AND JANET POST
PHILADELPHIA — “A new wind is blowing,” Osborne Hart, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor, said in a statement featured in the Oct. 25 Philadelphia Inquirer (see statement on this page). Hart is running with John Staggs, SWP candidate for City Council at-large, in the Nov. 3 election.
“Young fast-food workers, and those working for airport contractors, in home health care, and for Wal-Mart, and in other low-paid jobs, are striking and marching,” Hart wrote. “These workers and youth are inspiring others to stand up and fight — serving as an example of the way forward for the working class as a whole.”
Both Hart and Staggs work at Walmart and are part of the campaign for $15, full-time work and a union. “Come out for the Nov. 10 National Day of Action for $15 and a union,” the two SWP candidates tell people as they campaign. “Join us at the rally at City Hall at 3:30 p.m.”
“The Philadelphia campaign is really the beginning of the Socialist Workers Party’s 2016 campaign for president and state offices across the country,” Staggs told the press when he and Hart filed their petitions to get on the ballot Aug. 3. “We’re campaigning to win people to the Socialist Workers Party.”
The campaign here has played out as more than a dozen Republicans and a handful of Democrats vie to be their party’s standard bearer in 2016. Hart and Staggs are often asked how they are different Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who says he is a “democratic socialist,” and what they think of Donald Trump, the other presidential candidate who is drawing big working-class crowds.
The SWP candidates explain that their starting point is how to strengthen the organization and self-confidence of the working class, in face of the capitalist rulers’ attacks — here and around the world. They point to the need for working people to organize politically, independent of the bosses and their parties. “The go-to answer for Osborne Hart” in the first televised mayoral debate, the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote Sept. 30, was “independent mobilization.”
Hart’s “well-stated arguments for stronger representation of workers’ rights and benefits have given mainstream credence to the Socialist Workers Party he represents,” said a profile published by the Philadelphia Daily News.
Campaign wins broad hearingOver the last four months the Socialist Workers Party candidates have picketed with steelworkers fighting concession demands at ArcelorMittal and Allegheny Technologies; marched against police brutality in New York, South Carolina and Philadelphia; protested to defend and extend the Americans with Disabilities Act and Medicare; debated their Democratic, Republican and other opponents on television and public meetings; and visited with workers on their doorsteps in neighborhoods all across the city.
Hart spoke at a church service against Washington’s colonial treatment of Puerto Rico and for freedom of imprisoned Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar López, addressed members of Steelworkers Local 10-1 at their union meeting, and participated in the Movement for Black Lives conference in Cleveland. Staggs marched with residents of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, demanding the Canadian government and Central Maine & Quebec Railroad be forced to repair the tracks there, where 47 people were killed in a 2013 oil-train derailment and explosion.
On Oct. 24 the mayoral candidate joined a march against police brutality in New York City. He met and talked with a number of relatives of young men who had been killed by police around the country, including Andree Penix-Smith, mother of Justin Smith Jr., beaten to death by five cops in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1998; Jessica and Vanisha Gatewood, mother and aunt of 23-year-old Richard Linyard, who died in July following a police chase in Oakland, California; and Juanita Young, mother of Malcolm Ferguson, who was 23 when he was shot to death by cops in New York in 2000.
“We stand and continue to fight,” Young told Hart. “We demand that the cops be charged, that they be suspended during the investigations. Not on paid leave. Not on desk jobs. And if convicted that they go to prison.”
“Because mothers like yourselves and thousands of workers and youth have mobilized in the streets, the ruling class has taken steps to rein in the police,” the socialist candidate said. “More beatings and killings are seeing the light of day. More cops are being indicted.”
“The cops are there to protect capitalist rule and defend the bosses’ profits. It will take a social and political revolution before the character of the police changes,” Hart told Thomas Hedges, who interviewed him at the march for The Real News network. “It took the Cuban Revolution — workers and farmers overthrowing Washington-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista — to change the police there.”
Besides participating in fights against police brutality and for higher minimum wages, the socialist candidates say they would use City Hall to fight in workers’ interests. “The Socialist Workers Party fights for a massive, government-funded public works program to put people to work at union wages rebuilding crucially needed infrastructure, rail tracks and bridges, housing, schools, hospitals and other things working people need,” Staggs told workers on Labor Day as they marched in South Philadelphia.
Fight for $15 and a unionOn Oct. 22 Hart and Staggs were joined by Katie Colaneri, a reporter for WHYY radio, the local PBS affiliate, as they knocked on workers’ doors in Mayfair, a mainly Caucasian neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia.
They met Madeline Klimovich, a retired court reporter, and told her about how they were part of the fight for $15 and a union. “I’ve been a fighter for the rights of working people all my life,” Klimovich said. “You can’t sit on the sidelines.”
“I’m a fighter for women’s rights. We have to remember that fight continues today,” she said. “When I was younger, I had women co-workers who couldn’t get a loan without their fathers co-signing the papers.”
“I may be retired, but I’m still working-class,” Klimovich said. “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help your campaign.”
Colaneri asked Staggs why he and Hart were running. “You can see from the response door to door that more and more people are upset with the two capitalist political parties,” Staggs said. “We explain workers have to fight for our own party, a labor party based on our unions that will mobilize our class in action. A party that points toward taking political power out of the hands of the capitalist class and building a workers and farmers government.”
“The Cuban Revolution is a living example of what workers and farmers can accomplish when they fight to take political power, transforming themselves in the process,” Hart said. “They continue to set an example today, standing up to Washington’s threats, extending internationalist aid in the fight against Ebola in Africa and elsewhere.
“Through our struggles, we will be transformed in the same way,” he said, “gaining the experience, confidence and capacity to join toilers elsewhere in the fight for a socialist world.”
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