By DAVID RIEHLE
Socialist Action’s campaign for the offices of United States president and vice president commenced on Aug. 18 at Oakland’s Humanist Hall with greetings and endorsements from a broad and impressive cadre of veteran fighters for justice and human rights. Socialist Action has put forward Jeff Mackler from Oakland, Calif., and Heather Bradford from the Twin Ports of Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wisc., to campaign over the next year and a half for a socialist world, as humanity stands on the brink of global catastrophe from war, climate change, and worldwide industrial pollution.
Celebrated novelist, poet, and social activist Alice Walker told the audience, “I met Jeff Mackler on a socialist journey, when I was 18 (1962). I mean, he was really thinking way back then.
“I’m really very happy that Heather and Jeff are standing up for this vision of a world where people can have what they need. … This is the future, if we’re to have one. So it comes down to believing we can do it. … It’s having the vision and having the resolve to continue to believe in what you know is right. And to stand for what you know is right and what you want for the world. … We have to change this world.”
Heather Bradford works full time as an advocate at a domestic violence center and is also a substitute teacher. She is secretary of AFSCME Local 3558. She told the rally:
“For me, the 2020 presidential campaign is an opportunity to raise the red flag at a time when we need to build independent social movements, an independent labor movement, and ultimately a labor party capable of confronting the climate catastrophe and ongoing and deepening crisis of capitalism—a crisis which displaces, cuts short, immiserates the lives of billions of people around the world. Our planet is dying and we are at the crossroads of socialism or barbarism, yet we can be encouraged by the fact that over the past decades there has been increased interest in socialism.
“This campaign must speak to, educate and mobilize those who are fed up with capitalism’s brutality and broken promises. Of course, socialism will not be built through the Democratic Party or through the electoral system, which is designed to benefit the rich. The Democratic Party will not abolish the prison state, open our borders or dismantle the U.S. war machine, and we don’t have time for a kinder, gentler imperialism! We don’t have time to entertain measures that protect the profits of bosses, warmakers, or planet destroyers. We don’t have time for the lesser evil, as we are facing an extinction event.
“We have to convince people that their power is found, not in the polling place, but in the workplace, in the streets, and together.”
Mumia speaks from prison
Mumia Abu-Jamal, described by The New York Times in 1981 (prior to the 2001 vacation of his death sentence to life imprisonment) as “perhaps the world’s best known death-row inmate,” spoke to the rally from prison: “Jeff Mackler has spent most of his life in struggles for social justice. … From the 1960s until today—and tomorrow. From the early civil rights movement, the imperial war in Vietnam, the Black liberation movement, and the imperial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jeff Mackler has been on the side of the oppressed, those opposed by the empire. For the past 36 years, Jeff has served as the National Secretary of the Socialist Action party, an anti-capitalist organization working to bring an end to the imperialist, capitalist system.
“If you name a social struggle of the last 40 years, you will always find the name Jeff Mackler there and his comrades in Socialist Action. In the ‘Communist Manifesto,’ Marx and Engels wrote, ‘The Communists everywhere support revolutionary movements against the existing social and political order of things.’ That sounds like Socialist Action at work, supporting struggles from the prison industrial complex to world struggles against imperial intervention.
“When MOVE was attacked by the government, Socialist Action opposed these violent and oppressive actions. When the late Lynne Stewart was attacked by the Bush administration, Socialist Action swiftly took the side of her defense, calling rallies for her, and when Pennsylvania attacked me with death warrants, Socialist Action mobilized rallies throughout California to oppose it…
“Jeff Mackler is an activist’s activist. And he has fought against the empire, its wars and the battles happening on the imperial interior. There are more struggles to come, and Jeff Mackler will be where he’s always been, right in the thick of things. From prison, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal on Prison Radio.”
Pam Africa, head of International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal, said, “I found out this man [Jeff Mackler] was not just about Mumia, but ALL the Mumias throughout the world. … Jeff is one that’s been battling this terroristic government all through the years. We’re there to support what Jeff is saying because we know before we get there that Jeff is talking about us. … Continue to do what it is that you’re doing and all of us will be right here for you.”
Glen Ford, co-editor of Black Agenda Report, stated, “I’m glad Jeff Mackler is running for president. In fact, I’m glad Jeff Mackler is in this world. Because Jeff Mackler fights. He’s been fighting for the people all of his life, and that’s wild. Jeff is running against Trump, but that’s just a technicality. Jeff is really running against this whole damn capitalistic system.”
Live from Palestine
Nora Barrows Friedman, journalist and documenter of the Palestinian liberation struggle, spoke to the rally via Skype from Palestine: “Greetings to you, Jeff, and to everyone here to support his vision of a justice-oriented future for us all. I’m writing these greetings from occupied Palestine, where I’m leading a delegation of young activists, artists, and community organizers who are not only here for first-hand witnessing of Israel’s entrenched apartheid, settler-colonialism, and violent occupation; but who are committed to linking the Palestinian struggle for liberation to the many struggles for liberation in the U.S.
“This work is critical, and this work is ground zero for understanding and eventually dismantling the U.S. systems of political violence, imperialism, and capitalism. Jeff Mackler’s legendary commitment to these linked struggles, over many decades and continents, from Cuba to Venezuela to Palestine to the U.S. prisons, is not just what we need right now, but it is the only way forward. I am proud to call Jeff a friend and a mentor and I am proud to endorse his candidacy for a just, sustainable. and equitable future for everyone.”
Others who spoke or sent messages of endorsement included anti-war fighter Cindy Sheehan; Robbie Meeropol, son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg; Barbara Becnel, author and filmmaker; Joe Lombardo, co-national coordinator, United National Antiwar Coalition; and more. The rally concluded with a speech by Jeff Mackler.
Mackler featured in Atlantic Monthly
Annie Lowery, a staff writer for the Atlantic Monthly, wrote in the Aug. 29 issue about “The People Who Think Bernie Is Moderate,” referring to several leftists who have announced their candidacies for president in 2020.
“Jeff Mackler,” she wrote, “wants the elimination of the military budget, the nationalization of the energy and banking systems, open borders, the creation of a state-run health-care system and the end of capitalism in the United States. … Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell looks at the Democratic primary and sees the proposed Cubafication of the country; Mackler looks at it and sees neoliberal accomodationism. ‘Bernie gets a little attention when he says things like, ‘Three people in the United States control half the wealth in the country,”’ he told me with a chuckle. ‘He has no proposal to change that in any way!’
Between McConnell and Mackler, the latter probably has the better argument, “Lowery stated. “Socialism—real socialism, meaning worker collectives and the nationalization of critical industries and the end of the free-enterprise model? In the presidential race, no one is even talking about it. Save for Mackler and people like him.
“The Oakland-based candidate is gearing up for his 2020 campaign for the White House, with planned meetings from Kentucky to Maine. ‘We don’t expect to win. We’re going to be write-in candidates in maybe a dozen states,’ he said. ‘But we will win if we build our party.’”