Why Socialists Should Join the Peace and Freedom Party

Open Letter to DSA, ISO, Socialist Alternative and all Socialists

Even though Bernie Sanders contributed to a popularization of the word socialism, we need to be clear that Sanders was not anti-capitalist, revolutionary socialist. His policies were a mixture of watered-down social-democracy, support for imperialist interventions abroad, and finally, loyalty to the Democratic Party through his support for Hillary Clinton.

Rather than attempt to reform the capitalist Democratic Party or the reformist Green Party, we call on the International Socialist Organization (ISO), the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Socialist Alternative (SA) and other socialists to build an independent, working-class, socialist electoral vehicle.

The Peace and Freedom Party is on the electoral ballot. It is an explicitly socialist party with a socialist program. It is a multi-tendency front composed of socialist organizations and independent socialist activists.

The Peace and Freedom Party is explicitly anti-imperialist, anti-racist, feminist, and pro-immigrant. In fact, it is the only party which allows openly undocumented immigrants to register and to run for leadership positions. Socialist parties and groups should be in this front to work together and present their own working-class candidates and demands. Continue reading

Resist Trump and the Democrats!

no-ban-no-wall

Papers for All!

Resist Trump and the Democrats!

No More Deportations!

Self Defense Is Not Enough! Build the Government of Workers and the Oppressed!

San Francisco is at war with Washington, D.C.

On Wednesday, January 25, 2017, Donald Trump, Republican President of the United States of America declared his intent to deny federal funding to all U.S. cities identified as “Sanctuary Cities” by their policy to not collaborate with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, AKA I.C.E—in arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants to their countries of origin.

Also on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, Ed Lee, Democratic Mayor of San Francisco, California, declared his intent to resist Trump’s strictures against “Sanctuary Cities” by continuing the policy of non-collaboration with I.C.E.

On Thursday, January 26, 2017, I.C.E. agents armed with batons presented arrest notices for two people at El Buen Samaritano, a family resource center and housing complex located in San Francisco’s Mission District, demanding they be turned over. Staff immediately responded in defense of the building, refusing to open the doors. We applaud the courage of these employees and pledge our voices and our strength to support them in their cause.

San Francisco is at war with Washington, D.C.

Many concluded that this “enforcement action” was aimed at enforcing President Trump’s draconian immigration policies. In truth, deployments of anti-immigration storm troopers like this one were regular occurrences under the regime of recent ex-President Barack Obama, known in the immigrant community as the “Deporter in Chief.” Trump’s policies are but amplifications of the continuous state terror against Black, Brown, incarcerated, and undocumented people under Democrats and Republicans alike.

It is past time that we organized to defend ourselves.

We should recognize Mayor Lee’s speech for what it is: a nice sentiment with almost no plan to actually prevent San Francisco’s undocumented immigrants from being deported. If Mayor Lee wants to play a real leadership role and not a phony one, he should:

  • Make any Sheriff’s Deputy or any police officer, including Sheriff Vicki Hennessy and Chief of Police William Scott, subject to immediate termination for collaboration with the I.C.E. or failure to report those who collaborate with I.C.E.
  • Place all resources of the Sheriff’s and Police Departments at the service of independent, democratic self-defense committees of immigrants, workers, and the oppressed.
  • Tax San Francisco’s real estate interests, big banks, and other downtown big businesses to recover any funds stripped from the City by the Trump Administration and place these funds at the disposal of independent, democratic self-defense committees of immigrants, workers, and the oppressed.

We think it virtually impossible that Mayor Lee will take any serious measures against collaboration with I.C.E. Remember that he campaigned for anti-sanctuary Sheriff Vicki Hennessy in 2015. Remember that Sheriff’s deputies and police officers regularly violate the “Sanctuary City” policy by making courtesy calls to I.C.E. when they release undocumented immigrants from their custody. Remember that Mayor Lee maintained his unqualified support for the Sheriff’s and Police Departments while they murdered Latinos, African Americans, and homeless people as part of their ongoing, coordinated campaign to drive the poor from our City, just as Trump is trying to do for the country. Remember Mayor Lee’s support of Hillary Clinton for President, who implicitly promised to continue ex-President Obama’s policy of granting amnesty to a few immigrants deemed deserving while deporting more immigrants than any previous U.S. President.

Remember these things and know that Mayor Ed Lee cannot be trusted with the defense of the immigrant community. Again, it is past time that we organized to defend ourselves.

As founding members of the Immigrants Rights Movement (MDI), we raise once again the following demands:

  • Papers for All!!! For a full, unconditional amnesty for all undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
  • No More Deportations!!! For the right to all immigrants under attack from the Trump Administration to defend themselves from federal, state, and local law enforcement by any means they deem necessary
  • Resist Trump and the Democrats!!! For independent, democratic self-defense committees of immigrants, workers, and the oppressed supported and funded by a democratic coalition of community organizations, trade unions, immigrants rights groups, and the left.
  • Self-defense is not enough! Build the Government of Workers and the Oppressed!!! For elected community councils to lead the resistance to Trump’s resurrection of the misnamed “Secure Communities” policy.

For more information, contact the Left Party at (415) 532-7720 – leftpartyus@gmail.com

Es hora de tomar la ciudad santuario en nuestras propias manos

Declaración del Partido de Izquierda sobre incursiones del ICE en San Francisco

Es hora de tomar la ciudad santuario en nuestras propias manos.

¡Ni un deportado más!

protect-all-sf-sanctuary

En la mañana del jueves 26 de enero de 2017, un brote de pánico y agitación golpearon a un sector de la comunidad inmigrante de San Francisco cuando agentes de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE) llamaron a las puertas de El Buen Samaritano: un centro de recursos familiares, complejo habitacional y centro de organización comunitaria. Los agentes presentaron órdenes de arresto para dos personas que supuestamente vivían en el complejo, exigiendo que sean entregadas.

unnamed-6-2El personal de inmediato respondió en defensa del edificio, negándose a abrir las puertas – un verdadero acto de santuario en una ciudad con un status muy superficial de Ciudad Santuario.

Necesitamos más acciones valientes para defender a las comunidades y rehusarnos a cooperar con la ICE. Incluso en California, lugar de nacimiento de la política de Ciudad Santuario — que se originó oficialmente en Los Ángeles en 1979 — hemos visto el impacto catastrófico de incursiones, detenciones y deportaciones mucho antes de la llegada de Trump. De hecho, el ex presidente Obama ganó el apodo de “Deporter In Chief” por deportar a 2.5 millones de personas bajo su administración: más que todos los presidentes de Estados Unidos del siglo XX juntos.

Las acciones de esta mañana provocaron inquietud y ansiedad a medida que se difundía el rumor de que Trump ya había iniciado su ofensiva para acelerar los ataques a inmigrantes. Sin embargo, para la comunidad negra y latina, así como para las comunidades encarceladas e indocumentadas, esta amenaza no es nada nuevo, sino simplemente una amplificación del terror de estado que ha estado sucediendo continuamente tanto en bajo los demócratas como los republicanos.

unnamed-5-3Resulta que la visita de esta mañana del ICE al Buen Samaritano no es aún la escalada de la nueva administración de Trump (muchos tenían el temor de que involucraba a todo el centro comunitario), sino simplemente los ataques habituales contra numerosos residentes en la llamada Ciudad Santuario.

Lo que aclara este event es que el actual sistema de inmigración que criminaliza y aterroriza a las comunidades de inmigrantes podría empeorar bajo esta nueva administración — una fuerte probabilidad dada la orden ejecutiva más reciente de Trump de contratar 10,000 agentes ICE adicionales para realizar redadas en todo el país. Por lo tanto, es imperativo que preparemos nuestras propias defensas comunitarias para todos los escenarios de emergencia: incluso casos típicos de incursiones y represión del ICE .

Por mucho tiempo, ciudades progresistas como San Francisco han sido muy autocomplacientes  hacienda apenas lo mínimo (o incluso menos) para defendernos. Ahora ya no es momento de contentarse con palabras agradables, sublimes, promesas y resoluciones simbólicas. Ahora es el momento de hacer planes y acciones específicas que protejan a todos los residentes de San Francisco, independientemente de su status migratorio.

  • Los sindicatos, las iglesias y las organizaciones comunitarias — especialmente los Departamentos de la ciudad y todos los grupos dedicados a la defensa de los derechos de los inmigrantes — deben abrir de inmediato sus puertas y defender a la comunidad inmigrante, siguiendo el valiente ejemplo del personal de El Buen Samaritano.
  • El alcalde de SF y el Consejo de Supervisores de SF deben declarar inmediatamente esta ciudad como verdaderamente fuera del alcance para el ICE.
  • El Sheriff de SF debe ser revocado a la luz de su compromiso de apoyar las acciones del ICE. Un shérif pro-ICE es un riesgo peligroso que socava completamente la vigencia de la Ciudad Santuario.

