By NICK BAKER
“The U.S. ruling-class multi-billionaire elite have two parties, the Democrats and Republicans—the twin parties of war, racism, poverty, and environmental destruction,” said Jeff Mackler, Socialist Action’s 2020 candidate for the U.S. presidency. “We need a party of our own—a mass working-class party based on an independent, reinvigorated, democratic, fighting trade-union movement allied in struggles in the social, political, and economic arenas with the organizations of the oppressed and exploited.”
Mackler’s remarks were addressed to the April 13, 2019, Socialist Action National Committee plenum that voted to launch a presidential and vice presidential campaign aimed at promoting the development of a mass labor party and fighting independent social movements to challenge U.S. capitalism’s broad-based offensive against every aspect of working-class life and—in the face of a near-term climate catastrophe that threatens the future of life on earth—the legitimacy of the capitalist system.
Mackler, Socialist Action’s National Secretary, was approved by the party’s plenum for the presidential spot along with National Committee member Heather Bradford as the vice presidential running mate.
Mackler was also the Socialist Action candidate for the U.S. presidency in 2016. He is a veteran opponent of U.S. imperialist wars and interventions and a leading environmental and social justice activist. From the Vietnam era to the present, he has been a central organizer of national and regional mobilizations against U.S. wars. Most recently, he was a founder and leader of the San Francisco Bay Area-based End the Wars Coalition, which mobilized in February and March 2019 against the present U.S. imperialist regime-change coup efforts against the government of Venezuela.
Mackler is a founder and Administrative Committee member of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), the united-front mass-action coalition that initiated the recent March 30-31 bi-coastal “U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!, No to NATO!, No to All U.S. Wars Against Working People at Home and Abroad” protests in Washington, D.C. and Oakland, Calif. He has been an initiator and organizer of the periodic protests against the U.S./NATO imperialist-orchestrated regime-change war against Syria over the past eight years.
A founder of the Northern California Climate Mobilization, Mackler played a major role in organizing the Bay Area climate change protests, including the 2015 West Coast mobilization of 10,000 on the eve of the feckless UN-sponsored Paris Climate conference.
A former teacher union leader, Mackler was the organizer and longtime elected officer of the AFT and CTA locals in Hayward, Calif. He served as the president of the Alameda County Council of the AFT and as a delegate for 11 years to the Central Labor Council of Alameda County. He is the director of the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal in Northern California, which organized on April 6 a Berkeley rally of 400 activists to support Abu-Jamal’s renewed fight for justice and freedom. Author of some 25 books and pamphlets on labor struggles, U.S. imperialist wars, social history, politics, civil liberties, economics and environmental issues, Mackler is a regular contributor to Socialist Action newspaper and other national and international publications.
VP candidate Heather Bradford
Heather Bradford, a member of Socialist Action’s National Committee, will be the party’s vice presidential candidate. Bradford is the organizer of Socialist Action’s branch in Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wis., in the Lake Superior region. Bradford works full time as a women’s advocate at a domestic violence shelter and part time at an abortion clinic and as a substitute public school teacher. She is the secretary of AFSCME Local 3558, a delegate to the Duluth Central Labor body, and a union steward.
She is a founder of the Feminist Justice League, a Duluth-based feminist organization formed in response to the anti-abortion “40 Days for Life” group and an active member of H.O.T.D.I.S.H. Militia, an abortion fundraising group. Bradford has been a long-time activist and participant in the LGBT, environmental, and antiwar movements.
Democrats offer 21 millionaire candidates
Today, the Democratic Party is running no less than 21 multi-millionaire candidates for president in a classic primary contest to decide which representative of their wing of the ruling rich will be anointed titular head of state. All are wedded to the prerogatives of U.S. imperialism’s profit-first, racist, sexist, homophobic system, minus or plus a few promised modifications should they become capitalism’s top dog.
As with the 2018 mid-term elections, when the sound and fury subsides and when their “left, right, or centrist” rhetorical flourishes are spent, all will unite behind the primary winner—as Bernie Sanders did in 2016. As usual, they will pose their former Democratic Party primary rival, now cohort, as the indispensable “lesser evil” alternative to the Republicans’ racist, warmongering, Islamophobic bigot, Donald Trump. This scenario differs little from all past corporate media-orchestrated multi-million-dollar election charades.
Today, however, an important new ingredient has made itself known in U.S. politics. Driven by the long-term and ever-deepening crisis in U.S. capitalism, unprecedented millions of working people and youth have come to understand that the evils they have long recognized—racism, poverty, endless wars, environmental destruction, unpayable debt, home foreclosures, massive, but statistically hidden unemployment, attacks on pensions, Social Security and trade union rights to name a few—are no accident that can be explained by reference to which capitalist party or candidate is in power, but rather, inherent aspects of the profit-first imperatives of capitalism itself.
The ruling elite and their think tanks often know well before we do that their across-the-board austerity measures, their ingrained racist school-to-prison pipeline, their unprecedented mass incarceration of the oppressed, their for-profit, near-slave-labor prison-industrial complex, and their wanton and judicially ‘justified’ police murders across the country have served to bring into question in the minds of millions the very legitimacy of capitalism itself.
