April 5, 2021

A life building the SWP

Greg Preston, a longtime supporter of the Socialist Workers Party who lived in Huntersville, North Carolina, died Feb. 18, a few days after suffering a heart attack. He had just turned 73.

Preston, born in Lincoln, Nebraska, was drafted in 1967 and joined the Air Force. By the time he left four years later his experiences had shaken up his beliefs.

In 1974 he moved to Seattle and got a job at Boeing, where he met Socialist Workers Party members. He started reading the Militant and decided to join the communist movement. A few years later Preston moved to Dallas to help build the new party branch there. In 1983 he was the SWP candidate for Dallas mayor and fought, with union backing, for his right to distribute socialist campaign literature to co-workers on the job. He took assignments helping to build party branches around the country, including in St. Louis, Baltimore, and Omaha, Nebraska.

Later he went to New York City to help work on the Pathfinder Mural. From 1987 to 1989 some 80 artists, including Preston, from 20 countries painted a huge mural that covered the south wall of the building where Pathfinder books and the Militant were printed.

The mural depicted a large printing press turning out literature surrounded by images of revolutionary fighters and historical working-class battles. Among other portraits, Preston helped paint the young “breaker boys” across the bottom of the mural who used to work in U.S. coal mines until workers’ struggles finally forced an end to child labor.

In the mid-90s he moved to North Carolina and became a supporter of the party and a member of the Print Project, which helps produce Pathfinder books. He remained a contributor to the party and often opened his home for social events to help raise money for the SWP.

Last fall, Preston decided to raise his monthly contribution to the party. He was inspired, he said, by the SWP’s response to the pandemic — not to shut down and “go virtual,” as so many other organizations did, but to continue campaigning as widely as possible among working people with the Militant and Pathfinder books and bringing solidarity to any resistance by the toilers to this inhuman, crisis-ridden capitalist system.

Susan LaMont
Atlanta, Georgia