Los trabajadores sociales y comunitarios que atienden las necesidades de la comunidad inmigrante han estado haciendo diligentemente todo lo que pueden para protegerla de la persecución. Ahora es el momento de ir aún más lejos, y ser claros y no intimidarse ante los cambios sistémicos que son críticamente necesarios.

Todos debemos seguir el ejemplo de los trabajadores de El Buen Samaritano de no permitir que ICE siga adelante. Es hora de dar un giro a la situación tomando el santuario en nuestras propias manos. ¡Ni un deportado más!

It’s time to take sanctuary into our own hands.

Left Party Statement on ICE raids in San Francisco

ICE RAIDS IN A SO-CALLED SANCTUARY CITY

It’s time to take sanctuary into our own hands.

No one should be taken!

unnamed-5-3

On the morning of Thursday, January 26th, 2017, minor panic and turmoil struck parts of the San Francisco immigrant community when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents knocked on the doors of El Buen Samaritano: a family resource center, housing complex, and hub of community organizing. The agents presented arrest notices for two people living in the complex, demanding they be turned over.

Staff immediately responded in defense of the building, refusing to open the doors — a true act of sanctuary in a city with superficial Sanctuary City Status.


lightning-bolt-squareWe need more brave actions to defend communities and refuse to cooperate with ICE.
 Even in California, the birthplace of the Sanctuary City policy — officially originating in Los Angeles in 1979 — we have seen the catastrophic impacts of raids, detentions, and deportations long before Trump. Indeed, former President Obama earned the nickname “Deporter In Chief” for deporting 2.5 million people under his administration: more than every single US President of the 20th Century combined.

This morning’s actions provoked unrest and anxiety as rumor spread that Trump had already started his offensive to ramp up attacks on immigrants. However, for Black, Brown, incarcerated, and undocumented communities this threat is not new, but merely an amplification of state terror that has been continuously happening under Democrats and Republicans alike.

It turns out that this morning’s ICE visit to El Buen Samaritano is not yet an escalation under Trump’s new administration (which many feared involved raiding the entire community center), but merely business as usual targeting numerous residents in this so-called Sanctuary City.unnamed-6-2

What this morning’s event clarifies is that the current immigration system that criminalizes and terrorizes immigrant communities could get worse under this new administration — a strong likelihood given Trump’s most recent executive order to hire 10,000 additional ICE agents to perform raids across the country. Therefore, it is imperative that we prepare our own community defenses for all emergency scenarios: even supposedly typical cases of ICE interference and repression.

For too long, progressive cities like San Francisco have patted themselves on the back for doing the bare minimum (or less) to defend us. Now is not the time for nice, lofty words, promises, and symbolic resolutions. Now is the time for specific plans and actions protecting all San Francisco residents, regardless of documentation status.

  • Unions, churches, and community organizations — especially City Departments and all groups dedicated to immigrant rights defense — should immediately open their doors and defend the immigrant community, following the brave example set by El Buen Samaritano staff.
  • The SF Mayor and the SF Board of Supervisors should immediately declare this city truly off-limits to ICE.
  • The SF Sheriff should be recalled in light of her commitment to support ICE actions. A pro-ICE Sheriff is a dangerous liability that completely undermines the validity of a Sanctuary City.

Social workers attending to the needs of immigrant communities have been diligently doing everything they can to provide relief from persecution. Now is the time to look even deeper, and be clear and unintimidated about the systemic changes that are critically needed.

All of us should follow the example of the El Buen Samaritano workers by not allowing ICE to go any further. It’s time to turn this around by taking sanctuary into our own hands. No one should be taken!

¡Por la Resistencia contra Trump y los Demócratas!

Declaración del Partido de Izquierda – Estados Unidos

La histeria alrededor de la toma de posesión como presidente de los Estados Unidos de Donald Trump es el resultado de la campaña del Partido Demócrata de presentarlo como un dictador de ultraderecha, cosa que no es cierta. Trump solo representa al ala derecha del establishment en el proceso de derechización continua del Partido Republicano de los últimos 75 años. La administración de Trump llevará a cabo los asuntos del régimen bipartidario norteamericano como de costumbre, basándose en el record ya establecido por la administración de Obama. ¡No confíe en que los Demócratas dirigirán la Resistencia! Organicémonos de manera independiente en contra del régimen bipartidario.

 La Victoria de Trump sobre Clinton en las elecciones presidenciales sorprendió a todos, pero ¿por qué?

Porque Clinton había sido promovida como la elegida, como la primera presidenta de los Estados Unidos, como Obama anteriormente había sido promovido como el primer presidente afroamericano, y Trump como su opositor obscuro, un tipo racista y macho incapaz en todo hasta de ser juez en un concurso de belleza. Y así, cada vez que Trump ofendía sistemática y repetidamente a cada grupo que había participado activamente en la elección en los dos términos de Obama: latinos, la comunidad gay, las mujeres y a los votantes jóvenes (entre otros), los partidarios de Clinton comparaban sin reparo este discurso violento y racista con Adolfo Hitler y Benito Mussolini.

 Y si bien esta comparación continúa hasta estos momentos, es errónea y exagerada fundamentalmente por tres razones:

  1. Para asumir el poder, Trump no está suprimiendo violentamente las instituciones “democráticas” estadounidenses
  2. Trump no puede representar un movimiento fascista, que no existe, cuando tampoco existe un movimiento de la clase obrera que amenace de tal manera al capitalismo que deba ser aplastado físicamente, y por lo tanto no existe la necesidad de ese movimiento fascista para aplastarlo
  3. Aquellos que apoyan a Trump no se encuentran organizados en un movimiento con la intención de exterminar sectores de la población

Es bastante problemático que un candidato tan racista, sexista y homofóbico como Trump haya ganado la presidencia. Sin embargo, las políticas anti-inmigrantes, el apoyo tácito a la racista brutalidad policiaca y la política unilateral violenta que tanto exalta Trump ya existían en la administración de Obama. Definitivamente, la victoria de Trump significa que las condiciones de vida de los trabajadores y los derechos democráticos de los oprimidos en los Estados Unidos y en el mundo van a continuar deteriorándose siguiendo ya un patrón marcado por los intereses de la industria y las finanzas, un patrón totalmente acatado y llevado a cabo por el predecesor Demócrata de Trump, Barack Obama. La diferencia significativa se remite a que la retórica de odio del nuevo presidente estará más de acuerdo con las políticas reaccionarias del régimen en su conjunto.

Con el triunfo de Trump en la presidencia, el Partido Republicano ahora controla el Senado, la Cámara de Representantes y existe la expectativa por parte de este partido de que Trump lleve adelante las demandas históricas del movimiento conservador, tales como legislación anti-aborto, reducción del gobierno y los servicios sociales, ataques a los sindicatos, así como su enorme y estúpido muro en la frontera con México. Trump y los Republicanos tienen todo lo que necesitan para llevar adelante sus planes excepto el acuerdo entre ellos de cuáles son las prioridades en este momento. Ellos enfrentan solo la oposición simbólica del Partido Demócrata, quien siempre ha declarado su apoyo incondicional al régimen bipartidista y llama a sus partidarios a trabajar con este nuevo y extraño presidente, mientras que trata de crear la imagen de que dirige la Resistencia contra Trump, solo que a través de la cooptación de los movimientos.

No confiamos en que los Demócratas dirigirán la Resistencia a un régimen al que apoyan y al que le son fieles. Los trabajadores y los oprimidos debemos organizarnos independientemente con la claridad de que el enemigo común son el Partido Republicano y el Partido Demócrata.

 

Resist Trump! And The Democrats!

Statement of the Left Party – United States

The hysteria surrounding Donald Trump’s ascent to the office of President of the United States of America is the result of the Democratic Party portraying him as some far-right, would-be dictator, which he is not. Trump only represents the right wing of a political establishment in the process of drifting ever further to the right, as Republicans have done for the last 75 years or so. The Trump Administration will carry out the bipartisan regime’s business as usual, building on the record of the Obama Administration. Don’t trust the Democrats to lead the resistance! Organize yourself independently against the bipartisan regime!!!

 Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election surprised everyone, but why?

Because Clinton was promoted as the chosen one, the First Female President of the United States, the obvious heir to the First African-American President, Barack Obama, and Trump was promoted as her dark opposite, a sexist, racist troll unfit even to judge a beauty contest. As Trump systematically and repeatedly offended every constituency—black, Latino, LGBT, female, and young voters (among others)—that mobilized to elect Obama twice, Clinton supporters breathlessly used Trump’s violent, racist oratory to compare him to famous fascists like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, a comparison they continue to draw to this day.

 This comparison is a gross exaggeration for three main reasons:

  1. In order to take power, Trump is not violently suppressing the institutions of U.S. “democracy for the rich.”
  2. Trump cannot represent a non-existent fascist movement, and there is no working class mass movement menacing capitalism that needs to be physically smashed, and therefore no fascist movement that is physically smashing them.
  3. The bigots supporting Trump are not organized into a movement with the intent and the means to exterminate the sectors of the population against which their hate is directed.

