By RON CARMICHAEL
In a series of East Coast debates and public forums from Sept. 15-26, Jeff Mackler, Socialist Action’s 2016 presidential candidate, spoke to enthusiastic audiences about the relevance of revolutionary socialist politics today. Mackler’s tour included public meetings in New York City, Albany, Boston, Providence, Hartford/New Britain, and Philadelphia.
In the course of his 12-day tour, close to a dozen social and political activists expressed interest in joining Socialist Action, opening up new opportunities for socialist education, party-building activity, and participation in rising social movements in all of the cities he visited.
This month, Socialist Action’s vice presidential candidate, Karen Schraufnagel, will begin a speaking tour of several Upper Midwestern cities, including Chicago, Madison, Duluth-Superior, and Waukeesha, Wis. See this website’s EVENTS calendar for more information.
Jeff Mackler was joined in a Socialist Action-sponsored forum in New York City by former political prisoner and people’s attorney Lynne Stewart and New Abolitionist leader Ralph Poynter, who have endorsed Mackler’s presidential campaign.
In Albany, Mackler was joined in a debate format entitled, “The 2016 Elections: Humanity’s Future in Troubled Times.” Speakers included Joe Seeman, a Hillary Clinton supporter and volunteer organizer with the Working Families Party, Citizen Action of New York, MoveOn.org, and the Bernie Sanders network of the Capital Region. Also speaking were Peter LaVenia, co-chair of the New York State Green Party, who supported Jill Stein. The Albany Public Library debate was initiated by activists in the Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace and chaired by Joe Lombardo, national co-coordinator of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC).
Mackler’s central debate themes often began with the statement, “All the critical issues of our time that so many agree on today—rampant racism and police murder of unarmed Blacks, sexism, homophobia, endless imperialist wars, mass incarceration of Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans, environmental destruction and, indeed, the immediate global warming threat to life on earth, the worldwide imposition of unprecedented austerity measures of every kind—are inherent in and inseparable from the functioning of the capitalist system. They have been with us for decades, indeed centuries. They are manifested in virtually every country on earth today. As this predatory system is based on human exploitation and oppression, it has no alternative other than to resolve its crises at the expense of the vast majority.”
Mackler insisted in all his tour forums and debates that “the U.S. and worldwide capitalist crisis cannot be resolved by a change of the palace guard—by the election of yet another capitalist politician beholden to a social system that subordinates human needs and life itself to the profits of the one percent.”
He counterposed the corporate-promoted illusion that significant social gains can be achieved by the election of one or another capitalist or pro-capitalist party or candidate to the socialist perspective that working-class victories have always been the product of massive, independent working-class and allied mobilizations independent of and against the policies of all capitalist parties. “History repeatedly teaches us that only capitalism’s victims, the vast majority of working people, organized to fight for their own interests through their own organizations, can change the course of history.
“While workers today find themselves shocked and often in despair at the generalized attacks on their lives, they are far from accepting the legitimacy of Wall Street rule. In time, and in the not too distant future, their deeply held anger and hatred of capitalist injustice will give way to new forms of struggle, including a fundamental expansion, reconstitution, and democratization of today’s unions, whose bureaucratic mis-leaders act as a major firewall to channel discontent into the graveyard of social movements, the Democratic Party.”
Without exception, Mackler’s Democratic Party and Green Party debate opponents cited the reactionary, racist, misogynist, Islamophobic views of Donald Trump to urge support for Hillary Clinton or Jill Stein. “Lesser evil” arguments were in full bloom during virtually every debate as speakers minimized or offered soft criticisms of Clinton’s record of warmongering and racism while insisting that the “fascist” Trump had to be stopped.
Jill Stein supporters, on the other hand, pointed to the need to organize to elect Green Party candidates at the local level to build a mass electoral base aimed at reforming capitalism, usually along the lines of the pro-capitalist social democratic parties in Europe. Stein supporters called for a 50 percent cut in military spending as well as free college tuition and health care (all achievable goals, they argued) in the framework of a reformed, kinder, gentler capitalism—one whose banking and fundamental corporate structures could be altered without challenging the private profit basis of the system itself.
