LOUISVILLE, Ky. — “We don’t say, ‘Vote for me and I’ll fix everything,’” Alyson Kennedy, Socialist Workers Party candidate for president, told a meeting at the Mount Lebanon of Cedars apartments community room here Feb. 20.
Instead, Kennedy, running mate Malcolm Jarrett, and dozens of SWP candidates across the country use the election campaign to explain that workers need to rely on their own strength, independent of the capitalist rulers, their state and their political parties.
The Socialist Workers Party 2020 platform, she explained, points to the need for “a movement of millions” that will fight to replace “the rule of the exploitative capitalist class with a workers and farmers government.”
“There have been movements of millions in U.S. history,” Kennedy said. “The civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s and the powerful movement that built the industrial unions and won unemployment benefits and social security in the 1930s, for example. When working people begin to stand up in their millions again, we can build our own party, a labor party that fights for working people all year round. Supporting fights today like the copper miners on strike against Asarco in Arizona strengthens this course.”
During Kennedy’s tour in Kentucky she also spoke at a Militant Labor Forum, was interviewed by WAVE 3 TV News and a gospel radio station, in addition to campaigning door to door here and Bedford, a small town outside of Louisville. Margaret Trowe, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate, Samir Hazboun, the party’s candidate for the 3rd Congressional District, and supporters in the area accompanied her.
Some 25 people came to the meeting at the Mount Lebanon of Cedars hosted by Lamont Anthony, who lives in this government-subsidized assisted living housing complex. Anthony, 62, met the SWP when Amy Husk, the 2019 candidate for governor, spoke at a church breakfast. He joined the party in bringing solidarity to autoworkers on strike against General Motors last fall and in campaigning for prisoners’ rights.
About half the participants were residents of the complex. There were also Walmart, restaurant and other area workers attending.
During the discussion period Dennisha Rivers told Kennedy that she had worked at a hotel with immigrant workers, some of whom didn’t speak English. “The way management treated these workers was so disrespectful,” she said. “As a Black woman I was offended by it. Some people say immigrants are stealing our jobs. But I don’t think we can accept these attitudes towards immigrants. What do you think about Trump putting immigrant children in concentration camps?”
“Most workers believe an injury to one is an injury to all,” Kennedy responded. “It’s important to do what you did and stand up against injustice on the job or anywhere we see it.”
The Socialist Workers Party opposes the abusive treatment of workers caught up in the immigration jails just like it opposes the abuse of prisoners everywhere.
Amnesty for immigrants
“Immigrants come to the U.S. because they are escaping difficult conditions created by imperialist and capitalist exploitation in their home countries,” Kennedy said.
She noted that keeping workers without papers as a pool of superexploited labor is a bipartisan policy, carried out by both Democrats and Republicans alike. President Bill Clinton collaborated with Republicans in Congress to pass the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which is used today to victimize immigrants and divide the working class.
U.S. imperialism depends on immigrant labor to drive down wages to better compete with its capitalist rivals around the world. It tightens or relaxes controls at the border depending on the needs of the employers.
“My party demands amnesty for all immigrants without papers here and we support struggles of workers in other countries against conditions the U.S. government has helped impose there,” Kennedy said. “This is a life-and-death question for building a fighting union movement that can unite the working class.”
Radio host: ‘Party for working class’
Bishop Dennis Lyons opened up his “Gospel in My Soul” radio interview with Kennedy by saying, “I understand that your campaign is for the working class. Your platform points out that the bosses and their government always lie to working people about how much money they make. They always say they can’t pay higher wages.” He asked her to explain the party’s demand for workers control of production.
“I work for Walmart, one of the richest companies in the world. In Texas, they pay us $11 an hour,” Kennedy said. “We know they can pay more. As working people organize to defend themselves, we can force the employers to open their books so we can see the real situation, including how big their profits are. We’ll learn how they cut corners to cheat us and the workers who shop there.
“Then we can fight to take more and more control over how things are done. Of course that will require strong unions that we control. In the process we will learn we are capable of organizing production and running the economy,” she said. “We can build a labor party, a party of millions, that can organize our fight to take political power.”
“Everyone says we have a government for and by the people, but we know that’s not what’s really going on,” Lyons said. He then asked what Kennedy thought about police brutality, racist discrimination and the “outrageous criminal injustice system.”
“Look at who is in prison. It’s working people, disproportionately African American,” Kennedy said. “It’s a class question. The wealthy rule by keeping us convinced that we are lowlifes and stupid. They want us to stay in our place and not get out of line. They use the schools to perpetuate these myths.”
Kennedy recalled how she had lived in Louisville for a couple years and taught at Wheatley Elementary School. “That experience was one of the many things that convinced me there’s something really wrong in this society, it’s impossible to really teach,” Kennedy said. “I was part of the fight to desegregate the schools here.”
Oppose U.S. rulers’ wars abroad
Samir Hazboun joined Kennedy on the platform at the Militant Labor Forum Feb. 22. He took up the question of why the U.S. capitalist rulers are driven to fight imperialist wars abroad.
“Many workers agree with us that working people have no interest in supporting Washington’s wars,” Hazboun said. “They are beginning to understand who the real ‘we’ and ‘they’ are. When workers go on strike they see that ‘we’ are on one side of the fence and ‘they’ are on the other. We have to look at all questions, including Washington’s wars abroad, in class terms.”
“I’m opposed to most of the wars that the U.S. is involved in,” said Ryan Deason, a Walmart worker, “but wasn’t World War II different because it was against fascism?”
“Far from being a savior for workers, Roosevelt used the war drive to attack workers’ struggles and rights,” Hazboun said. “Members of our party were railroaded to prison for our involvement in fights like the Teamsters organizing drives in the Midwest and our campaign to explain that the coming war would be conducted to advance the capitalist rulers’ ability to exploit workers here and abroad against their imperialist rivals. Roosevelt’s administration barred Jewish refugees trying to escape the Nazis from entering the U.S., sending them back to their deaths.”
Hazboun encouraged participants in the forum to join this year’s May Day International Brigade of Volunteer Work and Solidarity with Cuba. “The Cuban Revolution is an example of what is possible when working people take power,” he said.
Matthew Murphy, a 22-year-old student from Oakland, California, was in town visiting a friend who is a campaign supporter. After hearing Kennedy speak, he joined her campaigning in Bedford.
“I like how the Socialist Workers campaign explains the negative attitudes toward workers” promoted by the rulers and their meritocratic boosters, Murphy said.
Kennedy talked to Sally Patterson, a retired health care and factory worker, on her doorstep. Patterson told her she voted for Obama and thought that “Obamacare” was good because there were “a lot of children who didn’t have any health insurance.”
“But ‘Obamacare’ is still health insurance, you’ve got to pay,” said Kennedy. “It’s not health care.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Patterson said. She described the conditions of elderly people in nursing homes. “They have worked all their lives and everything they owned is now gone. They get told when to eat, when to sleep.”
“The capitalist class pushes their own dog-eat-dog morality onto us. To only look out for yourself,” Kennedy said. “Our class, the working class, has different values. We look out for each other.”
“That’s true, too,” Patterson said. She bought a subscription to the Militant, a copy of In Defense of the US Working Class by SWP leader Mary-Alice Waters, and a Kennedy-Jarrett campaign button to wear.
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