[Marxism] Nader, american socialist left, etc

Nigel Irritable nigel_irritable at yahoo.com
Sun May 30 20:21:43 MDT 2004

Lou Paulsen said:
> I for one don't like isolation.  But you seem to be
> asserting as a general principle that "either one 
> supports the presidential candidate that group X
> supports, or one will be isolated from them."  You >
do realize that this was EXACTLY the argument that >
Julio Huato made about why he had to support Kerry
> in order not to be isolated from the Latino
working-> class community?

It may well be a similar argument in terminology, but
it is a different argument in terms of content. I
freely admit that I am an outsider to the US left. I
don't have enough knowledge of the real situation on
the ground. In addition, I am somewhat biased in that
the organisation I belong to (the Irish Socialist
Party) is a sister organisation of one of those groups
which actually is backing Nader (Socialist

Nevertheless, it seems to me that Nader has around him
a milieu which is mostly to his left. A sizeable body
of opinion which self-consciously sees itself as
looking for a break from the Democrats and Republicans
and a body of opinion which is perhaps the most open
to socialist arguments of any substantial political
current in the US at the moment.

To me it seems obvious - and I accept that there are
many others on this list who perhaps know much more
about the background to this debate than I do - that
this milieu is the place for socialists to be. On the
condition of course that they combine trying to build
support for Nader's challenge with arguing within that
current for socialist ideas.

Now I know that Socialist Alternative is of the
opinion that what is needed in America is a workers
party, a point of view obviously influenced by
Trotsky's argument for a US labor party. With that
goal in mind the people I would want to argue with at
least initially are the people who are to be
encountered in the context of the Nader campaign.

Even if I belonged to an organisation with a short
term perspective of "building the revolutionary party"
or some other such formulation (for example the ISO
and as I understand it the WWP), I would still think
that this same milieu is the best place to be. Once
that is accepted the question becomes "how best can we
influence these people"? Again to me the answer seems

I don't say this as someone who regards independent
socialist electoral campaigns as inherently doomed to
make little impact. I've been a member of three
organisations in the few years I've been a poltical
activist (the Irish SP, the SSP and the English and
Welsh SP). All of them run their own candidates, and
on different scales all of them have been capable of
making a worthwhile impact through doing so.

What I question is the idea of small socialist
organisations running for national political office,
in the circumstances of something like Nader's run -
where it appears to me that there are more useful and
productive things for socialists to be doing.
Everything is contextual. Others may differ on that
but I would be genuinely interested in hearing an
argument from a member of one of the socialist groups
running a candidate in these elections as to what
exactly they hope to realistically achieve through
their actions.


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