It is troubling that a candidate as racist, sexist, and homophobic as Trump received so many votes. However, the anti-immigrant policies, the tacit support of racist police brutality, and the unilateral and violent foreign policy that Trump exalts were all features of the Obama Administration. In all likelihood, Trump’s victory means that living conditions and democratic rights for workers and the oppressed in the U.S. and around the world will continue to deteriorate following the pattern set by worldwide industrial and banking concerns, a pattern also followed by Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. The main difference, it seems, is that the hateful rhetoric of the President will now more closely match the reactionary policies of the regime.

 With Trump’s victory, the Republican Party now controls the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Presidency. There is an expectation that Trump will carry out historical demands of the conservative movement, like anti-abortion laws, reduction of government and social welfare, attacks on unions, as well as his big, stupid wall on the Mexican border. Trump and the Republicans have everything they need to go forward with their plans except for agreement amongst themselves on what their priorities should be. They face only symbolic opposition from the Democratic Party, which professes more or less unconditional support for the bipartisan regime and calls on their fellows to work with this strange, new President-Elect, while also trying to create the impression of leading the resistance by virtue of the social movements it has co-opted.

Do not trust the Democrats to lead the resistance to the regime to which they claim their true allegiance. As workers and oppressed people, we must organize to fight our common enemy, and we have to recognize that both, the Democratic and Republican parties, are that enemy.

Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party and Donald Trump of the Republican Party do not deserve the votes of Chinese American people 么民主党的希拉里•克林顿和共和党的唐纳德•特朗普都不值得美国华人为他们投票。

By Berta Hernandez for Supervisor 2016

The Democratic and Republican Parties both have a long history of racism towards Chinese people, as well as other ethnic minority groups.

This is why Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party and Donald Trump of the Republican Party do not deserve the votes of Chinese American people for President of the United States.

The Peace and Freedom Party stands on the side of workers and immigrant communities against discrimination and respects and values cultural differences.

Gloria La Riva, candidate of the Peace and Freedom Party, comes from an ethnic minority with a similar history to Chinese Americans and has fought against discrimination for her entire political career.

Please consider voting for Gloria La Riva, of the Peace and Freedom Party, for President of the United States.

History:

Many Chinese people came to the U.S. during the 19th century to work.

They were paid very little and were persecuted and sometimes killed if they did not perform according to the wishes of their employers.

Many died, and when the Transcontinental Railroad was finished, most Chinese people were forced to return to China.

Racist attitudes against China and Chinese people were falsely used to justify laws that strictly limited immigration from China—the so-called “Yellow Peril.”

Political and labor organizations evilly regarded Chinese people as a “degraded” race and fought for limits on immigration from China. Newspapers hypocritically condemned employers of “cheap Chinese labor,” and even church leaders wrongly tried to keep Chinese people out of the U.S., trying make it into a land for whites only.

All of these laws, starting with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, were passed with the cooperation of Democrats and Republicans.

Because of the evil agreement between the Democrats and Republicans against Chinese people, the majority of these laws were not overturned until the 1950s, when Blacks, Latinos and Asians fought together for equal rights.

Present Day:

In the tradition of the “Yellow Peril” both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agree that China is a threat to the U.S. that must be contained and controlled.

Donald Trump did a disrespectful imitation of a greedy, Asian businessmen speaking in broken English to get votes by encouraging American racism against China and Chinese people.

Hillary Clinton hypocritically criticizes human rights violations in China when she knows that human rights violations in the U.S. are just as bad.

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump pretend to be benevolent and righteous towards Chinese people when their true intentions are evil.

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump cynically want to transform a global economic competition that Chinese businesses seem to be winning into a culture war. We know this is heading towards a real war that will be bad for everyone, the U.S. and China. We must stop them.

Conclusion:

Please don’t vote for either of these anti-Chinese candidates: Hillary Clinton from the Democratic Party or Donald Trump from the Republican Party.

Instead, vote for Gloria La Riva, from the Peace and Freedom Party.

么民主党的希拉里•克林顿和共和党的唐纳德•特朗普都不值得美国华人为他们投票。

 

,当然也包括对其它少数族群。这就是为什么民主党的希拉里·克林顿和共和党的唐纳德·特朗普都不值得美国华人为他们投票。

和平自由党支持工人和反歧视的移民社区,支持尊重和文化价值的差异。和平自由党的候选人葛罗瑞亚·拉·莉娃来自一个与美籍华人有相似历史的少数民族。她的整个政治生涯都致力于反歧视。

对于美国总统的票选,请考虑投票给和平自由党的葛罗瑞亚·拉·莉娃。

 

历史:

在十九世纪,很多中国人来美务工。他们领到非常少的报酬,还要遭受迫害。如果未能如雇主期望地完成任务,他们有时可能还会被杀害。

很多人失去了生命。当贯穿大陆的铁路建成后,大部分的中国人被迫返回了中国。

对华种族歧视态度被错误地用在法律的实践上。中国的移民被严格地限制着——还被称为“黄祸”。政治和劳工组织邪恶地把华人当作“低级的”种族,还争取限制中国移民。报纸伪善地谴责拥有“廉价中国劳工”的雇佣者。为了享有只有白人的净土,教会的领导甚至也错误地要把华人挡在国门外。

所有的这些被民主党和共和党协力通过的法律都始于1882年的排华法案。

因民主党和共和党通过的反中邪恶协定,黑人,拉丁美洲人和亚洲人才共同为平等权利所斗争。也直到二十世纪五十年代,大多数的那些法律终被推翻。

 

今日:

民主党的希拉里·克林顿和共和党的唐纳德·特朗普都同意“黄祸”论,都认为中国是美国的威胁,需要被牵制和控制。唐纳德·特朗普通过煽动针对中国和中国人的美国种族主义者来获得选票,他无礼地模仿表演了一个贪婪,说着蹩脚英语的亚裔商人。

希拉里·克林顿伪善地批判中国违反人权,但她知道美国的人权也好不到哪儿去。

当希拉里·克林顿和唐纳德·特朗普真正的面目是邪恶的,他们却假装对华人是仁慈和公正的。

希拉里·克林顿和唐纳德·特朗普都想把一场中国似乎已胜券在握的全球经济竞争演变成一场文化战争,这是多么的讽刺。我们知道这样会导致一场真正的战争,这对于任何一方,中国或美国都是不幸的。我们必须阻止他们。

 

总结:

请不要投票给这些反中的参选者:来自民主党的希拉里·克林顿或是来自共和党的唐纳德·特朗普,但请投给来自和平自由党的葛罗瑞亚·拉·莉娃.

Position of the Left Party on the Local Ballot Propositions -San Francisco – November 8, 2016 Election

SF Ballot Initiative Summaries

There are twenty-five ballot local propositions on the ballot this November 8. They are not terribly easy to read, and the campaigns for or against them tend to misrepresent them if only by oversimplifying. However, for those with the patience, they tell a story of the struggle between the two factions of the local Democratic Party political machine.

For those who need a little background: in San Francisco, Republicans form an isolated sect with no traction in local politics whatsoever. Thus, the local Democrats control everything and can roughly be divided into two factions. The “moderates”, so called by the San Francisco Chronicle include Mayor Ed Lee and the minority on the Board of Supervisors led by Scott Wiener. This “moderate” faction follows the tradition, if not the leadership, of former Mayor Willie Brown and the coterie of developers, real estate brokers, and bankers that have always been his base. On the other hand, “progressives”—thus self-dubbed but supported by the Chronicle in calling themselves thusly—form the majority of the Board of Supervisors, and include Supervisors Jane Kim—also running for State Senate this election—and Aaron Peskin. This faction traces its history back through former State Assembly Member and Supervisor Tom Ammiano to former Mayor Art Agnos and tends to have a symbiotic relationship with non-profit service providers.

In addition to the usual bond measures, generally agreed upon by both factions, which we see as attempts by the government to extort money to pay for needed services that they have failed to fund due to corruption and mismanagement of the City’s $10bn budget, and which we will have plenty to say about later in this article, the November ballot includes a number of propositions clearly proposed by one faction or the other. Ironically, the “moderate” faction contributes the more reactionary measures, such as the anti-homeless Proposition Q, which should be rejected so thoroughly that it makes Supervisor Wiener’s head spin. This is probably part of a strategy to get the progressives to tie up resources in fighting his measures rather than advancing their own. Meanwhile, the “progressive” faction tries to take power from the “moderates” with minimal to moderate democratic reforms—like Proposition D—accompanied with a battery of budget set-asides that will probably foster corruption through a guaranteed funding sources in much the same way that stagnant water encourages the mosquito population.

