Workers need our own political party
SWP candidates: break with twin parties of capital
Militant/Dan Fein (left) and Ben Joyce (right)
Left, Róger Calero, Socialist Workers candidate for president, campaigns January 13 in Brooklyn, New York. Right, SWP vice presidential candidate Alyson Kennedy addresses January 11 rally in New York against grand jury subpoenas of Puerto Rican independence supporters.|
BY SARAH KATZ
AND LUIS MADRID
NEW YORKEvery time I go grocery shopping, I feel like my disability checks have shrunk, said Albert Henderson, a Vietnam War veteran, as he stopped to talk to Socialist Workers Party campaigners outside a Pathmark supermarket in Harlem January 13.
Henderson said he was leaning toward Hillary Clinton in the February 5 Democratic primaries because her economic policies might help people in my boat. He stopped when he heard the Socialist Workers candidate for U.S. Congress in that district, Martín Koppel, say that the SWP campaign is for a labor party.
The billionaire class uses the two-party system to promote the illusion that we have a choice in the elections, Koppel said in reply to Hendersons inquiry. But the capitalists have two partiesDemocrats and Republicansand working people have none.
Koppel added, All major questions facing workers are decided in the political arena. Thats why we need a labor party, based on a fighting union movement, that is dependent on working people and our struggles, not on the bosses and their organizations. The veteran replied, Youve got some good points there, as he took some socialist campaign literature to read.
Two days earlier, at a Militant Labor Forum featuring the New York Socialist Workers campaign, Koppel noted that official unemployment jumped in December to 5 percent from 4.7 percent a month earlier, and that the number of full-time workers whose hours have been cut to part-time has increased by 9 percent from a year ago.
Proposals by Clinton and Barack Obama like emergency housing aid, extensions of unemployment benefits, job training, and subsidies to pay heating bills are at best temporary measures that wont protect working people against growing unemployment and inflation, which are endemic to capitalism, Koppel said.
Republican Michael Huckabees Fair Tax proposal to replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax of at least 23 percent "will disproportionately burden working people," who will pay a much bigger share of their income than the wealthy, Koppel explained. As for other Republican candidates, Mitt Romneys calls to invest in U.S. manufacturing and Rudolph Giulianis proposed tax cuts are also geared at further enriching the capitalists, which is always at the expense of working people.
We call for cost-of-living increases for all wages and Social Security, unemployment, and other benefits, pegged to the real inflation rate, the socialist candidate said. And a shorter workweek with no cut in pay is a demand the labor movement can fight for to combat increasing joblessness. It goes hand in hand with a massive, government-funded public works program to build schools, quality public housing, public transportation, and other social needs, he said.
Defending working women
Speaking on the same panel, SWP national campaign director Olympia Newton spoke about Clinton's win in New Hampshire, noting that many attribute it to her emotional response to a campaign supporter on the eve of the primaries, which enabled her to edge out Obama. Clinton has played up the fact that she would be the first female president, Newton said, but her record is against women's rights, including her support for the William Clinton administrations dismantling of aid to families with de-pendent children in 1996.
To unify workers in struggle, the SWP champions affirmative action to force companies and government institutions to increase the number of women, as well as Blacks and other oppressed nationalities, in housing, education, and employment, Newton said. "As fewer better-paying jobs become available in times of layoffs, real affirmative action is needed so women are not pushed out of these jobs." She also explained that a public works program could build day-care centers so more working women could get and maintain jobs.
Norton Sandler, director of the SWPs 2004 presidential campaign, said Republican John McCains electoral gains in the New Hampshire primary were based to a large extent on his identification with the U.S. troop surge in Iraq, which has wide-spread support due to its military successes over the past year.
Ben O'Shaughnessy, a spokesperson for Young Socialists for Calero and Kennedy, pointed to the activities of young socialist campaigners and invited members of the audience to help campaign for the working-class alternative.
BY CHAUNCEY ROBINSON
AND JOEL BRITTON
SAN FRANCISCOLea Sherman, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Congress in the 8th district, addressed a meeting here January 11 on the election campaign and the working-class alternative offered by the socialist candidates.
The day before, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a fiscal emergency and called the legislature into a special session to consider $14.5 billion in cuts, including $1 billion from the state Medicaid program, Medi-Cal.
Sherman condemned this move as part of the bipartisan assault on the social benefits won in struggle by working people. She explained that the SWP campaign also opposes the California health-care plan recently passed in the state assembly, which would make it mandatory for all to have insurance by 2010.
The California plan, like the proposals by Democrats Clinton and Obama or by the Republicans, puts the burden of health care on individuals. The main beneficiaries will be the big insurance companies and hospital corporations, Sherman said.
What working people need, she said, is a fight for government-guaranteed medical care and pensions, ensuring lifetime coverage for all. She called for cost-of-living increases in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social benefits that keep up with the real increases in the cost of living.
Addressing the U.S.-led war in Iraq, she noted that incumbent congressional candidate Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, votes for hundreds of billions in war appropriations as she says she wants to end the war and responsibly redeploy our troops out of Iraq and concentrate on Afghanistan, where the war on terrorism is. Republican candidate Dana Walsh is a supporter of the U.S.-led troop surge in Iraq. Peace activist Cindy Sheehan, also running in the 8th C.D., says she is for bringing the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan to a swifter conclusion.
Sherman said, The only course in the interests of working people at home and abroad is to demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. and coalition forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, and all other fronts of Washington's war on terror.
We oppose the Democrats, Republicans, and other capitalist parties and candidates, Sherman said. Sheehan, who says she is running as an independent, is not independent of the capitalist two-party system. The SWP campaign points to the need to build a labor party, based on a fighting union movement and independent of all capitalist parties, Sherman said.
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