The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 30           September 8, 2003  
SWP leader runs for
California governor
(front page)
Militant/Frank Forrestal
Joel Britton, Socialist Workers candidate for California governor, speaks to media in Los Angeles August 9.

LOS ANGELES—A Socialist Workers candidate is on the statewide ballot in California for the first time since 1976. Longtime SWP leader Joel Britton and 134 other candidates for governor were certified by the secretary of state August 13, two months before the vote to determine whether current governor Gray Davis, a Democrat, will be recalled.

Britton will appear as an independent candidate under the “nonpartisan” provisions of the state’s election code, with “Retired Meat Packer” after his name. “A socialist worker,” Britton’s first choice designation, was denied him by California’s secretary of state. Britton is a longtime trade unionist active in efforts to build solidarity and strengthen the labor movement.

“I have opposed Democratic and Republican moves to put the economic crisis of capitalism on the backs of working people,” Britton said in a statement he submitted to the state, which will appear in the guide distributed to all registered voters. “I’m for a workers and farmers government which will abolish capitalism in the U.S. and join in the worldwide struggle for socialism.”

Members of the Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists from the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California met here August 9-10 to discuss the political framework for the socialist campaign. Their first decision was to set up “Joel Britton for Governor—Vote Socialist Workers!” tables in several workers districts near the Pathfinder Bookstore on south Central Avenue here, where the campaign rents space.

August 9 was the final day to turn in signatures on nominating petitions. Los Angeles county election officials had declared “invalid” 40 percent of the signatures Britton had turned in. The additional signatures gathered that day put him comfortably over the 65 registered voters required.

Supporters of the socialist campaign mobilized earlier in the week to collect signatures and contributions so the $3,500 filing fee could be paid as the nominating petitions and other documents were turned in. Supporters also raised another $2,000 to pay for the voters guide statement by Britton.

After voting on whether to recall Davis, California voters will be asked to pick a candidate to replace Davis if he should win less than a majority of the votes on the recall ballot. Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is widely seen as the leading Republican candidate. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamonte is the leading Democrat. The conservative Republican congressman Darrell Issa, who bankrolled and organized the massive petitioning campaign to place the recall on the ballot, withdrew his candidacy in the days leading up to the filing deadline.

Britton was the featured speaker at a Militant Labor Forum here August 9 where the socialist campaign for governor was announced. Deborah Liatos and Ryan Scott, the Socialist Workers candidates for mayor and district attorney in San Francisco, respectively, joined Britton for the event, as did Nan Bailey, who was the SWP’s candidate for governor last year. Scott is a member of the Young Socialists.

“This special election is not a circus,” Britton told the meeting, referring to the capitalist media’s hyping that the large number and wide variety of candidates running turned politics in California into a bizarre spectacle. “What we see here is the unfolding crisis of the capitalist parties in a time of economic crisis and political stress,” Britton said. “It is providing an opportunity for our campaign to be on the ballot and to present the only example of independent working-class political action in the elections.

“Going into this, we don’t find a level playing field. We are up against candidates with huge financial resources and the ruling class apparatus that organizes the elections to the benefit of the rich.”

Britton said that following and building on an International Socialist Workers Conference in July, garment and textile workers, coal miners, and meat packers who are members of the SWP and Young Socialists met and hammered out a perspective that provides a framework for the campaign.

“In light of the resistance of groups of vanguard workers that we see in the plants and mines, and in light of the economic crisis, which is impacting workers in all the capitalist countries,” Britton said, “there are continuing opportunities to work with other workers to strengthen the unions.”

Britton stressed that the Socialist Workers candidates are the only ones raising in an effective manner the possibility of a united fight by working people. “Unity not just to get along, but a unity to fight,” he said, “to defend our unions as our most basic defense organizations, to defend workers’ rights, to oppose cop brutality and the death penalty, to oppose imperialist war by the U.S government.” Britton read his short statement for the voters guide, which sketches some of the key demands of the campaign (see page 6).