Majority of youth prefer socialism
When poll after poll tells us, as with the recent New York Times, Gallop, and Pew poll results, that a growing majority of all youth under 30 and a 56 percent majority across the age spectrum of the Black community prefer socialism over capitalism, something new is afoot in this country.
Democratic Party House Speaker Nancy Pelosi felt compelled to state that the Democrats were not for socialism. President Trump was less restrained. Shouting out that the U.S. would “never be socialist,” he all but stated that his loyal police and military would be his final guarantors in such an eventuality, a barely disguised allusion to Jack London’s 1908 “Iron Heel” dystopian novel in which a local oligarch portends the coming of fascism to the U.S.
In recent years, the percentage of Democrats who prefer capitalism over socialism as the more humane system has shrunk to a low point of 23 percent. Registered Independents, at 43 percent, are the top voting bloc; registered Democrats stand at 32 percent and Republicans at 23 percent.
Socialist Action has no illusions that it will win the 2020 elections. But it does seek to win the hearts and minds of millions who are looking for a political alternative to a system that offers them nothing but grief and pain.
Elections in capitalist America are the billionaire’s game. Working people have no horse in this race. We have no billionaire or millionaire candidates or corporate funders, or corporate media behind us. We don’t count the votes. We don’t control any aspect of the rigged electoral charade. But socialist election campaigns can win in another sense—in the end, a decisive sense. We can use the occasion when interest in politics is at a high point, to advance the struggles of the 99 percent, of the vast majority who today struggle against the inherent evils of capitalism.
Socialist Action is a party of and for every struggle that aims to organize capitalist’s victims independently of and against the policies of the ruling rich. We are among the best builders of the freedom struggle on every front possible. We strive to be part of and help lead the independent, democratic, mass-action united-front mobilizations and all others aimed at increasing working-class power, self-organization, consciousness, confidence, cohesion, and unity.
Revolutionary politics or capitalist reform?
We aim to be an integral part of organizing the vast majority against the wealthy one percent—not only against the one percent in the abstract, but against all their institutions of power. Socialism, as opposed to its adulterated conception put forward by Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is truly a revolutionary project as well as a necessity.
Their rhetoric notwithstanding, Cortez and Sanders and all other DSA Democrats showed their stripes in the 2018 midterm elections by uniting behind each and every Democrat on the ballot, from the party’s racist “blue dog” conservatives to its recent crop of “progressives.” All Democrats’ loyalty, not to mention their funding, is to the capitalist system and to the maintenance of the power of the tiny elite who own and control the vast majority of society’s wealth and corporate entities.
The real socialist revolution in the U.S., and everywhere else in the world, will usher in for the first time in human history a society in which the vast majority who create the nation’s and the world’s wealth will democratically rule in their own name, through their own institutions, and in their own interests, as opposed to the private-profit corporate anti-human interests of the present ruling elite.
Fraud of elections in capitalist America
Capitalist elections are in the exclusive purview of the billionaire rich. Their twin parties—the Republicans and the Democrats—and their local, state, and national electoral and judicial institutions devise, interpret, and enforce their exclusionary election laws. Their corporate propaganda media effectively exclude coverage of all views but their own.
At best, and at great cost, socialists are able to achieve “legal” ballot status in just a handful of states—and even then, no matter the seriousness of our campaign efforts, we are consciously excluded from coverage. How could it be otherwise when the nation’s corporate media are owned and controlled by the exact same ruling-class forces that select the candidates to be their representatives in the first place?
Mackler summed up what is at stake in the 2020 elections: “We see a mounting discontent bubbling up in broad sectors of the population—and especially among youth, working people, and oppressed nationalities. Last year’s ‘red state’ teachers’ strikes were a stunning example. Rank-and-file teachers broke all the previously accepted polite rules of collective bargaining. They defied their union officials and struck statewide. In several cases they struck until their demands were won and their demands were unprecedented. They insisted in West Virginia, for example, that the legislature’s budget cuts that had gutted major portions of funding for public education and social services over the past 10 years be immediately reversed.”
“Further, they insisted that these same funds, that had been granted in tax cuts and other benefits to the corporate elite over the same period, be returned to the gutted social programs, not only in public education but with regard to the generalized cuts imposed on all public employees. In this single act they won the hearts, minds, and solidarity of working people across the state. They effectively demanded, ‘Tax the rich, not working people.’ Their success set a winning example for future struggles everywhere.”
Today’s two-party charade, the central device that this country’s rulers use at election time, is once again gearing up to divert the mounting youth and generalized working-class anger into safe channels.
“The axis of our election campaign,” Heather Bradford told this writer, “and the key reason we are running, is to use the opportunity to educate working people to the simple fact that capitalism cannot be reformed. It has to be abolished at the hands of the vast majority of this country’s working people, organized in their own working-class institutions, independent of and against the ruling elite and its parties. That’s the only path forward for fundamental change.”
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