ALBANY, N.Y. — Twenty-six people attended a special Militant Labor Forum here April 30 titled “A Proletarian Line Confronting Today’s World and the Necessity of Building the Socialist Workers Party.” Speakers included Alex Huinil, organizer of the SWP branch in Albany; Beverly Bernardo, a leader of the Communist League in Canada; and John Studer, a member of the SWP National Committee and editor of the Militant newspaper.
The meeting of members, supporters and contacts of the Socialist Workers Party took place in the midst of Vladimir Putin’s war against the Ukrainian people. Studer quoted from a statement issued by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes, “Ukrainians are fighting courageously, often arms in hand, to defend Ukraine’s national sovereignty and independence. The Socialist Workers Party hails their resistance and calls for the defeat of Putin’s invading forces.
“Moscow’s war has shaken the imperialist pecking order in the world,” Studer said. “The moves being organized today by Washington in Europe have nothing to do with helping working people in Ukraine fight for independence, but everything to do with advancing the position of the U.S. imperialist rulers as the leading economic and military power in the world against their competitors.
“What’s playing itself out in Ukraine came into focus during the Gulf War,” Studer explained. “That imperialist slaughter held a mirror to the declining capitalist world order and accelerated its contradictions. It sounded the opening guns of sharpening conflicts and class battles that will decide whether the horrors of World War III are inflicted on humanity or a road is opened by working people to a socialist future of international solidarity.
“The only way to do that is for the working class to break from the bosses’ parties, build our own party, a labor party, and take political power out of the hands of the capitalist rulers. That is why the SWP exists, to build a leadership capable of organizing working people in their millions to do exactly that.
“The Socialist Workers Party is always looking for openings to engage with the working class in struggle,” explained Studer. “That is how we build the party, as more workers gain an understanding of their own class interests and look for ways to fight.”
Steps to strengthen the SWP
“Today we want to strengthen the SWP in areas where we have opportunities to be involved in labor and political battles in defense of the working class, and where we can make gains as more workers are attracted to the party’s newspaper, the Militant, and the books we distribute that recount the history and lessons of working-class struggles and revolutionary battles over decades,” he said.
“The party is taking steps now to reinforce branches of the Socialist Workers Party in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Miami and Seattle,” Studer said. This is possible because party cadres in Albany have made themselves available to transfer to these cities, get jobs in union workplaces, and help to strengthen the forces the party already has in these cities, all important centers of working-class politics in the United States.
“This will increase the ability of party members in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., to work together,” he said, pointing to the upcoming opportunity to put an SWP candidate on the ballot in Philadelphia for the first time in years.
“This wasn’t the first time we have had a branch in Albany and it certainly won’t be the last,” Huinil said, noting that the class struggle determines when and where the party establishes new branches. He said tonight’s meeting was a celebration of the party-building activity members have carried out in the Albany region since 2017, strengthening the party cadre there for the new challenges ahead in the class struggle and party-building opportunities in other parts of the country.
Huinil spoke about the growing resistance by workers to boss assaults in this area that led to the party’s decision to build a branch here, “like the 2016-17 strike by 700 workers at Momentive Performance Materials in Waterford, and the lockout of Honeywell workers in Green Island.”
“The Albany branch also collaborated with the Communist League in Canada to reach out to labor and social struggles that were taking place on both sides of the border,” he said.
“Party members worked at Walmart, on the railroad and more recently at a union-organized bakery where we became part of struggles for better working conditions and safety,” Huinil said. “The party and the Militant are known in the region for our uncompromising stance in defense of workers and farmers.”
“Establishing the Militant Labor Forum series and campaign headquarters helped expand the reach of the party,” Huinil said. The party attracted a number of workers and union members from these activities.
Many of those at the meeting had recently met the party and became regular Militant Labor Forum participants. In the discussion period a number took the floor to express what it meant for them to get to know the party. They responded enthusiastically to the party reaching out to new opportunities and wanted to know how to keep in touch and be part of those activities.
“I want to be more involved,” said Julie Hahn, after inquiring about future events that the party will be involved in. Studer extended an invitation to attend Militant Labor Forums in New York City and encouraged those in Albany to put together campaign events for the SWP candidates.
Mike Fitzsimmons, a nurse at Albany Medical Center and one of the leaders of the successful fight to win recognition for the New York State Nurses Association there, thanked the party for joining solidarity activities with their fight. He described the impact on other nurses when Huinil brought a card signed by 20 of his co-workers from Walmart to the picket line. “That and other solidarity helped nurses see we were not alone, that others were standing up, like the nurses in Worcester and workers at Remington Arms,” Fitzsimmons said.
“Collaboration is crucial to maintaining an international communist movement,” said Bernardo. “Our many teams to workers in struggle and in rural areas helped strengthen the Communist League in Canada.
“We look forward to continuing this kind of work with SWP members in New York, New Jersey and other party branches,” she added.
A delicious Indian-themed dinner preceded the program, cooked in large part by supporters and contacts of the party throughout the Albany and New England region who attended the meeting. Many stayed for refreshments, desserts, and more political discussion following the program. A collection of $935 was taken to help make the Albany Militant Fighting Fund quota of $8,500.