US left debates Nader

Submitted by Anon on 23 June, 2004 - 12:36

Inside America by Jim Bywater

I think it was right to support the presidential campaign of veteran anti-corporate campaigner Ralph Nader in 2000, but not this time.
The fact that there is no Labor party and that Nader is running against the two capitalist parties is not sufficient argument to support him. There would need to be positive reasons, based on an analysis of what his campaign is and what it represents, to support him.

My impression is that the 2000 Nader campaign is very different from the 2004 Nader campaign.

The campaign in 2000 involved a whole section of the left who wanted more than what the Democrats were offering and doing in power. Nader became a focus for an alternative left agenda and his statements became more left-wing as the campaign progressed, indicating a pressure from left-wing activists and/or Nader's recognition that this was the constituency from which he was to gain most of his support.

His campaign wasn't "working-class politics", but it was left-wing, politicising people and had some union support. In the absence of a workers' candidate, the right position was critical support, arguing for a bigger working-class political orientation.

Most of the left that were pro-Nader in 2000 will now vote for Kerry. And the numbers of the left who are going to vote for a third-party candidate have diminished.

This means Nader is running his campaign differently. As not much support is coming from the left, he isn't running a left-wing campaign.

He has no union support. What Nader says about workers' rights is weak even compared to Kerry. He has linked up with the Reform Party/Newmanite cult for support. They promote themselves as an independent "third-party" and advocate - as Nader has been advocating publicly - a coalition of the left, center and right. In 1996 they ran Perot, in 2000 Buchanan, in 2004 their candidate is Nader.

The International Socialist Organization (sister organisation of the SWP) which supported Nader in 2000, has said it won't support Nader this time. The texts below are from a discussion inside the socialist group Solidarity, sparked by the ISO's statement. The editorial in the May issue of Solidarity's magazine Against the Current rejects voting for Kerry but does not take a definite view on Nader.

For Nader

The International Socialist Organization (US sister party of the SWP) are not supporting Nader's campaign.

The editorial in their paper Socialist Worker on 28 May begins by recognising the widespread echo Nader's anti-war stance and denunciation of the two-party system has evoked among working people. They correctly highlight that his appeal has been strong, despite the ferocious barrage of denunciations as a "spoiler" he has had to face from the bourgeois media.

But the editorial's political evaluation of the campaign is mistaken on the facts.

Socialist Worker are troubled by Nader's acceptance of the Reform Party endorsement and the friendly stance he adopted towards Kerry. However the people now in control of the Reform Party are not the Buchananites [supporters of right-winger Pat Buchanan], but the anti-Buchanan wing of the group. Besides, Nader also had the support of a wing of the Perot movement in 2000, the "American Reform Party," as well as a couple of lesser split-offs from the Perot movement.

In the confused morass of US bourgeois politics, this shouldn't be surprising. The resentment of working people against the corporate elite and the rich is manipulated by all bourgeois parties, not just the Democrats. When a figure or movement emerges that gives voice to the interests of working people - even if unevenly and with limitations - it draws support "from across the political spectrum," but what is really happening is a little different. That's true in this case.

Working people are recognising in Nader's campaign an echo of their own voice. They're against the two major parties because these are controlled by the rich. They see that the Reform Party stands up for the little guy, under certain conditions.

Should Nader have rejected this endorsement? On the one hand the base of this party like all US bourgeois parties is made up mostly of working people; the endorsement helps Nader get a hearing. On the other hand, it could misrepresent him politically. But Nader is now a much more prominent part of US political life than the Reform Party. People aren't likely to get confused about what he thinks or where he stands if he accepts the endorsement.

There is no indication that Nader compromised his politics or agreed to keep silent on some issues in exchange for this endorsement.

Against Nader

I agree with the ISO's position on this. I would advocate an anti-fascist tactical vote for Kerry plus a mass campaign to push Kerry to the left once he is sworn in, as well as a national campaign for electoral reform in order to allow left voices to have a greater say in American politics.

One possible tactic for the elections would be to try to get as many Kerry voters as possible to sign a petition campaign saying that, while they are voting for Kerry, they want a more "left" agenda than the corporate centrist program Kerry is running on. This could include

  1. universal health care;
  2. immediate withdrawal from Iraq;
  3. a 50% cut in the federal defense budget.

This petition could then be taken to Washington and presented during inaugural week.

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