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Vol. 81/No. 31      August 21, 2017

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SWP takes support for miners strike to workers

KELLOGG, IdahoMembers of the Socialist Workers Party campaigned door to door to introduce the party to workers in the Silver Valley region of Idaho Aug. 3-4. We came to attend an Aug. 2 rally in Coeur d’Alene by silver miners, members of United Steelworkers Local 5114 who are on strike at the Hecla-owned Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan. We campaigned among workers here and in Osburn, and visited with some of the workers who had signed up for Militant subscriptions and bought books on the SWP program during previous visits.

During part of the trip we were joined by Pat Scott, a Walmart worker from Federal Way, Washington, who learned about the silver miners strike from the party. She talked up the need to back them with her co-workers and they sent a poem of solidarity to the strikers. Union President Phil Epler told Scott, “Your poem is still on our wall at the union hall and it’s not coming down!”

In response to the deepening crisis of the capitalist system today, SWP members are centering the party’s work on talking to workers on their doorsteps — from apartment buildings in New York to homes in Idaho’s Silver Valley. Their goal is to expand the party’s reach, introduce workers to Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? and The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record, both by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes, and Is Socialist Revolution in the US Possible? by SWP leader Mary-Alice Waters, and to boost circulation of the Militant.

Joe Barnes, who had just got off work driving a garbage truck throughout the Silver Valley region, invited us onto his porch for discussion. Mary Martin, the SWP candidate for mayor in Seattle, explained her party supports the silver miners strike and that she had attended their rally in Coeur d’Alene two days earlier. She said the party had come to help win support for the miners and to campaign for her party, a working-class party.

“I see those signs supporting the miners in yards everywhere while I’m working. Their point on not giving up union control of safety is absolutely right,” Barnes said. “I feel like everything is pointed against us. I work overtime and holidays and yet every month I scramble to pay for my son’s health insurance premium, not to mention my used car payments and everything else.”

“We need health care, not insurance,” Martin said. We need to fight to expropriate the giant pharmaceutical monopolies and the hospital corporations and run them under workers control. That way we can eliminate the insurance profiteers from health care. They don’t do anything except tell us what care we can’t get and charge us for it.”

“Like you I’m not for the Democrats or Republicans,” Barnes said. “The problem is we don’t have any say in what happens to us. They make all the decisions, based on the corporate interests that pay them off.”

‘Press to unify working class’
“The propertied ruling families fear us today because they know that the crisis of their capitalist system means we have no choice but to fight for our lives and our futures, like the silver miners are doing,” Martin said.

“As we fight to defend ourselves we need to press to unify the working class. The attacks of the bosses and their government won’t end until our class takes political power out of their hands, which will take a revolution, like the Cuban people did in 1959,” she said. “The SWP focuses on meeting workers on their doorsteps, at strike picket lines and other protests, to meet working people like you who are looking for a way to fight back effectively.” Barnes decided to get an introductory subscription to the Militant to follow the party’s activities.

Martin visited with Dixie Lepo, a retired construction worker here who in April had signed up for a Militant subscription and bought Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? “Come in and get out of the heat,” she said, as temperatures soared above 95 degrees.

“I’m so glad that your paper says what they’re doing to Trump is a witch hunt, because it is,” Lepo said. “I love it when he talks about fake news, because that’s what all the other newspapers and TV news is.”

“The target of the witch hunt is the working class,” Martin said. “The rulers and their media spokespeople know that no matter what happens to Trump, he got in because working people are angry and looking for change. They say we’re too stupid to make those kinds of decisions. It’s fine for us to vote for whoever we want, as long as they get to choose who the candidates are. We make bad choices, they say, and need to be managed by the smart people, like is explained in the book Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? you bought.”

“You’re right,” Lepo said. “And it’s not like I go along with Trump on everything. But on the immigration problem, he is trying to make it better, letting people come here who have high skills instead of no skills.”

“We say we need to demand amnesty for all undocumented workers. We say if you are here you should be able to stay and not live in the shadows,” Martin replied. “All workers should be organized in unions and we should fight as equals for our common interests.”

“Well I can see that point also,” Lepo said. “Without farmworkers we wouldn’t have the food we need. I tried picking fruit one time and it was real hard work. I’ve met some farmworkers and they’re real good people.” Lepo decided to renew her Militant subscription and to get a copy of The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record.

Fruit and Martin also met Denise Angle, the mother of a striking silver miner, on her doorstep in Osburn. “My son has been at the mine for nine years,” Angle said. “I want them to settle the strike but it has got to be fair. I want my son to see this paper.”

She got a copy and asked that we send her a copy with the article on the rally, while she makes up her mind about getting a subscription. We said we’d get back in touch with her and her son.

Martin and Fruit knocked on the door of a man named Paul, who said, “I’m a retired city employee and a conservative Republican so probably we don’t have much in common.”

Martin explained her party is knocking on doors to discuss the crisis facing the working class and to defend the silver miners. “Neither the Democrats nor Republicans have any solutions for the catastrophe facing our class — from lack of jobs and health care to 25 years of young workers being killed and maimed in Washington’s imperialist wars to the exploding disaster of opioid addiction today. We explain that the witch hunt against Trump is directed at the working class.” Martin showed him the front-page articles in the latest Militant and The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record. “This book is the best book that explains last year’s election results,” she said.

“I never thought I would get anything from a socialist,” he said, thumbing through the book, “but I think I would like to read this.” He got it, along with the copy of the Militant.

“We are not all the same in this country. There are two classes,” striking miner and Militant subscriber Lewis Elam told us when we visited, saying this was the main point he got out of reading the two books by Jack Barnes he had bought. “We are the working class. The problem is we are not organized and working together.”

“You’re exactly right,” Martin said. “Our most pressing need is to unify the working class to fight in our interests. What you and the miners are doing here gives an example to workers everywhere on how to stick together and fight for safety, for your union, for the future. But it will take a socialist revolution to remove the capitalists from control over our lives and our jobs once and for all.

“I’m going to Cuba in October where workers made and have defended their revolution for almost 60 years. Their unions do control the conditions of work and the wealth they produce goes back into society,” Martin said. Elam got the current copy of the Militant, saying he wanted to resubscribe when his finances improved. But he wanted this issue, to check out the coverage about the Cuban Revolution.

At the end of this three-day visit to Idaho, including door-to-door campaigning and joining in the USW rally and on their picket lines, SWP members had signed up 10 subscribers to the Militant, and sold three copies of The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record and one of Are They Rich Because They’re Smart?

And we met and deepened relationships with strikers and others following politics in the area that we intend to build on.
Related articles:
Striking Idaho silver miners gain backing from unions in Northwest
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