Nader, the one and only?
There’s an excellent article at the Daily (Maybe) which sums up quite a bit of what has been swirling around in my head since I heard Nader had declared himself a candidate for the 2008 Presidential elections. It is a welcome antidote to the often hysterically affirmative material which can be read from the Trotskyist sects on Nader, for example the US Socialist Alternative.
A great attempt at re-writing history deserves to be reported from that source;
“In particular, the Green Party’s leadership refusal to support Nader in 2004 out of fear of enraging their friends in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, has weakened Nader’s ability to get on the ballot and weakened his campaign.”
This was written by Philip Locker, who is one of the senior members of the CWI-affiliated Socialist Alternative in the USA. Nader probably failed to get the Green endorsement because he said he didn’t want it in December of 2003. It was at this point that some Green leaders came out in favour of the Anybody But Bush rhetoric of letting Kerry have his run at the Presidency unchallenged.
The eventual nominee, David Cobb, only scraped by with 408 out of 767 delegates, no doubt because Nader didn’t turn up to the nominating convention and didn’t seriously compete in terms of organising Green Party supporters. Certainly this indicates to me problems with the view that Nader himself is the right person to be leading a grassroots campaign for the Presidency.
Despite his seeming indifference, Nader won the nomination of the Reform Party and several independent groups such as “the Better Life” ticket in a couple of states. Nader was also supported almost universally by the far left sects, no doubt because they saw in him a chance for reflected glory by using his pre-existing popularity.
The opportunism in this policy has by now been thoroughly exposed as disastrous for building a solid independent labour movement in the USA. It’s no wonder that none of the socialist groups have yet developed a policy for the upcoming elections. Regardless of whether a party is actively involved in the contest for office, elections involve political ferment. They are exactly the right time to be taking new ideas to the broad layer of workers in America who have been called on to fight for their rights this year, particularly in the industrial states where jobs are directly under attack.
An independent political movement hoping to appeal to workers above and beyond the cries of the media should surely have called together as many allied elements as possible to decide on a common policy for this great opportunity? If one peruses the articles written by various members of the American bureaux of the Trotskyist organisations, it’s pretty apparent that there’s a big gaping hole where election strategy should be. The gaping hole yawns into a chasm where the other far left sects are concerned.
Does this mean that the Green Party is the last, best hope for independent labour in the USA?
If supporting Nader is not building up caucuses of activists across the country that will not disappear between elections like so much ephemera, then certainly a different strategy is called for. I don’t know if that means the Green Party. As a party it has plenty of disadvantages – not the least of which is a leadership which is mostly just watered-down Democratic leadership and a tendency to employ overly radical rhetoric about revolution without backing it up in policy.
I’m not convinced that the Greens are anything other than an electoral alliance of convenience between certain disaffected groups. Not much can come of electoral alliances unless they are organising for more than just elections and I don’t see the Greens taking an active hand in disputes that go beyond ‘green’ issues to labour and dare I say socialist matters – such as the teachers in Washington State who were recently reinstated despite participating in student protests aimed at getting rid of military recruiters from the school.
That such a victory can still be achieved by a combination of union activism and grassroots community support demonstrates that all is not doom and gloom. Yet nor does it answer the question of what to do with one’s vote come November, if you’re an American progressive not enamoured of the Democratic Party and the ambiguity which so neatly encapsulates its front runners.
So long as there is no genuine alternative movement, I’d probably cast my vote for the Democrats if I lived in one of the battleground states and for the Greens if I lived in a safe Democratic or Republican state. What I must insist upon is that a consensus be developed which challenges the notion that politics begins and ends with elections. If we recruit activists willing to challenge corporate tyranny on the ground then a left wing movement is liable to build influence out of proportion to its electoral numbers. It is that strength which we will need more than anything.
This is not to dismiss the importance of electing a less rabidly conservative, anti-worker candidate – but all too often electoral activism seems to become an end in itself. It’s not. Unfortunately that is the route that Nader has always traversed since his activist hey-day and which the Greens seem to have embarked upon also, with or without Nader.