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Vol. 75/No. 17      May 2, 2011

(front page)
‘Militant’ well received in
Wisconsin towns, rural areas
Militant/Paul Mailhot
David Gundersen in Stoughton, Wisconsin, subscribed to Militant when socialists Alyson Kennedy, left, and Betsy Farley visited his home to discuss politics April 17.

STOUGHTON, Wisconsin—“People are starting to think about unions again, and that’s positive,” said David Gundersen, a high-school custodian and unionist in this town of 13,000, some 40 minutes southeast of Madison. Gundersen has joined the demonstrations at the Wisconsin state capitol every week. He was talking to a group of socialist workers going door-to-door in his neighborhood introducing working people to the Militant newspaper.

Gundersen explained that the state government is pressing ahead with its assault on the unions. “It’s going to be a long fight,” he said, still hoarse from chanting at a protest the day before.

Gundersen was one of 37 workers who bought subscriptions to the Militant over the April 16-17 weekend. Socialist workers followed up on initial contacts made through the recent mobilizations in Madison and also found new people interested in a working-class newspaper. Five new subscribers, including Gundersen, bought The Changing Face of U.S. Politics: Working-Class Politics and the Trade Unions by Jack Barnes.

Workers are drawn to the description on the back cover that says the book “aims to show why only the working class can lead humanity out of the social crisis endemic to capitalism in its decline. It shows how millions of workers … will revolutionize themselves, their unions, and all of society.”

The April 16-17 weekend is the beginning of a weeklong door-to-door effort in towns and rural areas throughout Wisconsin, where the working class has been going through an experience of resistance to government austerity moves and union busting. Starting April 23 socialist workers throughout the United States and in a number of other countries will begin a six-week subscription campaign to win 2,000 new readers. That campaign will build on the successful effort over the past two and a half months that has netted more than 1,000 new subscribers.

“We are tired of the government dumping the world’s problems on working people,” was what one worker who picked up the Militant said. This reporter is joining socialist workers from throughout the Midwest tapping into that sentiment.

“You can have a different type of discussion now about communist politics,” explained Dennis Richter, a worker from Chicago who was selling the Militant in the rural town of Spring Green, west of Madison. “One worker who said he didn’t want the newspaper, began to explain what he and his coworkers are doing in his plant to defend themselves against their boss,” said Richter. “Before long he realized he was talking about the exact things the Militant is writing about. He still didn’t want a subscription, but he ended up donating $5 to help get the paper around to others.”

“Many people we talked to in the Madison area had placards from recent union protests in their windows,” reported Maggie Trowe from Des Moines, Iowa. Those were good neighborhoods to start discussions on what way forward for the labor movement.

“One man who works at the University of Wisconsin first bought an introductory subscription to the Militant,” said Trowe. “Later, as I was walking down the street with Randy Jasper, a local farmer on our team, the guy drove up and said, ‘I decided I want to buy that book, the big one,’ pointing to Changing Face of U.S. Politics.”

Trowe asked him what made him decide to get the book. “Well, I really sympathize with your ideas,” he explained. “And I read that article in the Militant about the guy who bombed the planes and got off in U.S. courts. That’s just not fair.” He was referring to Luis Posada Carriles, the CIA-trained Cuban counterrevolutionary recently acquitted in federal court.

Another team on Sunday, April 17, sold door-to-door in the Madison neighborhood where the Oscar Mayer Kraft food plant is located. Seven subscriptions to the paper and two copies of the Changing Face of U.S. Politics were sold.

Door-to-door sales allow for a relaxed discussion and exchange of views. Socialist workers in Wisconsin this week are getting a feel for a broad range of opinions that exist among working people.

Some support the state government’s antiunion measures as a way to get the economy going again and produce jobs, and are taken in by arguments about “shared sacrifice.” Others point to what they consider the poor record of the unions in fighting for the rights of workers. Still others are discouraged that the protests have not turned back the antiunion assault.

It’s a discussion and debate socialist workers are keenly interested in and the Militant newspaper is an important part of.
Related articles:
Prounion rally in Wisconsin outnumbers antilabor action
Teachers, students rally against education cuts
Dockworkers defend their right to solidarity
Locked-out workers in Illinois: ‘We’re not alone’
Bosses’ profit drive kills three rail workers in Washington
Support locked-out workers  
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