Companion Text: The Politics of Austerity, Occupy and the 2012 Elections

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Democracy: Struggle and Limits

“I DON’T WANT everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Those are the words of wisdom from Paul Weyrich, founder of conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

In highly autocratic countries, when elections occur they are often hijacked — or are basically staged mobilizations to legitimize a pre-determined result. In the United States, the formalities of democracy may be held sacred, but the substance is crumbling and even the voting franchise for millions of people is under attack. Democratic rights under capitalism are limited and always a product of struggle — they expanded under the impact of the labor and Black and women’s liberation movements, and they’re threatened now under the corporate austerity drive.

The attack occurs on multiple fronts. The average cost of winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008 stood at $1.4 million and for the U.S. Senate $8.5 million; during that campaign cycle, then-candidate Barack Obama raised $745 million. For the 2012 presidential race alone, it is estimated that total TV advertising will amount to two billion dollars. Two 2010 U.S Supreme Court decisions referred to as Citizens United v. FEC, eliminating restrictions on campaign funding for corporations, unions and wealthy individuals, have accelerated the trend.

Then there’s the right-wing drive to whittle down the number of voters. Already, according to The Pew Center on the States, the registration system the individual states use is “inaccurate, costly and inefficient,” with at least 51 million eligible voters remaining unregistered. In the 2008 general election alone, 2.2 million votes were lost because of registration-related problems. Instead of addressing these issues, a variety of reactionary state laws are being passed making it more difficult to register or to vote.

We have seen 1,000 bills introduced into 46 state legislatures over the past decade in the name of preventing non-existent fraud. Although more than 21 million people eligible to vote (11%) do not have government-issued photo identification, 15 states require it. These include four southern states (Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Mississippi), which are awaiting clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act before their laws take effect. Those without photo ID are the homeless, the poor and the elderly, most often people of color. The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that as many as 5.5 million African Americans lack the required documentation.

Recently five states have limited early voting, two states have ended “same day” registration, three have limited voter registration drives. In Florida the League of Women Voters suspended their registration drives because the new law was intimidating and punitive toward volunteer registrars. Some states have reduced the number of polling places; Wisconsin even reduced the number of motor vehicle offices.

The Electoral College has always been America’s “peculiar institution” in presidential elections. Today, with the use of modern sophisticated polling techniques and technology, critical “swing states” can be identified and just enough votes stolen through undetectable electronic voting machine fraud, “Voter ID” laws and the like to steal the whole election. As we saw in Florida 2000, robbing just a few thousand votes can make the difference.

Another set of laws that disproportionately affects the African-American and Latino communities is the denial of voting rights by all states except Maine and Vermont —either permanently or temporarily — to those convicted of felonies. African-American men have been convicted at seven times the national average and African-American women at four times the rate, often for nonviolent drug-related convictions under which crack cocaine was treated 100 times more severely than other drug offenses.(Although this disparity has been modified, those previously sentenced under these draconian laws aren’t entitled to relief.)

The United States is the only country in the world where this disenfranchisement is routine. Some 4.7 million Americans, more than two percent of the adult population, have been stripped of their voting rights. This, of course, has an impact beyond the individual — it weakens the power of the communities where these ex-prisoners live.

Then there’s the redistricting in states every decade, when the new census figures are released. Following the 2010 election results, where Republicans increased their size in a number of state legislatures, the redrawing has become a systematic drive to dilute minority voting rights by packing Black and Latino voters into gerrymandered districts. In other cases legislators divide a Black or Latino community so that their chance at political representation is minimized. Civil rights organizations have sued some of these practices under the Voting Rights Act.

A vibrant political democracy would be interested in expanding voter rights. Even before women won suffrage on the national level, women were often voting at local and state levels. Why not have all residents involved in voting at least at the local level of government? But that’s not what democracy looks like according to the Paul Weyrichs and corporate powers of America.

Resources:
  • “Attack Dog,” Jane Meyer, The New Yorker, Feb. 13 & 20, 2012.
  • Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law: http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/testimony_at_house_hearing_on_restrictive_voting_laws/.
  • “Can We Have a Democratic Election?” Elizabeth Drew, The New York Review of Books, February 23, 2012.
  • The Pew Center on the States reports: www.pewcenteronthestates.org/elections.
  • “Unions return to Democratic fold for 2012 election, Matea Gold and Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times, February 19, 2012.

