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‘Real change will be made
by a fighting working class’
Socialist candidate speaks with Georgia farmers
James Harris, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. president, right, talks with farmer Willie Head and Gladys Williams at diner in Valdosta, Ga., Aug. 3.
BY JANICE LYNN
VALDOSTA, Ga.—During a three-day visit to Georgia in early August, James Harris, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. president, talked with farmers here about the fighting perspective the party’s working class, labor, socialist campaign is putting forward to confront the propertied rulers’ assaults against the living standards and very dignity of working people.
“What I am doing in this campaign is talking to fighters who are resisting the effects of the economic crisis. This is where political change will come from—we explain that working people need to take political power,” Harris said.
“I think both parties are on the same page,” corn farmer Melvin Brown told Harris. “I don’t see either one bringing in any jobs. They’re not concerned with everyday people. One may be chocolate and the other vanilla, but they’re both ice cream.” Brown has been farming part-time for 35 years.
“I’m struggling to just stay up,” farmer Willie Head said. Head farms peanuts, corn, peas and beans. “Everything is going up—gas, food, fertilizer, seeds, irrigation. Farmers only get three or four cents on every dollar. I think we’re going backwards. My son can’t find a job.”
Head participated in the 1990s fight of farmers who are Black to get compensation for years of discriminatory practices by the Department of Agriculture.
“In Los Angeles, where I am from, the official unemployment for Blacks is 21 percent,” Harris said. “The two parties have no jobs program. Our campaign calls for a national, government-funded jobs program that would put millions to work building schools, day care centers, hospitals, things workers need.”
“Instead of more jails,” Brown interjected.
“Farmers in the U.S alone could produce enough food to feed everyone in the world,” Harris said. “But if it is not profitable this doesn’t happen. Instead, the rulers say there are too many babies.”
Head agreed. “The government pays farmers not to produce. You also see all these empty houses, yet you have homeless people sleeping under bridges.”
Head raised his concerns about the rising cost of medical care. “Obama’s health care plan will not solve this,” Harris said. “They have us fighting about medical insurance, but what we want is medical care. This plan will mean 30 million more customers for the insurance companies. We will need to wage a fight for universal health care available for all. We create all the wealth, so we need to be the ones who will decide how to use it to serve human needs,”
Gladys Williams described her experiences on a trip to Cuba in 2000, when she was a member of the South Georgia Vegetable Producers Cooperative, and learned how a society could be run in the interests of working people. Workers and farmers waged a revolutionary struggle there and took political power in 1959.
“Farmers there can keep the title to their land as long as they live. They don’t need to pay for their education or for water, and medical care is available to all. I found out how many lies are told about Cuba,” she said. Williams introduced Harris to a member of her church who was passing by and sold him a Militant subscription.
Head said every time he has these discussions he comes to understand capitalism better. He asked if the Socialist Workers Party had a timeline for when working people would take political power.
“We can guarantee that the working class will fight. Whether we win will depend on the kind of leadership we build and the kind of connections we can make with fighters like you,” Harris replied, “and build confidence that workers and farmers will join in struggle together to transform this society.”
While Brown, Head and Williams are still considering how they will vote, each of them signed endorser cards encouraging fellow farmers and workers to give the socialist campaign a hearing.
The previous day Harris visited the city of Newnan, about 35 miles south of Atlanta.
“Harris and Rachele Fruit, SWP candidate for the fourth congressional district, came to Newnan on Thursday in order to meet and talk with workers at the local Yamaha plant,” wrote the local Times-Herald newspaper, which interviewed Harris and Fruit.
Harris and campaign supporters met with several workers at a restaurant near the plant.
The SWP presidential candidate addressed 30 people at a campaign forum in Atlanta Aug. 4. He was joined on the platform by Fruit; David Ferguson, SWP candidate for Congress in the 3rd District; and Elizabeth Hennig, a sophomore at Emory University who has been active in building support for school workers fighting to win unemployment payments denied them during the summer break.
Hennig urged everyone to attend a protest Aug. 18 where food service workers, bus drivers, teachers and others will be demanding compensation.
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