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USA elections: Break with the two parties of big business!
Build Nader's anti-war, anti-corporate campaign
ON 24 February, Ralph Nader declared he was running for President to challenge the corporate stranglehold over US politics. Ordinary Americans have been "shut out of their government by two major parties that, in varying degrees, have turned Washington into corporate-occupied territory," Nader said. Socialist Alternative [the Socialist Party's US counterpart] is supporting Nader's anti-war, pro-worker campaign, as we did in 2000 and 2004.
Philip Locker, Socialist Alternative, USA
The 2008 election campaign has revealed the huge anger among workers and young people at eight years of George W Bush's big-business, pro-war, right-wing policies, as well as the 'Bush-lite' Democrats who have been complicit in Bush's crimes. Polls show over 70% of Americans think the country is heading in the wrong direction.
While Corporate America has made record profits, living standards are falling for working people. Our planet is hurtling toward an environmental catastrophe, yet the political establishment is twiddling its thumbs.
The majority of the country wants to see an end to the disastrous war in Iraq, but despite a voter rebellion in the 2006 elections the new Democratic Congress continues to fund the war.
Bush will leave office as one of the most hated presidents in American history. Yet the new Democratic-controlled Congress has managed to end up even more unpopular with only a 19% approval rating (NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 7-10/3/08).
Against this background, 58% think a third party is needed and that both Republicans and Democrats do an inadequate job representing the American people (USA Today/Gallup poll, 20/7/07).
Democratic candidate Barack Obama has tapped into this yearning for change, presenting himself as a challenger to the establishment. Obama's campaign has politicised millions of youth and workers, and generated a wave of enthusiasm. He has attracted the support of African Americans and many others who are understandably enthused by the prospect of electing the first black president.
But the unfortunate reality is that Obama will deeply disappoint and betray his supporters' hopes. Despite his anti-war rhetoric, Obama has repeatedly voted in the Senate to fund Bush's war in Iraq.
And while Obama talks about lifting up the poor and working people, a closer look reveals that he is a thorough-going big-business candidate.
Seven of his top ten donors are some of the world's biggest banks and financial institutions that are behind the sub-prime mortgage crisis and are now looking for big bailouts and corporate welfare from the federal government, while the rest of us are left with the bill.
Time to take a stand!
That is why Socialist Alternative is supporting Ralph Nader's campaign against the two parties of the status quo. His campaign will reach millions of people with a radical anti-corporate platform such as:
- Withdraw all US troops from Iraq.
- Establish a universal single-payer healthcare system.
- Create millions of jobs through public works programmes.
- Slash the massive military budget.
- Repeal the Patriot Act. (Bush's anti-democratic rights law)
- Abolish the death penalty.
- End the failed, racist 'War on Drugs'.
- Expand workers' rights and repeal the Taft-Hartley Act (the 1947 anti-union law).
- No to harmful nuclear power - Invest in clean, renewable energy.
As socialists, we have political disagreements with Nader, who mistakenly looks to reform capitalism. We aim to overturn this whole rotten capitalist system that breeds war, poverty, racism, sexism, and environmental destruction.
Nonetheless, Nader's campaign will give a voice to an important minority of workers and youth who are searching for a left-wing alternative to the rotten right-wing consensus of corporate politics.
An indication of this was shown in a 13-14 March Zogby poll, which has Nader polling 5%-6% in a race between McCain and either Clinton or Obama. Among voters under 30 and among independents, Nader polls 12%-15%.
While it's likely that as the election gets closer Nader's support will be squeezed, particularly if the race is close, these polls show the significant dissatisfaction with both parties and the openness to Nader that exists.
To build the most effective campaign and appeal to workers, youth, and the oppressed, Nader should use his campaign to support and actively build movements like the labour, anti-war, and immigrant rights movements.
For example, we think Nader should publicly support the International Longshore and Warehouse Union's call for a strike on 1 May against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and use his campaign to actively help spread this marvellous initiative (see article below).
It is also important for Nader to clearly call for bringing the troops home now, papers for all undocumented immigrants, and more boldly campaign against racism and sexism.
We need a party of working people
THE DEMOCRATS and Republicans both serve the interests of big business. Their pockets are lined with donations from lobbyists and ultra-rich campaign contributors.
The labour movement gives millions of dollars and thousands of organisers to the Democrats, and what do working people get in return? More war, more budget cuts and more 'free trade' agreements that create a race to the bottom in worldwide living standards.
Corporate America has two parties; we need our own. We need a party with thousands of activists which does not only organise for elections but also organises actions to win victories.
Conferences and rallies around the country should be organised to link up labour activists, community organisers, anti-war protesters, and socialists to run working-class candidates and build the fight against corporate domination and for human needs.
The campaign of anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan in California can be looked to for inspiration. This can be a step towards a new party of working people in this country. A strong protest vote for Ralph Nader for President could help to strengthen this process.
A new party of working people would need to have democratic decision-making about campaigns, programmes, and methods. It would need to be open to socialists and radical organisers, and it would need to engage in a living struggle to attract new people to the battle against corporate greed.
Socialist Alternative would argue for any new party to have a democratic socialist programme in order to defeat the bosses once and for all.
Bryan Koulouris, Socialist Alternative, USA
Nader and the Greens
NADER HAS picked as his running mate Matt Gonzalez, a Green Party leader and former head of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Many Green Party leaders are still tied to the Democrats and see themselves as a pressure group on the donkey's party [the donkey is the symbol of the Democratic party - eds.]. What we need instead is a clear break from both mainstream parties as a step towards political independence of working people.
The campaign needs democratic decision-making in order to strengthen the input and ties of the activists. Nader shouldn't accept the ballot lines [ie parties on the official ballot in each state] of right-populist formations like he did in a few states with the Reform Party and the Independence Party in 2004.
Dockers' union to strike against war
THE INTERNATIONAL Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has announced a one-day strike against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, calling for a "No Peace No Work Holiday" on 1 May.
They are calling on the AFL-CIO, the Change to Win Coalition, and other unions to do the same. This is a major development for both the labour movement and anti-war movement in the US.
The call was first put forward by ILWU Local 10 at a recent West Coast Caucus and was resisted by the ILWU's top leadership. But rank-and-file support for the call to action pushed it through, with only three out of 100 delegates voting against it.
The move to strike against the war by the ILWU also comes at an important moment, as the crisis of the capitalist system is set to hit working-class Americans like a tsunami. The devastating cost of the war in financial and human terms will lead to an explosion of anger in the next period. By taking a bold stand, the ILWU is showing how the working class must take the lead in rebuilding the anti-war movement.
THE HOUSING price bubble of 2001-06 has been a key feature of the US economic upswing. However, the recent sub-prime mortgage crisis and an attendant collapse of house prices is now pushing the economy into recession.
According to the newly published S&P/Case-Shiller index, house prices in ten metropolitan areas fell by 11.7% in January 2008 compared with the year before, the biggest fall since the index was created in 1987.
The larger 20-city index tumbled by 10.7%. Sunbelt cities which earlier saw the most dramatic price rises are now enduring the hardest falls.
The National Association of Realtors (real estate agents) announced that 2007 had the largest drop in existing home sales in 25 years, and "the first price decline in many, many years and possibly going back to the Great Depression." Over 1.5 million households entered the foreclosure process (payment defaults and repossessions) in 2007, rising to an expected 2.5 million households this year.
The above articles appear in Justice, the paper of Socialist Alternative. Socialist Alternative is the US section of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), founded in 1986.
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