‘A road forward to raise workers’ confidence in our own capacities’

By Terry Evans
and Steve Clark
July 10, 2023
Laura Garza, Socialist Workers Party 2024 candidate for U.S. Senate from California, speaks at closing panel.
Militant/Arthur HughesLaura Garza, Socialist Workers Party 2024 candidate for U.S. Senate from California, speaks at closing panel.

OBERLIN, Ohio — The political report by Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes adopted by the June 12 expanded leadership meeting to guide party work culminated several days of plenary talks, summary presentations, classes and discussions during the international educational conference. The gathering concluded with a panel highlighting the scope of political experiences of the SWP and of Communist Leagues in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

The socialist conference opened with a political report by Mary-Alice Waters. Having led three political trips to Cuba this year by teams of cadres in the SWP and broader communist movement, Waters focused, among other topics, on political and leadership lessons of Cuba’s socialist revolution and Washington’s intensifying efforts to crush it. (Read Waters’ talks to meetings during two of the trips: “‘Fidel showed that proletarian internationalism isn’t only a foreign policy, it’s an extension of the revolution itself,’” in the March 6, 2023, issue of the Militant; and “‘A genuine revolution means leading the millions’: Class struggle in the US today, the Cuban Revolution and building a proletarian party” in the June 12 issue.)

Conference plenary presentations were also made by SWP leaders Mary Martin, the party’s trade union work director, on experiences and conclusions from a year of the party’s labor solidarity and other union activity; Ellie García, director of the party’s farm committee, on the activity by party members collaborating with working farmers facing skyrocketing input prices and deepening debt; and Steve Clark, on the working-class road to women’s emancipation.

Four classes were presented: “Our Organizational Principles Are an Inseparable Part of the Communist Program,” by Dave Prince and Arrin Hawkins; “Maurice Bishop, Grenada, and Leadership Lessons from the Cuban Revolution,” by Betsey Stone and James Harris; “‘Break with the Bourgeoisie, Take the Power’ — the Place of the Workers and Farmers Government in the Communist Program,” by Norton Sandler and Gerald Smith; and “A Labor Party Based on the Unions,” by Joel Britton and Alyson Kennedy.

Displays with photos and text illustrating political themes of the conference lined one side of the gymnasium where plenary sessions were held. Conference participants picked up more than 900 books for their Marxist libraries from the many tables of literature at the back of the hall.

Among the best-sellers were Pathfinder’s latest publication, Colombia: Fidel Castro on the Debate Around Revolutionary Strategy and Lessons of the Cuban Revolution, as well as The Structure and Organizational Principles of the Socialist Workers Party by Farrell Dobbs; Their Trotsky and Ours and “The Fight for a Workers and Farmers Government in the United States” in issue no. 4 of New International magazine, both by Barnes; The Emancipation of Women by V.I. Lenin; and The Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution by Leon Trotsky.

Saturday closing panel

“Whenever a politician says they’re ‘speaking truth to power,’ they’re pointing workers in the wrong direction,” said Laura Garza, the SWP’s 2024 candidate for U.S. Senate from California, at the Saturday evening June 10 closing event.

“They’re looking toward the bosses and their parties, who know the truth and choose to ignore it. The SWP points in the opposite direction, to a course that raises workers’ confidence in our own capacities, and the necessity of taking power  into our own hands.”

In addition to the 16 SWP candidates for local and state offices in 2023, the party will be campaigning on its revolutionary working-class program for U.S. president and vice president in 2024, as well as fielding candidates for the Senate, House of Representatives, and state and local offices across the country.

Another of the 11 panelists at the Saturday evening meeting was Tony Lane, organizer of the SWP’s Pittsburgh branch, who has led Militant  reporting teams to East Palestine, Ohio, following the train derailment and spill of toxic chemicals there. “It’s our job to help advance trade union actions across the country to fight for solidarity with other unions in the area where workers and farmers are affected by the disaster,” Lane told the meeting.

Other panelists reported on building solidarity through their unions with other labor struggles; the SWP’s testimony in support of ending Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. colony before the June 22 U.N. decolonization committee hearing in New York; and other party campaigning and activity in the labor movement and social and political protests in the interests of the working class.

The success of the conference and confidence in the party’s course were registered in a collection of $46,171 at Saturday’s meeting, the highest in many years.

On Sunday organized supporters of the communist movement from around the world met with SWP leaders to evaluate their accomplishments over the past year and plan their coming work. The supporters’ auxiliary organizes the production, printing and shipping of Pathfinder books by SWP and other revolutionary leaders; carries out promotional and sales activity to expand distribution of the books; and systematically organizes to raise funds the SWP uses for its activity.

Among the supporters’ work over the past year, they have now made available, in fully accessible form, 11 Pathfinder titles for workers and others who are blind or face dyslexia or various physical barriers to reading print books. Those titles are now available at www.bookshare.org, in MP3 audio, refreshable Braille and other formats, plus some 30 other Pathfinder books in text-only format. The supporters staffed a table at the conference to show participants how they can work with co-workers and others to make use of this new gateway to political literature.