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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 67/No. 32September 22, 2003

 
lead article
‘We fight imperialism, its
drive to war, depression’
Young Socialists for Britton organize
volunteers nationwide to campaign
SWP candidate for California governor
presents program to defend working class
 
Militant/Frank Forrestal
Joel Britton (left), Socialist Workers candidate for governor of California, speaks with meat packers at shift change outside Farmer John plant in Los Angeles September 8.

BY MARTÍN KOPPEL  
LOS ANGELES—“I’ve seen your statement. Just the other day I was talking about your campaign with a few people I know,” said Carmen Ortiz, a department store worker who came up to Joel Britton, the Socialist Workers candidate for governor of California, to wish him well. Britton and a group of his supporters were soapboxing on a street corner in the bustling garment district here on a hot Saturday afternoon, September 6.

Ortiz was referring to a campaign statement that socialist canvassers have been distributing among working people, youth, and others to introduce them to Britton’s action program to defend the toilers.

A day earlier Britton had flown up to Sacramento to tape a half-hour interview for the California Channel, a statewide cable TV program. In the interview, he outlined proposals to defend the interests of working people in the middle of a worsening capitalist economic crisis.

In face of increasing joblessness, the socialist campaign calls for organizing a fight “to make jobs available to all, at union-scale wages,” Britton said. In addition to the job-creating proposal of shortening the workweek with no cut in pay, he advocated “a massive public works program to rebuild hospitals, schools, child-care centers, housing, and other necessities” as well as defending affirmative action for Blacks, Latinos, and women.

Young Socialists for Britton and other campaign supporters have been hitting the streets in working-class areas, from Los Angeles to San Francisco. They have joined activities such as recent farm worker-led demonstrations in Salinas and other cities demanding the right of undocumented workers to obtain driver’s licenses; a picket line at the Forever 21 garment plant in Los Angeles by workers demanding back pay; and a public meeting calling for the release of five framed-up Cuban revolutionaries locked up in U.S. prisons. They are also going onto college campuses that have just started the fall session.

Olympia Newton, California state spokesperson of the Young Socialists for Britton, said, “We are welcoming young people from around the country to join our Britton Brigades over the next four weeks. Young socialists are coming in from Miami, New York, and elsewhere. We need reinforcements—right now!—to take advantage of every opportunity that has opened up for us with the October 7 recall election.”

Nicole Sarmiento and Jessica Baity, students at the University of Miami, had tickets to fly to Los Angeles September 10. “We will arrive in LA tomorrow night,” Sarmiento told the Militant September 9. YS member Arrin Hawkins is set to arrive in Los Angeles September 12. Abby Tilsner, a garment worker from Newark currently on lay off, is flying to LA the day before.

“We’re looking for youth who are repelled by the imperialist wars, the racism, sexism, and unremitting brutality of capitalism—all of which are made worse by the policies of the Democrats and Republicans, the twin parties of the bosses,” Newton stated. “We’re seeking out those who are attracted to the perspective of fighting imperialism and its drive to war and economic depression and building a revolutionary movement here.

“Young socialists everywhere are figuring out their plans on how to get time off work or school and find a way—any way—to get to California for a few days, a week, or longer,” she added. “Campaigning has focused on Los Angeles and San Francisco, and we’ll be fielding teams to other cities and rural areas across the state as additional volunteers join us.”

Interviewed September 8 by TV Channel 7, a local ABC affiliate, at the socialist campaign headquarters, Britton responded to President Bush’s speech of the previous day. Bush had reasserted Washington’s determination to maintain its occupation of Iraq and strengthen its domination of the Middle East and South Asia.

“Our campaign demands the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Africa, and elsewhere,” Britton said.

The TV reporter and cameraman then accompanied Britton to the city’s garment district, where they covered him and an entourage of campaign volunteers speaking with a number of workers and high school students.

During his interview with California Channel in Sacramento, Britton lent his support to the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride and other efforts to win equal legal protections for workers born abroad.

On his way back from Sacramento Britton made a stop in San Francisco to join some young volunteers at a sign-making party to prepare for a busy weekend of campaigning. One of the volunteers, Vicente Ramírez, a freshman at Napa Community College, was painting signs that read “Jobs for all!” in English and Spanish and “Young Socialists for Britton.” He had come up from the Napa Valley—an area with many farm workers—to spend the weekend campaigning in the Bay Area. A few months ago he had been drawn to a Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists literature table by a Fidel Castro pamphlet, he told Britton.

On Saturday, September 6, Ramírez and four other Young Socialists for Britton joined fellow campaigners on Mission Street in a working-class district in San Francisco. They soapboxed, passed out flyers, signed up people who want to help campaign, and sold 10 copies of the Militant and Perspectiva Mundial.

