Chris Hoeppner Looks Backwards And Forward
By Bob Small
Chris Hoeppner was the sole Socialist Workers Party (SWP) who remained on his ballot line after the Pennsylvania Department of State increased the signature requirement three days before the deadline
He received 12,820 votes which was 4.9 percent of the total votes.
This was a significant result because this was the first time in living memory that a Pennsylvania Socialist Party which posits themselves as a truly “radical” alternative party was able to achieve a ballot line. The Constitution, Green, and Libertarian Parties are all “mainstream” alternative Parties. The Greens are left of the Dems, while the Constitution and the Libertarian Parties are to the right of the Republicans. If the Keysone Party still exists, they’re not answering their emails.
One other change with the SWP is that they now want to be interviewed. The following is edited from an extensive (almost 3,000 words) interview, which is attached.
Chris cited some lessons from his campaign; “Working people were very open to discussing the need to break with the Democ rat, Republican and (my italics) other capitalist parties.”
“We raised the fight for the dwindling number of family farmers to have a (my italics) guaranteed income to cover their costs of production and to nationalize the land to protect farmers right to work it, free from the threat of foreclosure”.
Chris says he was driven to run in 2022 because “politics is not red versus blue, or liberalism versus conservatism, but class versus class. He goes on to say they “built support for union battles.”
This article, by the way, was in the Philadelphia Inquirer, not normally a socialist leaning newspaper.
According to Chris, who works on the train system, “Since 2017 railroad owners have cut jobs by 20 percent, slashing crew sizes and making the railroads more dangerous.”
He also stated “both the President and Democratic Leadership “seek to turn workers and farmers against rail workers.”
He promised the various locals, especially Philly and Pittsburgh, will become more active with continued outreach “at picket lines, social protests, and political meetings.”
Socialist Workers Party can be reached at: 2824 Cottman Ave. #1, Philadelphia, PA 19149 or by phoningn 215-708-1270
More information can be found at themilitant.com and PathfinderPress.com.
Here is the question and answer with Chris Hoeppner
What did you learn from your Campaign?
The Socialist Workers Party received a good response from our election campaign in Pennsylvania and around the U.S. Working people were very open to discussing the need to break with the Democrats, Republicans, and all other capitalist parties. How we need to build our own party, a labor party, based on our unions, that can organize to fight for our own class interests in face of the economic, social and moral crises of the capitalist system. Our aim is to establish a workers and farmers government to take power out of the hands of the capitalist class and organize society based on meeting human needs, not on making profits for a few.
Working people we spoke to know what the challenges are today, and wanted to discuss what to do about it. This is why the SWP used the campaign to build solidarity with social and labor struggles, including the fight rail workers are waging against both the bosses and the government for livable schedules, safer conditions and the right to strike, the Philadelphia Museum of Art strike for a union contract and the United Mine Workers strike at Warrior Met in Alabama, school workers in Ontario, Canada, justice for Mahsa Amini in Iran, truckers in Canada and the US, protests against the US embargo on Cuba and solidarity with the Cuban revolution, and many more.
We raised the fight for the dwindling number of family farmers to have a guaranteed income to cover their costs of production and to nationalize the land to protect working farmers’ right to work it, free from threat of foreclosure.
Workers see how employment is a central question facing us in Philadelphia and beyond. We need a union-led fight for jobs, with wages, hours and schedules that mean workers can be with their families and be politically active, rather than be torn apart by the bosses’ drive for profits.
Workers we met discussed how we shouldn’t have to hold down two or three jobs to make ends meet, nor be forced into dependency on welfare programs that create barriers to finding work. Our unions should fight for a basic income for all families, to make it possible to keep a job, be part of the working class and strengthen our solidarity and confidence in our own capacities. Under Capitalism, working people face the breakdown of the family and the fabric of society.as is evident throughout Philadelphia in the growing homelessness, soaring drug addiction and crime.
The labor movement needs to fight for a nationwide government-funded public works program, to create jobs and build and produce things that working people need. We need cost of living adjustments to keep up with inflation. Instead, city and state officials promote marijuana dispensaries and ever more gambling as ‘economic development.’ This will just drive more working people in the city and countryside alike into economic crisis and the scourge of drug, alcohol and gambling addiction.
City officials have made a show of “welcoming” asylum-seekers who have been bused here by the government in Texas, using it to score partisan points against the Republicans. What’s needed is a fight for amnesty for all immigrants in the U.S. in order to strengthen the unity of the working class and our ability to organize, build unions and fight together.
To be able to carry out these struggles, working people need to defend constitutional freedoms that are under a concerted assault by the Democrats and the FBI today.
Working people need our own foreign policy that starts with building solidarity with struggles in the interests of working people worldwide, including against Moscow’s assault on the independence of the courageous Ukrainian people and the protests by workers and youth in Iran today.
What drove you to run?
There is no other working-class voice. The Socialist Workers Party was the only party in 2022 saying that politics is not Red vs. Blue, or liberal vs. conservative, but class vs. class. We explained working people need our own party, independent of and opposed to the bosses’ Democrats and Republicans, and a working-class course of action to confront the growing crisis of the capitalist system.