Liatos, a meat packer and member of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) reported that seven workers in the plant she works were dismissed after employers received “no match” letters saying their Social Security numbers did not match those in the government records. Workers were outraged by the firings. Some are discussing how the union can fight back.

“We are raising in this campaign that without justice and rights for immigrants we cannot unite all workers,” Liatos said, urging support for the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, which the UFCW and other unions back.

In the discussion after the candidates’ presentations, Britton was asked what his campaign will do about the high rents in Los Angeles and how he will help garment workers fight the oppressive conditions they face.

“I’m not making promises that I will solve these things,” Britton said. “But in this campaign we can help fellow workers figure out how to fight together, to cut across divisions among workers. We point to the example of the struggle of garment workers in Florida, of meatpackers fighting for a union in Georgia, in conditions where there have been lynch-style killings of immigrant workers. We stress that even if a small number of workers begin to get together, begin to fight, they can set an example and inspire other struggles.” One such example, he said, is the campaign by supporters of Róger Calero that defeated attempts by the immigration police to deport him. “We say that if you pick your fights intelligently, if you wage the fights well, you can win,” he stated.

Referring to the outrageous rents being extracted from working people in California, Britton pointed to the example of Cuba where rents were drastically reduced when the revolution triumphed in 1959.

Olympia Newton, a leader of the Young Socialists and initiator of the Young Socialists for Britton, chaired the forum. She spoke about her participation along with nearly 300 other youth in the Cuba-U.S. Youth Exchange in July. The youth attended the July 26 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the attack on the Moncada barracks, which opened the revolutionary struggle that a half a decade later brought down the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship, opening the door to the first socialist revolution in the Americas.

“The attack on Moncada was the opening of a revolution that organized workers and peasants to take power in their country,” Newton said. “This course of mobilizing working people has not wavered from that time to today. The Youth Exchange was about Cuba, but it was also very much about the United States. It brought to the fore that our task is to emulate the Cuban Revolution in the U.S.”

Scott emphasized the impact that visiting with members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and other mass organizations had on U.S. youth on the trip.

“In this campaign we’ll raise what we’ve begun to develop here,” Britton pointed out. “We’ll raise the Moncada Road, the revolutionary road that led to the working people in Cuba taking over their country and achieving sovereignty, to ending racist practices, to the incorporation of women into the workforce and all the other gains.”

Britton pointed out that what the young people learned in Cuba was not just a “history lesson.” What they saw was the “embodiment of a proletarian course of action, of working people remaining intransigent in the face of unremitting hostility from Washington, a people with a spirit of solidarity, a spirit where they are ready to go to any part of the world to support freedom struggles. We are working here in the U.S., through our participation in unions, work in defense of the Cuban Revolution and other mass work, and this election campaign, to develop the kind of leadership that can help transform our unions into fighting organizations and lead to working people taking power as they did in Cuba.”


Statement by Joel Britton, SWP candidate for governor of California, submitted for the state voters guide.
I am a longtime trade unionist (having been a slaughterhouse worker—member of the United Food and Commercial Workers union—and a refinery worker—member of the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers union). I serve on the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party, and I am its southern California organizer.

I have actively opposed U.S. military interventions against the peoples of Vietnam, Cuba, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and north Korea, joining millions around the world demanding, “U.S. Hands Off! Bring the GIs Home Now!”

I have backed efforts to unite working people to fight for “Jobs for all! Cut the workweek with no reduction in pay! Raise the minimum wage!”; “Stop INS raids and deportations—end ‘no-match’ firings!”; “Fight police brutality—abolish the death penalty!”; “Defend women’s access to abortion!”; “Debt relief for working farmers! Stop foreclosures!”; “Defend affirmative action!”; “Stop Washington’s economic war against Cuba! Normalize relations now!”

I have opposed Democratic and Republican moves to put the economic crisis of capitalism on the backs of working people. I’m for a workers and farmers government that will abolish capitalism in the U.S. and join in the worldwide struggle for socialism.
Related article:
Socialist Workers candidates run in nine U.S. states  
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