A look at the Nader rallies

Greg Butterfield gregb at SPAMwwpublish.com
Sat Oct 21 13:14:08 MDT 2000

Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Oct. 26, 2000
issue of Workers World newspaper

Contradictions of the Nader program, part 3
Why the struggles at home and abroad are inseparable
By Fred Goldstein
New York

The tremendously enthusiastic, sold-out rally of 15,000 held
in Madison Square Garden on Oct. 13 for the Ralph Nader/
Winona LaDuke election campaign revealed many of the
contradictions of this dynamic and growing movement.

Nader and speakers who preceded him received ovation after
ovation from an overwhelmingly youthful, white student crowd
for their challenges to corporate domination and arrogance.

The crowd cheered when called upon by Nader to identify
themselves with the pre-Civil War abolitionists in
Mississippi who stood alone; with the suffragettes who were
beaten and jailed fighting for women's right to vote; with
the workers who battled the corporations in the era before
unemployment insurance or pensions or any workers' rights;
with the five civil-rights workers whose sit-in at a
segregated lunch counter led to overturning "separate but
equal" racist doctrine; and with the Populist movement of
poor farmers who battled the corporations in the 19th

"Think of the courage, think of the determination, think of
how badly they wanted justice-and take motivation from it,"
Nader told the audience.

Former talk show host Phil Donahue spoke about the
concentration of power in the corporate media. He gave
examples of how the Chicago Tribune owns the Los Angeles
Times and the New York Times owns the Boston Globe. "They
are not likely to be very critical of giant corporate
mergers," said Donahue.

Democratic rights vs. exclusion from debates

The question of democratic rights and corporate domination
was made very concrete for this campaign. First Nader was
excluded from the presidential debates, despite his obvious
mass support. Then he was excluded by security from entering
the auditorium at the University of Massachusetts to attend
the first George W. Bush-Al Gore debate on Oct. 3, even
though he had a ticket. Nader has instituted a lawsuit
against the debate commission.

Radical filmmaker Michael Moore quoted Bush as boasting that
he can name all 55 members of his fraternity at Yale. Moore
drew a big hand when he said that had he been at the
presidential debate, he would have demanded to know if Bush
"could remember the names of the people he has executed
since he has been in office, many of them innocent and all

Actor/comedian Bill Murray drew applause when he told the
crowd that "it was a group about this size that began the
movement that stopped the war in Vietnam." Mark Dunau, the
Green Party New York Senate candidate, said that drug laws
were racial profiling. Troy Duster, professor of sociology
at New York University, the only Black speaker on the
program, urged Black people not to vote for Gore.

Nader denounced the "$200 billion in corporate welfare
stolen from the taxpayers." He pointed out the growth of
homelessness and said that the biggest public housing
program in the U.S. was the "program to build corporate
prisons." Each time he accused the corporations of
"hijacking democracy," of "corporate crime" and of being an
arrogant "plutocracy and oligarchy" that has made the two
parties into creatures of corporate corruption, the crowd

The more militant and challenging the tone, the greater the

He ended with a strong call to build a lasting progressive
movement, appealing to the crowd on the basis of personal
commitment to idealism and rejecting compromise with the
evil, lesser or greater, represented by the two major

Nader rallies largest in campaign

The Madison Square Garden rally was the latest in a series
of "Super Rallies" that are drawing the largest crowds of
any candidates in the presidential campaign, including
12,000 in Minneapolis, 10,000 in Seattle and Portland, Ore.,
12,000 in Boston and 9,500 in Chicago.

These rallies, as well as the many smaller events of the
Nader/LaDuke campaign, are giving tens of thousands of
people, mostly white youths just coming into the political
movement, a chance to break politically with the two
ruling-class parties on a progressive basis.

It is a sign of great hope that, following the Seattle
anti-globalization movement, so many youths are ready to
turn their attention to the problems of the masses at home
and the arrogance of the corporations right here. This
development is part of a fresh wind blowing on the landscape
of U.S. politics. But in order to retain its progressive
character, this movement must return to the streets and link
up with the struggle against racism, national oppression,
and the oppression of women and lesbian, gay, bi and trans

It will take a great deal of education and wider and deeper
political experience for the new generation of activists to
grasp the enormous contradictions in the Nader campaign.

What about Palestine? Yugoslavia? Colombia? Vieques?

For example, while Nader was speaking to youths in the
Garden about corporate attempts to dominate the globe,
heroic Palestinian youths in the tens of thousands were in
the streets from Gaza to Hebron to Ramallah facing the
U.S.-backed Israeli military with stones and gasoline bombs.
Close to a hundred had been killed and thousands wounded.

They were fighting for their right to a homeland and a
state. This has been denied the Palestinians since 1948,
when they were expelled from their homes en masse by the
Israeli military and paramilitary forces. Israel is the
military outpost of U.S. imperialism and the oil companies,
the very monopolies that Nader campaigns against.

Just two weeks before the rally, the U.S. and NATO followed
up their air war against Yugoslavia with a campaign of
bribery and corruption of the election, pouring in hundreds
of millions of dollars to openly engineer a political
counter-revolution. This is similar to corporate corruption
of political parties in the U.S., except it destroyed the
sovereignty of a whole country.

