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   Vol. 68/No. 30           August 17, 2004  
Socialists file for Mississippi ballot
JACKSON, Mississippi—Arrin Hawkins, Socialist Workers candidate for vice president, and campaign supporters from Birmingham visited Mississippi August 1-2 to campaign and file for ballot status at the state capital.

Hawkins and her supporters went to the Secretary of State’s Elections Division Office in Jackson August 2 to turn in the signatures gathered since late May to put the socialist ticket on the Mississippi ballot. Campaigners from Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Tampa, and Birmingham joined the effort in Jackson, Natchez, Pascagoula, Meridian, and Tchula, signing up more than 2,160 people to put the socialist candidates on the ballot. Out of that number—more than twice the requirement of 1,000—county registrars validated 1,028. If there are no challenges to the petitions, the socialist ticket will be validated for the ballot by the Elections Commission on September 7. A notice about the SWP filing appeared in the August 1 Clarion Ledger, the city’s largest-circulation daily paper.

After filing the petitions, Hawkins visited the Hinds County elections office to thank several workers there who had been helpful in gaining revalidation of hundreds of signatures that had earlier been ruled “not registered” by that office. Jackson is the county seat of Hinds County as well as the state capital.

The previous day, Hawkins spent the afternoon in Tchula, at the offices of the Mileston Co-op. Tchula is a rural town of some 2,300 in the Delta, about an hour north of Jackson. Six farmers and workers in Tchula agreed to be electors for the SWP candidates this year.

Hawkins and campaign supporters from Birmingham met with David Howard, president of the co-op, and Linda Miles and Joann Hogan, who had been active in an important strike at the nearby Freshwater Farms catfish plant in 1998-99.

The Mileston Co-op, the oldest cooperative of Black farmers in the state, was founded in 1944 originally to help these farmers have a way to gin their cotton, Howard explained. Howard is a cotton farmer, and also works at the new Nissan auto plant outside of Jackson. More recently, co-op members have been active in pushing for a just settlement in the class-action lawsuit against United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) discrimination.

“How has discrimination affected farmers in this area?” asked Hawkins.

“It’s been bad,” Howard explained. “Black farmers have lost their land and piled up huge debts. The Farm Agency still will not give the Black farmer a loan on time. Most white farmers get their loans in December and January, the Black farmer, not until April or June. By then you’re already behind. We won the lawsuit [against the USDA] but we still can’t get our money! Just give us what we deserve and what we need to work with, just to be able to farm.”

Joann Hogan commented on the recent state Medicaid cuts in Mississippi. In September, some 65,000 of the neediest Mississippians—the elderly, disabled, blind, and others—will lose their state Medicaid benefits, cuts made by the state government in the name of balancing the budget. “The elderly need their medicine,” said Hogan. “They’re going to kill people.”

A big topic of discussion was jobs, which are hard to come by in the Delta. “How can you stop jobs from leaving this country?” asked Howard.

“We don’t own these jobs,” replied Hawkins. “We just work them. The capitalists will go wherever the labor is cheaper, and the same economic forces push workers from all over the world to come here looking for jobs. Everyone should have a job, no matter where they live. That’s why the labor movement needs to fight for demands to win jobs for all, like a shorter workweek with no cut in pay to spread the work around, and a massive public works program.”

The day ended with a visit to Howard’s cotton farm. His crop was coming along fine, he said, although the price for cotton, while higher than it has been some years, is still not enough to give the farmers much income.

Before setting out for Mississippi, Hawkins and socialist campaigners from Birmingham and Atlanta had campaigned July 31 at the evening shift change at the big Avondale textile mill in Sylacauga, Alabama. Dozens of workers stopped their cars to get leaflets and shake Hawkins’ hand, many wishing her good luck.
Related articles:
Nebraska: socialist campaigners meet ballot drive goal, get support from meat packers, other pro-union workers
$43,000 collected for socialist campaign, funds still needed
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