‘The Militant spreads the word about our fights’

By Dan Fein
April 9, 2018

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — “I support our teachers in their fight to defend their pensions,” Raven Stephens, 17, who attends Fern Creek High School here, told me March 23. She was pointing to the picture of the March 21 teachers’ protest at the state Capitol in Frankfort on the front page of the Militant. The day before the action, the state Senate passed a bill that would slash $1 billion from the teachers’ retirement fund.

I met Stephens going door to door in her neighborhood to talk with workers about the Socialist Workers Party, its politics, and its paper and books by party leaders. As we talked about the fights of teachers and other school workers here and in West Virginia, Oklahoma and elsewhere, she decided to get Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? a book by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes. “I like the title,” she said with a smile.

The book is one of five titles the Socialist Workers Party is offering at half price with a Militant subscription in its eight-week drive to take its program and activities deeper into the working class. The books are featured in the ad below. Through the drive party members and others aim to win 1,400 subscribers to the Militant and sell an equal number of the five books. As part of the campaign we’ll raise $112,000 for the Militant Fighting Fund.

Members of Communist Leagues in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and others who look to the party around the world, are part of the party-building effort. We all found real interest in the teachers’ fights as we knocked on doors and participated in union pickets and protest actions.

SWP campaigners also met power plant worker Phil DuVall here. DuVall said that he helped to get rid of the fake union company bosses had set up years ago and bring in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers instead. DuVall was skeptical about whether working people could unite. “Too many people just sit around and don’t take action,” he said.

After talking with SWP campaigners about the example set by the West Virginia teachers in getting all the school workers together and gaining support from coal miners and others to win their nine-day strike, DuVall signed up for a subscription.

‘I followed that West Virginia strike’

Lawrence Graves is a 39-year-old appliance assembler at General Electric Co. and a member of IBEW. “We have seven tiers under our current union contract, which divides the workers,” he said. “We need one tier. I followed that West Virginia strike.”

Graves got a Militant subscription and a copy of The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record. “What you’re doing, spreading the word, is very important,” he said.

Another worker we met, who works a shear in a machine shop, got two copies of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power by Barnes — one for himself and one for his friend — and gave a $23 donation to the Militant Fighting Fund.

The fund is key to finance the publication of the Militant, which is not beholden to any other financing than from its readers.

Party members went to rallies in Washington, D.C., and across the country March 24 to discuss the recent killings in Parkland, Florida, and the road forward for working people. (See article on front page.) SWP members set up a table with books and the Militant at the large D.C. march.

Chris, a 25-year-old restaurant worker, told SWP members that he was interested in a wide range of issues and hoped protests to change things would grow. “We explained that crime and violence are an inescapable product of the dog-eat-dog morality of the capitalist system and diminishes when workers unite in struggle, like during the mass Black-led protests that overthrew Jim Crow segregation, and in revolutions like the one made by workers and farmers in Cuba,” Janet Post wrote. “He got interested in what we said, asking what made Cuba and its revolution different than what happened in Russia and China.”

He bought copies of Cuba and Angola: The War for Freedom, Two Speeches by Malcolm X and the Militant. “I want to learn more about the SWP,” he said.

Members of the Communist League in the U.K. went to Dublin, Ireland, to join the International Women’s Day demonstration there supporting a woman’s right to choose abortion. Afterwards they knocked on workers’ doors in Drumcondra where they got into a discussion about the wars in the Middle East with Alan Norman, a worker at the Port of Dublin, and his partner Gillian.

“The fighting needs to stop. All foreign troops should get out of Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East,” CL member Pamela Holmes said. “Working people need the time and space to think and to organize politically, to find a way forward to resolve all these problems. The way the teachers and other school workers in West Virginia reached out to draw broader layers of working people into their fight shows what our class is starting to do.

“We point to the Cuban Revolution as an example of what our class is capable of,” she said. “We need to build parties here that can do the same.”

Norman liked the perspective of fighting to replace the capitalist rulers with a government of workers and farmers. He got a subscription and Are They Rich Because They’re Smart?

Anna Rosen reported on staffing a booth with party literature at the March 23-25 Association of Asian Studies Conference in Washington, D.C. “A Chinese student studying here at John Hopkins came into our booth and looked at the books. ‘Malcolm X changed my life,’ he said, pointing to the cover of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power. ‘My parents are members of the Chinese Communist Party, but they’re not really communists,’ he said. ‘What about you?’

“After we told him about the party and its participation in the class struggle, he bought the book, along with a subscription, and we made plans to get together again to do politics together,” Rosen said.

If you’d like to join the campaign, contact the SWP or Communist League branch nearest you listed in the directory of local distributors.