The speakers were Alyson Kennedy, SWP candidate for U.S. president; Jacob Perasso, on leave from his job at CSX railroad to run as SWP candidate for U.S. Senate from New York; and Laurent Sylvestre from the Communist League in Canada.
More than 35 million people watched the Democratic and Republican Party conventions and the speeches of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, noted Sandler, organizer of the Socialist Workers Party in New York, who opened the program. What they saw was “a spectacle of hypocrisy and fakery” that tried to cover up the conflicting class realities in the United States.
“The wealthy propertied rulers make the real decisions in the U.S. — it’s a dictatorship of capital,” he said.
“The Socialist Workers Party presents the opposite class course. We point a road forward for working people to take power out of the rulers’ hands. That’s the only way to end this historic, irresolvable crisis of world capitalism, which is ravaging the living and job conditions of working people here and around the world.”
Talking with workers across U.S.“We’re going to campaign aggressively, talking to thousands of workers on their doorsteps,” Sandler said. A couple dozen people attending had spent the day campaigning for the SWP from Hicksville, New York, to Queens and Brooklyn, and Belleville, New Jersey.
The meeting came on the heels of weeks of campaigning in Vermont, Utah and Tennessee. Party supporters have been going door to door in workers’ neighborhoods in cities where they live and work, as well as joining efforts elsewhere. A few days after the New York meeting Kennedy was on her way to West Virginia to talk with coal miners and other workers.
In Washington, Utah, Minnesota and especially Vermont, SWP campaigners were joined by supporters of the Communist League in Canada.
More than 400 workers they spoke with in Vermont and Utah got the new book by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes, Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Class, Privilege and Learning Under Capitalism. “It’s a wonderful introduction to the Socialist Workers Party,” Sandler said.
He read from a message by a longtime Communist League leader. “The experience in Vermont was profound,” the message said. What we were explaining “was outside the electoral framework,” and many were interested in our view that it’s “through struggle that working people will gain the confidence to rebuild society in the interests of workers and farmers. Workers bought Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? on the basis of discussions like these.”
Among the 75 people attending the New York event were Shelia Reid, a fighter against police brutality, whose son Jerame was killed by cops in New Jersey in 2014; Camilo Matos, a leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party in New York; and Dalton Roberts, a young mechanic who met party campaigners just a few days earlier at a protest outside the Democratic Party convention and decided to join them in talking with workers about the campaign.
The two war partiesThe Democratic Party presented itself as a war party at the Philadelphia convention, said Kennedy. Former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called for Clinton’s election to send a message that “no one attacks America and gets away with it.”
Some Bernie Sanders supporters interrupted Panetta with chants of “No more war!” They were drowned out by shouts of “USA, USA” by other delegates, many waving “USA” placards printed for the stage-managed jingoistic event.
Shortly before Clinton’s acceptance speech, retired Marine Gen. John Allen, who once headed U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, took the stage with several dozen retired officers and war veterans to endorse her.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that our country is weak,” Clinton said during her speech.
Trump, Clinton and Sanders “want to make working people think that we’re all in this together,” Kennedy told the meeting. “Trump says ‘I will make America great again’ and Clinton says ‘America is already great.’
“But ‘America’ is class divided,” Kennedy said. “Workers have no common interests with the capitalists. There’s nothing ‘great’ about their policies and imperialist wars, which target working people here and abroad.”
Both the Democrats and the Republicans are war parties, Kennedy said. They’re dedicated to protecting the U.S. rulers’ interests in the wars Washington has been fighting nonstop for 15 years and others that are inevitable, spawned by the global capitalist crisis.
Clinton in her speech claimed that “our economy is so much stronger” than before Obama took office. The auto industry “just had its best year ever,” she said. “That’s real progress.”
“What world is she living in? And who does she mean by ‘our’ economy,” asked Kennedy, who joined the United Mine Workers union in 1981 and was among the first waves of women to work in underground coal mines.
The very day of Clinton’s speech, Kennedy said, Ford Chief Financial Officer Robert Shanks told the press that “the growth is over.” Ford plans to accelerate “cost cutting” and slash production and jobs. And Fiat Chrysler has told the United Auto Workers that unless the union agrees to concessions, the company will stop building sedans and compact cars in the U.S.
Trump gets a hearing from many workers because he points to the deep economic crisis, factory closings, speedup and stagnant wages. “I am your voice,” he arrogantly boasts to workers.
