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by By Carlos Petroni
Monday, Jul. 28, 2003 at 11:43 AM
Let's transform the "Recall Davis" campaign into one of "Total Recall" of all Democratic and Republican candidates.
Introduction By Steve Argue
The officers of the Peace and Freedom Party met today (July 26) and selected C.T. Weber, a strong and committed activist of the Peace and Freedom Party as well as a labor activist, to be the Peace and Freedom Party candidate for governor of California. It will be necessary to raise ,500 to put him on the ballot. Anyone who wants to donate money to help this campaign get on the ballot should contact me at SteveArgue2@yahoo.com and I will send you the needed information.
It has been the position of the Peace and Freedom Party to oppose the recall campaign against Davis, not out of support for Davis, but out of concerns that the election organized out of the recall would not be democratic. It had appeared early on that third party candidates would not be allowed to run after the recall. This situation has now changed, however, and so has the position of the Revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg Club of the Peace and Freedom Party (RRLC-PFP) on the up coming recall vote.
Our position now is to use the present crisis of the Democrat Party in the state of California and the justified hatred against it and Davis for the benefit of building the movement against both the Democrats and Republicans. Both parties are to blame for the depths of the crisis they have brought us to and the Davis deserves no defense no matter how backhanded.
While the position of the PFP is to vote no on recall, but for C.T. Weber; the position of the RRLC-PFP is yes on recall, as well as for C.T. Weber. On this position we are in fundamental agreement with the position of the Left Party as outlined in the following article by Carlos Petroni called "TOTAL RECALL".
By Carlos Petroni
From "Recall Davis" to "Total Recall" or how the Left should campaign: united against both Democratic and Republican candidates.
On July 23, California Secretary of State, Kevin Shelley, Democrat, gave the Republicans who were collecting signatures and paying for them, the good news: more than 85% of the 1.7 million signatures they have collected were declared valid. This is almost double the number needed to guarantee the 897,158 necessary to call for a special election to revoke the mandate of the governor, Gray Davis, and elect his replacement.
The Democratic Party is desperate in the face of this campaign. Not only because they could lose the governorship in the most important state in the union but also because the campaign will mean an enormous loss of money and energy that the Democrats will have to divert from other presidential, state and local elections.
This will be even more of a disaster for the Democrats as the recall will be decided before the presidential primary elections in March
2004. Lieutenant Governor Bustamante called for the election to take place on October 7, the last possible date allowed by law.
The date of the election was determined by the date by which the signatures were certified. As this happened on the 23rd of July, the election will take place before the end of the year, as recall proponents had been hoping.
It is still possible that the Democrats will bring lawsuits to try to delay the process as much as possible, maybe causing the election to coincide with local elections in November or even with their preferred date: the Presidential primaries in March.
There has also been talk of Lieutenant Governor Bustamante using a loophole in the law and declaring the election "not necessary" and assuming the post of Governor himself. This is unlikely though, as Davis' ego would be completely destroyed. Such a move would also amount to a tacit recognition that the recall campaign was not lacking for reasons and would contradict the announcement from Bustamante that the recall election will take place in October 7th.
Opponents of the recall have filed a lawsuit to throw out some signatures they claim were not collected or not certified by qualified voters as well as bringing other claims. This was seen as primarily a delaying tactic to push the certification of signatures beyond the September 3 deadline, thus pushing the recall to the March primary election date, when Democrats are expected to turn out in larger numbers to choose their presidential candidate.
As expected, the courts rejected the claims. And it is highly doubtful that other similar lawsuits would have better luck.
Democrats won't run?
California's Attorney General, Democrat Bill Lockyer, called the recall attempt "a serious threat to democracy." Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante labeled it "expensive perversion." Another Democrat, State Treasurer Phil Angelides, called it a "hateful use" of the system.
With the popularity of Governor Gray Davis touching bottom – according to recent polls, around 24% – due to the scandals that shook his administration, last year's energy crisis, and the repeated lies about the state of California's economy, which went from a billion surplus to a billion deficit, his political career could be at its end.
