Socialist Workers Party gets a response at L.A. book fair

By Deborah Liatos
May 8, 2023
Visitors to Pathfinder booth at Festival of Books in Los Angeles April 22-23 bought 235 books, 86 Militant subscriptions. Laura Garza, left, talks with Sam Frank, right, and Evelyn Holman.
Militant/Deborah LiatosVisitors to Pathfinder booth at Festival of Books in Los Angeles April 22-23 bought 235 books, 86 Militant subscriptions. Laura Garza, left, talks with Sam Frank, right, and Evelyn Holman.

LOS ANGELES — Hundreds poured up to the Pathfinder booth at the April 22-23 Festival of Books held on the University of Southern California campus here. Participants had a hunger to discuss, debate and find a road forward in the midst of the deepening world capitalist economic, social and moral crisis affecting their lives. 

The rail disaster in East Palestine, Ohio; recent strikes in this area by school workers and graduate student assistants; growing conflicts between the rulers in U.S. and China; and Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine were among the topics on many people’s minds. Some said they look for the Pathfinder booth here every year, but for most it was the first time they met the Socialist Workers Party, Pathfinder titles written by SWP leaders, and the Militant.

“It’s incredibly important that we get these materials because it’s only through education that we can achieve progress. And you guys are on the ground, taking the right approach,” Abigail Prichard, a 19-year-old USC student majoring in philosophy, told the Militant. “This is what we need on a greater scale.” 

Prichard said she wanted to join party members in their activities and, after a long stay talking to volunteers at the booth, purchased a subscription to the Militant and got The Low Point of Labor Resistance Is Behind Us: The Socialist Workers Party Looks Forward by SWP leaders Jack Barnes, Mary-Alice Waters and Steve Clark; Labor, Nature, and the Evolution of Humanity; America’s Road to Socialism; Polemics in Marxist Philosophy; and Frederick Engels’ Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State.

Tomás Chávez, a member of Teamsters Local 63 at the UPS depot in Riverside, spoke at length with volunteers Leslie Dork and rail worker Laura Garza about conditions at the depot, the recent contract the Joseph Biden administration imposed on rail workers, and the just-opened contract fight at UPS. 

“What happened during our last contract angered part-timers,” Chávez said. “The company raised their wages during COVID, then took it away. There are more deaths on the job and heat-stroke related issues. Two people on the ramp at the Ontario airport were crushed in the last couple of years.”

“There are more deaths on the railroad too,” said Garza. “After the train derailment in East Palestine we see working people in the community and rail workers give aid to one another and find ways to work together to demand safety and to get more resources out of Norfolk Southern and the government to fund the cleanup.”

Chávez bought the four-part Teamsters book series by Farrell Dobbs on the building and battles of the Teamsters in Minneapolis in the 1930s, The Low Point of Labor Resistance Is Behind Us and a subscription to the Militant.

Sam Frank and Evelyn Holman, students from University of California at Riverside, spoke to Garza and Dork about the Ohio rail disaster. “The railroads can make more profit if there is no cleanup,” Holman said. 

“My grandpa worked a railroad job in Indiana until he retired,” said Frank. “When he started no one was allowed to wear hearing protection because they said you had to hear the trains coming. He started losing his hearing, but the company refused to get him hearing aids until they said it was necessary for a job he was doing,” she said.

Interest in world politics

They picked up the leaflet for an upcoming Los Angeles Militant Labor Forum, “Conflict Between U.S. and China Rulers Deepens.” 

“I’ve got family from Taiwan. It’s the ruling class in China vs. the ruling class in the U.S.,” Frank said. “I have more in common with workers in China than the government here.”

“I see in leftist spheres online people calling those who are fighting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ‘fascist.’ This is not the case,” Holman said. “I have a friend from Ukraine who also says they’re wrong.”

Dork responded, “Workers in the U.S. should champion the fight of the Ukrainian people against Moscow’s invasion. We should also demand U.S. troops out of Europe.”

Frank got The Low Point of Labor Resistance Is Behind Us; Fascism: What It Is and How to Fight It by Leon Trotsky; America’s Railroads; and a subscription to the Militant. Holman got Woman’s Evolution and a subscription.

Yousef Abu-Gaza, a student at USC, was born in the Gaza Strip and came here as a child. He is part of the Graduate Students Organizing Committee at the university. They voted by 93% a month ago for the union.

“We do the bulk of the work for the university — grade, teach, organize office hours, guidance counselors,” he said.

Barbara Bowman explained the SWP’s position on the necessity for the recognition of Israel’s right to exist, and for any Jew that feels threatened having the right to go there to live and work in a world where there are rising antisemitic attacks. At the same time, she said, the party calls for the Palestinians to have their own contiguous state. 

Following the discussion Abu-Gaza got copies of The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation; The Communist Manifesto; and Marx and Engels on the Paris Commune.

Over the two days 235 books were sold, along with 86 subscriptions to the Militant. Top sellers were The Low Point of Labor Resistance Is Behind Us, selling out all 29 copies that were brought; 18 copies of Labor, Nature, and the Evolution of Humanity; 11 of Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? and nine copies each of The Communist Manifesto and The Jewish Question.

This response was one confirmation of The Low Point of Labor Resistance Is Behind Us.

Norton Sandler contributed to this article.