We built support for union battles, presented proposals to protect working people from soaring prices and unemployment, and pointed to the common interests we share with workers worldwide.
Every other political force campaigned for or against former President Donald Trump, from Democrats of all stripes, the middle-class left, Never-Trump and newly minted No-more Trump Republicans to the Trump-endorsed Republican candidates. All these choices are a trap for workers.
Under capitalist rule, all those in the political arena serve the needs of one or the other of the two main classes, but not both. The bosses have two parties, and act as if that presents workers with a real choice. It’s a sham.
History shows — from the massive labor battles that built industrial unions in the 1930s to the Black-led working-class movement that uprooted Jim Crow segregation — that as the class struggle deepens more workers become fed up with the bosses’ parties. Working people increasingly recognize we need to rely on ourselves, to organize all those oppressed and exploited by capital to fight together and build solidarity with one another.
The road forward on this course is to organize and strengthen our unions, to build solidarity with all those on the front lines, from school workers in Ontario to 115,000 rail workers in the U.S. to the courageous workers and youth in Iran to the inspiring fighting people of Ukraine.
SWP candidates advanced this perspective and explained the decisive question is which class holds political power. We explained what workers and farmers can do together to establish our own government.
Working people in Cuba, under the Marxist leadership of Fidel Castro and other leaders of the July 26 Movement, took political power into their own hands, making ever deeper inroads against capitalist exploitation and property relations. Through their struggles they made, and recognized, the socialist character of their accomplishments and revolution — an example that can be emulated everywhere.
Ever since Cuban workers and farmers stormed to victory in 1959, the Socialist Workers Party here has acted on its pledge to do likewise. Join us!
How did it feel to receive the positive media coverage?
It was limited, but the coverage we did receive was favorable.
I’ve been following the Militant on the rail strike. Any comments on the executive action?
Working people have every interest in backing the struggle of rail workers against the attacks of the bosses and opposing government intervention aimed at crippling our use of union power.
Both President Joseph Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi seek to turn workers and farmers against rail workers, undermine solidarity with our struggle and weaken our unions. The Democrats’ strikebreaking operation has widespread Republican support.
Biden and Pelosi claim Congress must ban rail workers from striking because that would hurt other workers. They say a strike would put hundreds of thousands out of a job, prevent millions from getting groceries and medicine and hinder farmers from feeding their livestock.
In fact, a strike would give rail workers the maximum leverage to make gains against the relentless attacks of the bosses and set a precedent that would strengthen the labor movement and all workers. It’s bosses, not workers, who throw workers out of jobs. Democrats act as if workers sacrificing is the only way to prevent a strike. But bosses could stop a rail strike simply by granting the workers’ just demands.
Since 2017 railroad owners have cut jobs by 20%, slashing crew sizes and making the railroads more dangerous.
Long before rail workers started this contract fight, working farmers faced a squeeze from the owners of seed, fertilizer, agricultural implements and food processing monopolies, as well as the banks. These companies boost farmers’ production costs and limit the prices they get for their produce. A successful fight by rail workers would put a stronger ally at the service of the battles of working farmers.
Congress is not intervening in the interests of workers. It’s defending the bosses and their drive for profits at our expense. The contract imposed by Congress has already been voted down by rail workers. It doesn’t address crucial questions: livable schedules and hours, increasingly dangerous working conditions, time off when needed, paid sick days and an end to onerous attendance policies.
The rail workers’ fight is the fight of all workers and our unions! Shutting down production and transportation is the one power workers have. It shouldn’t be dependent on capitalist laws or congressional votes. Defend — and use — the right to strike!
What issues do you see as important for the SWP in 2023?
The Democrats & Republicans fear debate. They want to stifle any working-class alternative to their rule. None of the consequences of the capitalist economic and social crises have been resolved. The capitalist parties have no solutions. Just more of the same and worse for working people, young people and small business people.
The only party offering a class-struggle course is the Socialist Workers Party. Its candidates win solidarity for union battles, defend constitutional rights and call for the formation of a labor party based on our unions, to organize working people to take political power into our own hands.
Using our unions to stand up to the bosses’ attacks is key for strengthening working people. We need to maximize the support that can be won for contract battles, like the tens of thousands of rail workers are waging for livable schedules and paid sick time off, and for strikes like that of the United Mine Workers against Warrior Met Coal in Alabama.
The Democrats say the key issue is the need to stop Trump. They insist a Democratic victory is crucial to prevent a takeover by “MAGA Republicans,” who are nothing less than “semi-fascists.” At bottom, their target is the large and growing number of working people who they feel can’t be trusted with important things like politics.
The House select committee members are “investigating” the Jan. 6, 2021, melee at the Capitol and demand Trump submit to a deposition, which they plan to be an inquisition.
All this gets attention from like-minded liberals and the middle-class left, but does nothing to address the needs of working people today.
