Thursday, December 6, 2012




The May Day 2012 march for immigrant and workers’ rights in
Los Angeles.
Photo credit: FS Presidential Campaign


The following are articles from the Freedom Socialist Party.


Let’s consider.

The forest of laws keeping minor parties off U.S. ballots just keeps thickening; all the major media act like alternative candidates don’t exist; and the price tag for being seen as any kind of “serious” contender just keeps going up. All in all, the Democratic and Republican two-party lock on the U.S. ballot box just keeps tightening.

And yet the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) decided 2012 was the right time to run its first presidential campaign! What were we thinking?

We were thinking about the urgency of posing an alternative in these ugly times. About the need to encourage people to say a loud no to unemployment, war, and disappearing social services and civil liberties. And a loud yes to dumping capitalism and using this country’s tremendous wealth to stop the suffering of the people who create that wealth.

The unconventional approach. Because the odds are so stacked against minor-party candidates, they’re often accused of tilting at windmills. But the FSP write-in campaign, although wholehearted, wasn’t about winning. It was about pushing the issues of the most oppressed center stage and about building movements.

Presidential candidate Stephen Durham, vice-presidential partner Christina López, and their supporters picketed with Chicago teachers, rallied against police abuse, marched against NATO, participated in Tucson’s Freedom Summer for ethnic studies, and delivered aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

They talked to farm workers not allowed to vote, and with students not old enough to. They went to big-box stores and knocked on doors in all sorts of neighborhoods. They intervened at union conventions where officials aggressively pushed Barack Obama, but rank-and-filers showed interest in the FSP’s “un-millionaire campaign.” They made a splash in California as contenders for the nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party electoral coalition (which ultimately gave the nod to Roseanne Barr — click here to read more about that story).

And, with help from new friends all over the country, the Durham-López ticket acquired write-in status in 25 states.

New Yorker Durham and Seattleite López are both grass-roots organizers with long records of fighting for justice in many arenas. Durham stood out as an openly gay presidential candidate, López as a Chicana dedicated to the fight for immigrant rights.

They boldly raised socialism as the only sane way to reorganize society, and feminism as the only way to mobilize more than half the human race in this urgent task. They focused on communities of color, not as a demographic to be cynically wooed, but as crucial movers of social change.

The power of program. FSP’s platform — one that leaves no one out — gave the campaign its vitality and significance. López and Durham raised demands that make the major parties shudder: free, expanded mass transit to deal with climate change; a giant program of public jobs to address unemployment; taxing big business and the rich to pay for all this; shutting down the prison-industrial complex; and total reproductive rights, including free abortion on demand. The platform also took stands avoided by liberal third parties, like opening the borders and dismantling the Pentagon.
Durham and López also spread the idea that today’s close-knit world requires international solidarity among workers, including intensified opposition at home to the U.S. empire’s wars and crimes abroad. The campaign got publicity in Brazil, Argentina, and Australia and won endorsements from socialist groups in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Support also came from South Africa, Turkey, and Italy.

U.S. endorsements came from movement leaders like former Black Panther Richard Brown, writer-activists like Suzanne Brooks, rank-and-file unionists, community activists, and musicians including Laura Love and David Rovics.

How did we do? Due to the disdain the system has for David-versus-Goliath efforts like the FSP campaign, results for write-in votes won’t be known until mid-December, if at all. As FSP gets it, information will go up on this Web site.

But some things we know.

At the Seattle election night party, Campaign Manager Doug Barnes thanked the many enthusiastic volunteers and generous working-class contributors, who together raised $37,500. Because of this support, Barnes said, “We were able, with modest resources, to cause a scene, to poke holes in the two-party stranglehold, and find like-minded folks everywhere we turned.”

Durham-López campaigners found a remarkably high level of anti-capitalist sentiment among battered and beleaguered poor and working people, and opened eyes about what socialism is and why it’s feasible. They also found a serious will to organize after the billionaires’ election and made new connections for that effort.

