Socialist Fish in a Capitalist Sea

THE SOCIALIST WORKERS Party is trying again this year Two years ago its Boston mayoral candidate, John Powers, got 1700 votes. With a presidential ticket on the ballot in 25 states, and candidates here for the U.S. Senate and two Congressional seats, the SWP hopes to pick up "quite a few votes." Powers, now the Eighth District Congressional candidate, said last week.

"Socialism has never been achieved through elections anyhow, elections are a chance to get our program across to literaly millions of the American people," Powers said.

To that end, presidential candidate Linda Jenness, vice presidential candidate Andrew Pulley, and local SWP candidates have been holding forth at rallies and on campuses, distributing literature--50,000 pieces of it in the Boston area and spending $300,000 nationwide in the process.

Powers said that the SWP's funds come from small contributions. "Sometimes we get a large gift, like $100," he said.

He said much of the money is spent supporting volunteers who gather the signatures small parties need to be listed on the ballot.


The Massachusetts center for the campaign is on the third floor of a decrepit, dishevelled, and generally decaying office building opposite South Station.

As in other campaign offices, volunteers scurry about stuffing leaflets and answering phones. But in the SWP office, a large proportion of the volunteers are also candidates--notably Powers, Don Gurewitz, the Senatorial candidate, and Jeanne Lafferty, the Ninth District Congressional nominee.

Occasionally the volunteers sally forth to make a speech or to picket an opposing candidate who has refused to debate. The SWP likes debates. If its opponents refuse--they generally do--there are always its opponents' supporters, who sometimes agree to appear, especially for student groups. "Debates with McGovern and Nixon supporters are very fruitful for us," Powers explained, "because we always win."

"Naturally, a lot of them won't touch us with a ten-foot pole," he continued. He said that several Harvard professors fall into this category.

"Harvard is a funny place," he said. "We've never had much support there, I don't know why." The Young Socialist Alliance, the SWP's youth group, has been increasingly active on campuses in the last few years.

"The majority of the country right now agrees with big chunks of our platform--the antiwar part, women's rights, black rights, gay rights," Powers said.

Nevertheless, he admitted, McGovern's candidacy may be cutting into the SWP vote, largely because of McGovern's antiwar image.

"Everything You Always Wanted to Know About McGovern," one of three "Young Socialist Truth Kits" (the others deal with Nixon and Gus Hall, the Communist Party candidate), denounces McGovern because "he has backpedalled on virtually every major issue."

Both major parties, it says, are "ultimately controlled by the millionaires who finance them."

The SWP developed out of the Communist League of America, an organization founded in 1928 by Trotskyites whom the Communist Party had expelled.