This is the state where Bernie Sanders has been a political figure for decades. He was elected Mayor of Burlington in 1981, to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990, and then to the Senate in 2006. Campaigners were curious. Are things better for workers in Vermont than elsewhere? Is there a different political situation here?
Workers in Vermont face similar conditions to those across the country — official unemployment figures that undercount the real number of jobless, unsafe job conditions, cuts in social services and spreading drug addiction.
Sanders got 86 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary here. But campaigners have found that their discussions with supporters of Sanders, like those who backed Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or none of the above, are not different than the discussions they have in the rest of the country.
The Sanders’ campaign helped put socialism on the map, Clare LaFrance told a campaigner as they talked in her yard in Burlington.
“The so-called political revolution he pushes has nothing to do with pointing a way forward,” the SWP campaigner replied.
“I think a big, popular movement against capitalism will happen in this country,” Joey Schider, 24, a restaurant cook-trainee who backed Sanders’ run for president, told Jacob Perasso when the SWP campaigner knocked on his door in Barre. “How does your party fit into that?”
“The SWP exists to educate and organize working people to establish a workers and farmers government as part of a worldwide fight to meet human needs, not private profit,” Perasso said. “We face growing economic calamity and spreading wars. The working class needs a revolutionary party.”
Schider asked Perasso how the SWP was different from Sanders. “When people say Sanders is a socialist, they mean he advocates reforms within the framework of continuing capitalist rule, like Denmark or Sweden,” Perasso said. “It’s an obstacle to building the kind of party we need.”
“Fidel Castro and the July 26th Movement in Cuba led workers and peasants to power there against a dictatorship backed by U.S. imperialism,” Perasso said. “As working people joined the battle, they gained self-confidence, they gained the capacity to make a revolution and run society themselves. We want to do the same thing here.”
“That makes sense,” Schider said “Let’s keep in touch.”
Some workers have come to their own conclusion that Sanders is no different than other bourgeois politicians. “I don’t like the way he turned out,” Margaret Boyce-Bachelor told Val Johnson in Barre. “Now that he’s gotten to the top, he’s forgotten about ordinary people and the elderly.”
After discussing why the SWP should be their party, Schider, Boyce-Bachelor and LaFrance all got copies of the new book Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Class, Privilege and Learning Under Capitalism and signed to put the presidential ticket — Alyson Kennedy for president and Osborne Hart for vice president — on the Vermont ballot, as did a number of supporters of Trump.
So far 206 people have gotten copies of the book, 124 have subscribed to the Militant and 1,818 signed the party’s nominating papers.
Ballot fightUnder an undemocratic election law, town clerks across the state validate their signatures against a government-maintained checklist. The Socialist Workers Party has turned in 969 signatures so far, but town officials say less than half are valid.
“This just isn’t credible,” Chris Hoeppner, who is organizing the SWP campaigning here, told the Militant. “They say 70 percent of the people in the state are registered to vote. We are going door to door, talking to workers on their doorsteps about politics, the SWP and signing them up.
“And we’re asking people to join us in saying the SWP should be on the ballot,” Hoeppner said.
“I believe the Socialist Workers Party has the right to have their own candidates, same as the Republican and Democratic parties,” Kevin Henrichs, one of those who signed for the SWP, wrote to James Condos, Vermont’s Secretary of State, July 9. “Please allow us to vote for whom we want, not whom you tell us to.”
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