Fall campaigns took SWP deeper into working class

Drive led by party members in retail industry

By Dan Fein
January 1, 2018
Retired postal worker Jim Kirwan talks with Walmart workers Pat Scott, center, and Mary Martin about Militant, Socialist Workers Party in Federal Way, Washington, October 2016.
Militant/Clay Dennison Retired postal worker Jim Kirwan talks with Walmart workers Pat Scott, center, and Mary Martin about Militant, Socialist Workers Party in Federal Way, Washington, October 2016.

The Socialist Workers Party’s successful nine-week fall campaign to expand the reach of the Militant and books by leaders of the party in working-class communities and on the job, together with raising $100,000 for the SWP fund drive to meet party expenses was led by members of the party’s trade union fraction in the retail industry.

Fraction members in the U.S. sold over 10 percent of all the subscriptions and books sold by party members and its sister Communist Leagues in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Many of the trade union fraction’s members work at Walmart, far and away the biggest private employer in the U.S., with 1.5 million employees. Walmart bosses are in a war with Amazon for market share. Both are squeezing workers to strengthen their company’s competitive position. There is no union today at Walmart, a bitterly anti-labor employer. Low pay, changing hours of work each week, part-time hours, and no holiday pay are some of the conditions Walmart workers face.

Socialist Workers Party members and supporters who work in retail sold not only to their co-workers, but also door to door in working-class neighborhoods that workers recommended and in neighborhoods near the stores. We met co-workers at their homes or restaurants, and often had the chance to meet and talk politics with family and neighbors as well. Our discussions revolved around what the working class is facing today from the bosses and their government and what course points a road out of the economic and political crisis.

Twenty party members and supporters in retail in 10 U.S. cities adopted quotas at the beginning of the drive to sell 145 subscriptions and 145 books. We also projected playing a leading role in the SWP fund drive, taking goals of raising $400 in contributions and winning 82 new donors.

Retail workers and their families, like other workers, feel the effects of the worldwide economic crisis and accompanying attacks by the capitalist rulers against the working class — declining standards of living, growing homelessness, lack of affordable housing and medical care, deportations, the devastating opioid epidemic, and unending imperialist war in the Mideast.

We discussed how working people can fight effectively to unify the working class and chart a course of independent working-class political action to break out of the carnage we face. Many we met with said they wanted to keep talking and learn more about the party, getting subscriptions and books. Forty-five co-workers and others we met in the neighborhoods of co-workers donated a total of $311 to the fund drive.

Pat Scott works at a Seattle area Walmart and led the effort there. “It was a chance to talk to other workers about more than just work,” she said. As she went door to door in the neighborhood near her workplace, one person she spoke to said, “I know you — you work at Walmart.” She subscribed.

“I was reading The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes during a break at work when a co-worker approached me and asked ‘What are you reading?’” Scott said. “I told him what it was about and suggested he get a copy, which he did.” Seattle campaigners sold 22 subscriptions, 22 books and collected $70 from eight new contributors.

Rosemary Padia got a Militant subscription from a door-to-door team at her home across the street from the Davis Street Walmart in Oakland, California. Later she went to the store to track down Bonnie Brown, who sold her the subscription, to get the “Clinton book.” Fraction members in Oakland sold 26 subscriptions and 32 books.

The five books offered at reduced prices with a subscription are featured in the ad on this page.

Overall, fraction members sold 159 subscriptions to the Militant and 160 books, going over our goals of 145 each.

Isabella Graham from Chicago said one co-worker contributed $10 from each paycheck during the drive. “Workers need a political party that supports their struggles and encourages them to organize themselves,” she told Graham.

This effort by party members and supporters in retail was led by the fraction’s national steering committee. And they led the entire campaign effort to take the Socialist Workers Party deeper into the working class. Fraction members come out of the drive more confident, determined to continue to advance the party along the same lines. And to follow up with all those they’ve met who want to learn more about the SWP.