Unfolding capitalist crisis fuels interest in ‘Militant’

By Seth Galinsky
May 18, 2020
Malcolm Jarrett, right, SWP vice presidential candidate, talks with driver Alfredo Bettis, center, at truckers’ protest in Washington, D.C., May 3. Truckers across the country protested May 1.
Militant/Tony LaneMalcolm Jarrett, right, SWP vice presidential candidate, talks with driver Alfredo Bettis, center, at truckers’ protest in Washington, D.C., May 3. Truckers across the country protested May 1.

Over the past week SWP members have continued to increase the reach of the paper. The drive got a boost when Alyson Kennedy, SWP candidate for president, and Malcolm Jarrett, the party’s candidate for vice president, visited workers in several small towns in coal-mining regions in West Virginia.

“There are no jobs out here,” laid-off oil field worker Jonathan Johnson told them. Johnson said he worried that the government’s decision to print money in the midst of the shutdown of many factories and businesses “will deflate our currency.”

Their mounting debts could spark a dangerous bout of inflation, Kennedy explained, that will fall hardest on workers and farmers. The party’s campaign platform urges support for workers’ struggles to defend themselves and use union power, including to fight the bosses for higher wages to counter a rise in prices.

“They pay this stimulus money to pacify us,” Kennedy explained. Then they will demand “working people sacrifice. They will want us to take wage cuts, accept speedup.”

The SWP calls for workers control of production and for opening the books of the companies so workers can see where the wealth we produce goes. Johnson was one of three workers in West Virginia who subscribed to the Militant that day.

Truckers fight attack on livelihood

“The brokers abuse us,” truck driver Alfredo Bettis told Malcolm Jarrett at a truckers’ protest in Washington, D.C., May 3. “They used to take 10% or 20%, now they take 50% or 60%.” Jarrett and campaign supporters joined the action to back the drivers.

Bettis, an independent owner-operator originally from Peru, came over to talk to Jarrett after a trucker who opposes the Cuban Revolution started yelling, trying to convince other protesters to stay away from SWP campaigners.

But that just served to pique Bettis’ interest. “What is this all about?” he asked Jarrett.

The SWP candidate gave Bettis a copy of the campaign’s 2020 platform. “We are here in solidarity with the drivers who are looking for a way forward in the midst of the deepening capitalist economic crisis,” Jarrett said. Bettis was interested and subscribed to the Militant.

As more workers realize they are going through a crisis like no one living today has experienced, SWP members find real interest in discussing what can be done and learning more about the working-class struggles reported in the pages of the Militant. Many nod in agreement when campaigners say the crisis is not caused by the virus, but by capitalism.

Fund contributions pick up

Party members are winning contributions to the Militant Fighting Fund. Many campaign teams report workers handing $5, $10 and $20 saying, “I like what you are doing.” The increase in donations is also reflected in the thousands of dollars that have come in through online payments.

Every contribution, of whatever amount, strengthens the ability to get the Militant into the hands of working people. So far over $72,000 has been raised towards the $115,000 goal.

Earlier last week Kennedy and Jarrett joined congressional candidate David Ferguson to speak with working people at a trailer park near Breezewood, Pennsylvania.

Marcus Kufi, right, gets Militant and Red Zone book in Atlanta area Walmart parking lot.
Militant/Janice LynnMarcus Kufi, right, gets Militant and Red Zone book in Atlanta area Walmart parking lot.

“Two of the workers we met told us they had voted for Donald Trump and said they thought we wouldn’t want to talk to them,” Kennedy told the Militant. “I told them of course we wanted to talk to them. Working people have to be able to discuss, debate, exchange views to be able to find a way forward, regardless of who you voted for or if you didn’t vote or can’t vote.”

Disabled worker Gary Bussard told Kennedy and Ferguson that he opposed the government measures that have shut down much of the economy. “I’m against it, that’s our lifeblood,” Bussard said. “I’m against the government telling people what to do, don’t work, stay in your home.”

“Workers need to be at work,” Kennedy replied. “That’s the only way we can come together to learn how to fight the attacks of the bosses and their government.”

Bussard told them how his family lost their farm back in the ’90s when their cows got sick. “We asked the Federal Housing Administration and Farm Credit to defer our payments, but they wouldn’t do it,” he said.

“The wealthy capitalist farmers get government help, but that’s harder for working farmers,” Kennedy explained. “We demand an end to farm foreclosures.”

“Oh my gosh. Why didn’t you come around 25 years ago,” Bussard replied.

Lea Sherman, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate, spoke to fellow workers at a New Jersey store. Railroad worker Eric Thompson told Sherman about the worsening conditions working people face, including the closing of many hospitals in New York and New Jersey over the last couple decades.

Thompson said that when one of his co-workers was having trouble, his shop steward said, “Don’t worry about him, just worry about yourself.” Thompson said that’s not right, “we have to help each other out.”

Sherman said, “Working people have to unite to stand up to the bosses, we need solidarity.” SWP members join fights with their co-workers to counter the bosses’ attacks. Thompson looked at the book Tribunes of the People and the Trade Unions, which explains the need for fighting unions that defend the interests of all working people. He subscribed to the Militant and got the “three books to be read as one,” which includes Tribunes. (For these and other books on special during the drive see ad on page 7.)

‘Education’ fraud under capitalism

“Sometimes I don’t agree, or maybe don’t understand your ideas,” handyman Thomas O’Sullivan told Communist League campaigner Ogmundur Jonsson in Manchester, England. “But I thought it was important to know where you get them from.” He bought The Turn to Industry: Forging a Proletarian Party, renewed his Militant subscription and kicked in £4 ($5) for the Militant fund.

Alex Langford-Taylor told CL member Hugo Wils she liked the CL’s call for a public works program.

“The employers will use this crisis to make people redundant and make those who are left over cover the workload,” she said. “It happened to me once in a previous job.”

Langford-Taylor got the book Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Class, Privilege, and Learning Under Capitalism by Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes.

“I’ve thought a lot about this question,” she said. “Many of my friends with degrees can’t get jobs in the field they studied and now are trying to pay off massive student debt.”

“The book describes the fraud of ‘education’ under capitalism,” Wils explained, “and why it’s a rationalization for capitalist exploitation.” It explains that in coming struggles workers will begin to transform ourselves and our attitudes toward life, work and each other and how we’ll discover that the fight by the working class to take political power is both possible and necessary.