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.