The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 69/No. 43           November 7, 2005  
SWP candidates in California:
Nationalize energy, health care!
Socialists campaign for working-class program
(front page)
SAN FRANCISCO—“What we are experiencing now is something we haven’t seen for years,” said Frank Forrestal at a Militant Labor Forum here October 22. He was describing the new political situation in the United States that has resulted in the Socialist Workers Party ticket in the November 8 elections in California gaining a wider hearing among working people. Forrestal is the SWP campaign director in Los Angeles, where he spoke at a similar forum the previous day.

“More workers are turning to organizing unions and using those that exist to counter the employers’ attacks on wages and job and living conditions,” Forrestal said. “There is more readiness among working people to fight to defend their livelihoods and to reach out for and extend solidarity to others doing the same thing.” At the center of the SWP campaign platform is backing struggles to organize unions and use union power to defend working people from the bosses’ attacks, Forrestal said. “It is through such struggles that working people can fight for demands such as nationalizing medical care.”

There is a burning need to socialize medicine today and make health care a lifetime right for all, free of charge—from regular preventive medical checkups, to all forms of treatment, hospitalization, and prescriptions. “We also propose nationalizing the energy and power companies,” Forrestal added. “Take them out of private hands and run them as public utilities for the benefit of the majority.”

The Democrats and Republicans—the parties leading working people into wars against fellow workers and farmers in the Middle East and elsewhere—are an obstacle to such struggles, Forrestal continued. “The same two parties that are in cahoots in carrying out the most far-reaching transformation of the U.S. military in six decades to wage such wars abroad under the banner of the ‘war on terrorism,’ are helping the bosses intensify attacks on working people in this country,” he said. “More workers are beginning to see this and are becoming open to also seeing the need to break from these two main parties of capitalism and form our own party, a labor party based on the unions.”

The Socialist Workers Party is running five candidates in local races: in Los Angeles, Diana Newberry for City Council District 14 and Seth Dellinger for City Council District 10; and in San Francisco, Romina Green for Treasurer, Laura Anderson for City Attorney, and Gerardo Sánchez for Assessor-Recorder.  
Response by working people
At both forums, SWP candidates and many of their supporters reported on the response they are getting from workers at plant gates, on the job, in working-class neighborhoods, and on picket lines.

Seth Dellinger spoke at the October 21 forum in Los Angeles about a visit earlier that day at American Apparel, a nonunion garment factory that employs more than 4,000 workers. “Workers listened with interest to what we had to say about mobilizing union power to defend working people,” he said. Dozens took campaign literature and nine purchased copies of the Militant.

Laura Anderson pointed to the appeal among local truckers to the Teamsters’ initial success in organizing independent owner-operators in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Many of these workers are also open to what the SWP candidates present, she said at the San Francisco forum.

Over the last two weeks, 11 truckers have subscribed to the Militant and more than 100 have bought copies of the paper at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, Forrestal added.

Another sign of the changing political situation discussed at these meetings was manifested three days later. Workers at the Foster Farms poultry plant in Livingston, California, some 120 miles southeast of San Francisco, walked out October 25. Organized by the Independent Workers of San Joaquin Valley, which recently affiliated with the International Association of Machinists (IAM), the 2,400 workers are fighting years-long harassment and suspension of unionists by the company and the bosses’ claim that their union’s affiliation to the IAM is illegal. Socialist candidates are organizing to visit the picket lines of these poultry workers to offer their solidarity and discuss the SWP campaign platform.  
Universal, lifetime health care for all!
From General Motors, to Delphi Corp., most major airlines, or the Asarco copper giant in Arizona, “we see the existing system of health care—where medical coverage is a fringe benefit in union contracts or simply tied to the profits and ‘competitiveness’ of the boss—beginning to unravel,” Forrestal said. At the same time, the number of uninsured is growing as costs for a regular medical checkup, let alone prescription drugs, are skyrocketing, he said.

The number of those without any medical insurance has grown from 32 million in 1987 to nearly 46 million last year, according to figures of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “There are 6.5 million Californians, excluding those over 65 years of age, who don’t have any health-care coverage today,” Forrestal noted at the San Francisco meeting. At some 20 percent of the nonelderly state population, this represents the sixth-largest proportion of uninsured in the country.

