Sunday, June 5, 2011

US SWP on new openings in working class politics

Workers power-not a bigger, better welfare state

Heading into the last week of the campaign to expand the Militant’s readership by more than 2,000, the subscription drive is well ahead of schedule. While 83 percent of the international goal should have been met by this point, we stand at 90 percent as this issue goes to press.

Over the next week, teams of Militant Army volunteers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom will join others from across the U.S. Midwest to push the campaign over the top. On their way to a June 9-11 socialist education and active workers conference in Oberlin, Ohio, teams will stop in towns and cities in that state as well as Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin to go door to door having political discussions with workers and selling subscriptions.

On the conference’s opening day, team members and others from the United States and elsewhere will fill in their final subscription figures with magic markers on a banner-sized blowup of the scoreboard on the front page, hanging at the front of the hall.


During the six-week drive, supporters of the Militant have gained experience talking with thousands of working people, whose receptivity to the need for a revolutionary fight for workers power is growing under the cumulative blows of joblessness, rising prices at the gas pump and grocery store, higher rents, burdensome mortgage and other debt, and more.

“We met workers who are struggling with trying to make ends meet, working two or three jobs, not going to the doctor because they can’t afford it,” reports Militant Army volunteer Natalie Morrison from a recent trip to Evelyth, a small town in Minnesota’s northern iron-mining region.

Talking with three young men in the yard in front of an apartment building there, Morrison commented that it’s becoming the norm “for workers to make eight or nine dollars an hour. One of them said, ‘Really? Where can I find a job that pays that much?’ and they all laughed.”

More challenging than talking about the devastating consequences of the dictatorship of capital, however, is presenting a road forward for workers and farmers to overturn it. How do we explain that the struggle for workers power is not a fight for “big government.” That working-class revolution has nothing to do with establishing a welfare state to beat all welfare states—contrary to how it is often presented both by wings of the capitalist rulers and by middle-class radicals of social-democratic, Stalinist, and other stripes.

Explaining how workers and farmers, once we’ve conquered power from the capitalist ruling families, can join together to begin transforming both social relations and ourselves—starting in our neighborhoods and workplaces, not by creating massive, bureaucratized state institutions—will be central to presentations and classes at the socialist conference in Ohio.

Through the door-to-door subscription effort, supporters of the Militant are also gaining experience in how to explain the stakes for working people in defending women’s right to abortion. That, too, is a topic there’s sometimes a temptation to steer clear of with a fellow worker who opposes abortion rights, or has questions about it, for religious or other reasons.

But having that discussion is essential to explaining the “interconnections between the workers’ struggle against class exploitation and women’s struggle for economic independence and full equality,” as Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, says in The Changing Face of U.S. Politics—one of the four books on special offer with an introductory subscription to the Militant (see ad on page 6).

For instance, describing a recent sales trip to Marshfield, a town of some 18,000 people in northern Wisconsin, Frank Forrestal of Minneapolis reports discussions about “layoffs at the big hospital in town” and in “the lumber and modular home industry” in the area; worsening job conditions and abusive bosses at a ConAgra packinghouse; and tornado destruction in Joplin, Missouri, and across the Midwest. Despite a front-page headline in the local paper about a Marshfield resident indicted that weekend on charges of planning to kill a doctor at a Madison abortion clinic, Forrestal says, “We were surprised that we didn’t run into much discussion on this going door to door.”

But if the Marshfield report is any indication, members of the Militant subscription team didn’t talk about abortion rights either. Less reason to be “surprised”!

According to the report on the Minnesota Iron Range trip, team members there had at least one discussion on this important working-class question. Militant Army volunteer Tom Fiske sold a subscription to a young woman who works a job in the area and is married to a mine worker. “She is for abortion rights and is looking forward to any fights to defend them,” Natalie Morrison reports.

Since the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing this medical procedure, efforts by Democratic and Republican politicians on a state and federal level to push back this victory have fallen heaviest on working women, especially those living in small towns and rural areas—such as the Iron Range and Marshfield. Today 87 percent of U.S. counties—where 35 percent of women live—have no hospital or clinic that will perform abortions.

One of the main presentations and a class at the upcoming socialist conference will focus on the political weight and place of the fight for women’s rights in building a revolutionary working-class movement in the United States and worldwide.


By this time next week, the banner-sized scoreboard at the Ohio gathering will record, in big handwritten numbers, how Militant Army volunteers did in making—and going over—the international subscription goal. To find out the results, check the more unassuming chart in our next issue, which will be printed and mailed June 23.

On to well over 2,000!

In solidarity,

Steve Clark

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