We do, however, want to point out that there are two democratic reforms on the ballot that we deem incredibly worthy of support. The first is Proposition F, which lowers the voting age in local elections to 16, and the second is Proposition N, which grants non-citizens the right to vote in school board elections. We would give full political rights to all non-citizens, as well as all convicted felons, and we would lower the voting age to 14, but both measures would be hugely positive steps towards improving the responsiveness of local government.

In any case, what follows in this document are short summaries of the ballot measures followed by brief elaborations of our positions. We welcome all comment, and we are eager to discuss our positions further with any and all interested parties.

A. School Bonds—No: In order to repair, update, and build the facilities necessary for the needs of students, faculty, staff, and the community, the San Francisco Unified School District wishes to, with the public’s approval, issue bonds in an amount not to exceed $744, 250, 000 to cover these improvement costs. It allows the City to raise property taxes in order to pay the interest on this money if necessary and allows landlords to raise rents to cover up to 50% of their increased property tax bill. The City, for its part, is confident it can manage its borrowing in such a way to prevent any increases in property taxes.

As for us, we are against even the possibility of raising the rents of workers and poor people to pay for education for other workers and poor people. This is a matter of class principle for us: we simply do not support measures that set the interests of one section of the working class against another. We can also point out that the City has a large number of obscenely profitable businesses in it, including tech firms, for sure, but also financial institutions and real estate concerns that could afford to pay a higher rate of taxes to fund education for workers and their children, and that is who the City should tax.

Furthermore, bond measures actually increase the City’s dependence upon big banks by increasing the municipal debt load and giving these banks additional leverage against the City taking measures to develop the infrastructure it needs on its own. We say let’s take a small step towards financial independence with the larger goal of developing a publically owned Bank of San Francisco to manage its own money for the interests of those who need it most.

We are also against this perennial strategy of the Democratic Party Political Machine—to let a desperately needed resource decay almost to nothing and then demand that workers pay for it. If it isn’t the Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center and its services for seniors, then it’s MUNI, or City College, or San Francisco General Hospital being held for ransom. This time it’s SFUSD being held hostage. We reject the political machine’s bullying and blackmail in the most strident terms by voting “No!” on A.

B. City College Parcel Tax—No: In order to renew a soon-to-expire parcel tax of $99 per parcel that bolsters its budget, the City College of San Francisco urges the public to vote in favor of Proposition B, which would help prevent further cuts to staff, faculty, programs, and departments at the school.

We in the Left Party feel much the same way about parcel taxes as we do about bonds: they are regressive tax measures used to get around closing the gaping wounds through which the ruling class siphons funds from workers to enrich itself at everyone else’s expense. Once again, we say look to the big real estate, financial, and technological concerns doing business in San Francisco and making huge profits due to their access to infrastructure maintained at the public’s expense for funds for CCSF. The increased real estate transfer tax proposed in Proposition W gives us an idea for how to do this legislatively. In reality, our goal of guaranteeing everyone a free, high quality, education from pre-school through university and beyond will require the permanent mobilization of workers and the oppressed through their own organizations and under their own leadership to take political and economic power. For now, the correct defensive measure is to vote “No!” on Proposition B.

C. Loans to Finance Acquisition and Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing—No: This proposition re-directs unused bond funds from 1992’s Seismic Bonds Measure to provide loans to help renovate, improve, and then convert “at-risk” multi-unit residential buildings into permanent affordable housing.

In addition to the regressive taxation aspects mentioned above, this one also uses an old bond measure to raise housing costs for some San Franciscans—many of them working- and middle-class homeowners—in order to lower housing costs for other San Franciscans. This is the way that bond measures are used to make workers and poor people financially responsible for the failure of the capitalist housing market to provide people with affordable homes. Of course, we say “No!” to this one as well.

D. Vacancy Appointments—Yes: Ballot question D will amend the San Francisco charter to make it mandatory for a special election to be held to fill any vacancy in the Board of Supervisors—if a regularly scheduled election does not occur within 180 days of the creation of the vacancy.

In other words, it takes away the Mayor’s power to pack the Board of Supervisors with supporters—a power that has been used to such bad effect on the City as a whole since 1995, when Willie Brown, Jr. became the mayor. In fact, this is the first of a package of mild reforms that appear on this ballot that are designed to remove some of these powers that were shifted to the Mayor in the mid-1990s as Brown became mayor. This is the one that we can say that we support unreservedly. Vote “Yes!” on Proposition D.

E. Responsibility for Maintaining Street Trees and Surrounding Sidewalks—No position: This charter amendment would transfer the responsibility for the planting, care, and maintenance of all trees planted along the streets and public schools in the City of San Francisco. This endeavor would require the City to set aside $19 million annually from the budget to pay for this program.

The part of this measure that restores to the City the responsibility for maintaining the street trees that it transferred to property owners in the last period—a transfer that resulted in all kinds of abuse and poor maintenance of the urban forest—is exactly what should happen. The part of the measure that requires the set-aside is a recognition that the City is not committed to guarantee essential services as well as an invitation to the Department of Urban Forestry to be as corrupt as it wants to be since its funding is guaranteed no matter what happens. Because it is half good and half terrible, we take no position on Proposition E.

F. Youth Voting in Local Elections—Yes: This proposal, if approved by the voters, would allow 16 and 17 year-old San Francisco residents to vote in municipal elections.
Like the voting rights for non-citizens contained in Proposition N, this measure is a refreshingly positive democratic reform. It is both an invitation to civic engagement to an oppressed population—youth—and a demand to local officials that they be held accountable to a population directly affected by the City government’s irresponsible actions. Vote “Yes!” on Proposition F!

G. Police Oversight—No position: If approved, this initiative would rename The Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC) to the much more serious sounding Department of Police Accountability (DPA). That being said, this proposal would also give the civilian-staffed DPA greater control over their own budget and subject them to a performance review every two years.

To be clear: our position is that the police department and sheriff’s department are institutions tasked with the violent repression of workers and the oppressed and are impervious to reform. In solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives, we demand that they be de-militarized, defunded, disarmed, and disbanded. Therefore, on the basis that this measure may promote confidence in the notion that the police can be reformed, we are inclined to reject it. However, we also recognize that this measure may bring about some small increase in police accountability for their murders and other abuses of authority. Therefore, we take no position on it.

H. Public Advocate—Yes: This initiative would create an elected Office of Public Advocate. Their duties will entail receiving and relaying information with the public, investigations, resolving complaints, and working with whistle blowers.

This measure was conceived in part as a more radical solution to the problem of police accountability as well as a more general—and completely accurate—sense that City Departments are not adequately responsive to the constituents they are supposed to serve. The two measures have been brought into harmony with one another, and we support this one. Vote “Yes!” on Proposition H.

I. Funding for Seniors and Adults with Disabilities—No position: This initiative would set aside $38m establish a “Dignity Fund” that would increase by $71m over the next ten years to be administered by an unelected commission, ostensibly to help support disabled adults and senior San Francisco citizens. The measure strongly implies that this will be accomplished by distributing money amongst public non-profits, which it holds to be the City’s “most valuable asset” for supporting seniors.

This is the second in the cascade of set-aside proposals that we should read as a failure of the City to provide necessary services and the same invitation to corruption that any perennial guarantee of funding offers, with the special modification that the non-profit service providers are the key beneficiaries of this funding stream. But again, although the set-aside is bad, the funding and services are necessary, so we take no position.

J. Funding for Homelessness and Transportation—No position: This initiative proposes to set-aside a Homeless Housing and Services Fund of $12.5 million for the 2016-2017 fiscal year followed by funding of $50 million annually for the next 24 years. This measure claims it will provide services to prevent homelessness, and move the homeless to “more stable situations.”

Here again is another set-aside, this time to benefit the homeless. As with the others, we think the money and services are necessary, but the way that it locks the funding into place is a blueprint for abuse. Like the other set-asides measures, we can in good conscience neither support nor reject them.

K. General Sales Tax—No: This initiative would impose sales and use taxes of 0.75% for a period of 25 years in order to fund the abovementioned initiative “J.”

Sales taxes are among the most regressive tax measures the state can take, and we oppose this one as with all of them. The promise to fund needed services is what makes it come across as electoral extortion to us. Vote “No” on Proposition K.

L. MTA Appointments and Budget—No Position: This initiative would split the power to make appointments to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) between the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors. This would also lower the vote threshold from seven to six when it comes to rejecting a SFMTA budget proposal.

The re-distribution of the appointments to give parity to the Board of Supervisors is what marks this as one of the measures from the so-called “progressive” majority on the Board of Supervisors designed to take power away from the Mayor’s office and give it to itself. It seems to be a little more democratic than the way things are done now, but it is in reality a representation of the struggle between the two factions of the Democratic Party that are working together against us all of the time. If it were to make the MUNI commission an elected commission, as Proposition D makes the filling of vacancies on the Board of Supervisors, we would be completely behind it. As it is, we take no position.

