The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 74/No. 30      August 9, 2010

D.C. socialists go into final stretch
(lead article)
WASHINGTON, June 27—Twenty-one volunteers for the Socialist Workers Party campaign were out in working-class communities around the city this weekend gathering nearly 1,600 signatures to put Omari Musa, SWP candidate for mayor, on the November ballot. This brings the total number of signatures in hand to 2,442, toward a goal of 5,500. The petition drive will wind up August 1.

Despite record-breaking heat, petitioners got a good response from many workers and young people they spoke to. Several people brought petitioners ice and cold drinks to help them keep going.

“I’m interested,” said Katherine Gill, 50, an early childhood teacher who stopped to see what the socialist campaigners were doing at a Safeway supermarket in the northwest part of the city. “Tell me more.”

Gill was angry over the firings of 241 teachers by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. After further discussion, she decided to subscribe to the Militant and bought a copy of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power. “This is what I’ve been looking for,” she said.

So far during the petition drive campaign supporters have sold six copies of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power, three subscriptions to the Militant, and 59 single copies of the socialist newsweekly.

Luis Chiliquinca, 60, originally from Ecuador, joined a campaign team in the Columbia Heights area, where many Spanish-speaking workers live. The team went store to store, talking to customers about the socialist campaign. He is also helping produce a Spanish-language copy of the campaign platform.

Keith Blue, 40, who works as a cook in a big hotel in Crystal City, Virginia, campaigned both Saturday and Sunday and plans to go out again during the week. “I’m learning a lot,” he said, “and I appreciate the opportunity to be part of this effort.”

Campaign supporters filled the Socialist Workers campaign offices Saturday night to discuss the first big day of petitioning and hear talks by Musa and Paul Pederson, SWP candidate for chair of the D.C. City Council.

“The working class in the United States and around the world is living through the opening stages of the greatest capitalist crisis in over 75 years,” Musa said. “We are being hit by the capitalist class and its twin parties—the Democrats and Republicans—on all sides. Many of us are beginning to see our problem is not good or bad politicians. Rather, as one woman put it today, ‘It’s the system that’s the problem.’”

“I’m often asked, ‘what would you do if you were elected?’ or ‘how are you different from other politicians?’” Musa continued. “I explain that we are not interested in administering the capitalist system. We are about helping to build a revolutionary movement whose goal is educating and organizing the working class to take power and begin the process of expropriating the capitalist class, in order to put the wealth created by working people to use meeting our needs. As a first step, we need to break with the Democratic and Republican parties and begin to organize our own party, a labor party based on a fighting union movement. The working class can’t fight effectively while we support the Democrats and Republicans. Those parties are the enemies of working people.”

“The capitalists use their control of jobs to pit workers against each other and break down solidarity,” Pederson said. “In this election, for example, Leo Alexander, who is running in the Democratic primary, is demagogically appealing to Black workers by saying ‘immigrant workers are stealing our jobs.’”

“Today, I talked to two Black workers who at first refused to sign the petition because our campaign calls for legalization of undocumented workers,” Pederson stated. “I discussed with them how the bosses use immigrant workers’ ‘illegal’ status to drive down wages, keep people from fighting for their rights, and deepen divisions among workers, allowing the capitalists to generate more profits. I pointed to the massive May 1 demonstrations for immigrant rights that have taken place since 2006.”

“There’s a new privately run detention center being built in Virginia. The capitalists are trying to make immigrant workers appear as criminals, in the same way Black workers are stigmatized as ‘criminals’,” Pederson said. “After our discussion, both workers signed the petition. ‘I used to be a militant,’ one of them said. ‘I let them beat me down, but you’re right.’”

The socialist campaign is fielding teams every day through the final weekend of petitioning July 31-August 1.
Related articles:
Meat packers in Iowa sign petitions
Socialist candidates hit streets of New York City  
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