Green Party debaters most often focused on their goal of achieving the five percent electoral threshold necessary to receive the $10 million in government funding for future campaigns. Mackler’s critique of his Green Party opponents centered on their view that “independent political action” essentially excluded the fundamental proposition that any effective challenge to capitalism required the organization and re-organization of the working class through their own revitalized institutions—democratic, fighting and qualitatively expanded trade unions—that are funded by and controlled by workers themselves.
Without this independent working-class perspective—coupled with its expression in the political arena with a fighting Labor Party, controlled by working people—Mackler argued, the Green Party perspective amounted to organizing a vague multi-class electoral alliance that can only be limited to reforming a system that cannot be reformed.
“The simple fact that Jill Stein urged a vote for Democrat Bernie Sanders in the California primary elections and elsewhere, or that Greens in their vast majority argued that Sanders, with a 98 percent Democratic Party voting record, should become the Green Party candidate for president,” said Mackler, “tells us that Green Party politics, historically an “inside/outside” reformist strategy, are fundamentally flawed.
The Boston debate, entitled, “Elections 2016: Humanity’s Future in a Troubled World: What About War, Climate, and Social Justice?” included Jill Stein supporter Danny Factor, the Green Party candidate for State Assembly; and Hillary Clinton supporter and 350.org member Rosalie Anders, also a board member of Massachusetts Peace Action (speaking for herself rather than for the organization). Mackler was also joined on the debate panel by Democratic Socialists of America National Political Committee member Jared Abbot, who was listed as advocating, “Vote Strategically to Defeat Trump—Greens or Democrats.” Abbot argued for DSA’s perspective of voting Green in “safe states” and for Clinton elsewhere.
The debate was sponsored by United for Justice with Peace and chaired by Marilyn Levin, a leader of UJP and the co-national coordinator of UNAC.
Socialist Action in Philadelphia co-sponsored Mackler’s forum in that city with the on-line journal Left Voice. Mackler was accompanied at the podium by Left Voice editor Juan Cruz Ferre, who supports Mackler’s campaign. Ferre recounted the experience of the Socialist Workers Party (PTS) of Argentina in winning 1.5 million votes in the last presidential election when three revolutionary socialist parties joined to form the Workers Left Front (FIT). The FIT won several seats in the Argentine parliament while participating in several major working-class mobilizations that challenged the government’s austerity offensive.
The Providence forum, sponsored by Rhode Island Socialist Action, was held at the Direct Action for Racial Equality headquarters and included welcoming remarks by the DARE director as well as from LGBTQI activist, Josh Kirby.
Mackler’s forum in New Britain, Conn., was sponsored by the campus Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) Youth for Socialist Action, a youth group in solidarity with Socialist Action. It was attended by some 35 young people, mostly students. Mackler noted that this audience was by far the most advanced in rejecting “lesser-evil” politics and in solidarity with fundamental socialist ideas.
“Youth today,” Mackler observed, “ are keenly aware of the broad range of social injustices that permeate society and are, indeed, directly affected by the present and long-enduring capitalist crisis. Unlike previous generations, they cannot look forward to stable living wage jobs and are increasingly chained to enormous and unpayable college tuition debts. They are generally the most attuned to the struggles of the most oppressed, are supporters of the growing Movement for Black Lives and against the racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and endless wars that are capitalism’s norm across the globe.”
To date 31 CCTU students have joined the YSA chapter, plus several others who signed up at Mackler’s campus forum.
“Openness to revolutionary socialist ideas, especially on the part of youth,” said Mackler, “was the norm in every city I visited, on the East Coast and on the West. Today’s youth radicalization bodes well for the mass working-class struggles to come. Socialist Action’s steady gains among these youth is an achievement and a major source of inspiration to deepen our efforts to build a revolutionary party.”
(Photo) Participants in the Socialist Action forum in New York City: (From left) Ralph Poynter, Jeff Mackler, Lynne Stewart, and chairperson Marty Goodman.