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Greatest hits of Socialist Worker

In our special supplement celebrating Socialist Worker's 500th issue, we printed excerpts of some of our most memorable stories from the past. Here, you can read the full versions of SW's greatest hits.

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April 1977
"It's like a war here"

"It's like a war here," according to Joe Perry, the sheriff of McCreary County in Kentucky. He was describing the picket lines at the Stearns Justus mine.

In early March, the 200 strikers were told by Frank Thomas, the president of Stearns Mining Co., that unless they returned to work, replacements would be hired. Then, the following Saturday, the Stearns security guards were escorted through the picket lines by state troopers in riot gear. It was after this that the real shooting started. | Read the full article

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July 1981
Children dead because they were poor and Black
The Atlanta story

On July 28, 1979, the body of 14-year-old Edward Smith, was found on Niskey Lake Drive in southwest Atlanta. He had been shot. Half an hour later, the body of another 14-year-old boy, Alfred Evans, was found 50 yards away. Two children, each 14, found dead within 50 yards of each other on the same day, on the same stretch of road–a cause of concern? A big news story? Yes, but in Atlanta, no one seemed to care.

Ahmed Shawki and Retha Hill wrote this report from Atlanta–then becoming known as the capital of the "new South"–after a string of murders left nearly 30 children dead, all of them African American. | Read the full article

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August 1982
Interview with Ed Zacovic, president of PATCO Local 203:
"We were a thorn in the side of the government"

Where I have my biggest problem is with the union hierarchy in Washington. They're just like congressmen and senators. They don't care about human beings. All they care about is themselves and the image they're going to portray to people. And I think that's the biggest problem–that Lane Kirkland didn't go out to the grassroots to see exactly how they felt about PATCO and our strike. I think if he would have, he would have found out that people would have been behind us, and something could have been done.

I don't think the labor movement has learned the lessons of PATCO yet. There was a big lesson to be learned–the first union to be decertified. | Read the full article

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March 1983
One hundred years of Karl Marx

Marxism is about freedom. It is also about constraint–about the circumstances and conditions that prevent working men and women, the actual producers of all wealth, from controlling the conditions of their own lives and work. And it is about how these circumstances can be changed and how working men and women can create a truly free society in which all contribute according to their ability and receive according to their needs–a society free from exploitation, free from oppression, free from racism, from unemployment, from war, from poverty and inequality.

British socialist Duncan Hallas came to the U.S. to give a national tour of meetings about Karl Marx in honor of the 100th anniversary of Marx's death–and wrote this article for Socialist Worker. | Read the full article

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June 1983
The working class and the case against protectionism
Don't Buy "Buy American"

Support for import plans is not difficult to explain. When American industry faces a crisis, the solution seems easy and straightforward–stop the imports and American workers will be put back to work.

The problem, however, is that protectionism doesn't work–import controls do not create jobs. Moreover, they are reactionary and utopian. They divert the anger and frustration of workers in each country from those actually responsible for the crisis–the bosses and their system.

As the early 1980s recession hammered U.S. workers, Japan-bashing and support for tough trade barriers to curb imported products–policies known as "protectionism"–took hold in the labor movement. SW published this article challenging the assumptions of the protectionists. | Read the full article

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May 1985
Blockading apartheid

On April 4, when an anti-apartheid rally at Columbia University turned into a blockade of the main undergraduate classroom and administration building, no one expected it to last more than 24 hours. But it did last longer–much longer–and became a major headache for the university and a source of inspiration for other protests across the country. Students who never questioned the way the system is run became more aware of the endless brutalities of capitalism–and of how they must be ended.

This report came from Columbia–the epicenter of the anti-apartheid solidarity struggle. | Read the full article

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April 1986
Victory to the P-9 strike!

The 1,500 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local P-9 braved the combined assault of a determined company, the National Guard, the courts, the press–and their own International union.

The strike of meatpackers against the George A. Hormel Co. in Austin, Minn., became one of the most important battles for labor during the 1980s. Despite an International union leadership that sabotaged them at every step, the P-9 strikers rekindled the best traditions of the U.S. labor movement. | Read the full article

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July 1988
Deal, Jesse, Deal

Many on the left who supported the Jesse Jackson campaign did so because they believed the "progressive movement" behind the Black candidate would break the stranglehold of conservatism on U.S. politics. But with the 1988 party convention approaching, Jackson dropped the remnants of his "radical" rhetoric and capitulated to the policies of Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis for the sake of "party unity" and a role in a future Democratic administration.

Far from reviving the independent left, the Jackson campaign instead reinforced the idea that the Democratic Party–a patsy of big business and the enemy of the workers everywhere–is the only political option for militants interested in changing society. | Read the full article

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August 1989
Ten years of Sandinismo

When the Nicaraguan revolution toppled the Somoza dynasty in 1979, everything seemed possible. For the first time since the Cuban revolution 20 years earlier, a movement in the Americas triumphed against a Washington-backed dictatorship. It seemed the beginning of a chain which would see U.S. client states fall in Guatemala and El Salvador.

