Camejo's lessons came early on, and from abroad

Stuart Munckton stuartmunckton at yahoo.com.au
Wed Sep 17 20:52:47 MDT 2003


I don't know if people have seen this article or not.

Apologies for not having the link.

'He would be a different kind of governor, he says,
one who uses the power of his position to involve the
public and "build a social movement for change."'

That sounds good to me.

The pamhlet referred to 'How to make a revolution' -
Resistance still publishes this - two talks he gave in
the late 60's, 'How to make a revolution in the United
States' and 'Liberalism, ultra-leftism and mass
action'. These are the best popular explanations of
socialist politics and strategy for change I have
seen. I remember a Resistance member who had been
active for more than a year when she read the pamplhet
and said it was the first time she really understood
what we meant by revolution.



Posted on Sun, Sep. 14, 2003   
 
Camejo's political lessons came early, from abroad
LISA LEFF
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - Peter Miguel Camejo learned almost
everything he cares to know about American politics in
another country.

As a child of privilege and divorce who lived on Long
Island with his mother, he spent summers visiting his
father, a wealthy Venezuelan land developer. During
one trip to South America, the teenage Camejo looked
out at the slums surrounding one of his dad's coastal
resorts and asked him if he believed in God.

"Pedrito," Daniel Camejo told his son, gesturing
toward the distant shanties where the laborers who
built the resort lived. "If God existed, would he
allow this?"

The answer jolted Peter into a bright 16-year-old's
version of an existential crisis. He sometimes played
soccer with his father's workers, and the gulf that
separated him from them suddenly felt intolerable.

"That was when I decided and promised I would spend my
whole life supporting the poor," Camejo recalled.

Nearly half a century later, his long-ago lesson in
class and capitalism remains at the core of Camejo's
political ideology, informing his campaign as the
Green Party candidate in California's recall race.

A committed leftist who once ran for president as a
socialist and whose Vietnam War-era speeches have been
published as a 40-page book called "How to Make a
Revolution," Camejo doesn't claim to stand a chance of
becoming governor. In the latest Field Poll, he
received 2 percent of the vote, the lowest margin of
any major candidate.

"We don't have the social forces to win yet," he
conceded.

Instead, Camejo's main goal is to use the standing his
third-place, 5.3 percent finish in the last governor's
race gave him this time around to keep progressive
positions from being ignored.

In a media-driven election, his chief challenge is
coming off as "rational and intelligent" rather than
"hyper and nuts," he said. Judging from his televised
debate appearances, so far he's succeeding, delivering
uncharacteristically succinct replies on hot-button
issues ranging from gay marriage and universal health
care to immigrant rights.

"This election is great for entertainment and humor,"
said Camejo, 63. "But one side is people are going to
hear more points of view than ever before, and they
love it."

Like a Robin Hood in a rumpled sport coat, armed with
income distribution charts and a gift for passionate
oratory, Camejo has made reforming the state's tax
structure the centerpiece of his platform. His
solution: increase the burden on the rich and
corporations.

His economic plan calls for raising taxes on incomes
over $500,000 and $200,000 by 5 percent and 2 percent
respectively, while lowering sales taxes and user fees
that disproportionately affect the much larger numbers
of low- and middle-income earners.

Raising taxes on the wealthy is not only a matter of
fairness, Camejo argues, but he estimates it would add
about $14 billion in revenue, eliminating the budget
deficit and steep program cuts facing nearly all
sectors of state government.

With an annual gross income that averaged over
$250,000 during 2000 and 2001, Camejo and his wife,
Morella, are part of the select group targeted by his
"tax the rich" plan. The couple moved this summer to
Folsom from Walnut Creek, a wealthy San Francisco
suburb.

After holding entry-level jobs with a garment
manufacturer and the U.S. Postal Service, Camejo
worked as a stock broker at Merrill Lynch and
Prudential Securities. In 1989, he founded Progressive
Asset Management, an Oakland-based brokerage
specializing in socially responsible investing.

Although he's never held an elected office and his
campaign has raised less than $30,000, Camejo deflects
questions about his political experience.
"I believe the people who run for office are, as a
whole, incompetent, because competent people won't get
into politics," he said. "Politics are brutal."

Still, Camejo seems to enjoy his role as the perpetual
outsider and underdog. One day recently, he unveiled
his economic plan at San Francisco's tony Commonwealth
Club and sparred with CNN's Judy Woodruff before
sitting down with a reporter from a liberal German
newspaper at the Green Party's low-rent headquarters
in San Francisco.

Depending on his audience, Camejo opined that
undocumented Mexican workers live under an "apartheid
system" in the United States, pointed out that the
Republican-led states of Utah, Arizona and Wyoming all
have higher taxes than California, and suggested solar
power as a way to stimulate California's economy.

He also took on Republican front-runner Arnold
Schwarzenegger for the populist rhetoric the actor has
used to win support from Latinos.

"That's what a man on a white horse always does, says
'I'm for the people, just trust me,' said Camejo.
"What they really want to do is orchestrate and
manipulate the people."

Later, while taping an interview for CNN's
Spanish-language network, Camejo mentioned that even
Schwarzenegger supports a limited amnesty for
undocumented workers to seek U.S. citizenship. He
confessed off-camera that he "threw that in" to "bug"
his father, a die-hard Republican who now lives in
Florida.

Camejo said he and his father remain close despite
their political differences. The two represented
Venezuela in sailing during the 1960 Rome Olympics.
His campaign biography stresses that he was named for
Pedro Camejo, a 19th Century general who led
Venezuela's fight for independence under Simon
Bolivar.

He's been on a steady march to the left since that
fateful conversation with his father so many years
ago. He studied math and history at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and the University of
California, Berkeley, where, as the story goes, he was
expelled for "using an unauthorized microphone" during
a student demonstration.

His socialist leanings prompted California's
then-governor, Ronald Reagan, to declare Camejo one of
the state's 10 most dangerous people.

In 1976 he ran for president as the Socialist Workers'
Party candidate. That was his last run until the Green
Party of California, which Camejo helped found in
1991, drafted him to be its standard-bearer in last
year's governor's race.

"They couldn't find anyone else," jokes Camejo, who
thinks he's become "a little more effective" since his
socialist days. "The Green Party very well reflects
what I believe."

Camejo supports the recall as the ultimate exercise in
democracy, and he was one of the first to enter the
race to replace Davis. He has made a point of taking
jabs at the governor, whom he says locked him out of
last year's debates. He boosts Bustamante, whom he
praises as a collaborator.

He has also backed away somewhat from his early
promise to build a progressive juggernaut with
independent Arianna Huffington, since neither of them
appear to have benefited from that strategy.

"To me, building the Green Party is just as important,
if not more important, than the gubernatorial
campaign," Camejo said. "Some people think that shows
a lack of seriousness or that I'm not a real
candidate. I think I'm the most serious candidate of
all."
 


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