Tea Party: Tempest and Gridlock

THE TEA PARTY at its inception had the appearance of an angry grassroots insurgency against big-government overreach, excessive spending and intrusion into ordinary people’s lives. While some of that posturing struck a responsive chord, it soon emerged that the Tea Party was essentially another of those “Astroturf movements” — funded by the Koch brothers and other corporate powers to protect themselves from the deadly dangers of taxation, regulation, health care reform and restrictions on their sacred rights to pollute and exploit.

The Tea Party has been built on the twin pillars of billionaire funding and irrationalist trashing of science, evolution, the global warming threat and 75 years of modern economic analysis. It is also the most vicious in its hatred of immigrants and Muslims.

The Tea Party’s most favored candidates — Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain — successively disappeared as they proved to be too ridiculous for prime time. But there’s been a double irony in the rise and decline of the Tea Party. The first was that, after President Obama saved Wall Street’s butt with the banking and auto bailouts, corporate America kicked him in the teeth to derail his legislative reform programs, as modest and business-friendly as those were.

The second irony was that the Tea Party fuelled the Republican ascendancy in the 2010 midterm elections, but afterward has become a weight threatening the party’s national prospects in 2012.

Fear of the Tea Party prevents Republican legislators from engaging in the normal dealing that characterizes bourgeois politics — as dirty as that dealing often is (as the German imperial statesman Bismarck put it, the making of sausages and laws should not be too closely observed). That’s why Congress has been tied up in knots over the budget and routine votes to raise the statutory debt ceiling.

This so-called “gridlock” prevents the Obama administration from doing much of anything to assist the weak economic recovery, but it also alienates millions of ordinary voters who identify as “independents.” The obscene sexist ravings of Rush Limbaugh drive away millions more.

The damage that the Tea Party and other far-right forces such as ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) have done is most visible at the level of state legislatures. A tsunami of vicious laws — attacking workers’ right to collectively bargain and union organizing, stripping women’s right to abortion and even contraception, cutting off immigrant students’ right to education and other barbaric measures — has swept the country, not only in traditionally reactionary states but making inroads in the industrial heartlands (Ohio, Indiana and Michigan among others).

State legislatures have also redrawn Congressional districts in the most blatant gerrymandering fashion, gutting Black and Latino representation — to say nothing of “voter ID” laws that make a mockery of civil and voting rights laws, on the lying pretext of stopping fraud. These outrages are beginning to stimulate resistance as well.

In the national Republican party where Mitt Romney is the now certain presidential nominee, the Tea Party wing will extract concessions, whether in extreme rightwing party platform planks or in the selection of the vice-presidential candidate. To preserve party unity in some form, the Republican campaign will have to escalate its anti-Obama hatefest to new levels of absurdity and racist bigotry — quite likely turning off even more of the electorate.

The Republicans are corporate America’s preferred party of savage budget-cutting and union-bashing, but the influence of the Tea Party perversely may have caused the Republicans to “peak too early” for their own good. Fortunately for the one percent, the Democrats are all too available whenever needed to do the dirty work for capital.

Attacking Women's Rights

STATE LEGISLATURES ARE on a rampage to pass laws restricting women’s ability to control their reproductive lives — each one more outrageous than the last. Over the last two years a wave of health-related laws affecting women have been introduced in various states. Two years ago 950 bills reducing women’ access to reproductive rights in one way or another, and 89 were enacted. Last year 1,100 were introduced and a whooping 135 passing.

These range from limiting comprehensive sex education classes in schools and cutting funding for contraceptives to blocking women’s right to abortion — mandating procedures that are costly, unnecessary and humiliating, such as waiting periods, ultrasounds and even physical invasion of the woman’s body. In the case of Texas, the ultrasound requirement for all women seeking abortions means, for a first trimester procedure, a probe inserted into the woman’s vagina. No wonder it was labeled the state “rape law”!

Thirty years ago there were approximately 3000 of these clinics providing abortion services; today there are fewer than 1800, and in a number of states, none or practically none. Clinics are being shut down by requirements that they have hospital-like facilities and hallways irrelevant to their purpose. In Texas, health clinics for poor women have been defunded and shut down as collateral damage of the right-wing’s war against Planned Parenthood, even though they perform no abortions and aren’t connected with the organization.