That night campaigners attended a public slide show and discussion on “Women and the Cuban Revolution” led by Elizabeth Stone, editor of the Pathfinder book with the same title. Emily Paul, a Young Socialist for Britton who attends San Francisco State, and Ryan Scott, northern California organizer of the Young Socialists for Britton, described in the discussion what they had learned from their recent trip to Cuba as part of the Cuba-U.S. Youth Exchange. The discussion continued the next morning with a class by Stone on “Communism and the Fight for Women’s Liberation.”  
 
Campaigning in workers districts
Campaigning in the Los Angeles garment district, Britton, a retired meat packer, exchanged views with a number of workers who stopped to hear the SWP candidate and other socialist soapboxers. Obdulia Cruz, a sewing-machine operator who was carrying home a bag of fabric, told Britton she worked 13 hours a day, seven days a week, plus homework in order to supplement her piece-rate wages. She was interested in Britton’s proposals to unite working people in a fight to raise the minimum wage, guarantee jobs for all, cancel the Third World debt, and other demands.

Ulysses Edwards, a nonunion truck driver, engaged Britton in a discussion about the need to build unions that can be effective vehicles for struggles against the employers.

Several garment workers in this heavily Mexican district told the campaigners they were glad that the California state legislature appeared to be close to implementing a new law allowing undocumented workers to get a driver’s license without having to show a Social Security card. “It’s hard to get a job without a driver’s license,” one of them said.

Britton’s supporters explained that whatever the final text of the law, the very fact that capitalist politicians in California are discussing this question is not due to a stroke of goodwill on their part but rather is the by-product of protests and mobilizations by thousands of working people to demand an end to restrictions on obtaining driver’s licenses.

Not everyone agreed. A woman who works at the Department of Motor Vehicles told Britton she was adamantly opposed to undocumented workers having driver’s licenses.  
 
Class questions, not ‘California’ issues
Commentators in the capitalist media and the big-business candidates running for governor often pose the political questions in terms of “California issues.” In an August 27 interview on a Bakersfield, California, radio program, Britton responded, “There is no such thing as a single set of interests for the ‘state of California.’ California is part of a class-divided society, made up fundamentally of workers and bosses.

“As someone who has worked on the kill floor of a big slaughterhouse and in oil refineries as a process operator, and who has been active in my unions, I’ve experienced firsthand the continuing speedup, increased injuries on the job, and chipping away at the benefits we as working people have won over decades,” Britton stated. He said that his campaign pointed to the need to replace the bosses’ government with a workers and farmers government.

Britton spoke to supporters at the campaign headquarters here on the evening of September 6, just before a Militant Labor Forum featuring Olympia Newton speaking on Washington’s threats and pressures against north Korea. His remarks were covered by a San Francisco TV station on channel 32. The same station also did a 30-minute interview with Britton for a youth program called “The Purple Cow,” which has been profiling recall candidates.

The socialist candidate began his remarks by expressing his unconditional support for north Korea in its decades-long fight against imperialist aggression.

Britton commented on the controversy in the big-business press about Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante’s membership in the Chicano student organization MEChA during his college days in the 1970s, and the Democratic candidate’s efforts to downplay the issue by saying he had committed “the follies of youth.”

The charges by right-wing commentators that MEChA is “racist” and akin to the Ku Klux Klan are “slanders,” Britton said. “Racist outfits like the KKK represent the complete opposite of what MEChA stands for—opposition to racist discrimination that Chicanos and Blacks face in this country.”

He went on to say, “I don’t view my youthful revolutionary activity as a folly of youth.” Britton showed some photos portraying his political activity as a member of the Socialist Workers Party and, earlier, the Young Socialist Alliance. He said some of those photos would accompany an interview he recently gave to the Militant (see link below). One photo depicted his 1969 trip to Cuba as part of a YSA delegation, which met with a representative of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front during its successful fight against Washington’s war in Indochina. Another photo showed Britton together with other YSA members in Crystal City, Texas, where they were hosted by leaders of the Raza Unida Party, a Chicano party independent of the Democrats and Republicans active in the 1970s. “I’m proud of having been part of these activities,” he said.  
 
Young Socialists for Britton
The socialist candidate then reiterated his appeal to young people to join in campaigning with Young Socialists for Britton. Among those who may want to take up this invitation, he noted, are “a number of youth who recently returned from a visit to Cuba. Besides learning about the example of the Cuban Revolution, the question is posed—what about getting involved in the fight to build a revolutionary movement that can lead working people to take power.

“That’s what our campaign is about, and joining with Young Socialists for Britton is the best way to get involved,” he said.

Elizabeth Stone contributed to this article.
 
 
Related articles:
Interview with Joel Britton, SWP candidate for California governor

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