Harris: 'We advance interests of working people'
The following article appeared in the August 24 issue of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the city's main daily, under the headline "Decatur worker pushes socialism in presidential bid."
BY SAEED AHMED
Like most third-party candidates, James Harris harbors no illusions of winning the White House in November. But in his case, he says it's because he doesn't want to, since real change is never effected through votes.
And yet here he is, traversing the country--on leave from his job as a garment worker in Decatur--and calling on workers to overthrow the capitalist system in favor of a socialist state.
Harris is the presidential candidate for the Socialist Workers Party, which espouses a brand of politics fashioned after Cuban leader Fidel Castro's style of Marxism.
"It serves the purpose of the rich capitalist class to entrap workers in the two-party system," he said, of his decision to run. "We are the independent alternative, advancing the interests of the working people."
For 52-year-old Harris, it's his second run at the White House. In 1996, he finished 10th in the general election, garnering 8,500 votes--about 0.01 percent.
This year, he hopes to do better, even though he's on the ballot in only 11 states--the same ones as the last time. Georgia, with its tough ballot access laws, isn't among them.
Still, Harris is making a three-day swing through the state this week, capping it off with a rally at Valdosta State University this afternoon.
"Women's rights, civil rights and the end of apartheid didn't happen because they were put to a vote--they started on the streets," he said. "That's why we are going to states where we aren't on the ballot to build up a groundswell because we know we won't be voted in."
The Socialist Workers Party, which started in 1938 as a splinter group from the Communist Party, has fielded candidates for president in every election since 1948. In recent years, it has been in electoral decline, capturing a dwindling number of votes.
The party's platform calls for basic human rights for all, such as universal health care, redistribution of wealth and free education. It touts Cuba as a model socialist state, and calls for dismantling the military and arming farmers.
Add to the mix, the Socialist Party--which preaches the same liberal doctrine but is staunchly anti-Communist--and parties with similar sounding names, such as Socialist Equality Party, Socialist Labor Party, and even Nationalist Socialist White People's Party, and it's easy to see why Harris' campaign has to strain to be heard.
Nevertheless, Harris, a Cleveland State University graduate who works blue-collar jobs as part of the party mandate to better organize workers, is confident about his chances of bringing about change through his campaign.
"I don't think I will give a big speech and all of a sudden there will be an explosion of activity," he said. "But workers won't take this brutal assault by the wealthy minority forever. They are being pushed to the limit and they will fight back, and we're an adjunct to the participants to spur it on."