“Workers we meet ask, ‘What can we do?’ Join these fights, and join the SWP. Workers are always going to fight, but to take power we need a revolutionary party forged in struggle well ahead of time. The SWP has a history and continuity going back many decades,” said Kennedy.
The event, and a similar meeting the next evening in Philadelphia, kicked off the Socialist Workers Party 2016 campaign in the region. Both programs featured Kennedy and Osborne Hart, SWP candidate for vice president, along with state candidates.
Norton Sandler, SWP chairperson in New York, urged those present to help the efforts over the next two months to put the party’s ticket on the ballot in Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Tennessee and Washington state. The New Jersey petitioning drive will begin April 16. “These efforts are an important part of protecting the ability of working-class parties to participate in politics,” Sandler said.
Kennedy said she had planned to join a picket line at JFK airport for a one-day strike for $15 and a union March 23. But the action was called off by Service Employees International Union officials after the brutal terrorist bombings in Brussels. “The SWP is against calling off the class struggle in the name of fighting terrorism,” she said. “We need these actions. They help defend our political space.
“We start with the world, with the interests of working people worldwide. The bourgeois candidates start with ‘America,’” she added. “They don’t care about the lives of workers, whether it’s here or in Syria, where the U.S. government is collaborating with the governments of Russia and Iran to assure Washington’s continued domination and plunder in a part of the world the imperialist powers have carved up over and over again,” said Kennedy.
‘U.S. out of the Mideast!’Although there has been some easing of bombings in recent weeks, the brutality of the war in Syria continues. “The Socialist Workers Party demands Washington get out of the Middle East now. It’s one more obstacle in the fight against the Bashar al-Assad regime, the greatest enemy of Syrian toilers today, and to the ability of working people in the region to put together the revolutionary working-class leadership they need,” said Kennedy.
She described the impact of the world capitalist crisis of trade and production on the lives of workers and farmers, including growing layoffs from the oil fields to railroads. “The capitalist class cannot make a high enough rate of profit from industrial production, so they invest in stocks, bonds, hedge funds. You can see these bubbles of speculation spiraling again, like in 2008,” said Kennedy.
The Socialist Workers Party candidates point to the need to fight for a federally funded jobs program to put millions back to work.
“Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders talk about unemployment, and some capitalist candidates even mention the working class,” she said. “But they will never point to working people fighting in our own interests as the answer. The SWP is explaining that our class can organize a revolutionary movement and make a socialist revolution, a road forward.”
SWP vice-presidential candidate Osborne Hart spoke about why opposing the scapegoating of immigrants, including attacks on Muslims and their mosques, is a life-and-death question for the working class. “These are fellow workers, part of the fight for jobs, for unions, for dignity,” he said. “Unless we approach every worker that way, we can’t build a movement to overturn capitalism.”
“Workers need to build a labor party, based on the unions, that organizes independently of all the capitalist parties,” Hart said. “We need to act as a class, I don’t care what country you’re from, what language you speak, what religion you practice.”
“As the crisis of the capitalist system deepens, there is more pressure on women. The right to control their own bodies is fundamental to women’s equality,” said Hart, who took part in a March 2 rally in Washington, D.C., to defend women’s right to choose abortion.
‘Return Guantánamo, end embargo’Jacob Perasso, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate, joined Kennedy and Hart on the platform in New York. Perasso is a freight rail conductor for the CSX railroad and a member of United Transportation Union Local 1447, on leave from his job for the campaign.
“The SWP calls on working people to demand that the U.S. government return Guantánamo to Cuba,” said Perasso, “and end the embargo, which is still enforced against the Cuban people. U.S. imperialism has changed its tactics, not its objective to overthrow the Cuban Revolution.
“The main thing Barack Obama tried to do in Cuba was ramp up pressure on the Cuban government and push capitalist dog-eat-dog values,” he continued. “The Cuban Revolution has proletarian values, exemplified by the Cuban Five. In Cuba, as Ramón Labañino explains in the new book The Cuban Five Talk About Their Lives Within the US Working Class, it’s normal for people to help one another, to cooperate. The SWP points to the need to emulate that revolution as a precondition to building a society based on those values here. SWP campaign supporters will get this book out broadly, to explain what we stand for.” (See book specials on page 3.)
‘You explain what we can do’John Staggs, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, chaired the March 26 program in Philadelphia, which also celebrated the opening of an attractive new campaign headquarters.
“Pennsylvania has the distinction of being one of the top states for deaths due to drug overdoses,” said Staggs. “The SWP campaign is speaking out about the abysmal failure of the capitalist system to provide health care and jobs for millions.”
“The other candidates are not for the working class,” Cecelie Brown, a Walmart worker who attended the meeting, told Kennedy. “You’re explaining what we can do. I like that.” Brown met Hart at a protest for $15 and a union last year on April 15. SWP candidates will be joining similar protests being organized in many cities April 14.
Carmen Guerrero, who is active in opposing attacks on immigrant workers in Philadelphia, brought greetings. Delphine Matthews, whose son, Frank McQueen, was killed by police in June 2014, stopped by after a day of leafleting for People Against Injustice, an anti-police brutality group.
Jim Moran, chair of the Joseph Dougherty Legal Defense Fund, also spoke. Dougherty, 74, who was business manager of Ironworkers Local 401, was sentenced last year to 19 years in prison on frame-up charges of racketeering, conspiracy, arson and extortion.
“A 10-person SWAT team appeared on his lawn in full battle array. Joe told me all that they had to do is pick up the phone. The case against him doesn’t pass the smell test and workers shouldn’t put up with it,” Moran told the meeting.
Participants in the two meetings contributed $6,841 to the campaign.
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