“Socialist Workers campaigns explain why workers need to build a revolutionary movement of millions in order to take power in this country,” John Studer, a leader of the party in New York who chaired the meeting, said as he introduced the candidates.
“In Omaha, we are campaigning, showing people the Militant, the campaign paper, and petitioning to get the Socialist Workers Party on the ballot, reaching broadly into working-class areas,” said DeLuca, who is part of the party’s slate running in the April 2 primary election along with Jacob Perasso for City Council District 4.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman “is campaigning to replace income tax with sales tax, claiming the rich will pay more this way,” DeLuca said. “His liberal opponents instead put forward what they call the Buffett rule. This is a reference to billionaire Warren Buffett, who has demagogically called for increased income taxes on the wealthy.
“They try to convince us that capitalism can be reformed. But one kind of tax or the other, working people will pay more,” DeLuca said.
She explained the party needs to collect 1,000 signatures of registered voters and 100 for Perasso to place both candidates on the ballot. “With each signature being checked by the election office, we want to double that amount,” she said.
In the first two weeks of petitioning, supporters of the campaign have collected 371 signatures for DeLuca and 70 for Perasso.
“We will be petitioning through the first two weeks of February. I invite you to join us!” DeLuca said.
‘Rulers’ disinterest in our reality’“Getting on the ballot in Omaha is extremely important in establishing the socialist movement and defending the legality of the party, which is always under attack,” Sandler said. “It also gives us opportunities we don’t usually get to present our views to a wider layer of working people.
“Obama’s second inaugural talk last Monday was 20 minutes of empty platitudes,” he added. “He only mentioned jobs once. This was a reflection of the complete disinterest the capitalist rulers and the meritocratic layer Obama comes from have in dealing with the reality working people face.
“Some bourgeois commentators say real wages will go down another 3 percent this year,” Sandler said. “The birth rate in the U.S. is the lowest since the 1920s under the pressure of the economic crisis. The number of 25 to 34 year olds living with their parents is the highest it has ever been. It takes 40 weeks to find a job if you’re laid off, and it’s worse for many workers.”
Sandler took up what workers and farmers face in Mali, West Africa, confronted by a corrupt and brutal government installed by the military, rightist Islamist thugs and French military forces landing in the country.
“Thinking workers must start with the conditions working people face there,” he said. “Mali is among the 25 poorest countries in the world by per capita income, with 80 percent of the labor force engaged in farming and fishing. The small amount of industrial activity is concentrated in processing farm commodities and mining.
“Mali is caught in the midst of competition for resources between imperialist France and the U.S., and with China, which is Mali’s main export market.
“The Tuaregs, a nomadic tribe, have been battling with the central government for years,” Sandler said. “The Islamist forces who took control of the northern half of the country last year are deadly reactionary. Working people hate them. That’s why they welcomed the French troops.
“Toilers there will have to go through their own experiences to find a road to take on all these obstacles and fight for a revolutionary government. It will take time.”
Sandler urged forum participants to study the speeches of Thomas Sankara, the central leader of the 1983-87 revolution in Burkina Faso, on Mali’s southeastern border, as a way to learn how peasants and workers were transformed as they mobilized to use their revolutionary government to confront the challenges they faced at home and internationally.
Studer urged those present to join in using the Militant to build solidarity with two labor battles in the New York area. Some 14,500 members of the International Longshoremen’s Association have been resisting major concession demands in negotiations covering 14 ports along the East and Gulf coasts. And 8,800 school bus drivers, attendants and mechanics have been on strike since Jan. 16.
“The bosses and the city administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg are on a drive to overturn work rules, job protection and other gains these workers have won through years of battles,” he said.
“Next fall’s mayoral campaign is well under way in New York. We are looking forward to running a slate of Socialist Workers candidates for mayor and other offices.”
Women and U.S. ‘war machine’In the discussion, one participant asked the candidates’ views on the recent government decision to place women in the military in combat positions.
“In Vietnam, women fought—but as part of a successful revolution to defeat Washington’s war in that country,” Sandler said. “Communists are against any form of discrimination, but there is nothing progressive in women joining the front ranks of the imperialist war machine in the U.S.”
“The media says the government of California is going from deficit to surplus. What does this mean for working people?” was another question.
“There have been massive cuts in California’s budget, including cuts on workers’ ability to get medical coverage or disability,” Sandler said. “They’ve eliminated all adult day care centers in the state. They’ve also raised sales tax and state college fees. One thing is sure—cuts will continue as taxes go up,” Sandler said.
The candidates were asked about their position on the so-called “gun debate.”
“Both sides in this debate are antithetical to the interests of the working class. The rulers use it to attack the rights of working people—demanding the names of all gun owners, compiling lists of workers with mental problems, increased intrusion in working people’s privacy,” Sandler replied.
“Much of the debate centers on assault weapons. We agree with workers who say you don’t need such weapons to hunt deer,” Sandler said.
“Those who are for assault weapons are part of the ultraright,” he said. “They think being heavily armed is part of preparing to shoot it out with government agents or others they fear. They have nothing in common with the working class.”
“Why was there such a large demonstration by anti-abortion forces in Washington, D.C., on the 40th anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade decision and none by those defending a woman’s right to choose?” a woman asked.
“The 1973 Supreme Court ruling was won as a result of deep changes in this country wrought by the mass proletarian movement for Black rights and the massive entry of women into the workforce,” Studer answered. “These events changed forever the way working people see ourselves, including a woman’s right to choose, a basic precondition for women’s emancipation.
“Despite relentless efforts to curb women’s access to abortion by the capitalist rulers, and the complete failure to mobilize a response by those who claim to speak in the interests of women, 70 percent support a woman’s right to abortion, a higher percentage than in 1973.”
During the course of the evening, Studer introduced from the floor James Harris, Socialist Workers 2012 candidate for president; David Rosenfeld and Margaret Trowe, SWP candidates for Des Moines City Council; and Jacquie Henderson, SWP candidate for the 6th Texas Senatorial District in Houston.
He also pointed to the publication of two new books by Pathfinder Press received that day: Cuba and Angola: Fighting for Africa’s Freedom and Our Own; and Women and Revolution: The Living Example of the Cuban Revolution.
“The party will be campaigning to get these new books out, along with four others,” Studer said, “going door to door in working-class areas along with the campaign and the Militant.”
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