Socialist Senatorial Candidates in California Debate

by Mark Ostapiak / October issue of Socialist Action Newspaper

SAN FRANCISCO—On Oct. 10, the Socialist Action Bookstore hosted a political debate with three candidates for the U.S. Senate seat in California.

Matt Gonzalez, former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, moderated the exchange among Todd Chretien (Green Party), Marsha Feinland (Peace and Freedom Party), and Jeff Mackler (Socialist Action Party).

The candidates each expressed opposition to their common political adversary, Democratic Party multi-millionaire Diane Feinstein. Chretien spoke for every candidate when he noted the Democratic Party’s historic role as the “graveyard of social movements.”

None of the candidates disagreed on the urgent necessity of struggling against war, massive job layoffs, and the overall attacks on human and democratic rights.

Mackler’s opening remarks highlighted his 40-plus years of activism in united-front-type coalitions, the type of which can engage millions in independent political action around common issues such as ending the Iraq war immediately or for immigrant rights.

Mackler also explained his campaign’s objective to build Socialist Action and publicize its revolutionary program. This is a modest step, he said, toward the future construction of a massive revolutionary party of working people that can challenge the capitalist system and fight for socialism.

Similarly, Feinland said that her campaign seeks to explain that ‘the people we need to organize are the working class. They need to build a party that represents their interests.”

“I want to begin,” said Chretien in opening, “by talking about the war in Iraq because I think that defines American politics today.” He went to point out the war’s heavy toll, which includes at least 150,000 Iraqis killed and more than 2700 dead U.S. soldiers.

Wrapping up his comments, Todd Chretien, who is a key spokesman for the International Socialist Organization (ISO), said, “The Green Party is an attempt to say to people of this country that you should stand up for yourself. If you’re going into the streets you shouldn’t vote for the people who are opposing you. It is an attempt to step out of the straight jacket of the two-party system.”

Mackler voiced his disagreement with the Green Party program, on which Chretien is running. “The Green Party,” he said, “is an electoral vehicle for middle-class reform of capitalism, and Green Party candidates regularly support Democrats.”

Though Chretien explained that “one of the key battles is destroying the hold of Democratic Party over the working class, students, and people in this country,” he has volunteered for the 2006 campaign of Aimee Allison. She is one of Chretien’s endorsers and Green Party candidate for Oakland City Council.

Allison’s website states that she “is a driving force in the Draft [Ron] Dellums movement,” which gathered “more than 8000 signatures in favor of his candidacy.” Dellums is the 2006 Democratic Party mayoral candidate in Oakland.

Toward the end of the debate Chretien outlined ISO’s perspectives: “You have to have principles which say that the vast majority of people in this world should run it, that we have to get rid of the people who run it, and we need great revolutionary change to do that.”

No socialist would disagree with that sentiment. However, the real principle under debate was that of class politics and the necessity for the workers’ movement, as Feinland mentioned, “to have a party that represents working-class interests.”

“Elections pose the question of which class shall rule,” said Mackler. It’s a question that Chretien’s Green Party campaign never poses.

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