Socialist Party USA: Info & News

Response to State of the Union

by SPUSA Co-Chair Billy Wharton

(original statement here:http://socialistparty-usa.org/statements/sotu2011.html)

January 25, 2011

Tonight’s State of the Union speech revealed just how far out of touch President Barack Obama is from the reality of working people in America.  What a distance from the White House to the unemployment line.  From the Rose Garden to the food pantry.

Tonight’s State of the Union sent the message one final time that the Obama presidency was and is designed to protect the privileges accrued by the richest 5% in society.  Obama lived up to the characterization of him as a “hedge-fund Democrat,” a politician assigned the task of deflecting the real demands of the American people for a society and economy based on solidarity, peace and justice.

A Call for More Corporate Globalization

The President’s focus on “out competing” other countries, such as China and India, is a thinly veiled attempt to appeal to national patriotism made in order to disguise his desire to continue policies of corporate globalization.  China and India are not the problem.

The problem is that people in the US are forced to live inside of an economy where the richest 5% of the population control 85% of the wealth.  As a result, Obama’s claim to be creating a “more competitive America” doesn’t mean creating good living wage jobs for working people.  Instead, it means continuing the same policies that are tailored to protect the wealth accumulated by the rich.

Democratic socialists have an alternative.  Instead of playing to the business community, we need to get serious about creating a comprehensive plan for a full employment economy.  This can be done through emergency measures, such as the creation of a National Jobs Program and through more long-term efforts, such as the funding of a democratically operated system of worker owned and managed cooperatives.

A commitment to full employment would put people to work immediately, thereby, relieving the skyrocketing unemployment and underemployment.  The Cooperative Program would shift the national economy away from the financial and service sectors and toward manufacturing and production.

This democratically run economy would also provide a challenge to undemocratic capitalist organizations, such as the banks and multinational corporations.  Once Americans experience democracy on their workplaces, a democratic socialist system of jobs creation will become a preferred choice for millions.

Americans do not need Bill Clinton “I feel your pain” platitudes.  The Obama speech was full of them.  We need jobs - good jobs that will allow us to feed our families and live lives free of the uncertainties of crisis economics.  If the private sector won’t provide this, the public sector must be developed.  Think of how much better we would be today if the public money that was poured in the banking system would have gone to create a full employment economy.  Democratic socialism offers this alternative.

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"The Bravest Man I Ever Met" by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr (1965)

The Bravest Man I Ever Met

 

by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Pageant magazine

June 1965

 

Last December, 2000 Americans gathered at New York's Hotel Astor to celebrate the 80th birthday of Norman Thomas. I could not be present because I had to go to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. But before I enplaned for Norway, I take the following message to be sent to America's foremost Socialist:

"I can think of no man who has done more than you to inspire the vision of a society free of injustice and exploitation. While some would adjust to the status quo, you urged struggle. While some would corrupt struggle with violence or undemocratic perversions, you have stood firmly for the integrity of ends and means. Your example has ennobled and dignified the fight for freedom, and all that we hear of the Great Society seems only an echo of your prophetic eloquence. Your pursuit of racial and economic democracy at home, and of sanity and peace in the world, has been awesome in scope. It is with deep admiration and indebtedness that I carry the inspiration of your life to Oslo."

Truly, the life of Norman Thomas has been one of deep commitment to the betterment of all humanity. In 1928, the year before I was born, he waged the first of six campaigns as the Socialist Party's candidate for President of the United States. A decade earlier, as a preacher, he fought gallantly, if unsuccessfully, against American involvement in World War I. Both then and now he has raised aloft the banner of civil liberties, civil rights, labor's right to organize, and has played a significant role in so many diverse areas of activity that newspapers all over the land have termed him "America's conscience."

There are those who call Norman Thomas a failure because he has never been elected to office. One of his severest critics is Thomas himself. When asked what he had accomplished in his life, the white-haired Socialist leader replied:

"I suppose it is an achievement to live to my age and feel that one has kept the faith, or tried to. It is an achievement to have had a part, even if it was a minor part, in some of the things that have been accomplished in the field of civil liberty, in the field of better race relations, and the rest of it. It is something of an achievement, I think, to keep the idea of socialism before a rather indifferent or even hostile public. That's the kind of achievement that I would have to my credit, if any. As the world counts achievement, I have not got much."

