[Marxism] 28, 000 in NY sign for SWP candidates in 12 days of petitioning

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Mon Jul 26 03:45:06 MDT 2004


I think this is a pretty accurate description of the current drive of
the SWP candidates Roger Calero and Arrin Hawkins to get on the
presidential ballot in New York state, the first such effort in eight or
twelve years. From what I have heard, the first week's petitioning
overfulfilled their expectations for five weeks of signature-gathering.

I think this highlights the difference between the popular anti-Bush
sentiment, which is progressive and reflects the beginnings of
radicalization in the population, and the repressive Anybody But
Bush/Nobody But Kerry "movement" which stifles popular struggle,
attempts to restrict access to the ballot, attempts to silence
discussion of issues that the chosen candidate has "settled," and
basically seeks to stabilize the capitalist government and its
imperialist war policies in the face of opposition and other
difficulties.

Clearly the people the SWP is appealing to are anti-Bush.  And clearly
they are positive about having an alternative to both imperialist
parties on the ballot.  We can assume, including from the reports below,
that the petitioners are not presenting Calero-Hawkins as a "Stop
Kerry!" activity even though the Militant sometimes seems written in
that spirit.

So while the popular anti-Bush sentiment is antiwar and creates space
for anticapitalist and prosocialist politics, the ABB "movement" aims to
eliminate that space and silence opposition to the war. 

In my opinion, while Fahrenheit 911 may be inadequate as a political
resolution for a revolutionary movement, it is a fine film that captures
this popular sentiment very will, with a strong emphasis on the class
aspects of the sentiment.  (Personally, however, I think allowing the
Bin Laden family to leave right after 9/ll was the most progressive
single act of the Bush administration.  We didn't need the campaign of
persecution and lynch atmosphere that would likely have developed out of
their continued presence.  If Bush, because of his ties with the family,
didn't need it either, GO0D!)

In addition, the article is a reminder that the stifling of struggle and
real discussion by ABB is probably good growing weather for the hard
socialist sects.
Fred Feldman







August 3, 2004 The Militant

Socialist Workers ballot drive in New York is 'stunning success': 28,000
sign in 12 days
(front page)
  
BY PAUL PEDERSON 
NEW YORK—"The stunning success of the New York ballot drive opens the
door to putting the party on the ballot in more states than we have
gotten on in a dozen years," said Norton Sandler, Socialist Workers
national campaign director, at a July 17 rally at the New York campaign
center in Manhattan's Garment District. "At the rate we are going, we
will have collected nearly double the 15,000 signatures New York state
requires to obtain ballot status in less than half the time originally
projected." 

As this issue went to press, campaigners in New York had collected just
under 28,000 signatures to put the SWP slate of Róger Calero for
president and Arrin Hawkins for vice-president of the United States, and
MartÍn Koppel for U.S. Senate, on the New York state ballot. At this
rate, Sandler said, campaigners will have collected about 29,000
signatures when the drive is completed July 22 after 13 days of
petitioning.

Socialist Workers campaigners in New York are now building on this
success by expanding soap-boxing in the streets and other campaign
activities, including book and pamphlet sales and speaking engagements
for the party's candidates. During the July 24–25 weekend, for example,
SWP campaigners will be leafleting and getting some additional
signatures at the Harlem Book Fair. They will also be doing the same at
a Saturday night event sponsored by a coalition of groups in the city to
celebrate 51st anniversary of the July 26, 1953, assault on the Moncada
barracks, the opening act of the revolutionary war that led to the
triumph of the Cuban Revolution half a decade later (see calendar). 

"We are now in a position to put the SWP ticket on the ballot in 15
states and the District of Columbia," Sandler told the enthusiastic
crowd of more than 80 campaign supporters packed into the New York
campaign center. In each of these states, petitioning will be the
launching pad for effective campaigning through the November elections,
he added.

"By Friday, July 23, we will begin petitioning in Washington, D.C., to
collect some 5,000 signatures to put the party on the ballot there,"
Sandler said. "We will launch an effort the same weekend to put the
party on the ballot in the three Midwestern states besides Iowa where
the resistance in the meatpacking plants has been the greatest:
Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin." The SWP ballot drive in Iowa was
completed in late June.

