Durham-López campaign statement: For a united socialist electoral alternative to the ultra-right

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The far right is growing in the U.S. and across Europe. Its influence can be seen in assaults on immigrant and women’s rights as well as gay marriage; slander campaigns against unionists and public workers; and a general rise in racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim prejudice.

Without a strong working-class party—one that presents an alternative to the Democrats—the extreme right drives all debates and pulls political discourse in its direction. Meanwhile, meaningful differences between the two parties in this supposedly “bipartisan” system recede into nothingness.

The right must be fought not only in the streets—defending abortion clinics or demonstrating against blatant racists and white supremacists—but also in the electoral arena. United left electoral slates or alliances are one way to give voters an alternative to the far right and to promote cooperation among radical groups that have much more agreement than disagreement.

What follows is an argument for why this is an urgent task, especially in light of the economic crisis in Europe.

The Nazi connection to Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation

On May 2, Nazi Jason Todd Ready killed himself and four others, including his girlfriend and a 16-month-old baby, in Phoenix, Arizona. A former member of the openly fascist National Socialist Movement, Ready was best known as the founder of a militia group called the U.S. Border Guard. The “guard” patrolled the Arizona/Mexico border with a group of heavily armed men and women dressed in military fatigues who terrorized undocumented immigrants.

Before his murderous rampage, Ready counted among his closest friends former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, who orchestrated passage of the state’s virulently anti-immigrant legislation S.B. 1070. Ready called Pearce a “father figure.”

Only days before the killings, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of S.B. 1070, which criminalizes unauthorized work and requires immigrants to carry identity documents legitimizing their presence on U.S. soil. The law also requires police to arrest people they suspect are in the country without authorization. The Supreme Court ruled on S.B. 1070 on June 25, leaving in place racial profiling by endorsing the requirement that police determine the status of those they stop or arrest.

The politics of scapegoating

The convergence of events surrounding Ready’s life shines a light on the racist ultra-right and its growing influence on U.S. national politics. Like Ready, the Klan has also played a role in the immigration debate. It was the first organization to promote the idea of a fence along the border with Mexico. Today a fence is an accepted panacea for illegal immigration among Democrats and Republicans alike. Meanwhile David Duke, Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, is endorsing Ron Paul for president.

Whether wearing swastikas, military fatigues, business suits or clerical collars, the extreme right agrees on who is responsible for the economic crisis facing the country. They accuse undocumented workers of taking jobs traditionally held by white men. They call public employees, recipients of government assistance and people of color lazy freeloaders who sap U.S. economic strength. Homosexuals and feminists threaten the sacred patriarchy and the traditional nuclear family. Jews and other non-Christians are accused of destroying the religious and political foundations on which the country was built. “American exceptionalism”—the idea that the U.S. is the greatest, richest, freest country on earth—is loudly proclaimed. Senator Marco Rubio, a man whose name is being floated as a possible Republican candidate for vice president, has called the U.S. “the single greatest nation in all of human history.”

The deepening world capitalist crisis is a breeding ground for this kind of nationalism, racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-unionism and homophobia and explains why it is growing.

With both the Democrats and Republicans doing worse than nothing to address the spiraling jobs/education/housing/healthcare crisis in this country, the far right offers scapegoats and national myths to a frustrated and frightened populace.

Fascism is the ultimate form of this kind of politics. Today the extreme right in the U.S. does not have the mass appeal and mass middle-class movement necessary to win power, but it is laying the groundwork in the absence of a strong left and labor alternative in the electoral arena.

As long as union leaders keep working-class folk tied to the corporate Democratic Party and U.S. socialists refuse to create leftwing electoral alliances, the far right will continue to use the ballot box to build a movement that offers the old, familiar “enemies of prosperity” list that is brought out in every economic crisis. On that list are immigrants, people in need of public assistance, government workers, etc.

Anger at austerity boosts rise of the far right in Europe

In Europe the rise of the far right is more advanced than in the U.S. because the economic crisis is more longstanding and severe.

In Greece, voters battered by a brutal austerity program pushed through by the two main bourgeois parties gave Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party known for street violence, seven percent of the vote in the May election. This made Golden Dawn the first neo-Nazi party to enter a European parliament since World War II.

In France, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen garnered 6.5 million or one-fifth of the votes in the first round of presidential run-offs this spring. While she did not make it into the final contest, her impressive support pushed the election debate to the right—especially on the impact of Islam on French culture and in schools.

The right is also growing in other European countries, east and west. Mistrust of the political elite combined with anti-Muslim racism has led to the growth of far-right parties and outright Nazism in Austria, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries. In Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania extreme-right parties poll around 10 percent of the vote and are characterized by nationalism, anti- Semitism and anti-Roma (Gypsy) views.

In April, fascist groups from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Germany and the United Kingdom gathered at a summit in Denmark in an attempt to form a pan-European coalition of anti-Islamic groups. However, the turnout for what was called the “European Counter-Jihad Summit” was relatively small. Two hundred summit participants were vastly outnumbered by 4,000 anti-fascist demonstrators in the largest rally of its kind seen in Denmark in 15 years.

Left electoral alliances necessary to combat the right

In Europe, various attempts have been made to form electoral united fronts to strengthen the Left and give voters an alternative to the capitalist parties that are presiding over the crisis.

In Greece, two parties exist which are regroupments of the anti-free market and anti-capitalist Left—Syriza and Antarsya. Syriza jumped from winning an unprecedented 17 percent in the May election to 35 percent in polls conducted in late May. Antarsya has not shown the same massive growth. However, both parties are giving Greek voters a way to exercise their opposition to the IMF, European banks and Greek and European Union leaders who signed a “Memorandum” which includes a requirement to sell off all public assets to pay back the country’s debtors.

The mass resistance to the European Union and IMF program of “social cannibalism,” as the cutbacks are called, has transformed Greece into an ungovernable country for the capitalists. This resistance has been expressed on the streets and also in the May election. Now Syriza is presenting an alternative to Golden Dawn at the ballot box.

There are various factions within Syriza, some more radical than others. Its program is based on dealing with the worst aspects of the crisis, not on putting workers in the driver’s seat. So while the party calls for rejection of the Memorandum, it also asserts that Greece must remain in the EU and renegotiate its debt (not cancel it); supports only partial nationalization of Greek banks; and calls for “democratization” of the army and police.

But its existence and the existence of smaller, revolutionary parties in Greece is providing voters with an alternative to voting for one of the capitalist parties that created the crisis or choosing the ultra-nationalists of the Golden Dawn.

Not by the ballot box alone

The Freedom Socialist Party believes that the electoral arena is like any other field of struggle—it is a place to “patiently explain” why capitalism is the source of all the fundamental problems workers face at this time in human history. Electoral struggles will not solve our problems; they are a method for discussing alternatives to capitalism and mobilizing people for action.

Even if voters in this country could win reform of election and voting laws as well as publicly funded campaigns, with spending limits, this would not change the basic nature of the system. Capitalism is inherently undemocratic because it is run by and for the frighteningly rich. There is no kinder, gentler form of capitalism to be won through the ballot box. Only workers and the oppressed, acting in their own interests, can create a society of equality, justice, solidarity and freedom based on sharing wealth instead of hoarding it. To do this, they need a revolutionary party of the working class which can see the struggle through to the end.

The Freedom Socialist Party believes that to create such a party and defeat a nascent fascist movement, socialists and other leftists should work together wherever and whenever possible—including united socialist electoral slates and mass mobilizations against the Nazis.

National campaign office:
4710 University Way NE, #100
Seattle, WA 98105
206-985-4621 • VoteSocialism@gmail.com
Twitter @VoteSocialism

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