In the latest poll, over 52% of the voters stated they want to recall Davis and only 20% said the recall was not necessary.
The perspective of a special election has created a tremendous political crisis for the two parties of the US ruling class. It has also unleashed arguments in all the political circles and parties in the state. What is the position of our organization, the Left Party, in this political crisis?
The Material Bases of the Crisis and the Recall Election
The most virulently right-wing circle of the Republican Party, feeling strong after the imperial victory over Iraq, is now trying to secure a position of political hegemony within the United States before the "popularity" of Bush dissipates with the crisis that will surely follow in the wake of the disastrous foreign military adventures and the economic crisis that shows no sign of diminishing in the immediate future.
The Democratic Party, which supported the declaration of war against Iraq and which has shown itself unable to present an economic alternative to the Republican plan of subsidizing the country's millionaires through tax cuts, has found itself divided, confused and without a clear message to offer. The fact that at least 9 Democratic candidates, a number which could increase in the coming months, are competing for the presidential nomination without generating any noticeable enthusiasm, is a clear sign of the Democrats' crisis.
In the third week of June, George W. Bush, thanking the large donors to his presidential re-election campaign – who have already sent him checks for more than 0 million – said that with these donations, the donors were preparing the road for a "great national victory" in next year's elections.
The most fundamentalist wing of the Republican Party, which has always been in the vanguard of transforming words into facts, has launched a national offensive to consolidate the Republican electoral gains, particularly for their wing.
That explains why the recall of Davis, which was advancing very slowly a few months ago, has gathered unusual force in recent months, after the "victory" in Iraq and after the Christian fundamentalist Republican Darrell Issa of San Diego put more than million into the effort, enabling organizers to pay professionals to gather the necessary signatures.
The campaign to recall Gray Davis is part of that right wing offensive, since Republicans know that the California governor has been widely rejected – including by the majority of Democratic voters – and that California is the most important state when it comes to turning Bush's boasts into reality.
With approximately 15% of the population of the country and 20% of the Gross National Product, California is without doubt the decisive battleground in the next election if the Republicans want political hegemony.
Recall elections against governors and other elective positions at the state level – in fact almost all recall elections – are difficult to win. Only one governor in US history has been recalled, and that was in 1921.
That year, Republicans were able to recall governor Lyn Frazier of North Dakota, a liberal whom they blamed for the drop in grain exports (80% of the population of North Dakota made their living from grain at that time) and whom they accused of a "lack of patriotism and charges of association with Socialism and Russian Bolshevism" according to historian David Dambom.
But it would be wrong to label the causes for the recall of Davis as simply being maneuvers by Republican fundamentalists. There exists a deep anger toward the governor among many workers and youth in the state who have nothing to do with the Republicans.
The speed at which the signatures were collected – five weeks before the deadline in September – and the huge number (1.7 million) as well as the fact that almost half of those signatures were from Democratic voters, gives a sense of the opposition Davis faces.
Davis supported Bush's political/military offensive, in fact developing policies against the antiwar movement. He is also hated for his dealings with the energy companies – from whom he received substantial contributions for his re-election campaign last year at the same time that he was allowing them to unleash an energy crisis that resulted in blackouts, fee increases and the elimination of popular subsidies.
Davis has also blocked every attempt to grant undocumented immigrant workers the right to obtain driver's licenses; strictly applied the state provisions and federal anti-immigration laws; did nothing to save affirmative action in the state universities, permitted police abuse throughout the state, cut the education budget, along with a dozen other social service programs, immediately after being re-elected…
Corruption scandals, exposures of patronage, lies and distortions about the true state of the state's economy began to emerge only a week after his re-election last November.
It's logical, under these circumstances, that the Democrats try to present the crisis as a simple game of the Republicans and not as a product of the actions of their own party and of their government against the antiwar movement, immigrants, workers and youth of the state and in favor of the large corporations, a case of basically applying at the state level the neoliberal policies of the Republican president.
