Third parties and socialism

Dave Riley, long-time socialist organizer in Australia, left the following as a comment in on our recent post on the Green Party, discussing whether Peter Camejo could make a strong third party run this election year for governor of California.

To my knowledge, in every democracy but the US, if you get 5% of the votes, you get 5% of the seats. This allows for a much broader representation of views in their parliaments than the US has in the winner-takes-all Congress. Also, most other countries have Socialists in their parliaments. It’s only in the US that opposition to socialism is so hysterical (and ignorant, many oppose it when they clearly don’t understand it.)

From Dave’s comments on Camejo running for governor, given the California Green Party is dysfunctional as an organization.

Well, I’m sure Camejo is aware of these factors– the question is whether he can galvanize a campaign which is broader than the Greens. He was at the last conference of the ISO –and spoke at the rally there – so my guess he has an idea of what forces could be grouped together. The reality is that in Europe (Italy, Spain, Holland, Denmark,etc) and Scotland especially, electoral coalitions among groups who do not see eye to eye are proving productive such that they raise the unity threshold. (Even RESPECT in England)

Precisely. That’s what coalitions are. You don’t have to agree on everything, just on whatever you’re coalescing on.

I’ve been involved in many of these here — which included the early Greens until they adopted an exclusionist course. The Socialist Alliance here grew out of such a formation — of left groupuscules — and has stayed the course since (but there-in hangs a story.)

I am not aware of Camejo as directly as I once was (soon after he was driven out of the US SWP)– as he has spent some time here (& we still distribute some of his stuff in new locally produced editions) — but if something could be generated he’s probably the one who could do it. I found his stance at the time leading up to the presidential race there and his tactics at the time when the Greens deferred so outrageously to the Dems to be pretty astute and principled.(By that I mean he hasn’t apparently “sold out”.)

I agree, Camejo hasn’t sold out. His Avocado Declaration, made before the 2004 election, contains a clear explanation of how the Democratic Party functions to defuse and neutralize genuine protest, and why this must be avoided by building strong, principled third parties instead.

For those who may not know, “Avocado Declaration” refers to an avocado being green on the outside and green on the inside, unlike a watermelon, which is green on the outside and red on the inside, something Camejo has been accused of being.

Last time he ran in Calif — Camejo wasn’t ignored as he made it to the televised debate. But I granted his poll figures were small.

True, and he did excellently. Many non-Greens were impressed by him too. This is, at least in part, because he can afford to take months off and self-fund his travel costs, something most Green candidates can’t do. (Not that he travels in high style, I think it’s more like a ten year old car.)

The other key factor this time is the Latino movement in the wake of these mobes. Surely the Dems don’t deserve their support by default given their line on immigration? So there could be a electoral push there perhaps as happened with the La Rasa Unida Party in the early seventies.

The major break in alternative electoral politics here began in 1984 when the Nuclear Disarmament Party exploded — within a 3 month window — onto the electoral scene, resting as it did on the disarmament movement. What has followed since has been directly caused by that breakthrough.

Now the question is can we employ the achievements of the Socialist Alliance which have primarily been OUTSIDE elections to foster a broader new socialist party into being.(Thats’ a major debate here) In that regard the experience in the US of the Workers Party in the thirties are very instructive. I was only reading about it last night.

But how this jells with a socialist perspective is covered well by a lot of stuff Murray Smith has written. But the good people at the Socialist Unity Network collate a lot of related stuff too.

I guess my point is this: that if Camejo runs in Calif it would be a real pity if it was purely a Green campaign. I think something broader and much larger is possible. The advantage with running under the Greens logo is that they are on the ballot (right?) and any other independent candidates wouldn’t have that access.

The Green Party and Peace & Freedom are the only Left parties with ballot status in California. Neither can provide candidates with genuine support, like volunteers to help with campaigns, funding, or logistics.

Some of the reasons for this, as I’ve blogged before, are detailed in Jo Freeman’s, The Tyranny Of Structurelessness, which originated in ’70 as the women’s movement emerged out of living room meetings into hard core organizing and found their previous organizational structure, consensus, no longer worked. It remains the classic on the subject, and could be written about the Green Party of today.

As you mention, we need to combine the various causes into an umbrella third party coalition. Then we’ll have something powerful indeed, whether or not it was concerned with electoral politics. The antiwar movement and immigrant rights movement are showing signs of joining up. That would be a real good start.

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  • Comandante Gringo

    The Left needs far more than just “coalitions”, which can be just as opportunistic as any of the participants want or require: the Left desperately needs and requires a *United Front* strategy.
    Electoral of otherwise.

    United Fronts are built on analysis and principled minimum and/or maximum programs (or they aren’t what they say they are). So let’s all get past this “coalition” stuff here and cut to the chase: we require a socialist analysis and program which all the disparate groups and parties can at least agree upon on its fundamentals. Then they can work together on at least this — all understanding that the squabbling can then be about secondary matters (for instance, I myself want no truck with any petit-bourgeois ‘Left’ Green Parties, which have betrayed the workers time and time again all over the world. But if the e.g. U.S. Green Party holds to a common, socialist United Front program — well, then they are bound to certain socialist stances in a way which will not be damaging for us all — and I will hold my nose. For the moment anyway).

    The masses demand — and deserve — no less. The Democrats must be destroyed as a force ASAP and replaced as a force by at least a street parliament of ‘competing’ social/socialist formations which more truly and exactly represent the interests and wishes of the north american masses.

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