An open letter: Is Nader an alternative?
Dear fellow activists,
The Green Party presidential campaign of Ralph Nader has stirred a very interesting debate among young activists about what attitude to take towards the coming elections, the Democratic Party, the Greens, and third parties in general.
A definite sign of that interest can be seen in the large turnout Nader has been getting when speaking. Here in Minneapolis over 11,000 people, a good number of them students, turned out on Sept. 22 to hear Nader and Green Party vice presidential candidate Winona LaDuke.
Although it may not be a popular position among many leftist activists right now, Socialist Action and Youth for Socialist Action do not support Nader or the Green Party. And we would like you to consider why we made this decision.
It is not out of sectarian impulse that we do not back the Nader campaign. It’s because we believe that Nader represents not a clean break from the Democrats but rather an attempt to pressure the Democrats from the left.
The Democratic Party, never a friend of the working class, has long been the graveyard of all social movements.
Nader, though joking how he is more worried about Gore taking votes away from him rather than the other way around, has in the same breath said that his campaign will in a big way help get Democrats elected to Congress. He points out, truthfully, that many of his supporters and potential voters would not go to the polls if it were not for his candidacy. This, he says, will increase the vote for Democratic congressional candidates (the Greens aren’t running in most congressional races).
We think this is no minor point, and is very dangerous. Nader has also come out squarely against infringing on the right of corporations to make a profit, and refused to take a position on many important social issues, from abortion to gay rights.
We argue that what is needed now is not a third pro-business party (despite some “progressive” positions, even Nader would admit that is what the Greens are) but a labor party based on the unions.
We need to look at politics from a working-class perspective, as alien as that may sound to some. Mainstream politics are very much to the right in this country, and the temptation to get excited about liberal or left-of-center campaigns is very strong, but if we succumb, we’ll just be supporting a new Democratic Party, maybe something like the 1960 “New Frontier.”
We regret that there is no mass working-class presidential campaign to counterpose to Nader. In the absence of that, we are calling for a vote for James Harris of the Socialist Workers Party-who it appears will be on the ballot in about a dozen states.
Though we have political differences with the SWP, its campaign does represent a clear working-class alternative to the capitalist campaigns. We need independent working-class political action, not two, three, many Democratic Parties.
Canada’s student movement
By DAN LOVELL
For several years, under successive federal Liberal governments, students in Canada, and around the world, have been under attack. Tuition has been rising at a remarkable rate, as federal and provincial governments decrease funding, and have relaxed (or removed) restrictions on tuition rates.
As well, student loans programs have been transformed so that nearly all of what a student receives must be paid back; previously, a major portion of the amount received by the student was a grant, which need not be paid back. The results are mounting student debt (according to the Canadian Federation of Students, CFS, the average student now graduates owing upwards of $50,000), and less accessibility to education for working-class students.
Not surprisingly, there has been an increasing militancy among student activists around the country. Last year, the Canadian Federation of Students (Canada’s largest student union) launched a campaign called Access 2000. This was a major media campaign to highlight the financial and educational plight of today’s students, culminating in a one-day cross-country student strike.
The event inspired solidarity from high-school students and the Canadian labor movement, most notably the autoworkers (CAW).
This year, the CFS can take the fight, which still enjoys a high level of support, to the next level, or it can waste that momentum.
Currently, the CFS in Ontario has two major campaigns scheduled for the upcoming school term. One is the Women’s March Against Poverty and Violence to occur in Ottawa on Oct. 15. The other is a mass protest against the governing Ontario Progressive Conservative Party convention taking place at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre, also in October.
Both are certainly worthwhile causes that all student activists should actively support and build. However, we must also ask ourselves, what happened to the mass cross-country tuition fightback? The CFS should work for mass action that is able to fight for, and win, a tuition freeze, and eventually the elimination of tuition, and the replacement of student loans with student grants
The way to do this is to use every event and campaign (like the upcoming anti-Tory protest) to promote a future tuition strike. One way to fight the agenda of university brass and the bosses’ governments is to hit them where it hurts-in their pocket books!
While there may not be enough support to launch such a strike today or tomorrow, it is important for the CFS leadership to build momentum towards victory for students on the issue of tuition. Mass struggle is key to achievement of this goal.
Another key ingredient to victory is to have a champion for the student cause in the mass political arena. Currently, there is no mass electoral party willing to run in elections promising the abolition of tuition, or the conversion of student loans into grants. There is only one party that has the class make-up to even embark on such a campaign, and that’s the New Democratic Party [NDP, Canada’s Labor Party].
Until recently, the youth wing of the NDP (New Democratic Youth) stood alone in the NDP calling for the freeze and abolition of tuition. The Socialist Caucus of the NDP is in full solidarity with the struggles of Canadian and Quebecois students, and has committed itself to winning the NDP membership to these views and objectives.
While student activists are properly rejecting the agendas of the big-business governments in Ottawa and the provinces, we must also build the political alternative to that agenda. Students committed to the abolition of tuition and the replacement of loans with grants should ally themselves with the only political movement which champions their cause inside a mass working class party. This movement is made up by leftists in the NDY and the Socialist Caucus of the NDP.
Working at the local, provincial and federal level of the student movement to build a powerful mass fightback action, together with joining in the struggle to win the NDP to a workers’ and students’ agenda, we can win the battle against rising tuition.
Dan Lovell is a socialist activist at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.