But the world disagrees. The Washington Post, echoed by scores of other newspapers, called Thomas "among the most influential individuals in 20th century politics" and added: "We join great numbers of his fellow Americans in congratulating the country on having him as a leader at large."

During our historic March on Washington in the summer of 1963, when 250,000 Negro and white Americans joined together in an outpouring of fellowship and brotherly cooperation for a world of freedom and equality, a little Negro boy listened near the Washington Monument to an eloquent orator.

Turning to his father, he asked: "Who is that man?"

 

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The Peculiarity of US Politics

Posted by Socialist WebZine 11/12/10 , ,

by Rick Wolff -

The 2010 elections revealed yet again the peculiar habits of the US electorate. The majority of eligible voters – about 60% - did not vote despite the months of endless media hype devoted to the campaigns, politicians, funding groups, and even to some of the issues they raised. Many elections were very close, thus pitting 20% of voters on one side against a roughly equal number on the other. The exit polls indicated that the overwhelmingly dominant issue on most actual voters’ minds was the ongoing economic crisis.

This dominant concern about the economic crisis continues to focus on electoral politics. The voters’ upset focuses primarily on unemployment and home foreclosures, secondarily on government priorities given to bailouts of banks and other corporations blamed for producing the crisis. Yet those voters seem totally uninterested in taking any action – political, electoral, or otherwise – against the chief, direct agents of their upset. For example, the rise of unemployment since the current crisis began (December, 2007) has overwhelmingly occurred in private employment. Those who fired almost all of the 8 million US workers added to the unemployment rolls are private capitalist employers. Yet voters concerned about unemployment focus their rage and action against government and thus the party in power as if private capitalist employers were passive by-standers rather than active agents causing unemployment for their own profit-driven reasons.

The same applies to home foreclosures. The active agents there are banks and other holders of mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. They are the people going into courts to initiate and pursue foreclosure actions. Yet voters seem again to literally overlook actions against those agents and instead rage against government and politicians in power.

The same applies yet again to government bailouts of the banks and other corporations since it was their private boards of directors that pleaded for and provided massive public support for those bailouts. Those boards also threatened the direst economic consequences – for everyone - if the government did not bail them out with huge sums in ways they specified.

Needless to say, capitalist employers of both financial and non-financial enterprises must heartily support voters thinking and acting in these ways. It permits the employers’ private-profit driven actions – those that cause social problems – to be blamed not on them but instead on politicians.

Finally, this peculiar syndrome of US politics may also help to explain one reason why majorities of the eligible population usually don’t vote at all. Perhaps they see through the peculiarity. That is, they grasp that it makes little difference – especially in economic matters – which politicians win elections. They understand that switching parties and politicians leaves untouched the actual, direct agents making the key decisions about jobs, wages, and prices that determine our economic situations. So in 2008 and now again in 2010 when those economic issues have been uppermost on peoples’ minds, the voting minority gets excited about denouncing the government and switching parties, while the non-voting majority sees elections as pointless and irrelevant. The fact that the same electoral focus of voters drove a party switch in one direction in 2008 and in the opposite direction in 2010 will likely reinforce such aversion to electoral politics.

We might understand US voters as citizens who have given up and perhaps cannot any longer even imagine changing the economy or its ruling corporate structure. So, in depressed resignation, they focus on politicians and parties that can at least be alternated periodically, however minimal the results. Yet that also suggests real political possibilities for new parties or other political formations that explicitly retarget their struggles to confront the direct agents of the economic problems at the forefront of mass concerns.

Socialist Party USA issues statement on Tuscon schooting

No to Political Assasinations!  Let's Make a Democratic Revolution!
by Andrea Pason & Billy Wharton - co-chairs Socialist Party USA

January 9, 2011 - On behalf of the Socialist Party USA, we send our sincerest condolences to the families of the people killed in the recent shooting in Tuscon, Arizona.  This was an attempt at political assassination as the shooter, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, reportedly shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (AZ, D.) in the head before turning his gun on the crowd.  The dead include a 9 year child and five others, with twelve people wounded.  Rep. Giffords remains in critical condition.

As socialists, we say unequivocally that political assassination has no role inside of a democratic society or our movement.  Throughout American history, assassination has been a tool primarily used by the right-wing.  The death by execution of strong leaders such as Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. stand as testimony to the damage done to our cause.  We are democratic socialists and we seek to make a democratic revolution.  A revolution that places people in control of their own lives.  Political assassination has no role in such a movement.