Since the passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1976, with bipartisan cooperation, poor women covered under Medicaid can only apply for abortion in case of rape, incest or medical condition. Only 17 states and the District of Columbia continue to fund their abortions.

In 2010 more than a quarter of the laws passed state legislatures restricted abortions, the percentage rose to 68% last year. Laws include banning abortion beyond the 20th week (although more than 90% of all abortions are performed within the first 12 weeks) and requiring a waiting period — usually 24 hours — between counseling and the procedure (difficult and more costly for women who live in counties where there are no abortion providers). Some of the counseling provides with women inaccurate information (seven states point to a risk of developing breast cancer when no such link exists, and eight require listing possible negative consequences from having an abortion but don’t point out the consequences of contining the pregnancy).

After making headway in restricting coverage for abortion under the federal health care bill, the radical right has moved their fight to the state level. Seven states now prohibit private health insurance providers from covering abortion and 15 prohibit insurance exchanges from doing so. Unless the federal government revisits this issue, more state legislators will pass these restrictions and insurance companies will make their decision based on what they perceive as in their business interests. Although these latest laws are the work of the extreme right, the blue dog Democats were vocal in the Affordable Health Care Act debate over isolating abortion as fundamentally different from other medical services.

The strategy of those opposed to reproductive justice is to divorce the variety of health services women need over the course of their lives and focus on a narrow range. Then they portray women as selfish or naïve, needing to be properly counseled into making the right decision. Meanwhile they portray themselves as moral agents with the First Amendment right to insist that women accept their vision.

Generally speaking, rightwingers focus their anger on clinic providers and doctors and portray women as “victims.” Yet there are state laws on the books ostensibly to protect fetuses, and a few women who have delivered babies while addicted to drugs or alcohol and unable to kick their habit have been charged with fetal abuse. Most people recognized that this issue was a public health problem, and this legislation has languished.

However in Indiana two years ago Bei Bil Shuai, a depressed and pregnant woman, attempted to kill herself. Rescued by friends, she did everything to ensure her baby survived, including undergoing Cesarean surgery, but her newborn died shortly after birth. She was arrested, charged and has been in jail for the past year under the state’s murder statute (with the death penalty or a sentence of 45 years to life) and attempted feticide statute (with a sentence of up to 20 years).

Each year three million U.S. women will have an unintended pregnancy; almost half will have an abortion. Others will have problems during their pregnancy and all who deliver a baby will need a range of services. But the climate of right-wing hatred of women’s rights in an era of cutbacks will have a devastating effect on health clinics, well baby centers and child care centers. These will not be considered “core services” and will be on the chopping block.

Rush Limbaugh has performed a service by putting the brutal assault on women’s rights on Front Street, out of the alleys of state legislature where the worst crimes are committed. Women and all supporters of human rights have been resilient in fighting back — and the battle continues.

2012 and the Politics of War

SOME WARMONGERS JUST can’t get enough. The Republican candidates (except for Ron Paul, who’s a separate case) are braying for war with Iran. Senator John McCain demanded a doubleheader — bomb Syria too. President Obama, in his March 6 press conference, chided his critics for “popping off” with loose war talk.

Among the great majority of the U.S. population, the president undoubtedly wins that particular argument. Since 2001 the United States has undertaken military adventures twice — in Afghanistan for the supposed reason of preventing “another 9/11,” and in Iraq on the lying pretext of eliminating Saddam Hussein’s WMDs. These were both imperialist and criminal wars — win, lose or draw — but also that they have been defeats, even if neither Democrats, Republicans or the corporate media will explicitly say so.

People know that Afghanistan has become a bloody quagmire, and Iraq a disaster for the United States, leaving a mess behind and costing in total something like four trillion dollars, including the staggering expense of lifetime care for horribly wounded military personnel. In no way are they eager for yet another one — especially after all those lies from George W. Bush that the war in Iraq would be a quick, glorious victory that wouldn’t have to be paid for!