Most people at the rally had campaigned that day on the streets of New
York City's five boroughs, as well as Hempstead, Long Island, and
Yonkers in Westchester County, passing out thousands of campaign flyers
and getting petitions signed for the SWP candidates. 
The success in New York rested also on the mobilization of party
members, supporters, and Young Socialists across the state—from Buffalo
to Lackawanna, Albany, and Binghamton. 

At the July 17 rally, campaign supporters contributed $1,100 to pay for
the printing of petitions, tens of thousands of flyers with the campaign
platform, and other expenses for the New York ballot drive. A team also
stepped forward to help with the paperwork necessary to prepare the
petitions to be filed with the state, making it possible to maximize the
number of campaigners on the streets. 

Sandler pointed out that the number of successes the SWP cadre, party
supporters, and Young Socialists have had over the last six months is a
sign of the bubbling working-class resistance to the bosses' offensive
and the increased integration of the socialists in the working-class
vanguard, and of the effectiveness of the party. 
These gains, Sandler said, include a genuine worldwide campaign,
anchored by several generations of SWP members, to finish on time and
within budget the construction of the new party headquarters in New York
early this year; the doubling of the subscription base of the Militant
and Perspectiva Mundial this spring and simultaneously selling
quantities unprecedented in recent years of Pathfinder books and
pamphlets in the process of building the April 25 women's rights march;
and holding the SWP convention in June with the largest and most
attentive participation since the turn of the new millennium. The
success of the ballot drive in New York, and its implications
nationwide, are part of this picture, Sandler said.

"This is how we learn and relearn what it means to be a campaign party,"
Sandler told the rally. He invited participants to actively back the
ballot drives beyond New York and thanked the army of petitioners who
have given the SWP campaign great momentum. 
Undemocratic ballot requirements
To get on the ballot, socialist campaigners have to overcome a host of
undemocratic restrictions. Requirements in many states to collect tens
of thousands of signatures, pay fees, and meet special distribution
requirements are designed to keep working-class parties off the ballot
so the two-party system of the parties of capitalism—the Democrats and
Republicans—remains unchallenged.
State authorities have so far certified the SWP slate for the ballot in
three states: Colorado, New Jersey, and Washington State. SWP supporters
have also filed petitions seeking ballot status, or are about to do so,
in Iowa, Mississippi, Utah, and Vermont.

In addition to New York and the states where ballot drives are being
launched now, campaigners in Florida, Louisiana, and Tennessee are also
signing up electors to place the SWP slate on the ballot in those
states. A by-product of the work to get the signatures needed to be on
the ballot is the visibility the socialist campaign gets as thousands of
leaflets, copies of the campaign newspaper, and pamphlets get into the
hands of those who are interested in the campaign. The pace and scope of
the effort in New York has had a noticeable impact in this regard. "I
was petitioning yesterday at Broadway and Flushing in Brooklyn," said
SWP vice-presidential candidate Arrin Hawkins, in her remarks at the
July 17 rally. "A young guy came up and said, 'I can't sign that. I
already signed for you in Harlem last week. Then I saw your people at
Union Square yesterday.'" 
Support for unions gets hearing
"Hey, what's that all about?" shouted a sanitation worker driving a
garbage truck to Karl Butts, an SWP candidate for U.S. Congress in the
11th Congressional District in Tampa, Florida, who came to New York like
other socialist candidates to help out the party campaign here. Butts
was handing out flyers near a campaign table on 8th Avenue and 35th
Street in Manhattan's Garment District. Butts explained that the
socialist campaign supported workers' right to organize unions and
called for the defense of the labor movement from attacks by the bosses
and the government. "Talk to the guy at the back of the truck, too," the
driver told Butts after taking a leaflet. 
The worker riding at the back was very interested in the campaign. "Our
contract has expired and the city refuses to negotiate," he said. The
worker got so absorbed in the conversation that the truck was more than
a block away before he realized it. He grabbed the leaflet and ran to
catch up. 
The same day, a half-dozen workers from the New Yorker Hotel lined up to
sign petitions in the Garment District, after another campaigner
explained the socialist candidate's uncompromising stance in defense of
the right to organize unions. They described some of the conditions they
face and the need for stronger unions.

"That's for me, I'm a worker," said a woman who signed a petition
outside the ShopRite in Yonkers, after hearing what the socialist
campaign was about. "How they abuse us where I work! The bosses are
always accusing workers of things they didn't do. We need a union." 

