Socialist Workers Party conference launches 2022 California campaign

By Betsey Stone
February 7, 2022
Ellie García (right), Socialist Workers Party 2022 candidate for U.S. Senate in California, meets copper miner Mike Sepulveda to discuss Steelworkers strike against Asarco in 2019.
Militant/Bernie SenterEllie García (right), Socialist Workers Party 2022 candidate for U.S. Senate in California, meets copper miner Mike Sepulveda to discuss Steelworkers strike against Asarco in 2019.

LOS ANGELES — Socialist Workers Party members in California met in a statewide convention here Jan. 23 and voted to run Eleanor García, a retired aerospace worker and party leader with long experience in working-class struggles, for U.S. Senate and Joel Britton, a longtime SWP campaigner, unionist, and member of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 125, for governor.

As part of the party’s bold national campaign in 2022, the candidates will present the need for the working class to fight today’s attacks by the bosses and their political parties, and to chart a course to take political power into our own hands.

“The capitalist rulers and their parties are in deep crisis today,” Norton Sandler, a leader of the Socialist Workers Party, said in the political report opening the convention. “There is no stable layer of either party that can speak and act confidently on behalf of the ruling class.

“All politics today by necessity reflects the society we live in, dominated by the capitalist rulers and their parties,” Sandler said. “Issues related to the crisis of imperialism and their parties will dominate the 2022 elections. We have to explain both the source of this crisis and the way forward for the working class.

“The root cause of the crisis is the worldwide stagnation of production and trade, alongside soaring prices,” Sandler said. “With competition intensifying between U.S. capitalists and their rivals, they respond by protecting their own markets and profits, attacking workers’ wages and conditions of work and life.”

Every political question gets factionalized, from the response to COVID, to education, science, and culture, all to the great detriment of the working class. Having no solutions to this deepening crisis, the leaders of the Democrats and Republicans turn to factionalism against each other and to divisions within their own ranks. This includes efforts to criminalize their rivals, said Sandler.

“When they tar each other as criminals, whether it’s Trump pointing at Hillary Clinton and chanting “Lock her up” or the Democrats’ relentless efforts — going on for six years — to impeach or jail Trump, his associates and family, they open the way for criminalizing working-class parties like the SWP. It’s dangerous,” said Sandler.

“Both of the rulers’ parties are wracked with divisions that threaten to shatter the two-party system the bosses have used for decades to ensnare working people,” he said. “The whole picture means the rulers face a future with no stable order.”

Workers need our own party

“We explain the way forward is for working people to organize ourselves, independent of the capitalists and their parties,” Sandler said. “Strengthening the unions, and getting on a course to build a labor party that can challenge the rule of the capitalists.”

Convention delegates drew attention to the growing numbers of young workers who are living at home, unable to afford starting families of their own and looking forward to a secure future. This reality helps explain the recent strikes that focused on the need for higher wages, cost-of-living clauses to blunt the effects of inflation, an end to two-tier divisions, better health care and more livable work schedules.

SWP campaigners will raise the need for a government-funded public works program to provide jobs at union-scale wages to build affordable housing, child care centers, hospitals and other things needed for working-class families to survive. And to fight for workers control of production, to defend themselves and those who live nearby, and to assure products are made that are safe and really meet the needs of working people.

“Given economic stagnation today there is no reason to assume a strike wave is imminent,” Sandler said. “For that there has to be hiring and an upturn. But the strikes that do occur set an example.”

Marlena Pellegrino, a nurse who helped lead successful 10-month strike against St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, speaks at expanded picket line Sept. 25. The strike “was not about us, it was about all the fights” of the labor movement, she said as the strike ended.
Militant/Laura AndersonMarlena Pellegrino, a nurse who helped lead successful 10-month strike against St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, speaks at expanded picket line Sept. 25. The strike “was not about us, it was about all the fights” of the labor movement, she said as the strike ended.