The same cannot be said of the far-right.  Right wing activists have consistently engaged in acts of assassination and in rhetoric that reinforces and encourages such acts.  We can note the murder of abortion rights activists such as Dr. Barnett Slepian as well as the violent and hyper-masculine language consistently promoted by the right-wing media.  Loughner was reported to be heavily influenced by these ideas, motivated by the call to arms being issued by the far-right.

And he did not have to look hard for motivation to attack Giffords.  During the recent mid-term election, Sarah Palin's Political Action Committee produced a chart that targeted Democrats.  The chart employed crosshairs to identify the electoral opponents and utilized language like "We'll aim for these races," "This is just the first salvo" and "join me in the fight."  While Sarah Palin did not pull the trigger, she certainly holds a significant amount of guilt for creating the conditions in which such as act was possible.

Now is the time to reject such politics both here in the US and globally.  A fitting tribute to the innocent victims from the Tuscon shooting would be to end the US occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and to end the bombings in Pakistan.  The US military has, through targeted assassinations, extraordinary renditions and drone attacks, made political violence an everyday part of life in this region.  As we learned in Tuscon today, such violence creates real human tragedies.  The lives of innocents lost in the Middle East to political violence are of equal value to Loughner's victims.

As socialists, we aim to create a non-violent world.  A world where the great wealth of society is used to satisfy human needs.  Ours will be a democratic revolution where the great majority of working people are finally able to express their desire for things like jobs, peace and freedom.  There is no place in this process, in the transition to a democratic socialist society, for political assassination.  This is the political tool of the right and only serves to re-enforce the presence of the repressive apparatus of the government.  We want freedom and believe that mass non-violent political protests are the means to acquire it.  We invite you to join us in this struggle for a better world.

***
Check out the Socialist Party USA - http://www.socialistparty-usa.org/

Resist the Digital Hierarchy! Defend Net Neutrality!

co-written by Billy Wharton, co-chair Socialist Party USA and Sean Riley, member Socialist Party of Arizona,

As socialist we recognize and support the existence of a truly free and open internet, maintained by the principle of net neutrality. We reject the proposals being made by the digital media giants backed by the politicians they have purchased who wish to segregate the internet by dividing access to it between high-speed fee-paying users and those who receive low-speed access without a charge. The internet is the "Great Cloud" through which many of us work, play, and communicate. It must be maintained as it is,
outside of the rules of the capitalists who carry a definition of property rights too narrow for this anarchic technological mass.

The corporate behemoths who lease out our internet lifelines would have us believe that they should be free to do as they see fit. These entities, empowered by a sense of corporate personhood, feel that they should be allowed to organize a 'pay-to-play' internet. If allowed to be put into effect, every step of the communication process would be subject to additional fees, controls, and content monitoring that the corporations would arbitrarily determine. We cannot allow such changes to pass.

The debate about net neutrality is a perfect illustration of how obsolete the rules of the capitalist system are. The internet has fostered revolutionary changes in the way people build communities, identities and
invent new ways of conversing. However, this sort of unregulated free association is a threat to capitalist profit motive. In response, capitalists attempt to impose market rules in order to commodify these new
relations even if the process of commodification ruins or severely limits the new relations. Simply put, the narrowness of capitalism, its need to profit from every act that makes us human, will destroy the complex interconnections the internet has helped us all establish.

As Socialists, we believe that the internet is not broken, and Google-Verizon must not be given free hand to "fix it". Does the airline industry own the sky? Does the trucking industry own the streets and highways? No, these vital arteries are there for all, as it must remain with the internet. We should also note that the origins of the internet itself lie with publicly funded research conducted by the US military.

Socialists believe in freedom, the freedom to associate with one another, the freedom to access information and the freedom share our thoughts, ideas and emotions without corporations telling us how fast or slow we can do so. As such, we reject any legislative attempt to end net neutrality or even seemingly "progressive" reforms that reduce net neutrality to a frozen set of relations that could eventually be regulated. The internet should be allowed to exist as it is, through a fluid association of
ad-hoc networks

Keeping net neutrality means resisting the establishment of a digital hierarchy that may do just as much damage as our increasingly wide economic hierarchy.


Related links:

Save the Internet
NY Times Topic: Net Neutrality
FreePress - Net Neutrality

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