It was done to clear the road for privatization and the
process of "globalization" of that country, so the
transnationals can buy up its assets and subject the
population to the very corporate domination that the Nader
campaign denounces.

In Colombia, the U.S. is financing a war against a popular
guerrilla insurgency seeking to oust a corrupt and
dictatorial death-squad regime of the type Nader says the
U.S. should oppose.

In Puerto Rico, the Pentagon is locked in struggle with the
people over its brutal occupation of the island of Vieques.

Not one of these current struggles was mentioned at the
Garden rally, the rally at the Fleet Center in Boston or the
Nader Web site.

According to Edward Said, writing in the Al-Ahram Weekly of
Aug 24-30, Nader gave an interview to CNN in which he said
he would end military aid to Israel and end the sanctions on
Iraq. If this is accurate, then the failure to mention it in
mass meetings of activists is even more problematical. It is
a subordination of principle to narrow pragmatism, which
leaves the movement unprepared and disoriented in times of
crisis and gives the ruling-class media a clear political
field to whip up anti-Arab sentiment.

It is utterly inconceivable that a progressive movement
against big business can be built in this country without
taking the international situation into consideration.

U.S. corporations rule the world

The U.S. ruling class is an imperialist ruling class.
Everything it does abroad affects the fate of the workers
and oppressed at home. The working class is a global class.
What happens to the workers and oppressed in Colombia or
Palestine or Puerto Rico or Europe affects the working class
at home.

If the corporations get the upper hand in Mexico, they can
impose NAFTA on the Mexican workers, super-exploit them, and
undermine the workers' standard of living here. The same
goes for Colombia, Puerto Rico or any other country. If the
U.S. government can dismember Indonesia and deepen the
corporate stranglehold on its resources and labor, then big
business grows stronger at home.

If the U.S. were to overthrow Chinese socialism and put one
fifth of the globe back under colonial domination, it would
be the gravest setback to the working class--not only in the
United States, but all over the world.

The Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA have a
presence all over the world. The U.S. intervenes in the
politics of every country. It is all done to strengthen and
extend the empire of U.S. finance capital.

No progressive movement in the U.S. can get very far without
thoroughly arming itself against big-power chauvinism and
the permanent tendency to war and interventionism inherent
in monopoly capitalism. It is an axiom of Marxism that you
can only understand the situation at home by understanding
the international situation.

Voting or mass action?

There is another glaring contradiction in the Nader
presentation, which will emerge more clearly after the
election is over. All the movements that he urges the
audience to emulate--the abolitionists, the suffragettes,
the labor movement, the civil-rights movement--accomplished
their aims not by elections, not by lobbying, not by
regulatory changes, but by mass mobilization and struggle.

Election after election came and went, but nothing less than
a civil war freed the slaves. Mass demonstrations, rallies
and arrests won women's suffrage. Open class warfare,
factory seizures, sit-down strikes, battles with police and
scabs, and open defiance of courts and the capitalist
government brought about the industrial organization of
labor. Massive sit-ins and confrontations with racist police
plus rebellions in the oppressed communities brought about
civil rights and affirmative action. Militant mass struggle
undermined the U.S. government's effort to conquer Vietnam
and helped bring the war to an end.

Of course, Nader has an illustrious progressive record of
legislative and regulatory accomplishments defending the
people against corporate rip-offs and environmental
destruction. He has fought against unsafe automobiles,
nuclear hazards, brown lung in the mines, corporate tax
rip-offs, industrial pollution and many other outrages of
big business.

His background has prepared him well for this, but not for
opening up the kind of furious mass struggle that it will
take to push the corporations back, let alone get rid of

Movement must be anti-capitalist

His basic political contradiction is that he is against all
the abuses of capitalism--but for capitalism. This is an
insoluble contradiction. Nader regards the complete reign of
the corporations over politics, economics and social life as
a matter of false government policy, rather than as an
inevitable outgrowth of a centuries-old predatory social and
economic system. The movement will eventually have to
transcend the barrier of capitalist property.

Nader is an able advocate in exposing the details of
corporate abuse. But he cannot go the final and absolutely
necessary step of pinpointing the fundamental abuse upon
which all others rest: capitalist exploitation of labor and
the private appropriation by a class of property owners of
the wealth of society. Running society on the basis of the
profit motive and class oppression is the basic crime.

The new emerging movement gives great hope for future
struggles. But those attending Nader rallies today will soon
have to deal with how to accomplish the ultimate goal of
"transferring power from the corporations back to the
people," as Nader puts it. Only a revolutionary Marxist
analysis can pave the way theoretically. Only the
revolutionary class struggle can accomplish it, under the
leadership of a disciplined working-class party.

Nader has rightfully said that what is needed is a "complete
reorientation of policy which regards the 6 billion people
on the planet as important and not global corporations." But
this is only possible by liquidating the private ownership
of the global means of production and running this vast
productive enterprise on a socialist, collective basis, free
of bosses, for human need and not for profit.

- END -

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