Everywhere you look people are marching in the streets, conducting general strikes, defying cops, occupying banks, joining each other’s protests. One thing is pretty obvious. They have had it with capitalism and its exclusive club in the top 1 percent.
If ever there were a time when a third party, anti-capitalist movement could catch fire, this is it. With a presidential election right around the corner and the “99 percenters” occupying city squares across the country, now would be a fine time for a united left electoral slate on a socialist feminist, anti-racist, anti-war, pro-immigrant rights program.
Just one problem. In the Grand Democracy of the “1 percent,” getting on the ballot is damn near impossible, as is getting attention from news media and hence the public.
But that’s to be expected in this plutocracy. It’s just one more hurdle to be overcome if working and poor people want to reclaim our country.
The “greatest democracy on earth?” Did you know that it requires 675,000 petition signatures for an independent or minor party candidate to get on the ballot in all 50 states — 26 times the number required by a Democratic presidential candidate? Or that 36 percent of the four to five million felons who have been stripped of their voting rights are African Americans?
A new study from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University reports that a “deluge of restrictive voting laws … have swept the country in recent years.” Nineteen new laws and two executive actions are in place, and at least 42 bills are still pending in Congress — all related to the 2012 elections.
Massive corporate financing of campaigns, combined with dirty tricks, media censorship and systemic racism, has marginalized a great many of the 99 percent right out of their own electoral process. That’s why U.S. voter turn-out is one of the lowest in the industrialized world.
These vast roadblocks to getting a progressive, radical party on the ballot are a sign of twin-party fear, not voter hostility to political alternatives.
Fear of breaking with Obama. Clearly there is a great deal of worry among the rulers that given an option, any option, voters might choose something besides the Democrats and Republicans who have brought the country to the edge of the abyss.
U.S. foreign policy is still based on extending warfare, joblessness is approaching Great Depression levels, environmental safety efforts are minimal, and over a million immigrants — the highest in history — have been deported since Obama took office. His healthcare measures favor privatized insurance instead of universal coverage, and his Super Committee is meeting around the clock to diminish Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. Rather than defend 75 years of working-class reforms being bombarded by the right wing, Obama and his party have jumped on the deficit bandwagon and demand more “spending cuts.”
With this record, you’d think anyone who cares about social justice would break with Obama and the Democrats. But prominent liberals such as Ralph Nader, Cornel West, Chris Hedges and others are urging progressive Democrats to challenge Obama in the primaries, but only the primaries. In an open letter, they claim that a slate of six Democratic candidates would promote “robust and exciting discussion and debate during the primary season while posing little risk to the president.”
They say this will force Obama to move his campaign to the left so he can recover the progressive electorate who stood by him last time. It amounts to a backhanded endorsement of the president. By all that is rational, he deserves no such endorsement.
A socialist alternative. Despite the roadblocks, the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) would not be worth its name if it did not step forward in the 2012 election in one way or another. We’ve put out a call for a united left electoral slate and are waiting to hear back from a number of socialist parties. But we won’t wait long.
We believe that working-class voters deserve candidates who will fight for their interests. Win or lose, FSP candidates highlight issues and solutions that never are discussed otherwise and present a cogent, left-wing alternative to the Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Greens who all support capitalism in one form or another.
The FSP has run candidates a number of times for city and statewide positions but never for president. The party’s campaigns were always paid for by working people. They were powered by unionists, grassroots organizations, and people of color, feminist, sexual minority and immigrant communities. On a number of occasions, we fought court battles to get ballot status and protect donor privacy. In the late ’90s, the party ran in five different cities at the same time, and in two Seattle city council contests, it won 18 percent of the votes.
We have also consistently supported socialist electoral slates over the years, but so far, it’s been impossible to persuade other socialist groups to combine for an electoral campaign.
This year, FSP is working with the Peace and Freedom Party (PFP) in California to explore the possibility of a joint slate. PFP and other groups will host a founding conference of the National Organizing Committee for an independent Left electoral slate December 9-11 in San Francisco. For more information go to www.noc2012.org .
This we pledge. One way or another, the Freedom Socialist Party will be part of mounting an authentic presidential campaign this year, even if we have to do it as a write-in effort.
We have no delusions that the rulers of this armed-to-the-teeth empire are likely to tolerate an end to capitalism via the ballot box. But the first step toward a new social order starts with thinking outside the capitalist house of horrors and its magic-mirror voting booths where a single party, run by Big Capital, appears as though it is two.
In this context, no socialist election effort is worthless. Instead it exposes false choices, offers creative alternatives in place of hackneyed excuses, and helps to build a movement capable of engaging in effective revolutionary action.
Send feedback to Monica Hill at email@example.com.