SWP campaign draws lessons from past class struggle battles

By Roy Landersen
September 6, 2021
Dennis Richter, right, SWP candidate for governor of California, talks to Noble Kaus at San Leandro Walmart store Aug. 22. Richter urged Kaus, who works at a union-organized chocolate factory, to join in bringing solidarity to workers facing lockouts and strikes today.
Militant/Josefina OteroDennis Richter, right, SWP candidate for governor of California, talks to Noble Kaus at San Leandro Walmart store Aug. 22. Richter urged Kaus, who works at a union-organized chocolate factory, to join in bringing solidarity to workers facing lockouts and strikes today.

“This is a book about the dictatorship of capital and the road to the dictatorship of the proletariat,” Jacquie Henderson read to retired health care worker Rose Skarski from a copy of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power at her door in La Grange, northeast of Louisville, Kentucky, Aug. 20. Henderson and fellow Socialist Workers Party campaigner Samir Hazboun were introducing the SWP and the Militant to working people in the area.

Henderson explained that the book by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes shows “what we can learn from struggles during the Civil War and Radical Reconstruction to today, helping us gain confidence to build the leadership needed to organize millions to take power into our own hands.” Reconstruction regimes were set up in Mississippi, South Carolina and elsewhere as part of the fight to prevent former slave owners from restoring virtual slave labor conditions after the Civil War.

“They never taught us anything about Reconstruction in school,” said Skarski. “And certainly not anything about these governments.” They adopted universal male suffrage, established the first free public schools and hospitals, eliminated whipping and expanded grounds on which women could get a divorce. They were deeply popular among working people of all skin colors.

Growing up in Chicago, “I was always aware that something was terribly wrong,” Skarski said. “The fight against segregation didn’t just change the South. Black students in my school had a separate entrance and had to study downstairs in the boiler room. No one talked about it. But the civil rights movement changed all that, too.”

“I want to help what you’re doing. I’m going to start by getting the library to order that book,” she told Henderson and Hazboun as she subscribed to the Militant.

Bosses push workers to do more

“Sometimes they make us work through our lunch break,” warehouse worker Milagro Negron told SWP members Dan Fein and Leroy Watson when they knocked on her door in Bellwood, a suburb of Chicago. “We often work more than our scheduled eight hours — at straight time. They don’t hire enough workers to unload the trucks and stock. All for just $13 an hour. My co-workers and I have discussed the idea of a strike.”

“Sounds like where Leroy and I work at Walmart,” Fein responded. “The bosses everywhere are pushing us to do more work with fewer workers. There are millions more unemployed today compared with before the pandemic. ”

“Only by the working class taking political power out of the hands of the capitalists, can we put an end to this system of exploitation. The SWP aims to lead such a revolution.”

“I’m on board with that!” Negron responded. She got a copy of In Defense of the U.S. Working Class by Mary-Alice Waters for herself and her grandson.

Workers need our own party

Dennis Richter, the Socialist Workers Party’s candidate for governor in California’s recall election, was the featured speaker at a campaign forum in Oakland Aug. 21. The meeting kicked off five days of campaigning in the northern part of the state that included campaign supporters from Seattle, Los Angeles and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Joel Britton, SWP candidate for State Assembly, opened the meeting with news that the strike of Nabisco workers in Portland, Oregon, has spread to other cities. “We will be with Nabisco workers on their picket lines, building solidarity as part of the pressing task of rebuilding and strengthening unions,” Richter said.

“In order to contend with the capitalists, workers need our own party, a labor party, with a program aimed at taking power away from those responsible for the disastrous conditions workers confront today,” he said.

“This is the opposite of what the Democratic Party supporters of Gov. Newsom and those seeking to replace him are doing in this election,” Richter continued. “They are using the recall to channel workers angry at the system away from working class action and into supporting the capitalist parties.”

Richter described the results in Wisconsin in 2011 when union officials turned weekly protests in Madison by tens of thousands against anti-union laws into an electoral effort to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The end result of this class-collaborationist course was that membership in the state’s public employees unions fell by nearly 65% between 2011 and 2019. Richter urged those present to read the introduction to Tribunes of the People and the Trade Unions by Jack Barnes. It describes how the SWP responded to what took place by turning toward working people across the state to discuss what can be done to resist the bosses’ offensive and the need to organize and mobilize the power of the working class independent of the two big-business parties.

“We don’t take a position on these recalls,” Richter said. “We say don’t check the box either for or against the recall of Newsom because either way you are voting for a capitalist politician to win. Register your vote for the Socialist Workers Party, a working-class alternative.”

Richter contrasted the party’s position to the course advocated by socialists in the Democratic Party. “They act in the framework of bourgeois electoral politics, trying to use the capitalist state to make reforms. They have the illusion that having a recall within the capitalist electoral system will somehow make things more democratic. It won’t.”

When capitalist rule is threatened “in periods of economic and political crisis,” Richter said, “the rulers unleash the fascists against the workers’ movement as they did in Germany.”

Richter described how the union movement in Minneapolis effectively repelled the fascist goons in the late 1930s by organizing mass protests and a workers’ defense guard.

“In a deep crisis the question is posed, either socialist revolution or fascism,” Richter said. “These are the stakes in building the Socialist Workers Party, a party that can act decisively to lead working people in their millions to take the power into their own hands.”

The next day SWP campaigners went door-to-door in a working-class neighborhood in San Leandro.

One of those they met was Eddie Hernandez, a Navy veteran and retiree who told Britton about his encounter with the medical system after suffering a stroke. His friends called an ambulance, but he said he screamed at them not to take him because of the cost. “Sure enough,” Hernandez   said, “when the bill came for the 4.2-mile trip, it was for $2,500.”

“Medical care should not be a commodity,” Britton said. “Look at what working people in Cuba have won by making a socialist revolution. This made it possible for them to organize medical care as a right, not something for profit.”

Hernandez said he was concerned about growing homelessness, unemployment and rising prices. “To fight to change these things we need to build a working-class leadership like they did in Cuba,” Britton said. “We need to build the Socialist Workers Party.” Hernandez subscribed to the Militant.

Unions should fight for vaccinations

“My husband and I have been playing catch-up, trying to keep up with bills, the rent, and to have enough to buy food,” Veronica Daniel told Rachele Fruit, SWP candidate for mayor of Atlanta, on her doorstep in East Point, Georgia. She explained her husband had been laid off from his job and she had to leave her job to care for her mother.

“A lot of workers have been laid off and what about the people who are going to be put out of their apartments in the next months?” she added.

“The profit system we live under needs to be ended,” Fruit said. “We are building a party that can lead workers in our millions to take power and run the government for human needs. It starts with building solidarity wherever working people are fighting the bosses and their government.” She pointed to the strike of miners at Warrior Met Coal in Alabama.

“I don’t understand why people are afraid of getting vaccinated,” Daniel added. “We all took our shots.”

“We say our unions should be leading a fight to get workers vaccinated so we can organize together to fight to change our conditions,” Fruit said.

“You say you’re running for mayor. I would vote for you,” Daniel said. “Most important,” Fruit said, “is to join with us in building a movement to change this system we live under.” Daniel got a copy of the Militant newspaper.

To find out more or to join the SWP or Communist League campaigns, contact the party branch nearest you in the directory.