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Vol. 72/No. 45      November 17, 2008

Dominican workers in N.Y. hear socialist candidate
NEW YORK—Some 30 people attended a forum October 31 in Washington Heights featuring Martín Koppel, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Congress in that district. The neighborhood has a large working-class Dominican population.

The event, “The Crisis of Capitalism and Its Impact on Immigrant Workers,” was sponsored by the New York branch of Convergence for a New Majority, a coalition of political parties in the Dominican Republic.

Among those in attendance were school bus drivers, building maintenance workers, truck drivers, and retired workers. Many were members of various political groups, including Fuerza de la Revolución (Force of the Revolution), which comes out of the Dominican Communist Party, and parties with Maoist origins.

Koppel began his presentation by pointing to several recent examples of working-class resistance to the U.S. bosses’ assaults.

“Socialist Workers Party candidates have been joining the picket line with strikers at the Stella D’Oro biscuit factory in the Bronx,” he said. “Since August they have been fighting the company’s demands for wage cuts, no sick days, and increased medical insurance payments. I urge you to join their picket lines and bring them solidarity,” Koppel said.

Such struggles, along with the large mobilizations for the legalization of undocumented workers over the past three years, show that a small but important working-class vanguard is emerging in the United States, he said.

These actions are what is important for working people, he emphasized, not whether Barack Obama or John McCain wins the elections.

“One month after the $700 billion bailout, the capitalist financial crisis continues to spread. It has only just begun,” Koppel explained. “The crisis is worldwide and will have increasingly devastating consequences for all working people. It poses the need for a socialist revolution in this country, to throw out the capitalist rulers and establish a workers and farmers government.”

He outlined the proposals in the Socialist Workers Party platform to defend the living standards and rights of working people, beginning with the most oppressed. To fight for jobs for all, the socialist candidates call for cutting the workweek with no cut in pay, to spread available work to all, and launching a massive public works program with wages at union scale. They demand cost-of-living clauses to increase wages and benefits as inflation goes up. They call for nationalizing the energy industry and banks, putting them under workers control. They join the struggles for legalizing all undocumented workers, and for implementing affirmative-action programs.

Working people in the United States, he said, can learn from the example of workers and farmers in Cuba, who made a socialist revolution and have been in power for the last 50 years.  
Exchange of views
A wide-ranging discussion and exchange of views followed Koppel’s presentation.

“Won’t voting for the Socialist Workers Party risk splitting the progressive vote and allow the right-wing Republicans to win the election?” was the first question.

“Unions in the United States organize well below 10 percent of the workers, and they are ‘yellow’ [company] unions,” another person said. “Isn’t it outdated to talk about the working class and the unions? Don’t you have to work with broader forces, like small businesses?”

What about the collapse of the Soviet Union? was a third question.

“Do you propose the working class in the United States take power through the classic Marxist road, or is there some other strategy?” another worker wanted to know. “Don’t we need unity of the left?”

Joining the debated issues, one participant said, “For those who think Obama represents hope, remember that most of the wars and interventions carried out by U.S. imperialism were carried out under Democratic Party administrations.” He agreed with Koppel that the Democrats and Republicans are twin representatives of the capitalist class. He went on to say that they originated from a split in a single capitalist party.

“Yes, you’re well aware of the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965, which was carried out by the Democratic administration of Lyndon Johnson,” Koppel said.

He added that the Republicans were founded in the mid-1800s by the emerging industrial bourgeoisie as it entered into conflict with the slavocracy. The party of the slaveholder class was the Democrats. “The Republicans began as a revolutionary force; the Democratic Party has never been progressive,” he said. “Today we are in the imperialist epoch, where industrial, banking, and commercial capital have merged into finance capital. There is no progressive wing of the capitalist class, which has two major parties.”

Responding to the question about “unity of the left,” he said, “There can be no ‘unity’ at the expense of a program and a course of actions that defends the interests of workers.” The Socialist Workers Party seeks to unite the working class, Koppel said.

“The term ‘left’ is not useful. When some groups say they are left-wing, what does that mean? The left wing of capitalist politics? Of the Democrats? Workers need our own class organizations, independent of the capitalists.

“It is a mistake to dismiss unions in the United States as ‘yellow,’ Koppel said. As they exist today, even with their bureaucratic misleadership, they are the only mass organizations our class has, the organizations that workers join today, and socialists are part of them. The unions need to be transformed into instruments of struggle.”  
Cuban, Russian revolutions
Working people can look to the Cuban and Russian socialist revolutions, in which workers and peasants took power out of the hands of the capitalists, the SWP candidate said. A powerful example was set by the Bolshevik party, which led working people to victory and launched a genuinely communist movement worldwide.

After the death of Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin, a bureaucracy headed by Joseph Stalin consolidated a political counterrevolution in the Soviet Union, he said. The disintegration of the Stalinist regimes in the late 1980s, he said, means that workers there, who had been driven out of politics, are now in a better position to be part of worldwide working-class resistance against the effects of the capitalist crisis.

Members of the audience purchased four subscriptions to the Militant and four copies of the latest issue of the Marxist magazine Nueva Internacional. They also bought The Communist Manifesto, Is Socialist Revolution in the U.S. Possible? Leon Trotsky’s Revolution Betrayed, Malcolm X Speaks, and several other titles.
Related articles:
Socialists: workers need to organize in face of capitalist crisis
On to next 365 days of workers’ fights!
Socialists defend workers’ rights to political activity
Initial SWP campaign vote totals  
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