M. Housing and Development Commission—No Position: In order to review and make recommendations regarding proposed development agreements involving certain surplus City properties, this initiative would create the Housing and Development Commission to oversee the Department of Economic and Workforce Development and the Department of Housing and Community Development. Importantly, the Board of Supervisors is to have parity with the Mayor in appointing this new commission, which will oversee the other two commissions that apparently will continue to be appointed by the Mayor.

In other words, this is the third in the series of initiatives designed to strengthen the Board of Supervisors at the expense of the Mayor’s office, as is the case with Propositions D and L. This one is more like Proposition L than Proposition D in that it creates yet another undemocratic unelected commission as another battlefield for the Democratic Party to act out its factional drama. We support neither faction over the other, and therefore take no position on Proposition M.

N. Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections—Yes: This proposition would allow San Francisco residents who are not US citizens, but are who are the parents, legal guardians, or caregivers of a child residing in San Francisco, the right to vote in all Board of Education elections.

This one appears on the ballot every now and then, usually because we had something to do with putting it there. It departs from the premise—based in fact—that because non-citizens have children in San Francisco schools, they should have right to elect representatives to the school board. We strongly support this measure as a step along the path towards granting full democratic rights to all non-citizens, including the right to vote in all elections and the right to receive government services—such as education and healthcare. We would also like to see voting rights extended to convicted felons, reversing the disfranchisement that affects African-Americans and Latinos much more strongly than white people. Vote “Yes!” on Proposition N!

O. Office Development in Candlestick Point and Hunters Point—No: Proposition M from 1986 limits the construction of new office space in the City to 950,000 square feet. Proposition O would amend the planning code to exempt the redevelopment of Candlestick Point and Hunters Point from this voter-imposed limit.

This measure is a little bit of old-school machine politics. Now that the gentrification of Bayview-Hunters Point is picking up speed, the machine wants to further accelerate it by relaxing development requirements, supposedly in order to develop the neighborhood and anchor residents by providing housing and jobs for them. The implied argument is that if one is against this measure, one is against development for Bayview-Hunters Point, and therefore in favor of gentrification. More specifically, if one does not vote to open up the floodgates of gentrification, then one is in favor of people being driven out of the neighborhood. It’s the same argument they have used to pass every stupid ballpark measure that only helped the developers. Meanwhile, the fact is that the City has never reached the limit enacted in the 1986 law. Vote “No!” on Proposition O.

P. Competitive Bidding for Affordable Housing Projects on City-Owned Property—No: When awarding a contract for affordable housing construction on City property, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development may select a developer for an affordable housing project even if it receives fewer than three proposals. This proposition would compel the MOHCD to invite the public to submit bids, receive at least three bids for every project, and use “best value” as criteria for awarding contracts.

What seems like a common sense measure is in fact an additional layer of red tape designed to give colluding for-profit developers veto powers over new affordable housing projects. If they don’t like a project, all they have to do is make sure that they don’t bid on it. And if the City gets one or two reasonable bids, it is prevented by this measure from moving forward on the project. Meanwhile, the City already has a competitive bidding in place that barely allows affordable housing to get built. Vote “No” on Prop P.

Q. Prohibiting Tents on Public Sidewalks—No: This proposition is attempting to cure homelessness through the seizure of personal property and the degradation of human dignity. This not only will make tents on the streets officially illegal, but it also gives police carte blanche to seize a homeless person’s personal property and impound it “for no fewer than 90 days.”

In a way, one almost has to respect the tenacity with which these reactionaries continue to advocate these completely failed policies that criminalize poverty and try to hide its visible effects by having the cops chase people out of town, put them in jail, or kill them. But mostly the people who propose measures like these—Supervisors Scott Wiener and Mark Farrell of the Board of Supervisors’ minority “moderate” faction—seem like they suffer from a sociopathic lack of empathy and failure of compassion, and one either feels sorry for them or disgusted by them. In any case, we need to fight this measure and make sure it fails. Vote “No!” on Proposition Q!

R. Neighborhood Crime Unit—No: If passed, this proposition would establish a “neighborhood crime unit” whose task will be to quell “neighborhood crime.” This seems to be an attempt to shift from general policing to a “beat cop” approach. These neighborhood crime units would only be activated once police staffing is at normal levels.
In other words, in the face of outcry against police abuse and murder of unarmed civilians, the machine is proposing to crack down on quality of life crimes, like car break-ins and so on, the precise kind of police intervention that tends to lead to civilian deaths at the hands of police, especially for blacks and Latinos. We see this measure as a particularly epic feat of tone-deafness on the part of the “moderate” faction of the machine. Vote “No!” on Proposition R.

S. Allocation of Hotel Tax Funds—Yes: The City currently levies an 8% base tax and an additional 6% tax surcharge on the rental of hotel rooms. Proposition S would guarantee where this money is spent. This measure would force the Board of Supervisors to use this tax revenue to pay the: Arts Commission 2.9%, War Memorial 5.8%, Grants for the Arts 7.5% (by 2010), Cultural Equity Endowment Fund 7.5% (by 2010), and Moscone Center 50%.
We are completely in favor of creating progressive taxation-funded revenue streams for the arts. Of course, these arts programs are extremely conservative, and we can’t help noticing that half of the money—the largest portion set aside for any of the programs—goes to the Moscone Center, which directly benefits all of the downtown hotels located right around it, meaning this measure arguably restores the money to the hotels it takes it from. We would much prefer this money be given to an elected arts commission with representation from every district and every affected community, artists in particular. However, we cannot quite bring ourselves to oppose this measure in principle. Vote “Yes” on Proposition S.

T. Restricting Gifts and Campaign Contributions from Lobbyists—Yes: Submitted by the Ethics Commission, this proposition would better define “gift” and force San Francisco government officials to report these “gifts” in a new codified manner. If this proposition were successful, any gift/contribution report would now include the name of contributor, contribution amount, date of gift, contributor’s occupation/employer, and to which committee this contribution was made.

This is a minimal additional regulation to the extremely corrupt relationship between lobbyists and elected officials. Still, if the Ethics Commission thinks it will help, it probably will a little bit. Vote “Yes” on Proposition T.

U. Affordable Housing Requirements for Market-Rate Development Projects—No position: This proposition would essentially raise the maximum allowable income requirement, thereby making Below Market Housing (BMR) available to higher paid workers and members of the middle class.

In particular, proponents of the measure single out essential workers like schoolteachers, who generally cannot afford to live in the City on the minuscule salaries paid by SFUSD. This, of course, is but a small part of the population this measure will support, which will also include low- and mid-level management types at marketing firms and ad agencies at the expense of those truly vulnerable to losing their housing and being expelled from the City. The “progressives” will argue that this measure will increase the competition for a limited number of BMR units with a large number of people more fit for the competition, which is true. Meanwhile, as the “moderates” argue, it will make affordable housing available to people who presently cannot afford housing in San Francisco. It is our policy to house everyone in San Francisco, so we take No Position on Proposition U.

V. Tax on Distributing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages—No: As opposed to similar measures that tax the consumer directly for the purchase of sugar-sweetened beverage, this proposition is intended to discourage the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in San Francisco by taxing their distribution. Although distributors will be taxed ($0.01) per fluid ounce, there are no guarantees that retailers will not pass this added cost on to consumers, presumably by distributing the cost of the tax over all goods available in stores that sell sodas, hence the characterization of this measure by its opposition—presumably distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages—as a “grocery tax.”

Leaving aside the question of whether or not people should drink soda, the fact is that this is a textbook example of a regressive tax measure, with everyone sharing its cost equally regardless of their ability to pay. If the State were serious about taking on the soda industry, it would do so by going after their profits directly rather than giving them the opportunity to pass on the cost to everyone. Vote “No” on Proposition V.

W. Real Estate Transfer Tax on Properties Over $5 Million—Yes: This proposition is an amendment to the Business and Tax Regulations Code that, if successful, will increase the Real Property Transfer Tax from 2% to 2.5% for properties valued from $5,000,000 to $10,000,000, from 2.5% to 2.75% for properties valued from $10,000,000 to $25,000,000, and 2.5% to 3% for properties valued at or above $25,000,000. The money raised will go to provide badly needed funds to keep City College of San Francisco open and affordable to working class people.

There is, of course, no way on Earth we would oppose this progressive taxation measure, in this case proposed by State Senate candidate Jane Kim, of the “progressive” faction as a bone to AFT 2121, the CCSF Teachers’ Union. We would also like to point out that luxury property transactions are not the most reliable funding source and insist that a tax on real estate profits targeting big brokers, banks, and landlords makes more sense. Vote “Yes!” on Proposition W.

