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From The Socialist newspaper, 14 November 2007

USA: Enthusiastic response to socialist policies

ON 6 November over 6.5% of those who voted in Boston's city (USA) council election cast their ballots for Matt Geary, the candidate of Socialist Alternative [the Socialist Party's US counterpart].

Bryan Koulouris, Socialist Alternative (CWI, USA), Boston

This was in a city-wide election for City Council in which everyone in Boston could vote for up to four candidates. With each voter having up to four individual votes, 2.4% of all votes cast were for Matt, and this amounted to over 3,000 votes.

Socialist Alternative campaigned almost exclusively in working class areas, and we got a much higher percentage of the vote in many areas where we had a presence.

For instance, at the polling station near Matt's apartment, in one of the most notoriously crime-ridden and poorest areas of Boston (Upham's Corner), Matt got well over 20% of all votes cast. In the polling station near my apartment, in a multi-racial working-class area, Matt got over 10% of all votes cast.

Campaigning on the streets, we learned a lot more about Boston. We did not just learn about the electoral system; more importantly, we learned about the issues confronting communities. Housing was the key issue facing many communities.

We also were brought closer to a community campaign fighting against Boston University's attempt to put a very dangerous, level 4, 'bio-terror' laboratory in their community. We learned that the lack of a library is an issue in Chinatown, and the proliferation of condos (expensive privately owned apartments) is an issue in many communities.

What we found everywhere in Boston, throughout this campaign, is that working-class people are fed up. Angry at the lack of affordable housing, sick of the war in Iraq, fed up with the cost of living in the city, infuriated every time they see more condos being built, and tired of the stories that come every week about one young person killing another on our streets.

Unfortunately, this anger leads to mixed consequences. Alienated from what was on offer from the main parties, many simply did not vote. The turnout was just 13.6%, down from 24.6% in 2003 and the lowest in decades.

Anti-immigrant sentiment seems to have gathered some steam; with an outsider candidate running on an anti-immigrant platform getting around 4,000 votes. This is an indication of the political polarisation, both left and right, taking place in US society. Socialists need to be bold about taking up this issue, and we made immigrant rights one of our key issues, despite the fact that undocumented immigrants cannot vote.

Many people were very impressed with the seriousness of our election campaign, and many people are interested in joining Socialist Alternative through this work. As the war in Iraq ravages on, as the housing situation deteriorates, and as the attacks on working people intensify, mass struggle is likely to pick up in the US.

When this fight intensifies, new activists will look for alternatives on the political and electoral plane.

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In The Socialist 14 November 2007:

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USA: Enthusiastic response to socialist policies

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