In its first weeks, the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) campaign of Stephen Durham for president and Christina López for vice president has defeated an attempt by the California secretary of state to disappear it and gotten recognition from New York to Florida and Washington state and as far away as Australia, New Zealand, and Bangladesh.
Not bad for a grass-roots, people-powered venture! And what else could this campaign be, as a thoroughly anti-establishment statement against a rigged ballot box — and the profit system that the electoral sham props up? With all the right-wing nonsense about Obama’s supposed socialism, the candidates are delighted to set the record straight about the solutions genuine socialists offer.
At the heart of this effort are two experienced and principled radicals: New York City FSP Organizer Durham, an international representative of the party with a strong record of labor militancy, and Seattle Radical Women President Christina López, a Chicana immigrant rights champion and activist against austerity budgets. Both feel a personal stake in challenging the anti-worker attacks that are the solution of the banksters and CEOs for their economic crisis.
Says López, “The pro-capitalist parties will not address any of the inequalities that gave rise to the Occupy movement. The Freedom Socialist platform does.” Adds Durham, “The campaign is about building a movement for fundamental change, for a change in class relations that puts the working-class majority in power — the only answer to the problems we face.”
You know it don’t come easy … From the start, FSP knew that the Durham-López campaign would be primarily a write-in venture, thanks to state election laws protecting the Republican-Democrat duopoly.
In California, though, Durham could gain ballot status if chosen as the presidential candidate of the Peace and Freedom Party (PFP) electoral coalition. But in releasing the names of candidates approved for the June primary ballot, California Secretary of State Bowen, a supposedly progressive Democrat, left out two of four PFP aspirants: Durham and Peta Lindsay, representing the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL). (For discussion of Bowen’s spurious grounds, see www.votesocialism.com.)
A storm of protest gathered. PFP blasted Bowen’s decision in a news release. An online petition initiated by the group Unite Left! attracted hundreds of signatures, including that of left political analyst Noam Chomsky. FSP and PSL retained lawyers. Letters and tweets of outrage hit Bowen’s office. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) in California weighed in.
Robert Barnes, an attorney with a record of victories in First Amendment election cases, agreed to represent FSP. In a statement for a press conference called by PFP and FSP, he said: “Elections provide the loudspeaker for all ideas to be heard; it is none of the Secretary’s business to try to mute that voice. Campaigns for office shape the debate for our future, the ideas we hear about, and the proposals for change.”
Bowen is still refusing to add Lindsay; sign the petition to include her at www.uniteleft.com. But, on the afternoon before the press conference, Bowen backed down and added Durham to the primary list — giving the FSP campaign a win in its first fight.
What a socialist campaign means. The Durham-López campaign has a host of reasonable ideas for improving life for workers and the poor right now. (See Their platform and ours.)
In the end, though, solving national and global tragedies like unemployment and war gets down to making a revolution against the profit system. Poverty and inequality are not indelible features of human life. They are the results of specific historical systems, like capitalism, that put power and wealth in the hands of a few at the expense of the many.
Ideally, to make a campaign like this as powerful as possible, it would be a joint effort among left parties. But, unfortunately, competition hinders socialist cooperation at the ballot box as it does in other areas.
FSP, which gives critical support to other left candidates, has reached out to other socialist parties many times about the possibility of forming joint slates, and the Australian section took part in a socialist electoral alliance for several years. Last year, PFP tried to bring parties together for a joint 2012 campaign, but met for the most part with indifference or a lack of seriousness. At the same time, exploratory FSP calls and emails to other parties went mainly unanswered.
FSP knows that left cooperation is crucial, especially given the growing right-wing movement, so we’ll keep trying.
A collective impact. Durham and López hit the campaign trail in January in Washington state. They picketed with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in Longview and with UNITE HERE in Seattle, and they attended a Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally at which López delivered a well-received speech.
Since then, Durham has campaigned at a rally in downtown Manhattan supporting radical civil rights attorney and political prisoner Lynne Stewart and spoken at a lively movie night in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., co-sponsored by Unite Left! and the NYC FSP branch. López has addressed a demonstration protesting Obama’s visit to Seattle and an Occupy movement event in Olympia, Wash.
Word is also spreading through campaign position statements on issues like healthcare and ethnic studies, radio interviews, and other coverage by media including Unite Left, Ballot Access News, and Cincinnati City Beat.
Endorsers so far include Radical Women, the Puerto Rican Alliance of Los Angeles, Puerto Rican student striker Gamelyn Oduardo, internationally known singer/songwriter David Rovics, former Black Panther and political prisoner Mark Cook, Bess Altwerger of Save Our Schools, Bob Schwartz of Gay Liberation Network and the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism, and individual unionists like Scott Merrell of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 and Tanya Smith of University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America Local 9119.
Notable among upcoming activities are public PFP candidate debates on April 14 and April 22; see 2012: a year for revolt and visit www.peaceandfreedom.org. Events in April and May in Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, Ore., San Francisco, and Seattle will raise much-needed funds. (For specific info, contact a campaign office.) But, because of the working-class nature of the campaign, it needs a steady stream of donations coming in to pay for expenses. If you support Durham and López, please give generously! Contribute online at votesocialism.com.
Says Campaign Manager Doug Barnes, the FSP’s national secretary: “This effort is all about people coming together and getting involved. That’s what will make it successful.”
There are lots of ways to help the campaign. Endorse; host a house party; arrange for a speaking engagement; spread the news via Facebook and Twitter. If you live in a city with a Durham-López office, call and volunteer locally. Your ideas and skills are needed! If you live elsewhere, contact Barnes at the national campaign office by calling 206-985-4621 or emailing VoteSocialism@gmail.com.
The Durham-López campaign is a chance for working people to take hold of this election year and make it our own. In the words of James Lafferty, executive director of the Los Angeles NLG chapter, “I believe this nation is finally ready to give an honest listen to socialist candidates, like those from the Freedom Socialist Party. And not a moment too soon!”
Quotes from supporters
“Voting for Republicans or Democrats is like voting on the method of your own execution. It’s such a relief to vote for candidates who will truly represent the wishes of the people.”
— Richard Brown, San Francisco 8 victor and former Black Panther
“I have known Stephen and FSP long enough to know they believe in what they are saying, and I want others to hear them.”
— Marie Runyon, founder of Harlem Restoration Project and former New York state assemblywoman
“The campaign gives us unprecedented opportunity to organize with workers and spread the word about the socialist feminist alternative to capitalism, war, and inequality.”
— Schuyler Kempton, with Unite Left!
The Freedom Socialist 2012 campaign adventure is a great chance to find new political friends, share your ideas, flaunt your talents, and contribute to changing the world. Contact a campaign office, or phone or email Doug Barnes at national headquarters: 206-985-4621, VoteSocialism@gmail.com.
Also see: Their platform and ours
Also see: In the candidates’ own words: Why I am running as a socialist feminist
Also see: In the candidates’ own words: What is a vote worth?
Also see: Making Latino votes count