But if this particular spitting match is likely to benefit president Obama, The important reality is that he and his administration are every bit as committed to, and embedded in, militarism and war. Here are a few examples:

  • As a candidate, Obama promised to close the infamous and illegal Guantanamo prison camp. In office he’s done nothing of the sort.
  • He has greatly expanded the role of drone aircraft, and openly authorized the killing of U.S. citizens as well as “foreign terrorists” — setting a horrific precedent for future U.S. administrations, not to mention for other countries that will be developing this remote-control-murder technology.
  • The Obama administration effectively supported a military coup in Honduras (despite its official pretenses to the contrary), and fully backs the post-coup regime that has brought back the death squad methods of the 1980s. It attempted, although unsuccessfully, to prevent former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s return from exile.
  • After making proclamations against Israel’s continued construction of illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Obama administration collapsed in the face of Israeli rejection — even blocking the Palestinian Authority’s statehood initiative at the United Nations.
  • While drawing down some military forces due to mounting budget deficits, this administration is shifting assets and strategic priorities to the Asia-Pacific region in a move to “counter the growth of Chinese power.”

President Obama’s tactic in “taking no options off the table” to stop Iran’s development of nuclear technology is different from the Israeli and neoconservative drive for War Now. His intention is to squeeze the Iranian economy with tighter international sanctions, and postpone the confrontation until after the November elections. In truth, this is probably a “smarter” imperialist strategy — but it is no less imperialist, and it carries the same ultimate potential for regional and global catastrophe.

The alternative to militarism and war isn’t President Obama and the Democrats, the chicken-hawk Republicans or the isolationist nationalism of Ron Paul. Stopping the war drive requires a strong antiwar movement, allied with Occupy and the broad social resistance struggles in this country — and ultimately a movement to overturn the corporate capitalist system that makes war and imperialism “necessary” for the rulers, and disastrous for the global 99.9%.

Economic Dictatorship

IN ORDER TO bail out the banks, governments in Europe have borrowed from these very same banks, essentially paying higher interest rates on new loans to pay off the bad loans that got the banks into trouble. In order to qualify for these new loans at supposedly sustainable rates, the governments are required to impose austerity measures never seen before. Cuts in pay and pensions range from 20-30% with more coming; union contracts are shredded and labor laws “liberalized;” unemployment soars, affecting upwards of one-quarter to one-third of work forces — so that half the youth in Spain, for example, are unemployed.

Realizing that elected officials are unable or unwilling to follow through with these drastic measures — and that they will be blamed for the inevitable downturn in the economic fortunes of these countries — the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund consort to demand that parliaments appoint “technocrats,” who will be seen as neutral experts willing to do what no politician would. These unelected experts are, in fact, bankers from the highest echelon including the ECB itself in the case of the prime ministers of Greece and Italy. The finance minister of Spain is the former head of the European division of the failed Lehman Brothers investment bank.

The unelected “Technocracy” heading these governments represents the next level, aimed at restoring profit margins for the bankers who hold all the cards, at the expense of working-class taxpayers whose institutions like traditional unions remain on the defensive and divided. Visible mass discontent still lacks a clear, unified strategy and the confidence needed to challenge the new economic dictatorship.

This new form of unelected governance exists in the United States too. Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager legislation passed by the Republican-dominated Michigan legislature in March 2011 and quickly signed by Governor Rick Snyder (Republican), drastically expanded a 20-year old Emergency Financial Manager law.

The previous EFM law allowed the governor to appoint a financial manager over cities, towns and school districts in deficit, whose job was to develop a plan to get the entity out of debt and back on its feet. Both Democratic and Republican governors had used the legislation. However, it must be said that those entities are still suffering deficits, primarily because cities like Pontiac, Ecorse and Flint have seen major industries leave; often a chunk of the population found work elsewhere and moved.

In March 2009 Governor Jennifer Granholm (Democrat) appointed Robert Bobb, a graduate of The Broad Foundation’s Superintendent Academy, to manage the Detroit Public Schools. An elected school board had been previously dismissed by Governor John Engler (Republican) and another appointed in its place. When the school system was returned to Detroit in 2005, the state had managed to turn the nearly $100 million surplus into a $219 million deficit. DPS is therefore blamed for a deficit it hadn’t caused.

