RICHFIELD SPRINGS, N.Y. — Peter Hula stepped outside to talk when Seth Galinsky, Socialist Workers Party candidate for New York City Public Advocate, and a campaign supporter knocked on his door Feb. 2 at his dairy farm near here. The farm is over 70 miles west of Albany on Route 20.
“It’s not a level playing field,” Hula said, referring to the advantages that the big capitalist farmers get. From 2006 to 2016 over 1,300 small dairy farmers were forced out of business in New York. It has gotten even worse in the last two years. “The big guys just produce more milk when the price is low and that drives the price lower,” he said.
“Working people in big cities, small towns and farmland face the same capitalist crisis and need to fight together,” Galinsky told him. “That’s why I’m running along with Socialist Workers Party candidates in Troy, New York; Dallas; and around the country. We’re using our campaigns to show that working people can organize ourselves independent of the bosses’ parties, to talk about the political questions on all our minds, and learn more about the conditions working people and small proprietors face today.”
Socialist Workers Party campaigners, including this correspondent, went door to door and farmhouse to farmhouse during two days in the Mohawk Valley and Central New York. Despite bitter cold in the low teens, dozens of workers, farmers and others opened their doors to talk with us about the party’s program and what road forward for working people.
This region has been hard hit by the carnage of the capitalist economic crisis. Tens of thousands have left under the impact of factory and farm closings. Knocking on doors on just a few blocks here, we saw at least a half dozen vacant homes.
This part of New York is more than 90 percent Caucasian and some 60 percent of the vote in the 2016 election was for Donald Trump. The liberal news media says that workers who live and labor in areas like this are backwards and increasingly racist. Our experiences show that’s a lie.
Hula’s family, originally from Ukraine, has owned the farm since 1921. He pointed with pride to the roof on the barn behind us. “I put that in myself. I hope we can make it to our 100-year anniversary,” he said, noting that between high prices for feed and other inputs and depressed milk prices, he’s losing money. “I told the guy who comes to get my milk that I’m selling him less, because the less I sell, the less I lose.”
Hula thinks the solution would be to give each farmer a set quota, similar to regulations in Canada, to keep too much milk from reaching the market. This should keep the price up above the cost of production, he said.
“We fight for a government policy to guarantee that the price farmers receive for what they produce covers the cost of production and gives them enough to live on comfortably,” Galinsky said.
“The capitalists say there’s ‘too much’ milk,” he said. “But there’s people all over the U.S. and the world without enough to eat. The problem isn’t that there’s too much milk, it’s that capitalism functions only to maximize profits, not to meet human needs.”
“In Cuba, because of the revolution workers and peasants made there, farmers can’t lose their land because of a bad year,” Galinsky said. “And the government guarantees cheap credit.”
Hula listened carefully as Galinsky explained the SWP’s opposition to the liberal hysteria and witch hunt against Trump, a campaign really aimed at workers and farmers who they increasingly fear. We pointed to the example of the yellow vest protests in France, which the capitalist rulers worldwide are worried will spread. We discussed the SWP’s opposition to all the capitalist parties, and our opposition to the U.S. rulers’ wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world.
“Don’t you think Trump’s keeping his word on getting out of the wars, at least in Korea?” Hula asked.
Galinsky said that it’s good that the U.S. government and the government of North Korea are talking about denuclearization and scaling back weaponry in the region. The U.S. rulers are making some tactical shifts in how they defend their interests around the world and sometimes that can coincide with what working people both there and here need. But Washington still maintains bases and hundreds of thousands of troops that are a threat to working people worldwide.
Hula got a subscription to the Militant, The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes and In Defense of the US Working Class by SWP leader Mary-Alice Waters. “And what about that other one you showed me,” he said. “Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? I’ll take that one too.”
Can’t trust Democrats, Republicans
“I agree with you. We need another party that’s not Democrat or Republican. They make all these promises, but never carry them out,” retired waitress and factory worker Susan Miner told Galinsky when he and campaign supporter Sergio Zambrana knocked on her trailer door in Morrisville, west of Richfield Springs down Route 20 the day before.
“The politicians always talk about New York, but they mean New York City. What about the rest of us?” Miner asked. Morrisville is a village of just over 2,000 people. “They talk about the middle class. But where does that leave me? I’ve never made much more than $25,000 a year. And now I’m on Social Security, but it’s not enough. Maybe we’re lower class, but if we are, it’s because they put us there.”
“They try to get us to think we’re middle class to keep us from seeing ourselves as part of the working class. And to mask the fact we’re the ones who create the wealth, not them,” Galinsky said.
Zambrana added that working people in the U.S. have a long history of struggle, from the building of the industrial unions in the 1930s to the fight against Jim Crow segregation in the 1950s and ’60s. Miner bought a copy of the Militant and said she would consider getting a subscription.
In Chittenango, Alex Huinil and I knocked on the door of Pamela Bishop, a nursing assistant and member of SEIU1199, the health care workers union. Her grandfather, a retired autoworker, opened the door and called Bishop over. “She’s the one you should talk to,” he said. Bishop described how she injured her shoulder because the nursing home where she works is understaffed.
She looked over the range of books by leaders of the Socialist Workers Party we showed her.
“It’s horrible how Black people have been treated in this country,” said Bishop, who is Caucasian, when we showed her Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power by Barnes. She decided to buy and read it, and to get a subscription to the Militant.
The Socialist Workers Party is running candidates all across the country, challenging the capitalist parties, speaking out in the interests of all the exploited and oppressed, and pointing the need for working people to fight to take political power.