Democratic and Republican administrations in the country’s most populous state have been cutting funds for public hospitals and other medical facilities and laying off personnel, Forrestal said. Over the last two years, the California Nurses Association has successfully resisted attempts by Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which have bipartisan support, to roll back a state law mandating a 5-to-1 patient-to-nurse ratio at hospitals.

“These and other attacks pose the need to break from the system of medicine-for-profit, where only a limited number have any coverage to rely on and where those who do are becoming less confident they’ll have any health insurance tomorrow,” he said.

Forrestal described how working people in the United Kingdom won socialized medicine—providing universal, lifetime coverage at no cost for all medical services and drugs—in the aftermath of a labor upsurge in the closing months of World War II.

“It took decades before the British ruling class could touch some of what working people in the UK conquered there through determined struggle,” Forrestal said. (An article in next week’s issue will more fully describe this experience.)

“As more workers turn to their unions to fight, it becomes easier to see that the labor movement can and should fight for such a goal here, today, for everyone,” Forrestal said.

The SWP is calling for a no vote on Proposition 78 and taking no position on Proposition 79, both of which are on the California ballot in the November 8 elections.

Both of these initiatives present alternative plans to provide drug discounts for people below a certain income. Prop 78 invites pharmaceutical firms to offer drug discounts on a “voluntary basis” with no government penalties if they choose not to do so. Prop 79 would set needs-based criteria—estimated at incomes below $38,000 for individuals—for those not covered by Medicaid or other health insurance to receive a prescription discount. It includes penalties by the state against drug companies that refuse to offer any discounts.

“Each of these propositions is backed by sections of the ruling class,” Forrestal said. “Some are proposing measures to rein in a bit the super-duper profits of the pharmaceutical barons to make sure they maintain super-super profits, while painting the fake picture they are doing some good for the working class. None of these initiatives does anything to address the real needs of working people who don’t have the means to see a doctor or buy needed medicine.”  
Nationalize the energy industry
To confront skyrocketing gas prices, rising heating bills forecast for this winter, and the ongoing threat of blackouts, the SWP candidates are calling for the nationalization of the power companies and electrical distributors, taking them out of private hands and running them as public utilities, Forrestal said.

During discussion in the San Francisco forum, Romina Green said that a fight to nationalize the energy industry must include “opening the books of these energy trusts—gaining knowledge for the working class and public at large about everything that big business and the capitalist government hide from us.” The workers should shine a spotlight on the so-called business secrets, the behind-the-scenes deals and swindles, how the rulers’ preparations for war and carrying out of wars affect us, she said. The labor movement must be mobilized to expose contrived shortages and hidden stockpiles, to get at the truth behind the disastrous breakdowns inflicted on the population under capitalism.

The nationalized energy companies must be run under workers’ control, Green continued. “This includes not just public exposure of their books, but actual control on the job—control over the pace of production, control over how the job is organized, control over safety at work and for the broader public.” This becomes a school for the working class in preparing to manage and plan the entire economy under a workers and farmers government.

Forrestal pointed out that the SWP is taking a “not voting” position on Proposition 80.

This initiative is backed by the Democratic Party, other liberal forces, and their radical followers. Its supporters claim it will help cut energy prices and prevent blackouts through regulation of the market by the state—organizing “competitive bidding” between various energy providers.

An article in the People’s Weekly World, for example, the newspaper of the Communist Party USA, said in the paper’s October 6 issue: “Prop 80 would enforce oversight of California’s energy producers, ensuring cleaner, more affordable energy for all Californians.”

“Nothing can be further from the truth,” Forrestal said. “Prop 80 is a fake and a fraud. Manipulating the capitalist market won’t result in lower rates nor end the danger of blackouts. Demands for regulation of the energy monopolies are aimed at protecting the profits of the wealthy families who control them, not at benefiting the majority.”

The SWP is also calling for a no vote on five other propositions on the California ballot. Four of them are being promoted strongly by the governor and have backing from many in the ruling class.

“We ask working people to vote no on these measures because they undermine the interests of our class,” Forrestal said. “But the main thing we are doing is asking workers, farmers, and youth to vote for the SWP candidates, to support the socialist platform, and to continue campaigning for such a revolutionary working-class program with us after November 8.”
Related article:
Vote Socialist Workers!  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home