Presidential contender James Harris, 70, and his vice presidential running mate Maura DeLuca, 33, are continuing the Socialist Workers Party’s (SWP) long-standing advocacy of workers’ rights to organize trade unions, and recently led a call for a massive federally funded public works project.
They are campaigning in this election for a working-class, labor and socialist movement, and the party’s platform seeks to join with workers in ” . . . resisting attacks from the bosses and their government.”
The two emphasize the working-class struggle for political power and encourage input of permanent solutions to soaring unemployment, a review of trade imbalances and a rejection of governmental infringement of personal freedoms.
Harris, a Los Angeles resident for the past six years, has been traveling the country meeting with labor unions, farmers, immigrant groups and the working poor to mobilize them to push for workers rights this November.
“We talk with the workers’ unions and those fighting for unions as well as to farmers to address the issues of the time and figure out what exactly is needed to make changes,” Harris said. “The working class has to struggle for political power. No political change will come about without the mobilization of working power. Political questions are given to the Republicans and the Democrats, but no solutions come forth.”
Harris has headed the Socialist Workers Party ticket in the previous four national elections.
One of the key tenets of the SWP is creating a federal jobs program, with a distinctive twist.
A federally-funded national jobs program has been debated the past four years by each major party. Besides specific party ideology debating the merits of more government assistance, implementation of a “new WPA (Works Progress Administration)” has failed on contentious party lines among Democrats and Republicans. The major impasse is the amount of government deficit spending needed to proceed, as well as necessary tax increases needed for such a program.
The administration’s 2011 jobs bill failed the Senate vote and is not expected to be taken up again until next year. The soaring national debt appears to prohibit a new version of the old Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the 1930s.
Harris believes that citizens who work in the specific infrastructure professions (engineers, architects, electricians, etc.) should operate the renewal projects outside of government administration. The SWP wants the program operated by the people, and not by Washington bureaucrats.
“The individual professions are the best qualified to repair our infrastructure,” Harris said while on a Los Angeles campaign stop recently. “We have the economic catalyst right here among the workers. The workers must organize and take power and use the wealth we create to transform the system for permanent progress.”
DeLuca supports a woman’s right to choose abortion, noting that such a right is “critical to women being able to control own lives, to work and to break down discrimination” in order to participate fully in the working class and social struggles. This spring she joined rallies in Des Moines, Iowa, and in Omaha, Neb., in protest of the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
In 2009, she organized a number of rallies for bakery workers during an 11-month strike at Stella D’Oro Biscuit Co. in the Bronx, N.Y. DeLuca joined the SWP in 2006.
“Our campaign is focusing on worker’s struggles,” DeLuca said in August in New York City. “Jobs are the prime issue this election. The two other parties are pitting the middle class and working poor against one another. This is particularly true in the inner cities. Our focus is on the dignity of the working class, specifically the working poor. Therefore, we advocate an open border. We encourage affirmative action programs. We push for true healthcare and not just lip service. The so-called Obamacare is more about insurance providers covering their bottom line as opposed to providing needed medical care for the less fortunate. And we strongly advocate that all our service personnel be removed immediately from Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Harris said there will be no solution to the illegal immigration issue until all immigrants are declared legal. The party believes the immigration debate itself is pitting workers against one another.
“Because the working class must rise to a better position, the ruling class is bent on driving down wages,” Harris said. “This is made worse by one class benefiting over another . . . as is the case with poor immigrants from Mexico who must provide the same expected amount of work, but at virtual slave wages.”
The Socialist Workers Party has traditionally held radical social-political views and places a priority on “solidarity work” to support strikes and labor disputes. Its origins trace back to the former Communist League of America founded by members of the Community Party USA. One of its most famous political candidates was Norman Thomas who, in 1936, received only about 188,000 votes for president.
During World War II the party participated in a number of labor strikes against the defense industry, and supported African American civil rights demonstrations, such as A. Philip Randolph’s famous March on Washington movement.
“History may tell us that the WPA provided employment and economic relief during the Great Depression, but it was not adequate,” DeLuca said. “Our program will be organized and administered by the people. These are the unemployed workers who know their respective professions–and where the work is badly needed–more so than the politicians.”