S.-born citizen. Because Calero is a permanent resident and Hawkins is under 35 years of age, the names of James Harris and Margaret Trowe will appear on the ballot in their place. Harris and Trowe were the Socialist Workers presidential ticket in 2000. They will be designated “independent” on the printed ballot.

“Supporters of Calero and Hawkins are looking forward to campaigning in Mississippi through the November 2 elections and beyond,” Sandler said.
Related articles:
Socialists campaign in Alabama mill town
Letter to ‘Jackson Advocate’ from backers of SWP ticket in Mississippi  
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