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Vol. 75/No. 34      September 26, 2011

Socialist candidate in NY
answers Obama’s ‘jobs act’
Campaign offers fighting course for working class
(feature article)
QUEENS, New York—“I was disappointed in Obama’s speech,” said Bonnie Udell, a laid-off employee of an advertising company, referring to the president’s September 8 address to Congress promoting his American Jobs Act.

Udell was talking with Chris Hoeppner, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Congress, who was in Forest Hills with campaign supporters Saturday afternoon, three days before the September 13 special election in the 9th Congressional District.

“We need to fight for jobs for the millions of unemployed,” replied Hoeppner, who had met Udell at the busy intersection of 71st Avenue and Queens Boulevard.

“What we need is a massive government jobs program, now, to build affordable housing, transportation, hospitals, schools, infrastructure, and other projects that benefit working people,” said Hoeppner, who works at an electronics factory in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.

“Like repairing damage from Hurricane Irene,” the socialist candidate added. “Obama’s plan is not about jobs for workers. It’s about providing bosses with means to shore up their profits.”

The Socialist Workers Party platform Hoeppner is campaigning on stands in sharp contrast to those of the other two 9th District candidates, Democratic State Assemblyman David Weprin and Republican businessman Robert Turner, who won the election with 54 percent of the vote.

Hoeppner’s campaign calls on working people to look to their own collective power to resist the consequences of capitalist rule on their lives and livelihoods—and to chart a revolutionary course toward wresting political power from the propertied ruling families.

Hoeppner puts forward the fight for a jobs program as a way to strengthen the solidarity, the confidence, and the fighting capacity of working people in face of the competition and disorientation fostered by high unemployment.

As Hoeppner and other socialists distributed campaign flyers and sold Militant subscriptions and books on working-class politics, they ran into Stewart Hawer, a retired post office worker.

Hawer talked with Hoeppner about the U.S. Postal Service’s plans to lay off workers, close down offices, and cut pensions. “The postal workers should go on strike now,” Hawer said. “That’s what we did decades ago, and we won.”

“What do you think about the unions?” asked Joyce Yamenfeld, a retired meat packer who stopped to listen.

“The unions need to champion struggles of all workers, employed and unemployed,” said Hoeppner. “We need to defend ourselves from what the capitalist crisis is doing to us today, as part of the fight to overturn the capitalist system and establish workers’ power.”

On September 8 the socialist candidate debated Weprin and Turner at an event sponsored by the Rockaway Civic Association in Queens.

Weprin said he opposed Turner’s proposal to raise the Social Security retirement age and make other cuts to the program. The Democrat called for raising taxes on millionaires.

But the capitalist rulers’ various proposed cuts to Social Security have nothing to do with the government’s budget deficit, Hoeppner replied. In fact, he added, it was in the middle of the deep depression of the 1930s that “struggles by working people forced the government to concede to a social security program.”

“Working people have different values than those of the capitalist class and their political parties,” said Hoeppner in his closing remarks at the debate.

“This can be seen in the approach by the Democrats and Republicans to Social Security, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how they treated working people during Hurricane Irene. Workers start with human needs. The capitalist parties start with profits.”

The Queens Chronicle and Forum Newsgroup sponsored an earlier debate in Howard Beach September 6. But Hoeppner, one of three congressional candidates on the ballot, was not allowed to participate.

“My exclusion prevents a real discussion on issues facing working people,” Hoeppner told reporters at the event. “It prevents the presentation of a working-class alternative.”

Especially during the final weeks of the campaign, the capitalist press gave a lot of play to prospects that Republican Turner would win a seat that has been held by Democrats since 1922.

On election day Daily News columnist Bill Hammond’s piece was headlined, “In NY-9, Voters Are the Losers: Weprin and Turner, Two Lame Candidates, Have Run Lousy Campaigns.” In fact, what Hammond describes is much broader than New York’s 9th District and isn’t limited to “lame candidates” and “lousy campaigns”—hardly a novelty in U.S. capitalist elections.

Instead, the outcome of the 9th C.D. race was one registration of a shakeup in bourgeois politics and the two main parties of the U.S. ruling families as a result of the deepening world crisis of capitalism.

Hammond said voters “have to schlep to the polling place, hold their noses and try to pick the guy that will embarrass them marginally less.” He concludes, “Suddenly the Socialist Workers candidate doesn’t seem like such an unthinkable option.”

After the debate in Rockaway Park, Hoeppner stayed around to talk with participants at the school cafeteria where it was held. He told several of them that after the election, the SWP will keep on reaching out to workers interested in the campaign’s fighting course.

That seemed to strike a chord with Tom Hannan, 74. “Why stop campaigning?” he told Hoeppner. “Why stop struggling?”  
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