X. Preserving Space for Neighborhood Arts, Small Businesses and Community Services in Certain Neighborhoods—Yes: This proposition would require that property developers working on projects in parts of the Mission and South of Market neighborhoods build replacement spaces for displaced facilities that specialize in: automotive, storage and wholesale and small business uses (furniture makers, recording studios, plumbing supply stores, art studios, lumberyards, child care and community facilities, space for performance, exhibition, rehearsal and production of visual, performance and sound arts, as well as art studios and art schools.

This anti-gentrification measure is probably “too little, too late” for the Mission and SOMA. We also doubt this measure will daunt the big real estate developers who seem to own both factions of the local Democratic Party, who will be charged with defining the enforcement provisions of this measure. Still, it’s a tiny step in the right direction. Vote “Yes” on Proposition X.

RR. BART Safety, Reliability and Traffic Relief—No: This proposal would allow the BART Transit District to sell $3.50 billion in General Obligation Bonds to pay for the repairing and replacement of critical infrastructure, prevention of accidents, breakdowns and delays, relieving overcrowding, reducing traffic congestion and pollution, improving earthquake safety and expanding safe access into BART stations, including for seniors and persons with disability.

Anyone who has ridden BART lately has experienced the way in which it is falling apart and becoming a more and more unpleasant experience for riders. The reconfiguration of the seats to increase capacity accompanied with the horrific screams as the trains speed over poorly maintained rails make travel across the Bay more like a slaughterhouse experience all the time. So, like any capitalist government agency, they look to the poorest among us as the key source of revenue to fund needed services, rather than to find and close the holes into which its budget—a budget of more than $1.5 billion dollars, in this case—disappears. Meanwhile, the big construction firms that build the new stations and the downtown businesses in Oakland to whom BART delivers its workforce every morning reap huge profits. As with any bond measure, we say “No” to Proposition RR.

 

Build the left alternative to the Democrats and Republicans! Vote Peace and Freedom in California!

#MakeHistoryVoteSocialist2016

Left Party Declaration on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Times are hard.

At the global level, we are in the midst of an environmental collapse, represented by climate change, sea level rise, and what nearly all scientists who study the subject believe to be a mass extinction event. At the national level in the U.S., we are in the midst of a sharpening of social tensions represented by police killings of workers, mostly people of color, in defense of the massive siphoning of wealth from the working class to the ruling class. This process, which has accelerated since the economic crisis of 2008, process expresses itself locally in most major cities in the way that the population of homeless people has increased by the thousands while gentrification turns the old, falling-down buildings that used to house workers into play palaces for the wealthy and powerful.

Meanwhile, those in the U.S. who fight against these grave wrongs confront the violent opposition of the bipartisan regime—composed of the Democratic and Republican Parties—which safeguards the interests of the ultra-rich while perpetuating an international policy of endless war by political, economic, and military means regardless of the grave environmental and social catastrophes that face humanity. Therefore, one of the main tasks of the left in the U.S. is to build an alternative political formation to the left of the Democrats and Republicans based in and under the leadership of the working class and oppressed communities. That is why we call for socialists and leftists to vote for the Peace and Freedom Party candidate—Gloria La Riva for President in California—and to support independent left alternative candidates—including the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein—in other parts of the country.

We should recognize that Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic nomination has ensured that nearly all “progressive” or independent tendencies within the Democratic Party will stay within the Democratic Party this election. Bernie Sanders, the so-called “independent from Vermont” has ironically become the major obstacle to developing independent politics to the Democrats at a national scale. We urge Sanders’ supporters not to join him in supporting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for President. The best thing they can do to further the agenda they counted on Sanders to represent is to break from the Democrats. They should openly defy the “lesser of two evils” campaign that the Democrats have run since 2000, when the independent candidacy of Ralph Nader provided a relatively credible left challenge to the Democrats, a challenge that the Democrats have consistently misrepresented as having cost Al Gore the election. Sanders’ supporters should neither let the fear of a possible victory by the openly racist, authoritarian Republican candidate Donald Trump unite them behind Hillary Clinton nor exercise their right not to vote in acknowledgment of the fact that their politics have no candidate to represent them in this election. They should instead break with the Democrats once and for all and join the effort to build independent left wing politics.

One such independent alternative is the Green Party, which took the important step earlier this year towards including anti-capitalist planks in their platform by declaring themselves in favor of “eco-socialism.” However, the Green Party continues to have some inconsistencies in its core principles that lead it to take some reactionary positions when elaborating politics for concrete circumstances. For instance, Jill Stein, their presidential candidate, does not mention Black Lives Matter—or even African-Americans—in the portion of her platform dedicated to “Freedom and Equality”, instead relegating this critically important struggle to a later section on “Criminal Justice Reforms.” We recommend that Stein read the recently published program document of the Movement for Black Lives and adopt as much of it as she can as her own, especially the points on reparations for slavery. In addition, on immigration, Stein makes a plea for a “welcoming path to citizenship” for “law-abiding” immigrants. We think Stein should call for a full and unconditional amnesty for all undocumented immigrants here in the U.S. and voting rights for all non-citizens. This is how the Green Party can distinguish itself from the Democrats and Republicans on issues that matter for these communities.

Furthermore, the Green Party tends to disappear in the interim between presidential elections, emerging every four years to run someone for president. The rest of the time it supports Democratic Party candidates and proposals without making any serious effort to establish its political independence or sink roots into the community by contesting elections against the Democrats at the local level. This is why we think the Green Party does not offer the best opportunity to build a left alternative to the Democrats and Republicans that we can find.

In California, where the Left Party makes its home, there is another independent alternative party. The Peace and Freedom Party, forged out of a coalition between socialists, anti-war activists, and organizations from the Black liberation movement to provide an electoral alternative to the Democrats and Republicans that could represent a left wing, anti-war position, has existed on the ballot since the 1970s. Since its founding, the Peace and Freedom party has run hundreds of candidates for local office, standing firmly on the principle of political independence from the Democrats and Republicans. Though the party remains small, it retains its ballot line along with a core of activists that have stood against war, imperialism, and the bipartisan regime for three or four decades in some cases. It is a priceless asset in the struggle to build an openly socialist independent electoral alternative in California. The moment is upon us when we must all put time and resources into building it.

This is why we have endorsed the Peace and Freedom Party candidate for President, Gloria La Riva. Unlike the Green Party and Jill Stein, the Peace and Freedom Party recognizes all workers’ right to participate in the political process regardless of immigration status or their status as having been convicted of felonies. This principle carries over into the internal process of the Peace and Freedom Party, where all are eligible to be members with full political rights regardless of age, race, gender, or legal status. Undocumented immigrants, felons, and youth are allowed to be delegates and office holders regardless of the political establishment’s insistence on limiting if not eliminating the political rights of members of these populations. At the convention, the question of whether or not to support the Movement for Black Lives was not discussed, only how to best express solidarity with its aims in the coming campaign. Furthermore, the Peace and Freedom candidate, La Riva, has been part of the socialist movement for her entire political career. She is a veteran of many Peace and Freedom campaigns for elected office, from Mayor of San Francisco to President of the United States. She is also a well-tempered anti-imperialist activist, having organized many national demonstrations against war and racism as part of the leadership of the ANSWER coalition. We look forward to building the Peace and Freedom Party together.

However, the Peace and Freedom Party is not on the ballot anywhere other than California. This means that, in much of the U.S., no one will even hear the Peace and Freedom Party, neither the party nor the candidate. However, some places there are other decent socialist candidates, and, in fact, La Riva appears on the ballot in Vermont as the candidate of the Liberty Union Party. In many places the Jill Stein may provide the best opportunity for independent political action. Also, there could be other independent left candidates for the presidency that resonate strongly in certain regions, or even leftists running for local office that have a chance of developing an organization that can fight at the local level in between elections. In these instances, it may make sense to prioritize building these campaigns. For this reason, we make no recommendation for a specific presidential candidate outside of California. We suggest that activists and organizations with a left wing and/or socialist orientation choose the candidates and campaigns that best suit their community organizing efforts. The most important thing is that these candidates be opposed in principle to the Democratic Party, with the dedication to and the perspective of building alternative political formations of the left in between elections.

While things may look dismal now for the left, a lot can change in a short time. If we treat our local organizing efforts with the urgency they require—the urgency of saving a dying world from social, economic, and environmental collapse—and keep alive the dialogue and the perspective of building a national organization, we may be in a far more favorable situation for our politics in the period to come.

 

Left Party Declaration: African-Americans, Police Repression, Self-Defense, and the Left

Here in the U.S., the month of July 2016 has seen a marked increase in violence between the African-American community and the police that repress them. Black police officers have begun to speak out against the abuse, and, in two high profile instances, police have been attacked and killed by African-Americans as reprisal for the violence against their community. Although these shooters have no connection with any movement whatsoever, given the sharp increase in widely distributed video evidence of the police’s wanton use of deadly force against black people over the last twenty-five years, we are surprised that such attacks did not begin sooner. They are desperate acts of individuals that correspond to increased state repression. The state’s increased violence is part of the rightward shift of the entire political spectrum due to the prolonged economic decline and increased inequality here in the center of imperialism. Even though we should expect police violence to continue to increase as well as individual acts of violence against the state, we oppose the latter almost as much as the former because they provide justification for increased state repression. We do, however, support the right of the movement against police brutality to democratically organize its own self-defense through whatever means it finds necessary, including through force of arms. We oppose the state’s calls to disarm the population, and call for the labor movement and other organizations of the oppressed to join forces with Black Lives Matter to end police brutality and the capitalist system that requires it.

