The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 74/No. 31      August 16, 2010

Thousands sign to put
socialist on D.C. ballot
(front page)
WASHINGTON—The petitioning drive to secure a place on the November ballot for Omari Musa, Socialist Workers candidate for District of Columbia mayor, wrapped up August 1 with a final weekend push by 27 volunteers that brought the total signatures collected to 5,030, well over the legal requirement of 3,000.

The effort capped a busy week of campaigning that began July 28 when socialist workers participated in a protest by Black farmers outside the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The action was called to demand that the federal government pay Black farmers promised compensation for decades of discrimination.

“I’m here in solidarity with the struggle of Black and other farmers,” said Glova Scott, SWP candidate for non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, speaking at the protest. “Struggles like this are part of building an independent working-class movement that can take political power out of the hands of the capitalist rulers, who exploit both farmers and workers, and profit from discrimination against Blacks.”

That afternoon, socialist campaigners met a young woman at a supermarket who, after signing the petition, said, “You’re coming to the candidates’ forum at UDC [University of the District of Columbia] tomorrow night, aren’t you?”

Musa and Paul Pederson, Socialist Workers Party candidate for D.C. Council Chair, went to the July 29 UDC forum with a team of supporters. Organizers of the “conversation with the leading candidates for mayor and council chair” told the socialist candidates only those leading candidates in the Democratic Party primary would be allowed to speak. Despite being kept out of the forum, 20 people signed the socialists’ petition, including several individuals from the American Civil Liberties Union and NAACP, which were among the sponsoring groups.

On July 30, socialist campaigners went to two Department of Motor Vehicles offices to gather signatures. “At the DMV, there is almost always a long, slow-moving line,” said Pederson. “People listened with interest when we told them about our campaign and often signed in groups. One young woman, who at first refused to sign, came back after overhearing our discussion with someone else. She had worked at UPS and thought the demand for workers’ control of safety on the job was important.” By the end of the day, the team had gathered 120 signatures.

On July 31, the campaign hall was filled with volunteers for a dinner and rally to celebrate the success of the mayoral petition drive, the first for the Socialist Workers Party in Washington, D.C., since 2002. The petitions will be filed later in August.

The heart of the petitioning drive was in the areas east of the Anacostia River, in the southeastern part of the city. This majority Black working-class area is being hammered by the capitalist economic crisis.

During the 12-day petition drive, socialist campaigners talked to several thousand workers, many of whom welcomed the news that there is a working-class candidate for mayor, one who believes that people like themselves are capable, if organized and united, of waging a revolutionary struggle that can get rid of capitalism and its horrors once and for all.

Every petitioner recalled meeting people who at first refused to sign because they were so disgusted by capitalist “politics and politicians” and then changed their minds after more discussion. The petitioners found that if they could talk to them even briefly about a revolutionary, working-class program—especially the need for a workers party independent of the Democrats and Republicans—many, if not most, would decide they wanted to see the socialist candidate on the ballot.

During the drive, workers and young people bought 12 copies of the book Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power by Jack Barnes, 12 subscriptions to the Militant, and 108 copies of the socialist newsweekly.
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