In his regular weekly radio program, Thursday, May 8, 2008, Los Angeles Pacifica Station KPFK Acting General Manager and popular talk show host Jim Lafferty asked:
"How realistic is it to think that any Congress controlled by either major party, beholden to corporate America, will do what is needed and cap greenhouse gas emissions to the extent that they must be capped if we are to save our planet?
"I guess I am saying is it realistic to think we can do what needs to be done so long as our economic system, and for that matter the economic systems of much of the industrialized world, are capitalistic economic systems?
The accompanying clip includes the quote and preceding remarks.
In recognizing a relationship between the economic system, inaction by the political system, and an inability to protect the basis of our existence, Lafferty admitted a point made by postings and dialog in the old KPFK online listener forums: liberal reform, from the Progressive and New Deal eras, has not worked and will not work because money will always overcome it in a capitalist economic system. Paraphrasing Ronald Reagan, capitalism is the problem.
"Liberal reform" lies at the core of the KPFK and Pacifica mission and underlies beliefs of that community. They thought if a Democrat ended the Nixon/Ford legacy, if they could enact campaign finance reform, if Clinton replaced Bush I, and if the Democrats could gain control of the House and Senate in 2006, the world would be better. Many think the same about the election in 2008: if Hillary or Obama replaces Bush, we can turn America around.
While the Nader people have long recognized the failure of reform, they offer only more of it. They haven't reached the question: if reform doesn't work, what else is there?
Lafferty's question reflects accumulated evidence of the last thirty years that liberal reform has not worked. The New Deal no longer remains a principle of the Democratic party. Democrats mandated in 2006 to end the wars have continued them. Dennis Kuncinich's attempts to revive reform failed. Voting for "lesser evils" has just produced more of them. In Washington, elected liberal reformers constitute maybe 20 votes in the House, all of which the leadership can safely ignore.
The World Socialist Web Site, www.wsws.org, has emerged as a leading voice recognizing that liberal reform has failed everywhere to improve the lives of working people because forces of organized money have consistently checked it. The site's international correspondents have documented how this is not an American story about Roosevelt and the Democratic party but a universal one crossing language and cultural boundaries around the world. This fact suggests that the cause of the failure of reform likewise crosses language and cultural boundaries.
The web site has long criticized institutions of the so-called political left, such as KPFK, that by supporting the Democratic party, channel political interest and energy away from real challenges to the existing political order.
The International Committee of the Fourth International operates that web site. The Fourth International arose in the 1930s to organize workers internationally to undo the income and wealth redistribution system of world capitalism following the betrayal of that effort by the Third International, the Comintern, under the leadership of Stalinist bureaucrats. Leon Trotsky founded the organization. The International Committee continues the effort.
The organization and web site enjoys a significant following in the Southern California listening area of KPFK.
Students associated with the UCLA International Students for Social Equality (ISSE), a related organization, started posting on the KPFK listener web forums links to articles on www.wsws.org and asking why they did not hear those stories on KPFK. Some of those stories concerned imposed wage cuts and strikes in the U.S., Germany, France, and the U.K. They included the UAW VEBA deals and the American Axle strike, a non-story on KPFK, yet emerging as one of the crucial labor struggles of our time. See http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/may2008/amax-m15.shtml Democratic candidates have remained away from the picket lines. On his Michigan visit, Obama visited
KPFK had never publicized the forums, and the traffic was not high.
Nonetheless, these postings concerned personnel at KPFK. Challenging liberal reform itself not only exceeded the usual personality conflicts of disputes at KPFK but challenged accepted dogma. Even for "Revolutionary Radio KPFK," the word "Socialism" left many ill at ease. They had no good reason for not reporting the fifty percent wage cuts in the Midwest and the hundreds of thousands of students and teachers striking and marching in London and Paris, who might have inspired the students and teachers fighting the same battles in Los Angeles but unled to the same level of protest and unaware of their all fighting the same enemy.
Board member Grace Aaron had concerns about anything on KPFK that might draw votes to Ralph Nader from Hillary.
Controversial talk show host Ian Masters was ready to fight the cold war again.
Others were concerned that if independent-minded programmer Lila Garrett ever heard about these issues, she might discuss them on her 7 a.m. Monday show.
Others were concerned about Jerry Quickly. He might read some of the linked articles, go Trotskite during fund raiser, and bring in yet more money during his 5 p.m. slot Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
KPFK could not allow discussions questioning the core belief of liberal reform or the existing political order and asking why should economic and social needs of society be subordinated to the profit imperative of big business. Trotskism remained as dangerous in the 21st century as it was in the 20th.
The station is seeking a permanent replacement for Lafferty.
If other groups of KPFK critics discovered the KPFK user forums, the situation could get out of control. That further concerned the so called "Committee to Strengthen KPFK" now controlling the local station board. Critics questioning the legitimacy of the slate mailer campaign and election result might advance their arguments on the forums and ask again, who financed the committee's slate mailers? Those questions could embarrass the KPFK board during the upcoming fund drive.
Meanwhile, Lafferty is agreeing with the people whom the station cut off.
Lafferty's radio show, The Lawyers Guild, runs Thursdays at 7 p.m. KPFK broadcasts on 90.7 FM in Los Angeles, 98.7 FM in Santa Barbara on repeater. Lafferty is long time executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.