While Republican candidates point to some of the problems workers face, like soaring inflation, rising crime and more, they present no road forward either.
The fight against women’s 2nd class status and for women’s equality, including legalization of abortion state by state, can only be won as part of a broader working-class fight against the assaults of the bosses and their government. Those battles can make gains that will help young workers to be able to start families and provide for them, make the burden of home chores the responsibility of society, and advance construction and availability of health care and family planning centers that provide access to contraception and abortion.
Neither of the bosses’ parties presents any road against today’s capitalist crisis and its raging inflation. And now production and trade are contracting, here and worldwide. Our jobs are threatened.
Working people also face a deep social crisis from the crushing realities of capitalism. Suicide rates rose 4% last year. Drug use, alcoholism and gambling addiction are taking a bigger toll on working people.
Our unions need to fight for a sliding scale of hours and wages. Thirty-hour workweeks with no cut in pay to prevent layoffs. Cost-of-living adjustments in every contract, Social Security and all benefits, so when prices rise our wages go up automatically to match. Today’s union battles point a way forward.
Republicans say Democrats are responsible for rising crime, pointing to calls made by Biden in 2020 to “defund the police.”
When working people succeed in taking power from the ruling class we’ll replace their brutal cops with proven fighters from our own ranks. Today the bosses need cops — and the entire U.S. ‘justice’ system, with its courts, prisons and executioners — to defend their property and control us. They can’t be ‘defunded’ or abolished under capitalist rule. Efforts to do so can leave people defenseless.
Crime is a byproduct of a social system based on the brutal exploitation of the toiling majority by the ruling capitalist families and the dog-eat-dog values and deadly violence it breeds.
Both bosses’ parties view workers as a criminal class. They see in our struggles today a future when their rule is challenged and increasingly they fear us.
Crime falls during mass struggles when working-class solidarity comes to the fore and working people feel they have something to fight for. That was true during the rise of the industrial unions in the 1930s and the civil rights movement that uprooted Jim Crow segregation.
At the top of the capitalist rulers’ “criminal justice” team is the FBI, which is tasked with targeting anyone who threatens their rule. The Democrats use the FBI to do their dirty work, from its role in promoting the false charge that Trump was a tool of Moscow in 2016 to its armed raid on his Mar-a-Lago home this summer. Their aim is to refurbish the reputation of their political police so it can be used against the working class and its vanguard in battles to come.
Will the Locals, especially the Philly local, be more active in 2023?
Yes. We will take the SWP program to more and more working people at their doorsteps, on picket lines, and at social protests and political meetings. And extend the reach of the party’s candidates, the Militant newspaper and revolutionary books.
We face accelerating inflation, a developing sharp downturn in production and trade, and the consequences for the living and job conditions of workers and our families. Working people face the spread of deadly drugs, alcoholism and gambling addiction, as well as rising rates of mental illness, suicide and crime.
Amid these conditions, the working class more than ever has a stake in defending the constitutional rights, protections and political space we need to organize and fight. These rights are under assault by the bosses’ government and political parties, with middle-class “progressives” more and more often on the front lines.
On top of soaring prices and a coming economic downturn, today’s world is marked by sharp shifts in the imperialist “world order” imposed by the victors of World War II. These conflicts, considerably aggravated by Moscow’s war against the people of Ukraine, have been building for years.
Cutthroat competition for profits tears at the patchwork of stronger versus weaker capitalist states in the so-called European Union, with utter disregard for working people’s life and limb. Currency and trade wars, and their transformation into shooting wars, are on the horizon. The expansionist-minded, Stalinist-molded regime in Beijing poses stepped-up challenges to Washington in Asia, the Pacific and elsewhere.
Capitalism’s economic stresses on our families are pushing down birth rates and increasing pressures on families to care for aging parents.
The biggest target of the propertied rulers and their comfortable middle-class water carriers are working people, those Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign scorned as “deplorables.” The capitalist rulers not only deeply despise but increasingly fear us. It is this fear that’s driving the crisis and factionalism shaking the rulers’ twin Democratic and Republican parties and other U.S. political and state institutions.
But for the SWP, it is exactly these “deplorables” — of all backgrounds, regions, and skin colors, both sexes, city and country — who we are trying to win. That’s who we’re trying to educate, to raise class consciousness. That’s who we’re learning from.
There is growing interest in trade unions. A recent poll shows that more people look favorably on trade unions today than at any time in many decades.
Through our unions, we help mobilize solidarity with strikes and other struggles, reaching out to the broader union movement.
We take an active part in union organizing efforts to bring workers who aren’t yet union members, or who work in unorganized workplaces, into the union.
We join activities of the labor movement with those fighting for women’s rights, against racist attacks and into actions opposing Jew-hatred and anti-Semitic violence. And we actively oppose Washington’s war moves and efforts to crush the Cuban Revolution.
We encourage reading and careful study of the lessons from previous working-class struggles. There are no better resources helping us do so than Farrell Dobbs’s four-volume Teamsters series and two-volume Revolutionary Continuity: Marxist Leadership in the U.S., as well as Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes.