NEW YORK—Some 360 people attended a public meeting here March 10 sponsored by the Socialist Workers Party titled, "After Labor Resistance and Solidarity: What's the Revolutionary Political Road Forward for the Working Class?"
The event drew workers, young people, and others from around the United States and elsewhere. A large number of participants, both longtime socialist workers and militants who recently met the communist movement, have been involved in working-class resistance to the employers' onslaught.
The featured speakers were Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party; Mary Martin, chairperson of the SWP branch in Seattle; and Mary-Alice Waters, member of the party's National Committee.
The speakers addressed how the propertied rulers are responding to the unfolding world capitalist crisis and the resistance by an expanding vanguard of workers. This resistance, they noted, provides new opportunities for communist workers to work with fellow fighters toward an understanding that the capitalist class has no solution but to brutally intensify the rate of exploitation of our class—and that they need to be part of a workers party that charts a road toward a revolutionary struggle for power.
Waters had just returned from the Havana International Book Fair, where she was part of a panel that launched the book Women in Cuba: The Making of a Revolution Within the Revolution by Vilma Espín, Asela de los Santos, and Yolanda Ferrer. Waters is the editor of the book, published by Pathfinder Press.
Speaking at the book presentation, de los Santos, a combatant in eastern Cuba in the revolutionary war that brought down the Batista dictatorship in 1959 and led to a socialist revolution in Cuba, highlighted a quote from the book that described "the interaction between the Rebel Army combatants and the exploited, landless peasants and agricultural workers of the region. We see the ways in which they transform each other and together become a stronger, more conscious revolutionary force."
"This is the heart of the book," Waters said, "and of all Pathfinder books about the Cuban Revolution. It is the heart of Marxism—how real human beings are transformed and fight their way to become communists."
She said the Cuban Revolution shows there is no separate road to emancipation for women from that of the working class. "That is because women's oppression is rooted in class relations, in private property," which must be overturned by working people.
Fight to free 5 Cuban revolutionists
Waters and Barnes both spoke about the fight to free Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, and René González, Cuban revolutionists framed up by the U.S. government.
To advance the defense of these five militants, Waters said, "we start with explaining the Cuban Revolution and why it must be defended," and the caliber of the five as revolutionary fighters.
Both noted that in the 1990s the five came to the U.S. to gather intelligence for the Cuban government on paramilitary counterrevolutionary groups like Brothers to the Rescue. That outfit, by repeatedly flying planes piloted by U.S. citizens into Cuban airspace, sought to provoke a military confrontation between Washington and Havana. The Cuban government prevented that outcome, defended its sovereignty, and put an end to the provocations with the shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996. Washington retaliated by framing up and imprisoning the five revolutionaries.
As with other such political battles, Waters said, the defense of our five comrades is part of the class struggle in the United States. She pointed to the earlier battle to free five Puerto Rican Nationalist Party members jailed by Washington in 1954. That worldwide campaign became part of the rising class struggle in the 1960s and 1970s, and, in 1978-79, as revolutionary struggles swept Iran, Grenada, and Nicaragua, President James Carter "saw the light" and freed the five Nationalists.
Mary Martin described the participation by members of the Socialist Workers Party in the battle of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in Longview, Wash., to defeat union-busting moves by EGT Development.
Martin announced the launching of her campaign as the Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor of Washington and asked other SWP candidates to stand up. These election campaigns will be used to deepen the party's participation in such struggles and get a wider hearing for a revolutionary working-class perspective. (See list of candidates on this page.)
Barnes explained that for the next few years working people can count on a continuation of the bosses' attacks and working class resistance—and most importantly, of the responsiveness among many workers to the Militant and to serious consideration of a revolutionary working-class political outlook.
Historic crisis of capitalism
The world, he noted, has entered the beginning of a historic crisis of the capitalist system—one that no one politically active today has ever seen. The propertied rulers are reacting to this crisis the only way they can: by relentlessly attacking the working class.
Barnes pointed out that the impoverishment of broader layers of working people today, a large permanent layer of unemployed workers and the disproportionately large pauperization and imprisonment of African-American workers, are all tendencies inherent in the lawful workings of capitalism.
Driving down the basic living standards of our class won in combat over decades—what Marx called the "historical and moral elements" of the value of labor power—is the only way for the capitalists to restore their competitiveness on world markets and reverse their declining rate of profit, Barnes said.
At the end of the meeting, a special collection to advance the party's political work raised more than $26,000. After the program, most participants stayed for dinner, more discussion, and a party.
The next morning, a number of workers and students who are new to working with the Socialist Workers Party participated in a meeting to discuss politics further.
"I got leaps and bounds of information to go back on, to talk about and read, to learn from the history of workers," Anthony Hall, a young warehouse worker from Washington, D.C., told the Militant. "It was really interesting to meet others fighting back and from the Socialist Workers Party all over the country."
"We need a change in the system," said Rafael Emilio Soto, a janitorial worker and member of the Service Employees International Union in Boston and a Militant reader. "This is a dangerous system that threatens everyone. The rich live off the people, that's how they accumulate their wealth. We need to stand up and change the system."