The day before the conference, Britton and other party members joined the picket line of workers on strike at the Jon Donaire Desserts factory in Santa Fe Springs. “The workers greeted us warmly,” Sandler said. “The Militant is appreciated by these and other workers who go out on strike. In many cases, it’s the only place workers can learn about these battles.”

Eleanor García noted the importance of the victory by nurses at St. Vincent Hospital after a 10-month strike in Worcester, Massachusetts. She described how nurse Marlena Pellegrino told the Militant the strikers grew in character and fortitude in the long battle.

Delegates took up the increase in homelessness, the mental health crisis and the growth in the number of suicides today, all reflections of the economic and social crisis of capitalism that will not begin to be resolved without a mobilization of the working class to end the rule of the bosses and their dog-eat-dog profit-driven system.

Socialist revolution

“What is the program of the Socialist Workers Party? It’s socialist revolution,” national SWP campaign chair John Studer said in the discussion. “Everything we do today is to convince vanguard workers that they should join in advancing that course.”

Studer was the featured speaker at a public forum the night before the convention. He served as a fraternal delegate, along with party leaders from Texas, Minnesota, Washington state and New Mexico.

Studer said the working class needs its own foreign policy, independent of the capitalists, who defend their interests at the expense of workers here and abroad, up to and including its wars abroad.

“While the Socialist Workers Party backs the right of Ukraine to be independent from domination by Moscow, we make clear that U.S. imperialism is also responsible for the crisis there,” he said.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. rulers thought they had won the Cold War and could act with impunity in the world. They were sorely mistaken. They and their NATO allies moved missiles, troops and weaponry throughout Eastern Europe, aimed at Russia, said Studer, helping advance the instability and threat of conflict.

Though U.S. imperialism remains the world’s strongest military and economic power, their mistaken judgment led to the failure of their wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, making them weaker.

“The agitation of the Democrats over their so-called voting rights bill is a sham. Their sole aim is to use their majority in Congress to federalize the control of elections — a blow to constitutional rights — to give themselves a leg up in the elections,” he said. “It would take a massive counterrevolution against the working class to reimpose Jim Crow today.”

While shouting about preserving “democracy,” the Democrats do everything they can to keep the Socialist Workers Party or other new parties off the ballot. The Republicans do the same to parties they think might take votes from them.

In Democratic Party-dominated California, the election law makes it more and more difficult for working people to run for office. There are high filing fees — it will take the SWP $3,480 to run for Senate, and they’re barred from listing their party name. Only the two candidates who get the most votes in the June primary can be on the ballot in the general election, all the others are eliminated and can’t even get their votes counted as write-ins.

Joel Britton told forum-goers that Jake Eshom, a Sacramento retail worker who found out about the party from the voters’ guide in the last California election, was the first to contribute to the 2022 SWP campaign.

Gabrielle Prosser, the SWP’s candidate for governor in Minnesota, also spoke. She explained that she is advancing her fluency in Spanish, part of preparing to participate in the Havana International Book Fair, where she will discuss the U.S. class struggle with workers in Cuba and bring the lessons of Cuba’s socialist revolution and its Marxist leadership back to workers here.

A literature table at the meeting featured the new Pathfinder book, Labor, Nature, and the Evolution of Humanity that will be presented at the book fair along with The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation by Abram Leon.

García, who chaired the forum, called attention to the crisis of small farmers and ranchers who are being driven out of business in California. “The SWP’s campaigners will be discussing with workers and family farmers what they are facing and what can be done.”

García read from a message to the meeting from Vincent Auger, who, along with supporters of the Socialist Workers Party in Denver, recently joined strike picket lines that made gains against King Soopers grocery bosses.

“I think it is crucial that a vanguard party like the Socialist Workers Party is able to connect with workers; that it provides a campaign program,” he wrote to the meeting. “I look forward to campaigning with the party!”

The SWP conference voted to raise the money and collect the required signatures to put García on the ballot. Anyone who wants to volunteer to help should contact the SWP in Los Angeles and Oakland.

Enthusiastic participants in the forum donated over $5,000 toward García’s filing fee and to help get the Socialist Workers Party campaign up and running.