Ten years later, however, the Nicaraguan economy was near collapse. Nicaragua's $550 per capita income ranked at the bottom of the Western Hemisphere, just above Haiti's. The 1987 Esquipulas peace process had forced Nicaragua to accept a number of humiliating concessions to the West and the domestic right-wing opposition, and the ARENA government's triumph in El Salvador was testament to the failure of the Central American revolution to spread beyond Nicaragua's borders. What happened? | Read the full article

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September 1989
"An Injury to One is an Injury to All"

The Lawrence textile strike of 1912 demonstrated all the strengths and weakness of the IWW. Here, the organization proved it was possible to organize immigrant textile workers of 25 different nationalities who spoke 45 different languages.

Mass meetings to keep morale and organization high were held in all languages, and mass picketing was sustained throughout the strike. It was possible on some days to see 20,000 workers weaving their way through the streets of Lawrence in a "moving" picket that covered every struck mill. Despite the presence of 2,500 soldiers and virtual state of martial law in the city, the strike was victorious.

With articles like this one about the Industrial Workers of the World, SW has tried to tell the hidden history of the workers' movement in the U.S. | Read the full article

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January 1990
As the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe fall like dominoes...
A revolution begins

There are moments in history when whole populations suddenly turn against corrupt and despotic regimes. Hope replaces despair. The streets are filled with ecstatic crowds, smiling, cheering, embracing each other, as an exultant solidarity breaks down old social barriers and dissolves old enmities. The defenders of hierarchy and the apostles of order are thrown completely onto the defensive, unable to rely any longer even on the riot shields and machine guns of their hired thugs.

So it was in the summer and autumn of 1989 across Eastern Europe. But the first flush of revolution was not just a time of great hopes and great accomplishments. It was also a time of great illusions–as the Western media gave the impression that "freedom" had dawned in Eastern Europe, based on parliamentary elections and unrestrained free market forces. | Read the full article

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February 1991
Government's call to support troops is hollow hypocrisy
Bring the troops home!

George Bush Sr.'s Gulf War against Iraq sparked a huge antiwar movement, in the U.S. and internationally. But when the war began, the politicians of both parties encouraged a wave of patriotism–exemplified by blood drives and yellow ribbons to show "support for our troops."

SW made the case that antiwar activists had no reason to be apologetic. They were the ones fighting to end the slaughter of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers and civilians–against the wishes of hawks who are prepared to send thousands more to their deaths. | Read the full article

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May 1992
Mike Davis on the Los Angeles Rebellion:
"A generation found that it can fight back"

Rodney King was a lightning rod for the accumulated grievances of youth on the streets of LA who've only known a constant regime of brutality from the LAPD. Rodney King is the link in the consciousness of millions of people between the conditions in Los Angeles and the kind of crisis felt by African-Americans everywhere in the United States.

Another aspect, which was apparent to anyone looking at the images, but which never until the last moment did the news commentators grasp was that from the beginning of the looting, this turned into a kind of postmodern equivalent to traditional bread riots–an uprising of the poor. In many places, it was totally good-humored, indeed, almost like a carnival. People looted sometimes for luxury goods, but on the whole were just looting necessities of life. | Read the full article

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May 1992
Operation Failure in Buffalo

"Operation Rescue, wherever you go, you'll remember Buffalo!" was what hundreds of pro-choice clinic defenders chanted at a demoralized Operation "Rescue" (OR), as pro-choicers chased OR out of town. OR had promised four weeks of blockades of Buffalo clinics on the scale of their August 1991 attack on Wichita, Kan. Unlike Wichita, in Buffalo, OR was met from day one by angry pro-choice crowds chanting, "You're not in Kansas anymore, we'll defend the clinic door!"

The Buffalo victory showed that the energy and anger of thousands can win battles. Those in Buffalo were not politicians: they were students, working women and men, and others directly threatened by OR's activity. | Read the full article

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January 19, 1996
Locked-out Staley workers speak out:
Lessons from the War Zone

In the mid-1990s, workers in central Illinois–most of all in the city of Decatur–took a stand against the employers' attack on unions in strikes and lockouts at A.E. Staley, Caterpillar and Bridgestone-Firestone. Even though they were defeated, the "War Zone" struggles helped to breathe sorely needed life into the tradition of solidarity in the labor movement. After the Staley lockout ended, SW talked to three rank-and-file leaders in the struggle–Art Dhermy, Dan Lane and Lorell Patterson–about what the labor movement should learn from the War Zone. | Read the full article

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September 12, 1997
UPS strike victory offers fighting example for new workers' struggles
The return of class politics

The strike victory by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters over United Parcel Service in 1997 faded from the headlines with the passing of Labor Day. But there was no mistaking the strike's lasting impact on U.S. society and politics. By winning the most important strike in 25 years, UPS workers set a fighting example for other unions.

