PHILADELPHIA — The three-week effort to win ballot status for Chris Hoeppner, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Congress from Pennsylvania’s 3rd Congressional District, got off to a strong start here July 9-10. Through discussions door to door and at shopping centers, campaigners introduced the party’s program to hundreds of working people. As of July 12 campaigners had gathered 1,039 signatures toward their goal of 2,000, twice the number required.
This response shows the growing openness of workers to learn more about what the SWP stands for, as well as interest in getting the Militant and books on working-class struggles to further their knowledge. As of July 12, 31 Militant subscriptions have been sold and 29 books by SWP leaders and other working-class fighters.
“It’s been decades since we’ve been able to be on the ballot in Pennsylvania because of the restrictive laws put in place by the two capitalist parties,” Hoeppner told participants at a July 9 forum here kicking off the July 9-31 campaigning effort.
Also running on the SWP slate in Pennsylvania are Candace Wagner for governor and Osborne Hart for U.S. Senate.
Hart and Lea Sherman, an SWP candidate for Congress from New Jersey, met Darnell Brown, a contract worker for Verizon, while they campaigned at a grocery store. Brown said most Verizon workers are in the Communications Workers of America but like other contract workers he isn’t.
“Bosses are always looking for ways to try and divide us,” Hart said. “Workers need to fight to organize unions.”
Brown told the SWP candidates he was concerned about the devastating impact of Moscow’s war in Ukraine. “Wars are bred by the workings of the capitalist system,” Hart said. “The working class needs its own foreign policy.” The SWP defends Ukraine’s independence, calls for the defeat of Moscow’s invasion and opposes U.S. sanctions on Russia, which fall hardest on working people. Brown signed the petition to place Hoeppner on the ballot and purchased a subscription to the Militant.
“Hit hardest by inflation are senior citizens who are on limited income,” Debra Beckey, a retired nurse, told Hart the same day. “We’re not going to get proper nutrition, our prescriptions.”
“We need to fight for cost-of-living adjustments,” Hart said. “As prices go up, our wages, Social Security, retirement and other income must increase to match. We have to act independently of both the Democrats and Republicans, the parties of big business. We need our own party, a labor party, to act in our own interests.” Beckey wasn’t able to sign the petition because she lives in another district, but she got a Militant subscription.
‘Class politics, not ideology’
“Socialist Workers Party members find great interest in discussing not ‘what’s wrong’ — workers know all too well what’s wrong. We discuss what can be done about what’s wrong,” John Studer, SWP national campaign director, told those at the campaign forum.
He described openings for workers to use their unions to build support for striking workers, like miners at Warrior Met Coal in Alabama who are fighting attacks on living standards and conditions similar to those faced by millions in the U.S. and around the world.
“What is the working-class road forward on whatever problems we face? That’s the SWP’s starting point,” Studer said. “In contrast, capitalist politicians say the big divide is not between classes, but between ‘liberal vs. conservative,’ or ‘left vs. right.’
“The SWP doesn’t predict what lies ahead for the capitalist economy,” he said. “But we do have a program. For example, we call for 30 hours work for 40 hours pay to spread the available work around. Whether we win this fight depends on how strong the working class is.
“What we need is to have our eyes on the need to take political power out of the hands of the capitalist class,” he said, “and form our own government, a workers and farmers government.”
Also speaking at the meeting was Sara Lobman, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate from New York. She described the interest in the party at a protest she attended in New York City following the overturn of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court last month. The fight against women’s oppression is “a central question for the working class,” Lobman said, one that starts from defending workers and our families from the growing hardship imposed on us by the capitalist crisis.
‘Militant’ renewal drive
As part of expanding support for the SWP, party members are involved in a five-week international effort June 25-Aug. 2 to win 300 of those who subscribed to the Militant this spring to become long-term readers of the paper. The drive includes selling 300 books on lessons of working-class revolutionary struggles to subscribers.
In Sunnyside, Washington, SWP member Jacob Perasso met with José Martínez, a reader of the paper from five years back. Martínez has worked in a mushroom packing plant for two years and is part of a committee demanding improved conditions and organizing workers there into the United Farm Workers union.
“We do meetings in different places, including in workers’ homes,” he told Perasso. “We tell them, ‘if you’re alone, they can pick you off. But if there’s 10, 20 of us, it’s harder.’”
Martínez renewed his Militant subscription and got the Spanish edition of Teamster Rebellion by Farrell Dobbs, an SWP leader who helped lead the strikes and organizing drives in the Midwest that brought hundreds of thousands of drivers into the Teamsters union. He also got the Spanish edition of Women and Revolution: The Living Example of the Cuban Revolution.
“I enjoy being active in the fight for workers’ rights and marching for what we deserve, a better life,” Alicia Hernandez told SWP members Laura Anderson and Chuck Guerra in Miami when they went to visit her in her home. Hernandez, a mother of four children, works cleaning houses. She first met the SWP at the May Day immigrants rights action where she subscribed to the Militant.
“They say vote, but there is no one to vote for to change what we face,” she told Anderson and Guerra. “The government does not want us to have an imagination, or think about what is possible.” She was very interested in learning more about the SWP campaign of Rachele Fruit for Florida governor. Hernandez renewed her subscription and purchased the Spanish edition of Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Class, Privilege, and Learning Under Capitalism by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes.
“I like the Militant because it tells it like it is about what’s going on here in the U.S. and abroad, and that’s good for anyone with an open mind,” Tammie Madden told SWP members Marklyn Wilson and Lisa Potash, her former co-workers, as they sat down for lunch in Atlanta June 28. Madden is a member of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union.
“We discussed the stakes for the working class in winning solidarity for Ukraine’s sovereignty, and the need to defend our families and women’s rights in face of the capitalist crisis,” said Potash, the party’s candidate for U.S. Senate.
Madden renewed her subscription and purchased three books to learn more about the party’s working-class course.
Sales to rail workers
In Minneapolis July 7, SWP members held up a large sign saying, “Rail workers fight for contract and the right to strike! Read the Militant,” as they campaigned at a shift change at the BNSF maintenance base.
A dispatcher who got a paper, said, “I am not in the union, but I support you guys.” A number of workers gave the thumbs up as they drove out of the plant. Five copies of the paper were sold. To join the Militant renewal campaign and the effort to get the SWP on the ballot in Pennsylvania, contact the nearest SWP branch.
Janet Post contributed to this article.