Robert Bobb received a salary of $425,000 for his first year on the job — with DPS paying $280,000 and the rest coming from The Broad Foundation and the Kresge and Kellogg foundations. Bobb was accountable only to the governor.

A year and a half later, when Bobb was replaced by Roy Roberts, a former GM executive, the debt stood at $327-330 million. Bobb drove up the debt by a $40 million contract with a publisher for textbooks that were only used during one academic year, by using highly paid consultants and constructing new schools with hefty price tags. From the beginning of his administration Bobb challenged the elected school board over curriculum issues that were clearly not part of his mandate. The school board sued and eventually won.

As early as 2005 the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a right-wing think tank with connections to the Dow Foundation and a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, advocated handing EMFs more “tools.” Louis H. Schimmel, Jr., a Mackinac Center adjunct who served as manager for Hamtramck and is now manager over Pontiac, outlined four changes:

  1. Make the manager an employee of the state treasury department with access to the attorney general’s legal staff so that he/she would be shielded from “frivolous lawsuits.”
  2. Give the manager the powers over the governing body that is being taken over.
  3. Give the manager the power to review charter provisions that would stand in the way of “cleaning up and streamlining a municipality’s financial functions.”
  4. Repeal Act 312, which mandated binding arbitration when unable to negotiate a union contract, thus removing “the shackles preventing the purchase of municipal services at the lowest cost.”

All these have been incorporated into Public Act 4. In becoming manager of Pontiac, a city of 80,000, Schimmel fired officials including the city council, put property on the market (city hall, water pumping stations, the library, golf course, police and fire stations, two cemeteries) and outsourced several departments. Waterford Township, half the size of Pontiac, now provides the city’s fire protection. Meanwhile Schimmel earns a salary of $150,000.

The Emergency Manager legislation poses as a needed deficit-cutting measure in a dire situation, but in reality it privatizes, charterizes and outsources public services, lays off workers, and forces others to take up the slack at the same time they accept wage cuts and higher health care insurance costs. Over 225,000 people have signed petitions to force a referendum vote on the Emergency Manager legislation in November. Meanwhile, Republican legislators are discussing a law to abort the referendum process.

But Democratic and Republican politicians alike badger the unions for more concessions under the threat of privatization. In Philadelphia, where a Governor-appointed Reform Commission has replaced an elected school board, a once-tentative charter school initiative now comprises a stunning third of all publicly funded schools, and it’s still growing.

The Capitalist State

OUR SOCIALIST VISION for changing society begins from the notion that “the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself.” That argument, advanced by Marx and Engels long ago in The Communist Manifesto, resonates with the language of today’s militant activists: “We are the 99%,” and “We are the leaders we have been waiting for.”

Whatever political label one attaches to these ideas, they reflect the shared conclusion that the overwhelming majority has an interest and a need to deepen democracy. In our view, deepening democracy is about much more than changing the personnel who run the government or reining in corporate influence through political spending.

Ultimately, deepening democracy requires challenging the underlying foundation of corporate power — the private ownership of productive resources. Let’s be blunt: capitalism gives corporate CEOs and investment bankers’ dictatorial powers over the fate of our government, our workplaces, and our communities. No matter how much of our sweat and blood went into producing it, they own the capital, and they make the decisions about what to do with it.

Still, even CEOs and bankers are not exactly free to disregard the number one imperative of survival under capitalism: to maximize profits by any means necessary. And they work hard to instill this imperative in all of us. We are told over and over that our political and economic choices must conform to the needs of the “economy,” that we must be “competitive” and “live within our means.” These seemingly common-sense phrases have the effect of subordinating democracy — collective decision-making about what kind of society we want to have — to the profit-maximizing imperatives of capital.

Around the world and in the United States, people are rebelling against a system where the state is politically dominated by the 1% and materially dependent on capitalist profit-making. Millions understand intuitively that democracy won’t mean much unless it gives the 99% real power to collectively determine political and economic priorities — to decide what to do with our social wealth, or even how to deal with scarcity and crisis. Looked at this way, it is clear that just voting in the more “liberal” or “moderate” capitalist party won’t change the character of the state.