And it brought to the surface that great secret of U.S. politics: class. The UPS strike gave hope and inspiration to everyone fed up with the direction of U.S. society–not just rampant corporate greed, but savage cuts in welfare and social spending, police brutality, immigrant-bashing and oppression of every kind. | Read the full article

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December 10, 1999
Cops run amok in crackdown on protesters
The battle in Seattle

The huge protests against the World Trade Organization at its summit meeting in Seattle at the end of 1999 were a magnificent display of anger at a system run in the interests of the multinational giants. Unionists from the U.S. and Canada turned out in force, along with representatives of workers' organizations from Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Caribbean and elsewhere.

When protests humiliated Seattle authorities by forcing delays in the WTO conference, Mayor Paul Schell and Police Chief Norm Stamper imposed a police state–and the cops took their revenge. Socialist Worker reporter Lee Sustar was there when police surrounded and attacked one labor march–and spent the next three days in jail. | Read the full article

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June 9, 2000
Misery of the maquiladoras

In the maquiladoras factories of northern Mexico, some of the world's biggest multinationals pay such paltry wages that workers can barely afford to put food on the table. The system is supposed to benefit ordinary Mexicans by bringing in international investment and creating jobs. But the real winners are the corporations who put profit first.

As one worker at a Maxwell electronics plant put it: "Our kids have to go to work at 12 or 13 years old because the economy is set up to help the owners but hurt the workers. And if you raise your voice or leave a job on bad terms, then you get blacklisted." | Read the full article

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July 7, 2000
Robbed of their childhood
Child labor USA

As the global justice movement took up the struggle against sweatshop conditions around the world, Socialist Worker columnist Sharon Smith described the reality of child labor in the heart of the richest country in the world–the experience of homework for the jewelry industry.

Homework is sub-sub-contracted. Technically, the factories don't know about it–much like Nike and Kathie Lee today claim not to know about labor violations in their factories abroad. And chances are that there are no labor department statistics documenting homework in the jewelry industry, then or now. But in Rhode Island, everybody knew. | Read the full article

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November 21, 2000
Denied the right to vote in Florida
"An injustice has taken place here"

When Florida Gov. Jeb Bush vowed that Florida would go to his brother on Election Day, his statement had an ominous ring. After all, Al Gore led George W. Bush in most Florida polls. His promises to protect Social Security and enact a Medicare prescription drug benefit were tailored to appeal in Florida. But Jeb Bush just oozed confidence. Many had to wonder: Was the fix in?

Yep. This report from Florida tells how the Bush brothers used every trick in the book to get the result they wanted. | Read the full article

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February 16, 2001
Howard Zinn on the struggle for a better world
"The signs of resistance"

There's hardly anything more important that people can learn than the fact that the really critical thing isn't who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in–in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories. Who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating–those are the things that determine what happens.

The Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, which overthrew the "separate but equal doctrine" of segregated schools, came with a Republican appointee as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court–came with Republicans joining Democrats on the Supreme Court. The only reason that happened in 1954 is that the world around the Supreme Court had changed. | Read the full article

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March 16, 2001
How the entertainment industry has stooped to new lows
The new sexism

A new wave of unapologetic sexism in popular culture–from The Man Show on television, to Maxim magazine, to Hollywood movies–is part of the right wing's attack on the legacy of the social struggles of the 1960s and '70s. The right has succeeded in popularizing the idea that anyone who challenges sexism is "too sensitive." This goes hand in hand with the argument that the women's movement actually went "too far"–and ended up hurting men.

But the idea that the fight for women's liberation created this divide–or made it worse–is nonsense. | Read the full article

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April 27, 2001
Rebellion in Cincinnati

"They shot him down like a dog." So said one young Black man as he stood in the Cincinnati alley where 19-year-old Timothy Thomas was gunned down by Officer Steve Roach. Timothy's crime? Outstanding traffic violations, the cops said. But his real crime was to be Black.

The bottled-up anger at one police murder after another in Cincinnati finally began to bubble over. This report from Cincinnati describes the protests against the killer cops–and explains the background that led to the eruption of anger among African Americans. | Read the full article

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September 14, 2001
Don't turn tragedy into war

As people around the world were still grappling with the enormity of the human losses in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., George W. Bush and his government were beating the drum for even more death and destruction. They were ready to use a horrific tragedy to advance their own agenda–war abroad and a crackdown on civil liberties at home.

These calls for war and revenge stood in contrast to the spirit of candlelight vigils held across the U.S. and the sacrifice, heroism and solidarity of those involved in rescue efforts. In a special issue rushed out after the attacks, SW made the case that justice was the last thing that Bush and the U.S. military had in mind. | Read the full article

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February 8, 2002
Report from Porto Alegre
What will another world look like?