In Buffalo, a city in western New York, around a dozen people hit the
streets to put the socialists on the ballot the second and third
weekends of July, getting a very warm response and bringing in more than
1,800 signatures. The Buffalo police seemed to have a special dislike
for the socialist campaign, shutting down petitioning tables at most of
the corners downtown during the day July 17. In response, the team
devised a creative signature-gathering method they called "drive-by
petitioning." Driving to the city's parks and through working-class
neighborhoods, they stopped and collected signatures from picnickers,
families sitting on their stoops, and others along the streets. Through
this method they met their goal for the day. 
Greens, Democrats, and tycoons
The socialists weren't the only ones collecting signatures for their
candidates on the streets of New York, but the message of the SWP
campaign distinguished it from all the rest.

A young man petitioning to get Abraham Hirschfeld, a real estate tycoon,
on the ballot for U.S. Senate, bumped into the SWP vice-presidential
candidate Arrin Hawkins in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. "How many signatures
do you have?" he asked her. When Hawkins replied that she had 80
signatures about two-thirds of the way through the day, the young man
seemed shocked. "We usually get between 30 and 40 the whole day," he
said. "This guy [Hirschfeld] just sold some property in Florida for $50
million and he owns hundreds of parking lots. He pays us $10 an hour to
collect signatures. How much do you get paid?" When Hawkins replied that
all the socialist petitioners were volunteers, the young man said he was
impressed. He then signed to put the socialists on the ballot. 

Ruth Robinett spent the day before the July 17 rally campaigning in
Union Square. "Some wouldn't sign, telling me 'we've got to get Bush
out,' but overall the socialist campaign stood out and attracted people
to it," she said. "I bumped into two young members of the International
Socialist Organization who were petitioning for Ralph Nader at Union
Square," reported MartÍn Koppel, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate in his
remarks at the July 17 rally. "They were very defensive, almost
apologetic, when we noted that Nader is telling his supporters that in
tight races, they should 'vote their conscience,' that is, vote for
Kerry. I asked them to sign our petition and they did. They didn't ask
me to sign theirs. 
"
At another spot there were people registering voters at a table with a
sign that said 'Beat Bush,'" Koppel reported. "We've seen a lot of
people on the streets hustling votes for the Democrats. But a lot of
them are not campaigning for Kerry. They're campaigning against Bush
.
Kerry's campaign doesn't have much appeal. He's having a hard time
distinguishing his campaign from the policies of the White House. One of
his main themes is criticizing the Bush administration's war policies.
But Kerry and other Democrats supported the imperialist invasion of Iraq
and the U.S.-led occupation. 

"We stand out," Koppel added, "We say, 'It's not who you're against,
it's what you're for; Vote Socialist Workers in 2004,'" referring to the
slogan on the banner that hung behind the speakers platform. "The
socialist campaign is against many things: we're opposed to the death
penalty; we're against imperialist oppression and exploitation. But
we're not simply against capitalism, which is true of many currents in
bourgeois politics, left and right. Above all, we are for working people
taking power out of the hands of the capitalist rulers, establishing a
workers and farmers government, and joining the worldwide fight for
socialism." 
A campaign party
"For me, my first opportunity to campaign like this was this past April,
at the March for Women's Lives in Washington, D.C.," said Millie
Sánchez, the SWP candidate for U.S. Congress in New York's 8th C.D.,
speaking at the July 17 rally. Sánchez, who is also a member of the
Young Socialists, was referring to the massive march to defend a woman's
right to choose abortion on April 25. "We sold hundreds of books and
pamphlets as we worked over the months leading up to the march to make
sure the largest number turned out."

"This is what we are doing with this campaign. Many Young Socialists are
joining in this effort," said Sánchez. "I am not the only Young
Socialist who is running as a candidate for the Socialist Workers Party
in this election." She pointed to Chris Barkanik, a Young Socialist from
Hazelton, Pennsylvania, who is running for state assembly and Nicole
Sarmiento from Miami, who is running for U.S. Senate in Florida on the
SWP ticket.

Sánchez reported that at least four Young Socialists at the meeting—Ryan
Scott, Bill Schmitt, Alex Alvarado, and Julian Santana—would be hitting
the road to lend a hand to the SWP campaigns elsewhere. More volunteers
are needed, she said. 
For information on how to help, contact SWP campaigners nearest you (see
directory on page 8) or the national center of the Socialist Workers
Campaign at P.O. Box 380846, Miami, FL 33138; tel: (305) 756-4436;
e-mail: miamiswp at bellsouth.net 





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