BY STEVE CLARK
"I have a big gallery process camera that was previously used by one of the Chicago newspapers," wrote Howard Mayhew in a letter to Socialist Workers Party organization secretary Ed Shaw in February 1964. "It may be adequate for the Militant."
As a well-known militant unionist and communist, Mayhew ended up on the employers' blacklist in the Chicago area during the McCarthyite witch-hunt of the 1950s and was unable to hold down an industrial union job. To keep food on the table, Mayhew raised chickens and opened a small printshop in his basement, outfitted with the big camera and a press.
The SWP leadership welcomed Mayhew's offer to donate his camera and other printing equipment. What's more, in a July 22 letter to Mayhew, Shaw proposed that "you move to New York at your earliest convenience" to help make it possible to get more revolutionary literature into the hands of fighters being attracted to communism by the rising struggle for Black rights and the victory a few years earlier of the socialist revolution in Cuba. The only reservation in proposing this to Mayhew, Shaw added, was "that you may put yourself in a difficult position if the plan does not work out and you have to resume your own business."
Less than a month later, Mayhew set out for New York on a Greyhound bus. Keeping in mind the concerns raised as to his livelihood, Mayhew replied to Shaw: "I'll leave Chicago without unduly disturbing the prospects of returning to reestablish my source of income should that be necessary. However, I have the greatest confidence that an efficient party press can and will be established and that I will return only to arrange for the final moving to New York."
Mayhew was right. Thirty-four years later, the small operation he helped establish in 1964 has grown into a modern printshop and is still producing the Militant and revolutionary books and pamphlets for Pathfinder Press. But Mayhew's "big gallery process camera" - the 14-feet long, 5-feet high Robertson Photo-Mechanix vertical camera - remained a workaday part of the shop until just a few months ago.
Last week the electrical breaker that allowed the Robertson to get its juice was pulled out. Next week the big camera will be dismantled and removed from the shop.
Transformation of shop
The removal of the Robertson is particularly emblematic of the transformation now under way in the production of Pathfinder books and pamphlets. Volunteer workers in the printshop - just like those who used that vertical camera for more than three decades - are now organizing to produce communist literature with less labor, and at lower cost, using fully digital methods. And that means no more camera work.
Soon it will mean no more film. On November 21, the new Agfa Galileo computer-to-plate system will be delivered to the Pathfinder printshop. Scheduled to be up and running by mid- December, it will enable shop workers to take books that have been scanned, proofread, and formatted by some 140 supporters of the communist movement across North America and around the world and send them directly from electronic files to the printing plates -skipping film altogether. That way, more books can be produced and kept in print by a smaller shop -a shop of the size the communist movement has the resources to sustain.
Already this week, the new Agfa Apogee software and hardware -around which the workflow of workers operating the Galileo platesetter will be organized - was delivered and installed. Printshop cadres will gain experience using it over the next several weeks to go directly from electronic files to film, using the Avantra Image Setter installed several months ago. That earlier step of going directly to film has already eliminated the need for many hours of painstaking labor on each job. Using the Apogee system to produce film will provide valuable preparation to get the Galileo direct-to-plate system on line next month.
$172,000 needed by January 1
With delivery of the new platesetter just a week away, stepped-up fundraising work to pay off the balance owed on this new equipment is essential.
A $550,000 Capital Fund was launched October 18 at the San Francisco meeting to celebrate the life of veteran socialist Paul Montauk. This will cover the $350,000 cost of the Galileo system and the $200,000 remaining debt owed on three presses purchased in 1994. So far $178,000 has been raised; $172,000 more is needed by December 31 to pay for the CTP equipment.
The six members of the Capital Fund committee - Nan Bailey, Sam Manuel, Dave Prince, Norton Sandler, Maggie Trowe, and Jack Willey - are working with supporters of the project in a number of cities to make presentations on the fund to groups of supporters and individuals. Over the past week, $4,000 was raised at meetings in Toronto, Canada, and Washington, D.C.
Follow-up work is needed in these and other cities where such events are being organized in order to meet with supporters who are interested in expanding the reach of Pathfinder books and pamphlets but couldn't make it to the meeting. On the heels of a November 1 meeting in Chicago, for example, supporters there have set up a get-together in St. Louis on Saturday, November 14.
"We had underestimated how many people would be interested in a discussion on the rise in working-class resistance and the need to take this big new step to keep revolutionary books in print," reported Katy LeRougetel, a leader of the Communist League in Canada, following the recent Toronto meeting. "As we started talking with supporters, they had ideas of more people we should contact - in some cases people we haven't seen in quite a while.
"The struggles of unionists, Blacks, Quebecois independence fighters, and others are not going unnoticed," LeRougetel said, so it's important not to start from preconceptions about who is and who is not likely to contribute. Meetings are scheduled in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Newark, New Jersey, and New York City, and more are in the works.
November 20-22 Red Weekend
In addition to contributions to the Capital Fund, volunteers are needed to participate in the Red Weekend being organized for Friday, November 20, through Sunday, November 22. The Galileo platemaker is being delivered that Saturday.
On Friday, November 20, a crew of 25-30 people is needed to take down walls on the first floor of the Pathfinder Building so the huge crates containing the CTP equipment can be put in place. Crews of 75-80 people will be needed Saturday and Sunday to rebuild the walls, do painting and other finishing work, and also help out with less strenuous tasks. Volunteers from Boston, Cleveland, Edmonton, Miami, Newark, New York, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Toronto, and Vancouver are already working to prepare the site for the new equipment, or are scheduled to join crews next week.
To find out how you can make a capital contribution, write to the Capital Fund Campaign, 410 West St., New York, NY 10014.
Maggie Trowe of Des Moines, organizer of the "war room" setting up Capital Fund meetings, contributed to this article.
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