SWP debates constitutional rights at Florida Forum

By Rachele Fruit
March 6, 2023

Steve Warshell, who was the Socialist Workers Party 2022 candidate for U.S. Senate from Florida, spoke before the Deerfield Progressive Forum Feb. 18 about the worsening crisis of the capitalist economy, of politics, of morality, of education, of family and of daily life. “None of these questions can be separated from the other,” he said. “To solve them we need the democratic right to discuss and to act.”

The forum, a weekly discussion in South Florida since 1978, was held virtually this year, this one titled “The Need to Defend Constitutional Rights Today.” Some 25 people participated.

“Just two days ago, officials of the Norfolk Southern Railroad, the company responsible for the derailment and disaster now facing people in Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, decided to refuse the demands of the people of East Palestine, Ohio, to attend a town meeting,” Warshell said. “They want to know exactly what chemicals were in the railroad tank cars that split open and what are the dangers that people face from exposure to them.

“This disaster shows exactly the dangerous conditions the railroad unions were fighting against in their last contract, as well as how the bosses and their government factor in calamities like this into their profit-and-loss balance sheets,” he said.

“It was a foregone conclusion that both the right and left wings of both capitalist parties would come together in November to pass legislation banning the rail workers’ right to strike and to impose a ball-and-chain contract on them.”

During the discussion, Harold Forester, joining in from Quebec, described the 2013 rail disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in which 47 people were killed. “What has been done since then to improve those conditions?” he asked.

Forester also said that he was dubious about the need for a labor party. “Here in Canada when the New Democratic Party became dominant, they jacked up the wages of the public sector way beyond what other workers got. I’m reluctant to give the unions more authority.”

“A labor party will come out of the renewed struggles by workers today,” Warshell said, “and will have to fight in the interests of our entire class.”

“The Democratic and Republican parties are both driven by money and power,” said Barbara Drake. “Why are there no viable options?”

Warshell said that it is in the interests of the government and both capitalist political parties to keep working-class alternatives off the ballot.

Andrea Baron asked, “Why do you say that abortion is not a constitutional right?”

“Because it’s not in the U.S. Constitution,” Warshell said. “Whether or not to have an abortion is a medical decision that should be in the hands of the woman without veto or interference from anyone. It should be completely decriminalized. And women need contraception that is safe and affordable.

“At issue with abortion is a potential human life. It’s a fallback, something needed when other things fail,” he said.

“Contrary to it being a right to be ‘enshrined in law,’ as some people advocate, we need to fight to make abortion rarer by changing the social conditions that have led to its widespread use.

“The Cuban Revolution is an example worth serious study,” he pointed out. “It shows how progress toward the full emancipation of women requires ending the rule of the capitalists.”

“Could you explain again why the investigations against Donald Trump can be seen as an attack on the working class?” asked Gilda Brodsky, who had introduced Warshell.

“From politics to the economy, abortion and the emancipation of women, immigration, anti-Catholic bigotry and antisemitism, you see how the question of democratic rights intersects with the class struggle,” Warshell responded.

“We should remember that the warrant used to execute the raid at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home cited the Espionage Act, passed with bipartisan support in 1917 and used to frame up and jail Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs for his opposition to the U.S. rulers’ imperialist aims in the First World War and his support for the Russian Revolution.

“Regardless of who the target is today,” Warshell said, “the ultimate target is the labor movement and opponents of capitalist rule.”

The entire event will be posted on YouTube.