 

The latest round of increased violence began with two high profile police shootings of African-Americans. Within a day of one another, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on July 5 and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota on July 6, were shot and killed by police. The deaths of both men were captured on video and almost immediately distributed across the Internet to an international audience. The video of Sterling’s death showed that two white police officers held him incapacitated on the ground when they shot him.[1] Castile, whose partner broadcast his death over Facebook Live, was cooperating with police by informing them of his firearm for which he had a concealed-carry permit as he reached for his identification when the officer shot him, killing him almost instantly.[2] Both police departments indignantly demanded that we refrain from judgment until they can prove that the killings were motivated by the officers’ fear for their lives. While the police claim the right to be innocent until proven guilty, clearly they are quite comfortable depriving others—particularly people of color—of this same right.

 

Black police officers were troubled by Sterling and Castile’s deaths at the hands of white officers. Some time in early July, but clearly after the killing of Alton Sterling, Freddie Vincent, an African-American police officer from Cincinnati, Ohio, responded to with a warning to “[his] African-Americans.” “When you are encountered by a white police officer,” Vincent wrote, “make sure that you are in a public place, and comply to all of their commands, because they are looking for a reason to kill a black man.”[3] Vincent’s post was quickly deleted, and he was brought up for disciplinary review in his department. His post, however, had already spread across the Internet, illustrating the toll that the polarization between police officers and the African-American community is taking on black officers. He had also confirmed from inside the law enforcement community what the body count of people of color dead at the hands of police for minor (if not non-existent) infractions had already made abundantly clear from outside of it: police are targeting black folk.

 

On July 7, 2016, during a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration for justice for Sterling and Castile in Dallas, Texas, Micah Xavier Johnson, an African-American veteran of the U.S. Army, opened fire on police officers. All that can be known about Johnson’s motivations comes from the police negotiators who spoke with him, who say he told them he was “targeting white officers because of the recent shootings.”[4] Five officers were killed and nine others were wounded—as well as two civilians—before the police put a block of C-4 explosive on a remote control bomb disposal device, rolled it up to where Johnson was hiding, and detonated it. Johnson was immediately killed, with the police acting as judge, jury, and executioners on-site. As with Sterling and Castile, there was no due process for Johnson.

 

The very next day, July 8, Baton Rouge police officer Montrell Jackson responded to the Dallas attacks with an impassioned Facebook post. In it, Jackson bluntly states that he is “physically and emotionally exhausted”, attributing his stress to the increased violence, as well as living on both sides of the polarization between police and African-Americans. “In uniform I get nasty hateful looks,” wrote Jackson, “and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”[5] In his post, Jackson persuasively expresses the rising social tensions—tensions he would not live to see resolved.

 

A little over a week later, on July 16, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, an African-American former Marine named Gavin Eugene Long opened fire on law enforcement officers.[6] In his social media postings in days leading up to the shooting, Long expressed his support for Micah Johnson and spoke effusively about the need for “fighting back” against the police’s brutality against African-Americans. Before the police killed him, Long killed two police officers—Montrell Jackson among them—and a sheriff’s deputy and wounded three other law enforcement personnel. The political establishment and the media treat the necessity of killing Long as self-evident, but the fact is that he was denied due process just as surely as Johnson, Castile, Sterling, and a long list of victims of deadly police violence stretching back through the entire history of the institution.

 

Two days later, on July 18, police in North Miami, Florida shot Charles Kinsey, an unarmed African-American behavioral therapist who was trying to convince his bewildered autistic client to come out of the street. As Kinsey lay on the ground with his hands in the air in explicit cooperation with the police’s instructions, police shot him three times in the leg. When Kinsey asked the officer who shot him why, the officer replied, “I don’t know,” as though he were merely a cog in a machine that produces police violence.[7] Clearly, there was nothing that Kinsey could have done to prevent the police from shooting him. He was unarmed; he was breaking no laws; and he was doing exactly what the police told him to do. The thread connecting these subjects of police shootings is that they were all African-Americans. Amongst people who have dark skin, law-abiding citizens, petty criminals, and assassins of police officers are all treated the same: with deadly force.

 

Nevertheless, the political establishment and the news media have represented both Johnson and Long as deranged loners.[8] U.S. President Barack Obama called Johnson and Long’s attacks “the work of cowards who speak for no one.”[9]  However, police violence against people of color has been rampant for decades, if not centuries. The police’s beating of Rodney King in 1991, recorded by a bystander with a video camera and broadcast on international television, began the current era in which police brutality is documented by civilians and presented to the public at large.[10] The death of Oscar Grant in 2008 at the hands of a BART police officer, recorded on multiple cell phones and video cameras and almost instantaneously presented to an international audience over the Internet, marked the beginning a new phase of highly publicized, continuous attacks against Black and Latinos, especially youth.[11] It is in this context that the Black Lives Matter Movement has emerged and reinvigorated a long deferred national discussion on the relationship between race, privilege, and oppression in the U.S. While it is wrong to represent Johnson or Long as spokesmen for Black Lives Matter, as those on the right of the political spectrum do, or indeed as having any organic connection with any movement, their actions are unquestionably expressions of rage and desperation that is widespread and entirely rational given the state’s failure to act on hard evidence of police abuse.[12] As Malcolm X said, explaining his famous analogy of the “chickens coming home to roost”, these actions are the result of a “climate of hate” established by the racist violence of the U.S. political regime.[13]

 

And this climate of hate seems to be intensifying. Because the imperialist ruling class has shifted overseas well-paying manufacturing jobs that used to sustain the U.S. working class in order to pay lower wages and thereby concentrate more wealth into their own hands, more individuals have been forced to compete among themselves in order to better deal with scarcity despite the outrageous embarrassment of overproduction.[14] Thus, the new economic decline has unleashed the development of a more authoritarian and repressive regime, at times even resembling the military dictatorships of Latin America, replete with secret courts and clandestine prisons.[15]

 

Accordingly, the whole political spectrum has moved to the right. Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for President, advocates racist violence against immigrants, especially Muslims and Latin Americans, and promotes the cult of law enforcement, making his campaign events similar in some ways to fascist demonstrations.[16] Speaking at the Republican National Convention in support of Trump, David A. Clarke, Jr., African-American Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, argued that, “So many of the actions of the Occupy movement and the Black Lives Matter movement transcend peaceful protest and violate the code we rely on. I call it ‘anarchy.’”[17] Inspired by Trump, David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, announced his plan to run for U.S. Senate in Louisiana to defend “European American rights.”[18]

 

On the so-called “other side of the aisle,” President Obama and Democratic nominee for president and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concede the possibility of institutional racism at a national scale in the police department while moving to strip people under attack of their weapons, even more heavily arm the police, and even further concentrate the police under a centralized federal authority. The deadly attacks on police by snipers and the military executions of the suspects take place in the context of this intensifying, racially charged polarization, suggesting that both the increasingly militarized police and those they oppress are becoming willing to take stronger and more violent measures against one another. Given the circumstances, these individual attacks on police seem likely to continue.

 

To be clear, as an organization, we are strongly opposed to individual violence as a means of political struggle. We stand for the mass mobilization of workers and the oppressed, with all actions democratically discussed within their organizations and agreed upon by their members. Acts of single combat against the state not only bypass the process of building the mass movement, as Trotsky observed,[19] but provide justification for an increase in state repression against it.[20] Further, these attacks tend to arouse pro-state sympathies within the ranks of the workers and the oppressed. Nevertheless, we understand how the frustration, despair, and rage that brought on by the unremitting decades (if not centuries) of state violence can drive a person to commit desperate acts. Furthermore, we protest the police’s summary executions of these men, denying them fair trials. We will defend any individual or group from state terror or from infiltration by agents provocateurs, as carried out by the F.B.I. in the seventies under the Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), even if we do not agree with their positions or methodology. The real responsibility lies with the political regime and not those it has pushed to the edge.

 

As a result of Johnson and Long’s attacks, many liberal community organizations and individuals are calling for stricter gun control legislation as a way of protecting the police from the people they oppress.[21] Once again, these groups and individuals are falling into the trap of allowing the issue of the right to bear arms to be the exclusive province of the reactionaries, who, for all their many flaws, correctly argue that automatic weapons are essential for self-defense against state terror. Therefore, we oppose this call for the unilateral disarmament of communities under attack. Stricter gun laws will have no impact on the root causes of community violence, and even more importantly, such laws will do nothing to deter police attacks on communities of color. These communities have the right to defend themselves, even with force of arms, as a crucial element of their right to self-determination.[22] With the tradition of Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, and the American Indian Movement as precedents, we stand firmly in support of the right of these communities of color under attack to defend themselves in whatever ways they see necessary.

