The Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) campaign of Stephen Durham for president and Christina López for vice president is a sharp contrast to the tradition of buying the White House with truckloads of money. New Yorker Durham and Seattleite López speak from the heart and stand for opening the borders, nationalizing banks under workers’ control, and dismantling the Pentagon. Their grass-roots campaign is about building a movement to fight for a society that benefits the working-class majority. (See VoteSocialism.com.)
Thanks to the outrageous barriers Democrats and Republicans erect for minor parties, including financial ones, the FSP effort is mainly a write-in campaign. But in California the team has a chance to make the ballot as nominees of the Peace and Freedom Party (PFP) electoral coalition. They are vying for that spot with other parties’ candidates in a lively contest of ideas and experience.
Making an impact in the June primary
PFP will choose its candidates at an August nominating convention. But, in the June California primary, PFP voters got to express their preference for president among three hopefuls: Durham; Stewart Alexander of the Socialist Party; and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.
California Secretary of State Debra Bowen dropped from the primary PFP contender Peta Lindsay of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) because she is too young to take office. Bowen initially excluded Durham also, but reversed herself after an immediate outpouring of protest.
PFP primary voters voiced what they want in November: an anti-capitalist to represent them. Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson got the most votes with 43 percent, but the two socialists, Durham and Alexander, together received 57 percent. The majority of PFP voters did not share Anderson’s belief that capitalism can be gradually reformed into a more equitable system.
Durham’s share of the vote was 27 percent to Alexander’s 30 percent. This is a strong showing, considering that Californian Alexander is a better-known previous PFP contender. (Durham, however, was part of a joint effort consolidating the PFP’s strong socialist program in 1982, when he lived in Los Angeles.)
The votes Durham attracted are thanks to the enthusiasm of FSP campaign supporters who over the past months called, door-belled, registered new PFP voters, gave money, and accompanied Durham to events during his spring tour of California. Their dedicated work is serving as a megaphone to spread the word about the Durham-López campaign.
Comparing candidates: the socialist feminist advantage
In contrast to Anderson, socialists Durham, Lindsay, and Alexander share the perspective that only a not-for-profit system run by and for working people can end war and exploitation and halt the destruction of the planet. But they also have serious differences.
Since its founding, FSP has had a distinctive program of socialist feminism, racial justice and equality, and support for international revolution that’s been enriched over the party’s four and a half decades of experience and study. FSP pioneered the idea that the leadership of the most oppressed — women, people of color, immigrants, LGBT folks — is the antidote to the conservatism of the cautious leaders who dominate the labor and other movements.
FSP has always fought for the leadership and issues of these groups in every movement, including the union movement, even when that meant standing as a minority of one. The party has opposed “free trade” agreements and led successful battles for abortion rights, gay rights, affirmative action, and more. It has launched united fronts against modern-day Nazis and against budget cuts. It promotes left cooperation and collaborates wherever possible with other activists.
For the fight for radical change to be successful, FSP sees the need for a revolutionary party. FSP also believes that socialism isn’t really socialism unless it is international and democratic — with workers, not bureaucrats, in the driver’s seat. (For more about FSP’s philosophy and activism, see “Socialist Feminism and the Revolutionary Party”.)
FSP and its program couldn’t have better representatives than Durham, a gay rights pioneer with a strong record of union militancy and support for international struggles, and López, a Chicana unionist, fighter for immigrants, and president of Seattle Radical Women, FSP’s partner in socialist feminism since RW affiliated as a sister organization in 1973.
Stewart Alexander’s SP also describes itself as socialist feminist. But it has an “anything goes” orientation when it comes to agreement on basic program that lets its candidates play fast and loose with party principles; one past presidential designee came out against abortion rights.
The PSL, which formed in 2004 as a split from the Workers World Party, incorporates women’s rights into its program, but has not been known for activism in the feminist movement until just recently.
On international issues, PSL subscribes to a version of anti-imperialism that has led it to withhold support from popular uprisings. In the case of Syria, it manages to side with the murderous Assad regime against the Syrian people in revolt by mischaracterizing the opposition as mainly imperialist-backed and even terrorist — “pawns” of a Western drive for regime change, according to PSL leader Brian Becker on the program CrossTalk. (See The story behind Syria’s Arab Spring.)
The decider: PFP nominating convention
The PFP state central committee members who will choose the nominees were elected in the June primary. They will vote during the PFP state convention in Los Angeles on Aug. 4-5, following a public candidates’ forum the night before. López and Durham, who will be on a West Coast tour together, will attend both the forum and the convention.
The central committee includes Durham-López backers from San Francisco County, where Durham came out on top in the primary, and Los Angeles and Alameda counties. Like the candidates’ night, the convention is open to the public, and FSP supporters from around the state will be there.
The floor will be open for new nominations, and PFP has received word that comedian and TV celebrity Roseanne Barr plans to be in contention. Delegates will first vote on the presidential nominee and then the vice president.
The convention may also stir broader interest in the PFP. Because of anti-third party changes to California election law, PFP must almost double its registration in the next couple years in order to stay on the ballot. To help this unique electoral resource survive, visit www.peaceandfreedom.org.
Email Yolanda Alaniz, co-author of Viva la Raza: A History of Chicano Identity and Resistance, at email@example.com.
Also read: Durham & López campaign out and about.