You would think that James Warren would be the Maytag Repairman of politicians, the loneliest one in America.
After all, he is the presidential candidate of the Socialist Workers Party, holding high the banner of proletarian revolution at a time when collective economies are crumbling worldwide and capitalism is idolized.
But Mr. Warren rejects that conventional wisdom. "This is the best time to be a socialist since the Russian revolution," he declares.
Mr. Warren, 40, a steel worker in Chicago, yesterday wound up a three-day trip to Maryland and campaigned outside the Bethlehem Steel Corp. plant at Sparrows Point.
Before that appearance, the Memphis native talked history and politics during a quick lunch at Mickey's Bar and Grill on North Point Boulevard.
The Socialist Workers Party of the United States was founded in 1938 by followers of Leon Trotsky, the Russian revolutionary and Marxist who later was assassinated in Mexico City on orders of Josef Stalin.
"The greatest damage to socialism in this century has not been done by the capitalists, not by the enemies of socialism from without, it's been done by the enemies of socialism from within," Mr. Warren said.
According to his analysis, Stalinism in the Soviet Union and its client states did the damage. "That delivered a bigger blow to socialism than the capitalists ever could," Mr. Warren said.
"It's been the greatest obstacle for true socialism and communism to overcome, almost insurmountable. When Stalinism became the public face of socialism, the capitalists could point to it and say, 'If you want socialism, this is what you're going to get.'"
Mr. Warren said the downfall of the Soviet Union was a victory for true socialism. "The only people who could defeat Stalinism were the workers and farmers in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. They defeated Stalinism. Not imperialism, not the market system, but the workers themselves."
He contended that none of the former communist countries will ever become capitalist. "They want the benefits of the market system without the problems of the market system, that's their contradiction.
"There are benefits to a market system -- technological developments, abundance of consumer goods -- but there's also the problems: inherent unemployment, private ownership of the means of production, lack of any control over trade. All those problems workers do not want and will not accept without a fight."
Mr. Warren, who hopes to be on the ballot in more than 20 states and a write-in candidate in Maryland, claimed that this country will soon be wrestling with similar problems.
"All the implications of the Great Depression exist today, including trade conflicts between major powers leading to war for foreign markets. The war for Iraq was the opening shots of World War III. We have to prevent this disaster from befalling humanity."
Mr. Warren said that he is getting a better reception for his ideas these days than ever before. "People vote for president on one basis, who's going to do the least damage to me, who's going to take the least amount out of my pocketbook."
He has a simple solution for the economic troubles at Sparrows Point. "You could still have 20,000 people working here. You just reduce the work day, don't lay anybody off, with no reduction in pay.
"The owners would say that would cost them money, but we say what they do now costs the workers money. Let [the owners] pay the price, not us."
Arriving at the steel plant in three cars, Mr. Warren's entourage -- no Secret Service, no police escort, no press bus -- set up a table of literature and greeted workers with brochures. Some waved them away with a scoff, but more took them and a large number stopped and chatted with the candidate.
"You can't tell who's going to be interested," Mr. Warren said. "Might be black or white, young or old, male or female. You never know who it's going to be."