Mission accomplished!
FSP candidates buoyed by strong response to socialist message
Stephen Durham and Christina López
Stephen Durham
“They ran on fear; we ran on belief in the potential of the working class”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that we live in a deeply destructive world. The way I see it, we’ve got two basic choices: duck and cover and despair, or build a bold fight-back for radical change.

When the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) in the U.S. decided to run a 2012 presidential campaign, I thought it was a great idea. It didn’t occur to me that I might be FSP’s presidential candidate.

What an awesome journey it’s been! I met so many people who are thoughtful about issues, working hard for causes bigger than themselves, and open to new ideas. It verified my belief, and the party’s belief, that the U.S. working class is capable of great things.

Socialist? Right on! I was proud to be running with vice-presidential partner Christina López. In our very grass-roots campaign, Christina and I and our supporters talked to thousands door-to-door, in coffee shops and neighborhood bars, and at street festivals and political protests. We got the word out at labor conventions attended by over 11,000 unionists.

Everywhere, when people asked me, “You’re running for what?” and I’d answer U.S. president, they said, “Hey! Good luck!” On a radio program called Gay Spirit in Hartford, Conn., the interviewer exclaimed in surprise, “You’ve said everything I’ve wanted to hear.”

It was great to be a multiracial feminist team delivering the message that if you’re not changing conditions for people on the bottom, you are not advancing justice or revolutionary change. Racism and sexism are fundamental weapons of the ruling class, and they were also the fuel of fear that many mainstream candidates ran on.

It was striking to see the sudden attentiveness of undocumented workers as we said they should have the right to cross borders for jobs, and to vote here. And to witness the curiosity young people showed about our ideas, from teens in middle school to 20-somethings old enough to have voted for Obama in 2008. In fact, young people’s enthusiasm propelled our campaign from start to finish.

Looking ahead. Our campaign gave voters a radical, inclusive platform worthy of their vote and a way to protest rigged elections. It also promoted the cause of cooperation among socialists.

To its credit, the Left survived decades of harsh assaults after World War II, including McCarthyism. But today it is small and fragmented.

Christina and I were a consistent voice for socialists getting together in united efforts. But we also answered the question, “Why isn’t there just one socialist party?” Because, we said, there are some serious political distinctions among left parties. Plus, unfortunately, there’s a good deal of sectarian behavior; fighting over issues is one thing, but fighting over status is another.

And supporting a political gadfly like comedian Roseanne Barr in order to sabotage other socialists, as the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) did in California, is completely out of bounds. We further took issue with PSL’s support for Syrian dictator Assad (although we too condemn imperialist intervention). We also explained our differences with reformist groups like the Green Party, which, for example, doesn’t denounce Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

On the plus side, I appreciated that Socialist Party presidential candidate Stewart Alexander offered me opportunities to speak alongside him, even though our two parties also differ in some fundamental ways.

U.S. working people don’t have a mass labor party, and there’s no question they could benefit from one — if it was truly independent from Democrats and Republicans and willing to indict capitalism. But a labor party is no substitute for a revolutionary party.

Christina and I tried to explain and show by example what a revolutionary party is. A vanguard party, we said, is a group of people who believe in socialism, take initiative in the struggles of workers and the oppressed, and study history and theory in order to effectively act in changing our world at its roots.

Several new members decided to join FSP in the course of the campaign, which is extremely heartening! I have high hopes that this will be just the first step for the party in new growth and taking up new battles, with the ultimate goal of putting the working class in power. I can’t wait to be part of what comes next.

Christina López

“People are looking for alternatives”

On July 29, 2012, López discusses the campaign at a rally
against police brutality that followed the
vicious shooting deaths of two Latino youths by
cops in Anaheim, Calif. Photo credit: Doug Barnes / FS

One of the things I learned by running for vice president is this: people understand that the policies of the Republicans and the Democrats are not going to solve the economic crisis. Which is logical, because these parties take their marching orders from the banks and corporations that created the crisis.

My presidential running mate Stephen Durham and I got a lot of support, but I’m sure many people we talked to voted for Obama, because they saw him as the “lesser evil.” That doesn’t mean they are satisfied with their alternatives, however. They’re not; they want other options and they’re excited to hear about them.