In our view, the job facing socialists today is to build social movements that can make structural demands to challenge a profit-driven system. That means building alternative politics and organizational structures. We need to create spaces where the 99% can come together and discuss our problems and devise solutions. These spaces can be unions, social movements, block clubs, schools — places where there is some capacity for continuity and ongoing discussion.

We do think it is important to challenge the political system through an independent party that can articulate the needs, desires and will of a massive movement. Such a party of the 99% might win reforms and even take office at the local, state or federal level — but this would not transform the state. A revolutionary transformation would involve dissolving the existing forms of the state, based on the market and the power of capital, and structuring new governmental forms based on workers’ control of investment and production, and democratic, collective self-management.

Occupy the Ballot? What Are the Options?

FOUR YEARS AGO, tens of millions of people of all races and nationalities were delighted to vote for Barack Obama for president. They knew it would be an historic blow against racist ideology for an African American to be elected to the presidency.

Many also believed that Obama’s calls for “hope and change” meant that he would rally the American people for reforms such as a higher minimum wage, more rights for workers, a jobs program, the development of renewable energy, a prompt end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the closure of Guantanamo, and an end to the brutal raids and deportations of immigrants. In the end, none of this happened.

The change Obama brought to the presidency proved to be more style than substance. In the face of the right-wing offensive and blatant racist attacks on president Obama, however, many people understandably blame Obama’s disappointing record on the financial meltdown he inherited and the Republican obstructionism he faced. In our view, this denies the deeper realities at work.

In the first place, candidate Obama depended heavily on key sections of the corporate elite, and during the campaign he privately assured his corporate backers that he would not govern from the left. Once in office, most of his promises for “change we can believe in” were bound to fall by the wayside.

Secondly, however, there is a more structural dimension to the disappointments of the Obama presidency. The deepest crisis of global capitalism since the 1930s has posed a stark choice to capitalist governments everywhere. This is the choice between austerity measures that seek to resolve the crisis by preserving and increasing the wealth of capital at the expense of the 99%, and a program of radical reforms that begins to challenge the very logic of capitalism in order to prioritize the needs of the 99% for housing, education, income and health care.

The crisis itself leaves little room for the kind of reforms that might have allowed Obama to adopt a more populist mantle while remaining within the acceptable margins of capitalist politics.

Obama has implicitly staked his presidency on two ideas: 1) austerity (so-called “shared sacrifice”) is the necessary, if bitter, medicine to cure an ailing capitalism, and 2) he knows best how to administer the medicine.

Occupy, on the other hand, has inspired millions to consider the possibility that austerity (and perhaps even capitalism) is incompatible with our desire for a more democratic, equal, peaceful, and environmentally responsible society.

When it comes to voting for President and Congress, many activists will understandably use their vote as an opportunity to register disgust with the racist, sexist and nationalist demagoguery of the Republican right. We, too, reject the right-wing demagoguery and racist attacks against President Obama. But we draw a somewhat different conclusion about the kind of collective actions which will allow us to both challenge austerity and defeat the far right.

To our way of thinking, the most important element in the 2012 is the existence of the Occupy movement — not the election campaign which will feature lying attack ads, phony debating postures and endless falsifications, papering over the strong commonalities between the two opponents. As socialists, we argue for massive resistance to the policies and parties of corporate America.

In that sense, “our party” is Occupy, even though this movement doesn’t have an electoral representation.

Of course, there will be genuinely important questions on the ballot in various states — to repeal the infamous Emergency Manager law in Michigan, to defend gay and lesbian rights, to support public worker collective bargaining, to demand a verifiable transition to renewable energy among other important issues — and those campaigns are worthy serious energy.

There are also independent national, statewide and local campaigns — most notably those organized by the Green Party or the Socialist Party — although they face enormous challenges in getting on the ballot and being able to reach out to a significant number of voters without having massive funding and media access. Casting a vote for these campaigns won’t change the outcome of the 2012 election, but it is a gesture for a political alternative. We believe that independent electoral campaigns can be a positive force in 2012, to the extent that they tie their efforts in with the wider process of movement building that is going on.

In the end, however, we know that one of the parties of austerity will win in 2012. At this moment, then, voting for candidates can’t be seen as the primary form of struggle for those of us who see austerity as the defining issue. So let’s get on with the work that matters most, building the struggles that will lead to more than symbolic options.