Posted at PeaceAndFreedom.org:
Brother Van Jones,
It is clear to the Peace and Freedom Party that Glen Beck and other right-wing baiters have waged an unfair campaign to discredit you, and they based the campaign on misrepresentations of your past support of working people and working-class issues. Many of our members are outraged and have rushed to your defense, and you will see their names on various petitions and letters of protest.
But you resigned, presumably under orders from the Obama administrtion, before millions of Americans who agree with your former positions had a chance to jump in and support you.
This raises some questions for all of us. Let me first tell you that I have considerable sympathy for you, and I believe that you honestly thought you were being effective in working for the people’s interest in joining the Democratic Party and the new administration. But the results bear examination. You “moderated” your public positions considerably over the past few years, presumably in order to gain a chance at exercising some power in a Democratic Party administration. Under attack, in an attempt to continue as an administration official, you carefully avoided defending your former statements and positions. And when the rotten right-wing media, owned by corrupt and vicious billionaires who are among the most earnest enemies of working people, picked up the attacks on you and ran with them, to damage any progressive agenda still retained by the administration, you were thrown overboard to the sharks.
The Democratic Party leaders welcomed your loyalty, but for them, loyalty is strictly one-way. Loyalty from labor is welcomed, but reforms of anti-labor laws have been thrown overboard. Loyalty from those concerned about our disastrous for-profit medical care system is welcomed, but single-payer has been thrown overboard. Loyalty from opponents of imperialist wars is welcomed, but as the pointless and increasingly bloody war in Afghanistan is escalated, the goal of peace has been thrown overboard. Loyalty from those concerned about police oppression and unjust convictions is welcomed, but your boss, fresh from downing a cold one with the policeman who arrested Henry Gates for being disrespectful, has used the occasion of your resignation to announce his opposition to the movement to free Mumia abu-Jamal. And your own loyalty was welcomed, but as an administration official you had to promote very weak and ineffective “green” programs that would not step on any corporate toes – and when you were attacked, there was no loyalty returned by the leaders of your party and administration.
You have tried to “work from within,” the strategy the Democrats insist is the only way to make changes. But you might consider something many of us have been saying for years: that the more effective way to bring change is to build from outside the two-party system.
While those of us who work for peace and justice from outside the corporate parties are not working to “influence” the big-money parties, but rather to replace them, we do in fact influence them as well. This has been demonstrated many times. Just to take one example, back in the 1930s, Social Security was denounced from all sides as a “red plot” until shortly before the movement became so strong that many Democrats and some Republicans in Congress suddenly shifted to support it, and Social Security became law. The movement did not become strong through people joining the big parties and becoming subservient to their leaders, but through an independent movement led mainly by socialists and communists who rejected the whole capitalist system.
The shift of the Democratic Party to opposition to the Vietnam War came in the wake of the formation of the Peace and Freedom Party, and the development of a mass movement independent of the Democrats against the war. I could give many other examples, but you are aware of other such issues on which the people won some gains only because mass movements were built outside the big parties.
Now that you have seen how little influence you actually were able to gain by working inside a corporate party, and how quickly you were jettisoned in response to right-wing attacks, perhaps you will consider coming back to your roots in the independent left. I know that the members and supporters of the Peace and Freedom Party, not only in California but increasingly active across the country, would be happy to have you at their side in the struggle for the rights and needs of working people.
I hope you will pardon me for making the text of this letter public. I believe that this question, of the effectiveness of influence-seeking inside a corporate party versus building independent movements outside them, is a crucial one that is gaining considerable attention on the left right now. It seems appropriate to make this letter a contribution to that discussion.
Yours for peace and freedom,
Kevin Akin, California State Chair
Peace and Freedom Party