Some are interested in the Libertarian Party, because there’s such fierce propaganda that government is evil, and the libertarians go to town with that. People don’t always realize that the basis of libertarian thinking, “let the market rule,” is right-wing, with disastrous consequences for immigrants, women, and others. Unfettered capitalism is the problem, not the solution.

I and my party, the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP), don’t want Wild West capitalism. (Or a mythical “kinder, gentler” capitalism, for that matter.) Depending on whose class interests government represents, it can be a major force in helping people to survive and better their lives. That’s the kind of government we want to be a part of bringing about, and that’s why it was so important that we were out there this election with our socialist message.

A world of opportunity opens up. We talked to people on campuses, at demonstrations, in front of Walmarts. A lot of people at Walmarts gave us the thumbs up! What made it easier for us as socialists is that the mainstream politicians mostly ignored the issues that people care about — tuition hikes, budget cuts, war. (Except for when they were calling for more!)

The problems people of color face disproportionately, like poverty and prison, seemed to come up only when the Republicans used them to rally the racists they see as their base.

As for women, Democrats were happy to score points because of the disgusting things Republicans said, especially about rape and abortion. But look at the Democratic record on reproductive rights: it’s one horrible compromise after another.

And, of course, all of the issues affecting people of color and women affected women of color the most, from voter suppression and unequal wages to access to abortion. There really is a war on women, and the heaviest artillery is aimed at women of color.

What all this meant is that when we talked about the problems of workers of all colors and genders, but especially those who are most exploited and oppressed, people were eager to listen and to share their own experiences and opinions.

I found it fascinating to travel and see the leadership of women of color in action, from the young students fighting for ethnic studies in my old home state of Arizona to the farm-worker organizers in my current home state of Washington. I also loved spreading the news of their struggles everywhere I went, especially to the high school and college classes I spoke at on both coasts.

Students ask the best questions! Of course young people are known for being receptive to new ideas. I also found that, generally speaking, they are much less invested than their elders in this stultifying two-party system.

Get involved, express yourself! With everyone I talked to, I made the case for getting rid of capitalism.

It’s important to fight for reforms in the here and now, because people are desperate for improvements in their lives. We need truly universal healthcare, equal pay for equal work, and all those other good things.

But I know, in the end, it will take a revolution to get them and keep them. And the first step, I always told people, is for you to get involved, if you’re not already.

We workers and students have much more power than we realize. Common action has won great things for humanity in the past. Now it is up to us to carry that legacy forward, to take it to the next level. We need not just reforms, but a whole new system.

Here I go, I’m taking this slogan back from Obama, who ripped it off from us in the first place: ¡Sí se puede!
The $6 billion election that settled nothing

What matters now is what happens in the streets, labor councils, and organizations of the oppressed
By Linda Averill 

A Michigan ballot proposal to protect collective bargaining rights gained 684,000 signatures. In an election with mixed results for labor initiatives, the measure lost. Photo credit: Greg DeRuiter / AP
On election night on Nov. 6, as returns showed Barack Obama winning, victory honks sounded in cities around the U.S. Compared to 2008, however, the mood still seemed somber, and the hope mostly absent. The president’s new theme, “forward,” raised more questions than answers: where’s the country going, and who’s leading?

Pundits were clear that Latinos, Blacks, Asian Americans, women, and youth kept Obama in the White House. The Republicans’ blatant misogyny and racism kept them out.

But this begs the importance of class. Obama’s support came from voters of all colors low on the economic ladder, where big issues are shrinking wallets and overt Republican threats to Social Security and Medicare. For instance, one poll cited Latinos rating the economy and jobs as their top concern, even ahead of immigration.

The cold truth, however, is that the Democratic Party is no more a real champion of workers and the poor than the Republican Party is. When Obama first announced his post-election priorities, for example, jobs were missing, crowded out by Wall Street’s agenda: deficit reduction, “reform” of immigration and the tax code, and “freeing ourselves from foreign oil.”

