Socialist Alternative - Cindy Sheehan Wants a New Political Party How Can it Become Reality?
By Bryan Koulouris
Cindy Sheehan, the nation's most prominent anti-war activist, is running for Congress in California. Since Sheehan's son, Casey, was killed as a soldier in Iraq, Cindy has been a tireless activist for social justice. Her congressional campaign against prominent corporate-funded Democrat Nancy Pelosi stands as a pillar of resistance to the big companies and the war machine.
With the massive working class anger at the Democrat/Republican big bank bailouts the past week, Cindy saw the shift in the mood and declared that a new political party must be built after the elections. She had previously made similar statements in an interview with a Socialist Alternative member that appeared in Justice newspaper; This new statement is a confirmation of her intent.
Cindy Sheehan said: "No matter what happens, we need to consolidate the energy against Imperialism and work on building another party movement." She noted: "people have a new rage and a new fire in their belly because of the corporate bailout. People are just so angry" She wants to form a new party that: "cares about the people, will work for the people, and will actually be a viable party."
Both Democrats and Republicans have authorized war funding to the tune of hundreds of billions; now, there is a Wall Street bailout being shoved down our throats. Ordinary working people need a bailout. We need guaranteed quality housing, we need our debts cancelled; we need free healthcare and education. We need a guaranteed job for all. Those who cannot find work, or cannot work, should receive income sufficient to live on.
While CEOs of failing banks get golden parachutes loaded with billions, young people and workers get a picture of a future that doesn't care about our needs. Both major parties are responsible for this.
Meanwhile, millions of dollars in our union dues simply go to electing pro-corporate politicians. Much of the anti-war leadership shuts down demonstrations during the election years. Many may have hopes in Obama, but they will be disappointed in the end as he clearly is a pro-establishment man. Experience will show that struggle can bring change - not relying on sell-out politicians - and it will take a real determined struggle to stand up to the two parties of exploitation and war.
We need a new party of the working class, and Socialist Alternative welcomes Cindy Sheehan's statements. We need to lay the foundation for a movement that can fight in the workplaces, on the streets and in elections against the injustices that the system is causing.
In Socialist Alternative's support of Ralph Nader's campaigns for President in 2000, 2004 and 2008 (and the time in between), we have called for the formation of a workers' party. In the 1990s, we participated in the now defunct Labor Party in an unsuccessful attempt to try to help make it a real step forward in the development of working class political independence. We hope that Cindy Sheehan's announcement can lead to the building of a mass political alternative to the unfolding crisis of unending greed.
A False Start or a New Hope?
Many attempts at launching a major third party in this country have failed. For nearly a century now, the elites in this country have preferred to rule our daily lives through two parties. They have created major obstacles to the formation of a new anti-corporate party. It is very difficult for new parties to develop and exist, especially new parties that are opposed to corporate greed.
Any movement towards a new formation cannot just be declared, it has to be built. If Cindy Sheehan moves forward with the decision to launch a new party, this has to be done patiently and carefully. A new formation could end up dead before it starts, yet the conditions are unfolding for a working class alternative to gain traction among broad sections of the population. To be successful, a new party has to be rooted in campaigns around the major issues that face working people.
The U.S. ruling class is overseeing wars and occupations as the economic crisis continues to deepen. With the Democrats potentially sweeping all the halls of power in this situation, over the next period a perfect storm could be brewing. It would be a shame to miss this opportunity to begin preparing for that now.
In order to build a viable political alternative, a campaigning movement has to be built in the coming months. Cindy Sheehan, Ralph Nader and others should bring together the forces that can defend the living standards of ordinary people as we come under attack.
There is a war at home, and it is about time our side started fighting back and winning some battles. If union locals and community organizations can be brought together, alongside the activists from the Sheehan, Nader and Cynthia McKinney electoral campaigns, then campaigns and demonstrations can be organized throughout the country to demand good jobs and social services. In the upheavals and poverty that this economic crisis will unfortunately bring it will be entirely possible to also involve those who voted for Obama, those who saw no difference and even some who were attracted by McCain and Palin's populist rhetoric.
Out of this movement, we could bring together local campaign bodies and conferences to unite activists and ordinary people who want to fight back. These bodies should discuss the ways to fight back now and the potential for preparing to run independent working class candidates in future elections.
This would allow us to build sufficient forces to forge a new party that could fight against the strangle-hold that the rich and powerful have on politics and our lives. A new party would need a clear program of living wage jobs, an immediate end to the wars and occupations and taxing the rich to pay for social programs. This program, rather than vague pronouncements, should be boldly taken into working class neighborhoods with door-knocking campaigns, demonstrations and the development of community links.
Socialist Alternative argues that a new party should also organize against the root cause of our problems: the capitalist system. While we wouldn't make this a precondition for us joining a new party, we need to recognize that all the issues we face are connected. If this system can't afford to give us good jobs, benefits and social services, then we can't afford this system!