A battle in the halls of power that we should take advantage of
As socialists we, at Frontlines and the Left Party, don't support recall campaigns under conditions that don't emerge from a mass movement. For us, this recall campaign is an expression of a political crisis in the halls of political power of the ruling class, a faceoff between THEIR parties, in which we don't participate on the side of one or the other. For this reason, we DID NOT support the campaign to gather signatures for the recall.
For us it is very clear. This helps us to avoid falling into the trap that the Green Party and other alternative parties have fallen into: of supporting the recall campaign. In the case of the Green Party, this has initiated a crisis of such proportions that the party was obliged to withdraw from the campaign and leave their members free either to support or oppose the signature campaign.
The Green Party stepped into the confrontation between the parties of the ruling class, with some of their members supporting the recall campaign and others supporting the Democrats in their attempts to stop it. The Greens came out bruised even as they finally declared their "neutrality."
But once the recall election was approved, the situation changed completely. It is a new situation.
That's a situation we can take advantage of to deepen the crisis between the parties of the ruling class. In contrast to other political currents that dominate the left, who see in the Democrats a vehicle to oppose the designs of war, racism and social injustice by the Republicans, we don't believe that the differences between the two parties move beyond differences of wording into dealing with key issues.
War, attacks against immigrants, racial discrimination and the weakening of the unions are policies that are imposed or not imposed according to the resistance of workers and the youth and are attempted by either party when in power.
There have been numerous wars under Democratic administrations – and Democrats would have promoted the war on Iraq just as the Republicans did if they had been in the White House.
This is proved by the position of Lieberman – Democratic candidate for vice-president – with his unconditional support for the war and the oppression of the Palestinian people, or that of the former Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, who declared Bush his "commander-in-chief" in times of war.
It was during the Clinton administration that anti-immigrant attacks spread, unions were weakened and many laws protecting minorities were destroyed. Now Clinton has appeared publicly on Larry King's show on CNN justifying the lies told by Bush to launch the country into his imperial adventure in Iraq.
The US political system is not based, as some believe, on a balance of power between the "liberal" Democrats and the conservative Republicans, but on the bipartisan collaboration of both parties to apply, with an emphasis on one side or the other, harsher or gentler, (according to the degree of popular opposition), the policies determined by big corporations.
For us, all the difficulties and challenges in the upper layers of the bipartisan system should be used to weaken it and, to the extent possible, destroy it. To collaborate with the Democrats in avoiding this crisis is to help to maintain the bipartisan power of the dominant class.
For this reason, it is our position that once the recall election was officially approved, the Greens, the Peace and Freedom Party (which
recently regained its ballot status in California), other groups of the left, community activists and union activists should unite to
present an alternative to the two parties of the ruling class.
The Electoral Perspectives of the Left
The recall election has some special characteristics. The current governor is not able to run as a candidate in such an election. The
requirements for candidates are reduced and any candidate paying ,500 or collecting a small number of signatures can run. The parties cannot select a single candidate but will surely have, both Democrats and Republicans, various candidates. The candidate who wins the most votes – even if not a majority of the votes – will be elected the new governor.
From this political point of view, the Republican strategist, Dan Schnur, is correct in saying that "once the recall qualifies, we will have the closest thing to political anarchy imaginable, in this state or anywhere else." "There is no precedent," he added. "There are no rules of engagement. Each candidate will make them up as they go in the course of the campaigns."
Garry South, an advisor to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, added: "Someone could be the next governor of California, even if no one had ever heard of them or even if they had never run in a state election before."
