The Militant and books by Socialist Workers Party leaders and other revolutionaries are getting around among working people. Strikers on picket lines say they appreciate the paper’s accurate coverage of their struggles and the news it brings them of other labor battles. Readers of the paper have introduced the party to neighbors and friends they think would be interested. Workers behind bars show the paper to fellow prisoners and encourage them to subscribe. Many are also getting books and making contributions to the SWP Party-Building Fund.
With two weeks left in the international drive, members of the communist movement are organizing to surpass the goals of 1,300 subscriptions and an equal number of books, and to collect $130,000 for the Party-Building Fund.
“We’re starting to see the pendulum swing toward more union strength,” retired union carpenter Bill Dearing told Socialist Workers Party members Naomi Craine and Amy Husk when they joined the picket line in support of the Bakery Workers Union strike at the Kellogg’s plant in Battle Creek, Michigan, Nov. 4. “It’s important to show solidarity,” he said. “If people see others walking the line with the strikers, maybe they will step up and give more support.”
Dearing and several strikers were outraged when the SWP campaigners told them a judge had banned United Mine Workers strikers from picketing or even being within 300 yards of the entrances to Warrior Met Coal mines in Brookwood, Alabama. “That’s unconstitutional!” Dearing said.
Workers need our own party
The government represents the bosses. That’s why working people need to organize independently of it, Craine said. “We need to build a labor party, based on a fighting union movement, and break with both the Democratic and Republican parties.”
Dearing said he thinks Democrats are better than Republicans. But he liked what the SWP campaigners said about why workers need to rely on ourselves and our unions to fight bosses’ attacks. He and five strikers on the picket line subscribed to the Militant.
Craine and Husk met a couple of strikers who have been reading the paper since early in the bakery workers strike. One got a copy of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes, one of several books on special for the drive.
“I support [the strikers],” Wendi Taylor said when Craine and Husk knocked on her door in Battle Creek later in the day, part of building solidarity for the strike. “My dad worked for Kellogg’s. When they started going up to them when they’re about to punch out, and saying you have to stay another eight hours, that’s when he retired.”
Across the street an electrical worker subscribed. The members of his union local have refused to cross the picket line to do work in the plant.
Winning contributions to fund
SWP members Willie Cotton and Róger Calero met with Luisa Ortíz, a retired health care worker, member of Service Employees International Union Local 1199 and longtime reader of the Militant, in Brooklyn Nov. 7. They discussed everything from the need to build support for the growing number of strikes today, to what working people in Cuba are doing to defend their socialist revolution. Ortíz renewed her subscription and contributed $10 to the Party-Building Fund.
Then she took the SWP campaigners on a brief tour of her neighborhood, introducing them to small-store owners and workers. At a coffee shop one worker used his tip money to subscribe.
Getting back to workers who are already reading the paper is important for expanding the party’s reach. In addition, when they learn the Militant and the Socialist Workers Party are funded entirely by working people many want to contribute to the fund.
SWP members Candace Wagner and Tony Lane talked to a number of workers knocking on doors in Fairmont, West Virginia, Nov. 9. Workers in the town have been hard hit by the closure of the Mylan Pharmaceuticals plant in nearby Morgantown where over 1,500 were laid off earlier this year, including 850 members of the United Steelworkers union.
Becky Friend worked there for 13 years. She opposes forcing workers to get vaccines by government mandate. “Look at these nurses, they put their lives on the line during the pandemic. Now you are going to fire them for not getting the vaccine!” she said.
Lane described the response of the Cuban government to the pandemic. Some 90% of the population has had at least one shot, without government-enforced mandates, far higher than the percentage in the U.S. where the government has imposed them.
“Health care is a high priority and the Cuban people trust their government,” Lane said. Working people made a socialist revolution there in 1959, bringing to power a government of workers and farmers. Friend subscribed to the Militant and bought Teamster Rebellion and In Defense of the US Working Class.
“They’ve killed coal,” Jerry Harris, a retired member of the Steelworkers union, told the SWP campaigners. He said government regulations accelerated the closing of mines.
“The interests of the U.S. working class lie on the side of the 25% of humanity with no electricity, not stopping the use of fossil fuels with no replacement,” Lane said. “All forms of energy production are unsafe unless workers and our unions fight to take control of production out of the bosses’ hands.”
“Health care is more expensive here than in Cleveland where my daughter lives,” Harris said. “There should be one national price, not area by area. When you reach 65 health care should be free.”
“Health care is a big business,” Wagner pointed out. That will only change when workers and working farmers join together to take power out of the hands of the capitalist class like they did in Cuba.
“You know where the word ‘redneck’ comes from?” Kevin McIe, a union electrician, told Wagner. “The coal miners wore red bandanas to identify each other in the armed battle of Blair Mountain against the mine bosses.” He was referring to the thousands of miners who battled the police and strikebreakers in West Virginia, in 1921.
“We have to learn our history,” McIe said. “Some of my co-workers think that West Virginia fought with the South in the Civil War! We separated from Virginia to not secede from the Union with the slave owners.”
McIe subscribed to the Militant and bought the book Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Class, Privilege, and Learning Under Capitalism by Barnes. It takes apart the self-serving rationalizations by a layer of the middle class that think their schooling equips them to regulate the lives of working people. It also includes descriptions of working-class battles in previous decades, part of the hidden history McIe was referring to.
“Wages are low and costs keep going up,” welder David Marquez, an immigrant from Venezuela, told Chuck Guerra and Rachele Fruit in northwest Miami Nov. 8. “I realize this country is for the Americans, but conditions for us are very bad.”
“There is not one category of ‘Americans,’” Fruit said. “The United States, like the rest of the capitalist world, is class divided. It is organized for the benefit of the wealthy. The working class has everything in common with workers all over the world. Our class is using our unions and fighting to defend ourselves in a way we haven’t seen in decades.”
Marquez got a copy of the Militant and Are They Rich Because They’re Smart?
The day before, Fruit and Steve Warshell were in Lake Worth, Florida, an area where sugar cane, vegetables and fruit are grown. Tens of thousands of farmworkers live in nearby towns.
Several workers Fruit and Warshell met were interested in the Militant’s unique coverage of strike battles workers are organizing today. They sold three copies of Are They Rich Because They’re Smart?, one each in English, Spanish and French. A roofer and a landscaper subscribed to the Militant.
Help the international drives and the Party-Building Fund go over the top! To find the branch of the party nearest you see the directory. You can send a check or money order with your contribution directly to the Socialist Workers Party, 306 W. 37th Street, 13th Floor, New York, NY 10018. Earmark it for the Party-Building Fund.