When it comes to avoiding the “fiscal cliff” — the drastic looming package of budget cuts and tax hikes — the Democrats promise bipartisanship. But their “bipartisanship” is a steady scooting to the right to accommodate to the Republican program; it’s a “bipartisanship” born of both parties’ allegiance to big business. The common rightward march on everything from union issues to reproductive rights and taxes is not going to stop at Social Security and Medicare.

Without revolt from below, Corporate America and its political partners will keep delivering war and austerity — whatever the election results.

Initiatives: a mixed bag. Disengagement was the real winner, as 93 million of 219 million eligible voters (registered or unregistered) abstained. Obama won the White House with an un-stunning 28 percent of eligible voters.

But breakthroughs on social issues offered electoral bright spots. Same-sex marriage rights won in Washington state, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota. Drug liberalization advanced in Colorado, Massachusetts, Montana, and Washington (Oregon and Arkansas went backward). Florida preserved public funding for abortion. California softened its “three strikes” law.

Victories for progressive measures owe a lot to past radical movements, whose impact is still unfolding. On the other hand, many of the wins also owe something to self-interested corporate backing, compromises by movement leaders, and watering down by Democratic politicians. For example, Washingtonians legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana at the expense of introducing tricky new regulations. These include criminal penalties for drivers showing a certain degree of marijuana use, an opening for more police harassment, especially of drivers of color.
Labor issues were another area of split decisions.

In Michigan, public-sector unions helped overturn the state’s hyper-undemocratic “emergency manager law” allowing the governor to trash labor contracts and privatize services.

In California, a huge pro-labor turnout helped win a living wage for hotel workers in Long Beach and a $2 minimum wage hike in San Jose. In South Dakota and Idaho, grass-roots campaigning stopped attacks on teacher tenure and bargaining rights.

In contrast, Georgia and Washington approved charter schools. In Washington, the pro-charter side outspent the opposition 10 to 1, with plenty of help from billionaires. A nearly tied result showed that labor could have beaten the measure if it had spent more energy and money on this effort and less on electing Democrats.

Also on the down side, civil rights suffered in the election. Oklahoma banned affirmative action. Alabama retained segregation language and a law that makes it harder to unionize. California kept the death penalty. In Arizona, Maricopa County’s xenophobic sheriff, Joe Arpaio, was announced as winning reelection — provoking protest, since 400,000 ballots remained uncounted at the time.

Rigged and rotten. Six billion dollars was spent this election to protect the Republican and Democrat duopoly. This was a new record, set in part thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that slapped a smiley face on corporate buying of elections.

Super PACs not only kept minor parties on the far margins, but also tried to mold public opinion. They did their best to push people to see government as a negative force, fear “tax and spend” as the sure route to economic hell, and accept that with one false move the U.S. will be a wholly owned subsidiary of China.

At the same time, voter suppression disenfranchised many people who are poor, of color, elderly, disabled, or likely to be progressive. In dozens of states, voters stood in lines for hours. Votes were blocked or voting skewed by district gerrymandering, ballot theft, malfunctioning machines at the polls, “robo-calls” that lied about voting deadlines, and racist, deliberately burdensome ID laws.
Voters attempting to write in Freedom Socialist Party candidates Stephen Durham and Christina López were harassed by poll workers in New Jersey and Illinois, but report great pride in persevering. Socialist Alternative’s Kshama Sawant won 28 percent of the vote running for the Washington legislature — but to get that far, she had to sue the state to let her list her party preference on the ballot.

Build the movements! The 2012 elections don’t herald a triumphant march into a bright shining future. Far from it. Winners on both sides of the aisle are already vying to prove their anti-working-class worth to the CEOs who bankrolled their victories.

Elections don’t change things much for the people who need change the most; radical mass movements do. Elections don’t give the working class an effective voice; organizing does.

For change to come will take more than a gentle nudge at the powers-that-be. It will take putting some serious anti-capitalist muscle into our movements. The difference between a Republican or a Democratic White House won’t determine the course of the next four years. If we want an end to policies that send thousands off to war and throw millions out of jobs, it’s up to us.

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