“The capitalists need to keep millions of immigrant workers here who are undocumented, so they can superexploit them,” Alyson Kennedy, the Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate in 2016, told Richard Maya, a customer service worker as she was campaigning door to door in Salinas, California.
“This allows the bosses to drag down wages for everyone,” Kennedy explained. “So it’s in all workers interests to unite and to fight for amnesty” for those without what the government calls proper papers.
“I listened to the Democratic Party debate,” Maya told Kennedy, “and I’m concerned that if anyone who wants to can move to the U.S. from other countries, like some were saying, the U.S. will become like a Third World country,” he added.
Millions of workers in less-developed parts of the world, driven by the impact of the deepening crisis of capitalism, the imperialist powers plunder of their countries and the lack of any working-class leadership that points towards working people taking power, decide their only hope is to emigrate.
“We should build solidarity with workers in other countries who are fighting against terrible hardships brought about by capitalism and U.S. domination,” Kennedy said, “and above all we should fight for amnesty for workers here who do not have papers. But we don’t call for open borders today,” a demand that would deepen the crisis facing working people.
SWP campaigners explain why pressing for amnesty is central to rebuilding a fighting union movement. Maya told Kennedy he favored an amnesty “for those that are already here.”
Kennedy had joined teams of SWP campaigners discussing the party’s program with working people on their doorsteps in Hayward, Salinas and Seaside, California, July 28. Seven subscriptions to the Militant and 10 books on revolutionary politics were sold during the effort.
The night before, she spoke alongside Joel Britton, SWP candidate for mayor of San Francisco, and Henry Dennison, the party’s candidate for City Council in Seattle at a Militant Labor Forum in San Leandro, California.
Dennison described a rally in Seattle he joined in solidarity with the mobilizations in Puerto Rico that forced the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.
“Working people in Puerto Rico are angry over widespread corruption, decades of attacks on their standard of living, the capitalist politicians’ disregard for their lives in the wake of Hurricane Maria and U.S. colonial contempt,” Dennison said.
He pointed to the Cuban Revolution and what it shows about the capacities of working people to engage in revolutionary struggle. “There, they not only got rid of the dictator Batista, but went on to replace capitalist rule with a government of workers and farmers,” he said.
“What is needed here as well as Puerto Rico is independent working-class political action on a course toward workers taking political power into our own hands,” Kennedy added.
“In the U.S., the Democratic and Republican party politicians, whether they call themselves socialists, liberals or conservatives, share a common defense of the capitalist profit system and the exploitation of the labor of working people,” Kennedy said.
“The SWP candidates say we need to organize independently of the bosses’ parties. We need our own working-class party with a program to organize and fight for our own interests, challenging the rule of the capitalist class.”
All three speakers at the forum addressed the deteriorating conditions working people face, including on the job. Dennison, a rail worker and member of the SMART-TD union, described the continuing attacks on rail safety. “The rail bosses have not given up their attempts to reduce crews to a single individual,” he said. “Very long trains, shorter training and cutting the workforce are the order of the day.”
“We need to use our unions to stand up to the bosses. And we need workers control over job conditions,” he said.
“In the 1960s and ’70s, union miners fought for job safety and the incidence of black lung plummeted,” Kennedy, a former miner and a leader of a 2003-04 strike by miners in Utah, pointed out. “Now, with the weakening of the union, there is an epidemic of a new form of black lung, progressive massive fibrosis.”
Britton described the SWP’s opposition to the decision of the San Francisco School Board to destroy a mural about the life of George Washington at a high school in San Francisco. The decision was a blow to the constitutional right to free speech — a right indispensable for working people as we organize to act together to defend our interests against the deteriorating conditions of life we confront.
Britton pointed to the danger of censorship to the working class and of the race-baiting by the opponents of the George Washington mural who claimed that if you were not Native American or Black your opinion about whether it should be destroyed or not should be discounted.
“We will continue to stand up against censorship, against race-baiting and false smears of racism that shut off the political debate that is needed,” Britton said.