By ERWIN FREED
The perspective of independent working-class electoral work is often discussed but left to the realm of abstract formulations rather than hitting the streets in action. Socialist Resurgence’s Connecticut branch decided to put words into actions and to run Dan Piper, a frontline worker (teacher) and longtime revolutionary, for State Representative in Hartford’s First District on our own ballot line.
Campaigning openly as revolutionary socialists allowed SR and campaign supporters to focus on the big political questions of the day, including the need for workers to build their own party. We knocked on every door in the district. SR designed a special handcard for distribution, which included an 11-point program to meet the various crises of the day. See the end of this article for the program given to thousands of people living and working in the first district.
Revolutionaries run electoral campaigns not to become managers of the capitalist state but rather to learn about the conditions of the class and openly put our program alongside that of the bosses. In this sense, the Piper campaign was a solid step forward. On the first day that volunteers began going door-to-door, the campaign met Jeff, a West Indian socialist excited to discuss how the Democrats and Republicans both contribute to the impoverishment of Hartford’s Black community.
Our campaign spoke with a large number of people who were dissatisfied with the way the Democrats have handled the pandemic response and housing crisis in Hartford. Many were initially unwilling to speak about “politics,” but quickly opened up when we explained that we were running an independent socialist campaign. Shauna, an immigrant and health-care worker, became excited to hear that we were running an independent campaign and said she wished this had been started “a long time ago.”
She identified housing and jobs as the most prominent problems the community faces and said that our program—which includes triple pay for frontline workers, $700/week for the unemployed, and quality housing as a basic right—is what running an independent socialist campaign means! Her friend was hesitant to sign the campaign sheet since she is ineligible to vote, but immediately wrote her contact information down when she heard that our party supports full rights for immigrants and incarcerated people.
Campaigners had dozens of (socially distanced) conversations like these at the doors of people’s homes. Over and over, the general feeling of political outrage, disgust, and demoralization was placed at the feet of the Democratic Party, which runs almost every aspect of government in Hartford and Connecticut. Also repeated were expressions of excitement at the prospect and program of working-class independent politics.
One woman, a factory worker taking time off to care for her children during the pandemic, said she agreed with Socialist Resurgence’s entire program. She went a step further and said that change is not made through voting but rather through strikes and mass action. Right down the street from her, Ty, who is currently unemployed, had a long conversation with one of our campaigners about the need for more street demonstrations and a new political party for working people.
On top of in-person discussions, this campaign has allowed SR to get our program out to working people who are fighting their bosses, and to build support for them. Dan’s campaign walked the picket line with striking Backus nurses and helped boost their actions via live stream. He was also able to speak with a shop meeting of cafeteria workers organized with UNITE HERE Local 217, and gave a powerful speech from the picket line demanding justice for Stamford Sheraton workers who are facing layoffs due to the closing of the hotel. Dan and SR remained active in the labor movement, using the campaign as a tool rather than a distraction from this work.
In order to maximize the number of discussions and awareness of the campaign, supporters have made over 1000 telephone calls to people within the district. Thousands of texts and calls gained explicit support from dozens of people who previously had been relatively unfamiliar with Dan’s campaign. Many calls led to discussions of 10 minutes or more with people who were excited to hear about what demands working people could be making if they had a party of their own.
Although bourgeois parties are no place for socialists, revolutionaries do not abstain from participating in the electoral process. Campaigns like Dan’s should be run whenever possible. They do not take away from other political work, but rather strengthen it and give a more direct means to have full ranging political discussions with working people.
Whatever the result of the elections, the burning task of working people in the United States is to form a political party of their own, based in the unions, with a revolutionary program, and focused on mobilizing to win demands, and ultimately, state power. Piper for State Rep is a modest but important example of what such a party’s campaigns could look like.
Socialist Resurgence’s 11-point program for Dan Piper’s campaign for State Representative in Hartford’s 1st District:
- Black Lives Matter! Jail killer cops. Abolish the police.
- Reparations for Black, Puerto Rican, Chicano, and Indigenous people.
- Stop all raids, arrests, and deportations now! ICE out of Connecticut.
- Production for public health and renewable energy, not war.
- Triple hazard pay and adequate PPE for frontline workers! Minimum $700/week for the unemployed.
- No evictions, foreclosures, or medical debt; making housing and health care basic rights.
- Quality free public child care and elder care for all, 24-7. Free education for a lifetime.
- Reproductive justice: Free, accessible contraception and abortion on demand.
- Full civil and human rights for the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Build an independent labor party based on a fighting and democratic labor movement.
- Public ownership of banks, industry, and transportation under democratic workers’ control.