Organized around the theme "Another world is possible," the annual World Social Forum meetings have come to illustrate the mass bitterness caused by the globalized free market–and embody the spirit of the global justice movement against it. The WSFs attract an incredible range of social movements, labor unions and political groups from all over the world–and the spirit of international solidarity and comradeship can be seen everywhere.

This on-the-spot account came from the second World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. | Read the full article

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April 5, 2002
A call to action from besieged Ramallah by Toufic Haddad:
"Raise your voices right now"

It's difficult to describe, but nothing at all is normal here. As of the early morning, we lost electricity. There was a complete and deafening silence on the streets. We could hear tanks rolling around in the neighborhood, then sniper here and there, and then heavy artillery fire. Soldiers went into houses in the neighborhood near there, and they've been arresting lots of people–completely terrorizing people.

But the biggest problem for Sharon is that Palestinians still believe in the Intifada–and that resistance is the way to ending Israel's occupation and achieving Palestinian rights to a state, the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land and the right to be free of colonialism. | Read the full article

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June 7, 2002
Chicago public housing residents:
Kicked out

Fifty-one high-rise buildings coming down. More than 18,000 apartments destroyed. Some 42,000 people forced out of their homes. Nearly 40,000 on an indefinite waiting list for housing. You might think that these numbers document a refugee crisis after a war. But they were the projected results of the Chicago Housing Authority's "Plan for Transformation."

The CHA was prepared to tear down all of the city's traditional high-rise housing projects and replace them with "mixed-income" developments. But project residents dealing with the complicated procedures and restrictions for relocating feared–with good reason–that they could get left out in the cold. | Read the full article

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January 31, 2003
Death row emptied in Illinois
The road to victory

On February 5, 1999, Anthony Porter walked off Illinois' death row and into a cold winter's day to hug relatives and supporters who had helped him win his freedom. Almost four years later, on January 10, Madison Hobley walked to freedom, too–one of three men released that day from the nightmare of wrongful imprisonment on death row.

Between these two events lies a story of struggle that ended in victory when Illinois Gov. George Ryan pardoned four death row prisoners and commuted the sentences of every other inmate facing the death penalty–dealing the sharpest blow to America's machinery of death in the quarter century since the reinstatement of capital punishment. Socialist Worker published a special feature tracing the story of the grassroots struggle against Illinois' execution system. | Read the full article

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April 18, 2003
The "halves" and the have-nots

The great Sioux leader Sitting Bull, a chief among a people who subsisted by hunting buffalo and who also knew no class divisions, had a dim view of the economic and social system brought by Europe to America. "These people have made many rules that the rich may break but the poor may not," he noted at the 1877 Powder River Indian council. "They take tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich who rule."

Though much has changed since 1877, the basic features described by Sitting Bull and the railroad workers are still core features of the capitalist world we live in today. Such a system cries out for an alternative. | Read the full article

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October 10, 2003
How can anger be turned in action?

Mass movements do not spring up overnight. Most people know that in 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott that drew in tens of thousands of Black activists–and launching the mass civil rights movement that finally brought down legal segregation. But Parks was also thrown off a bus 11 years earlier–after refusing to enter through the back door–with no more than a ripple of protest.

Silence should not be mistaken for complacency. The system is not working–and those who are fighting for justice today can pave the way for the larger struggles yet to come. | Read the full article

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October 31, 2003
Marching with the military families
"We have to speak out"

One of the most important developments in the opposition to Washington's war on Iraq has been the growing mobilization of veterans and family members of soldiers in Iraq. At one antiwar demonstration in Washington, D.C., Socialist Worker marched with the military families.

"The cynicism with which this government treats its military is incredible," says Susan Schuman of Ashfield, Mass. "When they say support our troops, they're not supporting our troops–175 million proposed cuts to veterans' benefits, closing military hospitals all over the country, people coming back from Iraq with undisclosed illnesses which they aren't telling us about. And they talk about supporting our troops? They're lying! Bring the troops home now--right now." | Read the full article

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February 27, 2004
We won't accept "separate but equal" compromises
Birth of a new movement for civil rights

Thousands of gays and lesbians lined up at City Hall in San Francisco when Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that the city would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of state law. "A lot of us had already said 'I do' in our own private ceremonies years earlier," said Kathryn Lybarger, describing the scene. "But the tears coming down this time came from the understanding that we were saying 'I do' together, for the first time in history. My friend James said it felt something like the end of apartheid, or the Berlin Wall coming down."

What the events in San Francisco and elsewhere show is the huge potential for activism around the issue of gay marriage--and support among ordinary people who clearly understand that this is a civil rights issue. | Read the full article

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