“Tonight the ruling class knows. They have seen it now. There is a people’s revolution.” No this is not a quote from a Maoist waving a little red book. It came, last Tuesday night, from a multi-millionaire real-estate owner from Buffalo, Carl Paladino, after he defeated Rick Lazio, in the Republican primary election for New York State Governor.
A Tea Party advocate, Paladino based his campaign on anti-establish rhetoric portraying himself as an “outsider” and claiming he would clean up corruption by bring “a baseball bat to Albany.” His victory stunned the New York G.O.P. and is among eight other victories in Republican Party primaries for US Senate where the Tea Party candidates won against the wishes of the party leadership.
The ultra-conservative views expressed by the Tea Party and other right-wing groups, often including racist and anti-immigrant sentiment and inflammatory commentary, is naturally very troubling to millions of progressive working people and youth in this country. The glaring hypocritical claims of being outside the establishment and the elite, when they receive big business backing, support from corporate media outlets like Fox News and in some case are themselves part of the wealthy elite, like Paladino, is infuriating.
And while we should oppose these backwards views and point out the false claims of these politician posing as “outsiders” we have to dig deeper and grapple with the questions as why this is happening. Paladino's campaign did not simply base itself on the anti-muslim sentiment whipped up around the so-called ground zero mosque, it also tapped into an underlying anger at the business-as-usual corporate establishment and uncertainty about the future.
Deepening anger is by no means the exclusive feeling of conservatives in this country but is widespread and shared by million of ordinary working people. However, so far only the right has captured this and is now masquerading as a genuine voice of opposition. They have stepped in a political vacuum which has opened for one main reason: the failure of both major parties to address the burning economic and social problems that we face.
A recent article from Justice newspaper deals with this in more depth and can be found here.
The rise of the right should be seen as a warning to working people. All progressives, folks on the left, the unions, community organizations and social movements need their own independent voice from the Democratic party which could represent a real alternative to corporate politics. This will mean the painstaking task of forming a new party for working people from the bottom up, but already there are a number of independent working-class campaigns that we can support as a step in this direction.
The New York City branch of Socialist Alternative is supporting Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor and below we've reproduced the text of leaflet explaining more about why we support this campaign.
Send a Message to Albany
Vote Howie Hawkins for Governor
With mass unemployment and home foreclosures rising, insecurity, cuts to public services such as education, transit, and healthcare and the continuing blatant corruption of politicians in Albany, many working-class New Yorkers are asking themselves: who should I vote for this fall or should I vote at all?
In the Governor's race, the current State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (Democrat) seems poised to win—the most recent poll showed he had 56% support. Meanwhile Tea Party conservative real estate mogul Carl Paladino has shocked the political establishment by speaking against the "ruling class" and portraying himself as an "outsider" who will clean up corruption by bringing a "baseball bat" to Albany. Paladino won the Republican nomination by consciously playing on racism, anti-immigrant anger and the fear brought by the continuing economic crisis.
This will undoubtedly increase the pressure for workers and progressives to vote for Cuomo as the "lesser evil".
But does Cuomo represent the interests of working New Yorkers, and real change from the gridlock, horse trading, corruption, budget slashing and cuts we have seen under the Patterson and Silver administration? Not at all. In fact, he calls for "immediately imposing a cap on state spending and freezing salaries of state public employees." Capping state spending will also mean a continued reduction of public services that are vital to practically all New Yorkers. Cuomo also plans to "overhaul" (i.e. cut and privatize) a number of state government agencies. What this means is that Cuomo, like Paladino, is looking to make the poor, the young, and working people pay for the economic crisis created by the greed of Wall Street and big bank gangsters! It is true that Cuomo is posing as a "lesser evil". He is promising to make us drink the poison, but, unlike Paladino, he will put some sugar in it to make it easier to drink!
How can the Democrats pose as "friends of working people" after the bipartisan waves of attacks and cuts we have seen since the beginning of the economic crisis both nationally and on the state level? Why would Cuomo have to listen to the demands of working people if the only other alternative is the deranged and racist GOP or Tea Party candidates?
This November, working people do have an alternative to the two parties of big business in the race for New York State Governor. They can vote for Howie Hawkins for Governor and Gloria Mattera for Lieutenant Governor. Hawkins and Mattera are on the Green Party ticket. They actively campaign for single-payer public healthcare, free, high-quality education "from pre-school through graduate school", jobs for all at living wages and taxing on Wall Street and the rich to make this happen. They oppose the further privatization of public services such as education and advocate for the repeal of all anti-union legislation, like Taft-Hartley and the Taylor Law, and for proportional representation.
Hawkins and Mattera understand the needs of working people, because they work themselves. Howie unloads trucks and railcars for UPS and is an active member of Teamsters Local 317, while Gloria currently serves as a public health advocate for immigrant children in NYC and previously taught special education for five years in public schools. Both say that elected officials should earn only an average worker's wage and should be held democratically accountable by their constituencies—and not just every four years.
As socialists we don't automatically support Green Party candidates, but we support the campaign to elect Howie Hawkins for Governor as it represents an electoral alternative in the broad interests of working people. Supporting Hawkins, and other independent candidates that reject the corporate agenda and advocate for workers, can provide a necessary first step in breaking with the corporate-sponsored Democrats and Republicans. A good turnout for independent, anti-corporate, and socialist candidates can provide a basis of support for future campaigns and popularize the need for a mass political party of the working class.
Over the last decades, the conservative union leadership has failed to organize a serious defense of the living standards of workers which have steadily eroded. The union leaders presented "negotiating concessions" and shoveling untold millions toward the Democrats as a smart defense but concessions only bred a demand for more concessions from the bosses. And the Democrats—with the more than willing assistance of the Republicans—in turn delivered NAFTA, wars without end, deregulation, bailouts for the banks and savage cuts in social spending.
Instead of endless concessions, socialists argue the labor movement should have been fighting to defend jobs and social services; for free healthcare and to defend public education; and for public ownership under democratic management of the banking system and those corporations that either polluted the environment or threatened to shut down plants.
Electoral campaigns by working-class candidates, however small at this stage because of the weakness of the left at present, can galvanize the most advanced activists, progressive workers and young people to begin fighting for the change we really need. They highlight the urgent need to build a mass movement to make the rich pay for the crisis of their system, and challenge the decaying capitalism. Rather than staying home or voting for the lesser or greater evil, working class New Yorkers should support Howie Hawkins and Gloria Mattera this November.
To get involved in the Hawkins/Mattera campaign go to www.howiehawkins.org, or contact New York Socialist Alternative by phone at 347-545-9706 or email at email@example.com.