 

In solidarity with the movement that bears its name, we absolutely assert that Black Lives Matter. We wish to draw attention to the fact that, whatever the characterization of the political establishment and the media might say, Black Lives Matter remains a loose network of activists and organizations steadfastly and broadly advocating peaceful reform of the police in the interest of de-escalating violence.[23] It is the police who showed up at the peaceful demonstrations of Black Lives Matter organized to guarantee people of color a number of rights they are supposed to have under the U.S. Constitution in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, Maryland, and other places armed with weapons supplied by the U.S. military and began gassing protestors and shooting them with “less lethal” bullets as though they were violent revolutionaries.[24] It is the political establishment and the media they buy with access who, in support of the police, represent actions like blocking traffic—one of the fundamental tactics of non-violent protest—as “violent” in order to justify the massive state repression against this movement. For its part, in its statement following the attacks in Dallas, Black Lives Matter objected to the killings of police officers on the basis that they distract from the police killings of black folk. Black Lives Matter seeks reforms of the police that will allow for “justice, transparency, and accountability.”[25]

 

For our part, we are certain that the state’s violent response to Black Lives Matter means that the achievement of the movement’s aims will require the dismantling of all repressive forces—by which we mean city, county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies—and their replacement by the formation of democratically elected community councils to administer justice. We demand the abolition of the prison system, which perpetuates the conditions of indentured servitude the ruling class of the U.S. has relied upon since it was founded, as well as the crime and inequality it is ostensibly supposed to deter. We demand the U.S. ruling class make reparations to African-Americans for their enslavement, the genocide against them, and the continued oppression of their population, and we similarly demand the U.S. ruling class make reparations to Native Americans for these same offenses as well as for the expropriation of their land.

 

We fully recognize that there is no way that these demands can be realized under the current political and economic system. It will take the permanent mobilization of workers and the oppressed through their own organizations and under their own leadership to achieve these goals, which would amount to a revolutionary reconstruction of society on a new political and economic foundation. In the absence of such a mass movement, individual acts of desperation seem likely to continue, and conditions will almost certainly continue to deteriorate. Organizations of the oppressed, the left, and, especially the labor movement must lend their strength to Black Lives Matter in order to help it become strong enough to stop police violence.

In order to address the root causes of racism, however, we must join all of our forces to build the movement against the mother of all systems of oppression and exploitation, capitalism itself.

 

 

[1] “Video shows Baton Rouge police officers shooting, killing man pinned to the ground.” http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/07/06/video_baton_rouge_man_alton_sterling_shot_by_police.html

[2] “Minnesota Gov. calls traffic stop shooting absolutely appalling at all levels.”

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/07/07/485066807/police-stop-ends-in-black-mans-death-aftermath-is-livestreamed-online-video

[3] “Cincinnati officer under review after controversial Facebook post.”

http://www.wlwt.com/news/cincinnati-officer-under-review-after-controversial-facebook-post/40822260

[4] http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2016/07/12_days_timeline_from_alton_st.html

[5] “Emotional Facebook post from Baton Rouge officer goes viral after his death.”

http://fox13now.com/2016/07/17/emotional-facebook-post-from-baton-rouge-officer-goes-viral-after-his-death/

[6] “Baton Rouge police shooting: what we know.” http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/07/18/baton-rouge-police-shooting-what-we-know/87237740/

[7] “North Miami police shoot black man who said his hands were raised while he tried to help autistic group-home resident.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/07/21/fla-police-shoot-black-man-with-his-hands-up-as-he-tries-to-help-autistic-patient/

[8] One representative headline: “The Latest: Dallas Shooter a Loner, Collected Guns, Knives”. ABC News, July 16, 2016. http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/latest-rally-blocks-interstate-traffic-minneapolis-40544714

[9] https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/07/17/president-obama-attack-law-enforcement-baton-rouge

[10] “Rodney King Biography: 1965-2012.” http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/07/18/baton-rouge-police-shooting-what-we-know/87237740/

[11] “Centuries of Rage: The Murder of Oscar Grant III.” http://sfbayview.com/2015/02/centuries-of-rage-the-murder-of-oscar-grant-iii/

[12] Even as we write, the police who killed Freddie Gray in Baltimore last year have been acquitted of all charges.

[13] “Malcolm X: Chickens Coming Home To Roost.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzuOOshpddM

[14] Interestingly, the death of Oscar Grant and the state’s intensification of its racist violence coincide with the economic crisis of 2008.

[15] “The secret US prisons you’ve never heard of before.” Will Potter. October 2015. https://www.ted.com/talks/will_potter_the_secret_us_prisons_you_ve_never_heard_of_before/transcript?language=en

[16] Full text: Donald Trump 2016 RNC draft speech transcript. http://www.politico.com/story/2016/07/full-transcript-donald-trump-nomination-acceptance-speech-at-rnc-225974

[17] Note that the introspection that Freddie Vincent and Montrell Jackson demonstrate in their Facebook postings is nowhere to be found at the upper levels of the law enforcement community. “FULL SPEECH: Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. Republican National Convention.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ghccQ58jHo

[18] “Former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke running for Senate seat in Louisiana.” http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/22/politics/david-duke-senate-race/

[19] Trotsky, in his 1911 article “Why Marxists Oppose Individual Terrorism,” wrote: “In our eyes, individual terror is inadmissible precisely because it belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness, reconciles them to their powerlessness, and turns their eyes and hopes towards a great avenger and liberator who some day will come and accomplish his mission.”

[20] Consider these words of Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie, Jr. After praising the member of the SWAT team that killed Gavin Long, Dabadie explained, “We’ve been questioned for the last (two) weeks about our militarized tactics and our militarized law enforcement. This is why. We are up against a force that is not playing by the rules. They didn’t play by the rules in Dallas and they didn’t play by the rules here.” In other words, do not expect the police to demilitarize themselves on their own initiative. Rather, expect them to further arm themselves and centralize their authority.

[21] “Why President Obama went right to gun control after five police officers were killed in Dallas.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/07/08/why-president-obama-went-right-to-gun-control-after-five-police-were-killed-in-dallas/

In her remarks following the shooting in Baton Rouge, Secretary Clinton said, “The wrong people, the wrong people keep getting their hands on guns, and not just any guns, military weapons like the kind the Dallas shooter had which allowed him to outgun the police.”

Read Hillary Clinton’s Remarks on Race and Policing After the Baton Rouge Killings

[22] They may even look to the autodefensas of the State of Michoacán in Northern Mexico as an example of how oppressed people may stand together to protect themselves against state violence.

[23] The Black Lives Matter Network advocates for dignity, justice, and respect

http://blacklivesmatter.com/the-black-lives-matter-network-advocates-for-dignity-justice-and-respect/

[24] The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that, “no person…shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of the law.” Furthermore, when police administer the death penalty without first guaranteeing them a fair trial, they, as members of the Executive Branch of local governments, concentrate into their own hands powers reserved to the Judicial Branch by Article 2, Section 3 of the Bill of Rights. All of this brings us to a theoretical point.

 

In his theory of “Permanent Revolution,” Leon Trotsky observed that the Russian national bourgeoisie was weakened from the moment of its constitution as a class by its dependence on international finance capital. In exchange for its financial and technical support, big banks and industrial concerns from Britain and France demanded that the Tsar remain in power in Russia so as to maintain a huge reserve of poor people living in semi-feudal conditions to serve as extremely cheap labor at first, and soldiers in World War One later. As such, Trotsky argued, correctly, as it turned out, that the achievement of the tasks of the bourgeois revolution, such as agrarian reform and universal suffrage, required that the working class take political power at the head of the mass of revolting peasants instead of the bourgeoisie. Of course, the Russian Revolution led to the creation of an undemocratic, foully repressive bureaucratic regime that failed in less than a century, but only after state ownership of the means of production allowed Soviet Union to move from being a country dependent on largely dependent on nigh-subsistence farming and handouts from the west to a being a world superpower.

 

In present day U.S., we see the police, as domestic representatives of the imperialist bourgeoisie, reacting to demonstrators demanding their constitutional rights—rights that the U.S. uses as part of its self-identification as a “democratic republic”—as though they were violent revolutionaries. This suggests a possible corollary to the theory of Permanent Revolution that might be formulated as follows:

 

In the time of the economic, political, and cultural decadence of imperialism, the maintenance of the gains of the bourgeois revolution against increased repressive measures from the state will require that the working class take political power and form a government of workers and the oppressed with the aim of the transformation of society from the bottom up.

 

This, however, is a topic for a later discussion.

 

[25] Ibid.