But Trump’s demagogic scapegoating of immigrants and blaming Muslims for terrorism are deadly for the solidarity workers need to rebuild our unions and chart a course toward taking political power, Kennedy said.
Trump, Clinton talk law and orderTrump espouses the law-and-order rhetoric used by former President Bill Clinton when he signed the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. That law, backed by Hillary Clinton, instituted “three strikes and you’re out” sentencing and draconian prison terms for drug-related charges, expanded the death penalty and added funding for 100,000 more cops on the streets, Kennedy said.
Clinton and the Democrats claim to oppose immigrant- and Muslim-bashing. But they back the Obama administration’s continued policy of deporting or jailing tens of thousands of workers without documents every year for the alleged “crime” of working. The Socialist Workers Party says, “Organize, unionize and demand no deportations” to unite the working class — regardless of national origin or religious beliefs.
Under the guise of opposing Trump’s vilification of Muslims, the Democratic convention featured Khizr Khan, a Muslim immigrant from Pakistan, whose son Humayun, a captain in the U.S. Army, was one of thousands of soldiers who died as cannon fodder in Washington’s war in Iraq.
The Democrats cynically sought to use Khan’s death to bolster the rulers’ drive toward war, Perasso said. “The Socialist Workers Party calls for U.S. troops out of the Middle East. And we defend Muslims and mosques from attacks right here in the U.S.”
Perasso helped organize the campaigning in Vermont in July. “We were curious whether there would be a different response by working people there, where Sanders has held elected office since 1981,” Perasso said. “We found it’s no different. Rents in Burlington, where he was mayor, are skyrocketing. Many workers can only find part-time jobs, while others, like rock quarry workers we met, are being forced to work 60 hours a week.”
Occupy in electoral garb“What’s come to be called the Sanders movement was always really Occupy in electoral garb,” Perasso said.
By claiming the problem is the 1 percent against the 99 percent, Occupy takes attention off the class struggle in the U.S. “It was clear at the convention that Sanders doesn’t control them. He was even booed several times. The ‘Occupiers’ aim to take over the Democratic Party — and are making headway.”
The demands of Sanders and Occupy — taxing the 1 percent and campaign finance reform — have nothing to do with building a working-class party and mass social movement that fights to organize the unorganized and oppose imperialism and its wars.
Same crisis in CanadaSylvestre from the Communist League in Canada spent weeks campaigning in Vermont, along with another young campaigner from Montreal for a number of days.
“And just like the Socialist Workers Party, we’ve been going door to door in Canada,” said Sylvestre, “introducing our party, talking with our fellow workers, opposing imperialism and its wars.”
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said ‘we’re back’ as an imperialist power,” Sylvestre pointed out, sending troops to Iraq and selling arms to Saudi Arabia as it aids U.S. government intervention in the Middle East.
“Working people in Canada face the same crisis as workers in the U.S.,” he said. “This includes low wages, the proliferation of part-time jobs, cuts in services, police brutality, speedup and on-the-job injuries.
“We’re looking forward to coming back to campaign with you, and we also invite you to come to Canada to campaign alongside us,” Sylvestre said.
The working class is an international class, Kennedy said, and the Socialist Workers Party is an internationalist working-class party. “We start with the world,” Perasso said. “We look to the Cuban Revolution as an example of how it’s possible to take power out of the hands of the ruling rich.”
Perasso and Kennedy will travel to Puerto Rico in September to see firsthand the conditions in this U.S. colony. They will speak out against Puerto Rico’s colonial status and for freedom for Oscar López Rivera, jailed in the U.S. for the last 35 years for his participation in the fight for independence.
Kennedy will also tour the United Kingdom and France, and running mate Osborne Hart will visit Australia and New Zealand.
After the Democratic Party convention, Hillary Clinton began a bus tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio, Kennedy noted. “But she didn’t go to West Virginia,” where Clinton is hated by coal miners for crowing that she’s going to close down more coal mines and throw miners out of work.
“The Socialist Workers Party will be going to West Virginia,” Kennedy said. “But we won’t be riding past working-class neighborhoods on a bus. We’ll be walking, knocking on workers’ doors.”
“Everywhere we go, we discuss the need to build a powerful workers’ movement,” Kennedy said. “To make a fundamental change by taking political power out of the hands of the capitalist class. Join us!”
Many participants in the New York event came early for a fine dinner and stayed afterwards for dessert and discussion. Inspired by the program and political opportunities in front of the Socialist Workers Party, they contributed $10,000 to advance its work.
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