PAVO, Ga. — “The protest by Blackjewel coal miners in Kentucky is an example of what working people can accomplish if we stand together and fight,” Alyson Kennedy, the Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate in 2016, told Willie Head Oct. 2. Head is a decadeslong veteran in the fight by farmers who are Black to keep their land.
Kennedy and Malcolm Jarrett, SWP candidate for Pittsburgh City Council, were visiting Head on his farm here. They were joined by Rachele Fruit, SWP candidate for Atlanta School Board.
“The same thing is true of the almost 50,000 autoworkers on strike at GM and the broad solidarity they’re getting from working people,” Kennedy said. The two SWP spokespeople are on a national tour campaigning to build the SWP.
Kennedy and Jarrett had visited the encampment of Blackjewel miners in Cumberland, Kentucky, fighting for pay that had been stolen by the mine bosses when the company declared bankruptcy July 1. The miners blocked a train filled with coal they had mined, determined to get their pay before allowing it to move. Although the encampment has ended, a court order bars the train from moving, and the miners’ fight continues.
Kennedy and Jarrett have also joined United Auto Workers picket lines in Arlington, Texas; Bedford and Kokomo, Indiana; and Hudson, Wisconsin.
“Coal bosses have been filing for bankruptcy for decades, trying to break unions and assault wages and working conditions,” Kennedy told Head. “But this time the miners said, ‘Enough,’ and were joined with an outpouring of solidarity and support from fellow workers.
“People everywhere know they’re getting shafted by the capitalist system,” she said. “But it takes workers and working farmers deciding to act, like the coal miners and autoworkers, to begin to change things.”
Head farms corn, greens, soybeans and other crops. But like many small farmers, he has worked industrial jobs off the farm to be able to pay the bills.
Head said he agreed with Kennedy about how workers and farmers need to stand up and fight, and described some of the struggles Black farmers in the South have waged.
“We usually can’t get loans from the banks or the Department of Agriculture,” he said. “The so-called political leaders know that Black farmers aren’t getting anything, but they do nothing. Because you can’t get credit, you have to pay cash for everything.”
Head has visited Cuba several times and is an outspoken supporter of the Cuban Revolution. “I have seen firsthand what it means for workers and farmers to have made a socialist revolution and taken power out of the hands of the capitalists,” he said. “I tell other farmers about what they’ve accomplished.”
He asked Kennedy and Jarrett what they thought of Democratic Party 2020 candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. “Our views are the opposite of Sanders and Warren,” said Kennedy. “We’re working to build a fighting movement of workers, to make a revolution and take political power from the capitalists. The Democrats are trying to band-aid their system in the hope of preventing workers from rising up.”
They talked for hours, discussing politics, the SWP’s fighting program and other battles by workers and farmers.
The SWP members thanked Head for the visit, saying it would help them describe the crisis facing farmers today and to win solidarity with Black farmers’ ongoing fight to stay on the land.
Head renewed his Militant subscription and got a copy of Tribunes of the People and the Trade Unions.
‘You sparked me up!’
Campaign supporters Jose Alvarado and this worker-correspondent joined Kennedy and Jarrett going door to door in Hogansville Oct. 1. They visited the home of Reggie Jackson, a former Walmart worker, who is disabled. Three months ago Jackson had subscribed to the Militant and bought a copy of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes.
“That book shook me up,” Jackson said. “They don’t teach you this history in school.”
Jackson spent 10 years in the army. “The Veterans Administration treats vets badly,” he said. For veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder “it’s a struggle.”
“How veterans are treated is a prime example of how working people in general are treated in capitalist society,” Jarrett said. “But it’s better to fight — like the GM workers now on strike. You see men and women, Black and Caucasian, and other workers side by side on the picket line, showing the working class is less racist and more united than ever.”
“You all have sparked me up!” said Jackson. He renewed his subscription and bought Tribunes of the People and the Trade Unions; Are They Rich Because They’re Smart?; In Defense of the US Working Class; and The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record.
Jarrett and SWP supporters also visited with Uber and Lyft drivers at the Atlanta airport. Jarrett explained that the campaign supports the fight to organize “one union for all drivers,” app, taxi and limousine drivers. Three drivers got copies of the Militant and thanked the party for stopping by.
Kennedy and Jarrett attended the Decatur trial of the DeKalb County cop Robert Olsen, who shot and killed 26-year-old Afghanistan war veteran Anthony Hill in 2015. Olsen shot Hill, who suffered from PTSD and bipolar disorder, while he was walking around naked and unarmed in his own apartment complex. It was only the efforts by Hill’s family and opponents of police brutality that forced murder charges to be filed against the cop.
While talking with supporters of Hill outside the courtroom, Kennedy and Jarrett learned of the murder conviction of Amber Guyger, the policewoman who shot and killed Botham Jean in his apartment in Dallas. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison the next day.
As of Oct. 8, the jury in the Hill case was still out.
The tour wound up with a lively Militant Labor Forum that drew 25 people and raised $820 for the SWP national campaign.
Rachele Fruit, Lisa Potash and Janice Lynn from Atlanta contributed to this article.