In California there are two parties on the left in a position to present an alternative to the candidates of the ruling class: the Green Party and the recently re-incorporated Peace and Freedom Party, which technically identifies itself as Socialist. Both parties should
immediately call a state conference of the left, community activists and immigrant and labor organizations to present a common candidate,
a democratically developed platform and a clear alternative which favors workers, the youth, communities of color and immigrants in the
This is particularly important since the Republicans will run as a divided group. The fundamentalist Issa has announced that he will
run. The right-wing, pro-Zionist actor – and Republican – Arnold Schwarzenegger, the "Terminator" actor with a family background in the Austrian Nazi Party, has also announced his intention to run.
Bill Jones, former Secretary of State; Richard Riordan, ex-mayor of Los Angeles and the man who lost by 5% at the hands of Davis last year, millionaire Bill Simon, all Republicans, are mentioned as sure candidates.
The Republicans, then, will have between 5 and 7 candidates, four or five of them with sufficient money and recognition to fragment the Republican vote.
The Democratic Party practically ordered all their members not to run as candidates if the recall elections should obtain enough signatures. But few observers give much weight to this call.
The characterization of this declaration and those from the main likely Democratic candidates, such as Lockyer, Bustamante and Senator Dianne Feinstein who have said that they won't run, is that these declarations were made to take steam out of the recall effort by scaring Democratic voters who would normally sign recall petitions with the (impossible) prospect that there would only be Republican candidates on the ballot to replace Davis.
Now that the recall election has been approved, Feinstein and Bustamante, among other possible Democratic candidates, will likely launch full steam into competition. Their side of the bipartisan equation may also find itself fragmented with various candidates.
In this situation, a united front of the left in the state, headed by the two progressive parties with ballot status (Greens and Peace and Freedom) would have the best chance in the history of the state to make an impact on workers and the youth with a program that is antiwar, with unconditional defense and expansion of civil and democratic rights and support and defense of the interests of workers, immigrants, the youth, communities of color and the environment. Never before has such an opportunity presented itself nor will we likely see such an opportunity for a long time in the future.
This was clearly understood by the former Green Party candidate for governor, Peter Camejo, who in spite of the division and announced neutrality of his own party proceeded to register as a candidate in the recall election. Camejo, however, would like rightist Ariadna Huffington to run as well and Camejo has announced that he would consider withdrawing from the race if she did run.
While Camejo's candidacy appears on the surface to be an intelligent act, we didn't support it. First, because by registering prematurely as a candidate, he sent the signal that the Green Party was in favor of the Republican effort to collect signatures. Second, because it prevents the rest of his party, and the rest of the left in the state from discussing democratically, in a conference, the unity, the candidate and the program necessary to implement a campaign with the maximum effect.
And Ariadna Huffington, an opportunist with right wing positions on many issues and former or present day Republican (we are not sure whether she has changed her registration) is a No, No for left wing and progressive activists.
Camejo, as reported by the media and his own campaign headquearters, is meeting with Huffington to strike a deal based, according to
Camejo, on a very minimum program around environmental issues and IRV (Instant Runoff Voting).
This proposed program is completely insufficient, as any candidate from the Left for Governor of California should announce for starters that he/she favors a practical challenge to Bush's war plans, demands a withdrawal of all military forces from Iraq, prohibits the use of the California National Guard for war adventures and should develop a plan for progressive taxes on big corporations to pay for the Davis' inspired billion state deficit.
Transfer of all State energy resources and distributing grids and commercial energy ventures to public ownership and other similar measures should also be part of a platform of the left for the governorship. Declaring the State as a closed shop, restoring the right to strike to public employees and banning INS raids – as well as extending the right to vote to non-citizens – should also be part of a left wing platform.
Nevermind that a candidate of the left should campaign against anti-immigrant legislation as well as the Patriot Act.
For this campaign we send a call from the Left Party and Frontlines newspaper: while the two parties of imperial war, racism and attack
against workers and human rights undo themselves in a struggle for hegemony, let rank and file workers, left parties and organizations and immigrant organizations call a state conference to present an alternative and a program to confront the Empire's twin parties of the ruling class.
Let's transform the "Recall Davis" campaign into one of "Total Recall" of all Democratic and Republican candidates.
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