PLACERVILLE, Calif. — Dennis Richter, Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor of California, and SWP campaigners visited towns in the north of the state hit by wildfires Aug. 23. Since it began in July, the Dixie Fire has laid waste to nearly 900,000 acres, destroyed 1,200 buildings and wiped out the town of Greenville.
Campaign supporters knocked on doors and distributed a statement pointing to the culpability of Pacific Gas & Electric and the capitalist profit system for the devastating toll of this and other fires.
“We need to organize, strengthen our trade unions, and fight to nationalize PG&E and Southern California Edison under workers control,” Richter told Militant subscriber Julie Whited when they met over coffee in Chico.
Whited lost everything in the Camp Fire in 2018, the deadliest fire in California history and one of many PG&E admits it caused. She is working with a lawyer to get compensation, but has yet to receive anything.
The air in Placerville, a town of 10,000, is filled with smoke from the nearby Caldor Fire that has burned over 214,000 acres and threatens towns around Lake Tahoe.
“The working class has the power to make a revolution and replace the rule of the rich,” SWP campaigner Leslie Dork told Kevin Haines, an assistant nurse who talked with Dork and campaigner Eric Simpson at his home.
Haines said the evacuation of co-workers has increased the workload on remaining hospital staff. “The pandemic has revealed the problems with the for-profit system of ‘health care’ in this country,” said Dork, who is also a nurse. “Nurses using their unions to fight for increased staffing elsewhere in the country should be supported.”
Conditions facing farmworkers
Richter and supporters campaigned in Salinas, a town in the agricultural valley south of San Francisco Aug. 24. When he knocked on the door of Socorro Arreola, she responded with a big smile. Arreola said she is a retired farmworker and still gets called by farmworkers with problems fighting the conditions they face, including workers forced to labor 12 hours with only one break.
“Those of us who work in the cities are treated the same,” Richter said. “Workers everywhere need to organize to defend ourselves.”
“Amnesty is what we need!” Arreola responded.
“Yes,” said Richter, “Amnesty for all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. is needed to unite the working-class movement and to cut across divisions the bosses use. It would put us in a stronger position to fight together with small farmers for a workers and farmers government.”
Arreola told him she had been to Cuba where she witnessed the shortages caused by Washington’s economic embargo. “My party supports Cuba’s socialist revolution,” Richter said, “and opposes the economic and political war being waged against Cuba.”
After more discussion Arreola subscribed to the Militant and got the Spanish edition of In Defense of the US Working Class by SWP leader Mary-Alice Waters.
On Aug. 25 Richter and campaign supporters talked with oil refinery workers, members of the United Steelworkers, at the gate of the Martinez Refining Company. They explained that more solidarity is needed to be organized with the locked-out refinery workers, members of the Steelworkers union in Beaumont, Texas, and striking coal miners in Alabama. A dozen workers got issues of the Militant, often pitching in a few extra dollars.
Mary Martin reports that the SWP in the Twin Cities took another step in reaching working people in Minnesota with the opening of a new campaign headquarters in Minneapolis Aug. 28.
SWP opens new hall in Minnesota
Party members and supporters from Chicago joined a weekend of campaign activities and attended the first campaign forum at the new hall, featuring SWP candidates Doug Nelson for mayor and David Rosenfeld for City Council, Ward 12.
Dennis Cherry Sr. was one of several people in the workers’ district near the hall who had helped get the SWP candidates on the ballot. When Rosenfeld and Martin returned to visit him, Cherry congratulated the party on getting its new hall. Rosenfeld explained workers needed to develop habits of solidarity and to back each other’s struggles against our common enemy, the ruling capitalist class.
Cherry, who is African American, recalled that when he was growing up in the 1960s there was more unity of purpose among African Americans but today he sees destruction and preying on each other from within the Black community all too often.
“How will we overcome this?” he asked. Rosenfeld pointed to Malcolm X’s insistence that to be effective and disciplined fighters, workers need to clean themselves up. Malcolm had to reject and put behind him his life as a petty street criminal before becoming a revolutionary. He said he was not trying to wake people up to their oppression but to their self-worth and fighting capacities.
“My campaign calls for a break from what is presented as ‘politics.’ I will be organizing solidarity with the struggles of working people that are going on, not only in this city, but across the country. That’s where real change can take place,” Sam Manuel, SWP candidate for Atlanta City Council president, told an audience at a Sept. 1 candidates’ debate sponsored by the Department of Political Science at Clark Atlanta University.
Manuel said he joined a rally at the picket line of Nabisco strikers in Norcross, Georgia, Aug. 30 and would be walking with picketing coal miners in Brookwood, Alabama, Sept. 3-4.
Asked how he would address the gap in wages and wealth between Blacks and Caucasians, Manuel explained how the Black-led working-class civil rights movement showed people were transformed in struggle as they fought to change the system. “Those victories were won in the streets before President Johnson, or any other politician, signed some legislation ‘giving us’ these rights.”
He was also asked about the incompetence and failures of city government.
“The crisis we face, whether it’s clean water or garbage collection or housing, is a crisis of a social system we live under that defends the interests and profits of the wealthy class,” Manuel said. He pointed to what workers and farmers in Cuba accomplished after they made a socialist revolution, and began exerting increasing control over all aspects of their lives.
Two students picked up subscriptions to the Militant and one got a copy of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power by Jack Barnes, SWP national secretary.
To find out more or to join the SWP or Communist League campaigning, contact the party branch nearest you in the directory.