There are at least 5 Socialist parties in the United States with presidential tickets for the 2016 election. Continuing my series of interviews with third party presidential nominees today I had the pleasure of interviewing one of those nominees, Jerry White from the Socialist Equality Party.
What Makes the SEP (Socialist Equality Party) ticket different from the rest and why does that make you better than the others?
The Socialist Equality Party campaign seeks to reach workers and youth who are looking for an alternative to big business politics, represented by the Democrats and Republicans. Our party opposes Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and is building an independent political party of the working class.
Our party works to unify all workers in the United States and worldwide, and prepare the working class for the coming struggles against social inequality and war.
The SEP election program centers on these demands:
1. Oppose US militarism! Stop the drive to World War III!
2. Put an end to poverty and social inequality!
3. Defend democratic rights! No to government spying and police violence!
We answer the question on the minds of many workers and youth: What is socialism? My campaign is against capitalism and for socialism, where the working class will govern and control the industries and banks, while seizing the wealth created by workers but owned by the super-rich. That’s the only way to get the resources for education, affordable housing, and other necessities like health care and clean drinking water.
Socialism in the United States is very fragmented, Why? Does SEP have any working relationships with other leftist parties in the US & Does the fragmented nature of the left in the US hold socialism back from succeeding here?
The ruling elite was able to block the development of a mass socialist movement in America during the 20th century because of the enormous wealth of American capitalism. Workers won limited social reform and this created illusions in capitalism. That period certainly ended with the 2008 Wall Street crash and the dramatic decline in the living standards and social position of working people.
The result is a growing interest in socialism, expressed in the widespread support for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election campaign. The SEP campaign will help workers and youth separate genuine socialist politics from its various counterfeits. For example, while many were attracted to Sanders because he called himself a democratic socialist, we warned voters that Sanders’ role was to channel all opposition to capitalism back into the Democratic Party. This is exactly what happened with his endorsement of Clinton.
Other “socialist” parties—what we call the pseudo-left—supported Sanders, and through him the Democratic Party. Now most are supporting the Greens, a pro-capitalist party. In these maneuvers, they seek to block workers and youth from drawing revolutionary conclusions from the crisis of world capitalism. They also divide the working class along the lines of race, gender and sexual orientation, advocating identity politics and denying that the cause of discrimination is capitalism and the fundamental division in society is class.
The SEP, part of the world Trotskyist movement, supports the unity of the international working class to overthrow capitalism and establish socialism. We trace our roots back to the battle between Trotskyists, classical Marxists who advanced an international program, and Stalinists in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. Stalinism claimed you could build socialism in one country. It represented the interests of the bureaucracy that defended its own privileges, repressed opposition and collaborated with imperialism.
We collaborate with sections of workers or young people seeking to defend their rights against the profit system, but we oppose those who advocate “unity” with sections of the ruling class and its political agents in the Democratic Party and the pseudo-left.
What do you say to the American electorate to dispel the myths of socialism? & After 1 term in the White House, What things, what policies, what events have happened during a White/Niemuth administration?
Capitalism has failed the working class and sections of the middle class, with continuous wars and ever widening social inequality. In fact, that’s why people are so interested in finding out about socialism today. The new generation of working class youth is the first in American history that will live worse than their parents.
American corporations have trillions in cash that they are using to buy back stock, carry out mergers, or hold in offshore accounts to evade taxes. The federal government spent nearly one trillion on the military-intelligence apparatus in 2015. Yet, all we hear is “there is no money” to improve schools, provide jobs, decent wages and benefits, build affordable housing, and offer free college education.
The purpose of our campaign is not to win the election this year, which is hardly possible given the political monopoly of the two corporate-controlled parties, the Democrats and Republicans. We aim to build a mass independent political movement of the working class to oppose war and advocate a socialist solution to the crisis of the profit system. The only viable alternative to capitalism is to reorganize economic life under the democratic control of the working class, serving the needs of society, not private profit. We’re building a party to fight for that.
A socialist government will only be established by a mass movement of tens of millions of working people who are committed to changing the economic base of society, freeing the vast potential of modern science and technology from the stranglehold of capitalist ownership, and creating a society of abundance and genuine equality.
One thing I absolutely love about candidates like yourselves is that you back up what you say with actions. You have been on the frontlines of protests, strikes and various other labour and class struggles. I like my candidates to be this way, it appeals to me and I think it would appeal to a great many people out there as well. What tactics are you using to get your names out there?
Niles Niemuth and I, for example, have campaigned among auto and steel workers, at picket lines of striking Verizon and Communications of America workers, at summer events, in neighborhoods, and among students.
Of course, restrictive ballot access requirements make it hard to get on the ballot. The Democrats and Republicans, along with the establishment media, try to make sure there are only two choices. The SEP has a campaign site, and also publishes the World Socialist Web Site, which posts daily and reaches an international audience.
How do you take the fight to the oligarchy?
The basis of our political activity is the political education of working people and young people. We take our program to the working class to prepare a struggle against the elite, who are creating the social inequality and war.
What about the Islamic State? Do you fight them or do you oppose war altogether?
We are not pacifists, but we oppose all wars by the United States, the main imperialist power in the world. The US has been waging war almost continuously since 1990. A whole generation of American youth has grown up under the shadow of war.
The US wages war, not for freedom and democracy, or against “terrorism,” but to maintain the world position of American capitalism. Whether a group is deemed “terrorist” or not depends on whether they serve Washington’s interest. ISIS arose out of the efforts of the CIA to build up an armed opposition to the Assad government in Syria. Al Qaeda arose out of a similar CIA effort in the 1980s to build an armed opposition to the Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan.
When the US government goes to war, it invents a pretext to be used by the corporate media to counter the antiwar sentiments of the American people. These range from crude fabrications like “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, to more sophisticated lies, playing on humanitarian sentiments, such as the claim that the US must step in to “save” victims of civil war in Syria or Libya. All this is war propaganda, justifying military operations that create even more chaos and destruction. The danger now is that these conflicts could lead to a third world war. The international working class is the only force that can stop this.
What else is going on in the Socialist Equality Party? (Ballot Access, other candidates, events, membership, etc.)
In West Virginia, Naomi Spencer is running for the House of Delegates in District 16 as the SEP candidate. The state has among the worst unemployment and labor force participation rates in the country.
As we move into the last months of the campaign, Niles and I will be traveling across the country to hold election meetings. We are on the ballot in Louisiana. In other states, wherever possible, we urge voters to cast a write-in vote for us.
Here’s how people can find out more about the Socialist Equality Party, get involved and donate to our campaign:
Visit: sep2016.com and facebook.com/sepus
Attend a meeting near you: For dates and locations, visit sep2016.com, Events
Read the World Socialist Web Site: wsws.org
Call: (313) 307-6708
Thank you very much Mr. White for your time and your thoughts. Good luck to you and Mr. Niemuth this November and good luck to the Socialist Equality Party.
Jerry White, 56, is the US labor editor of the World Socialist Web Site. He joined the Workers League, the predecessor of the Socialist Equality Party, in 1979 while working at United Parcel Service and attending the City University of New York. For nearly four decades, as a writer and activist, Jerry has played a major role in the struggles of the working class. He was the SEP’s presidential candidate in 2008 and 2012.
Niles Niemuth, 28, was raised in a working-class family in Wisconsin and became a member of the SEP during the 2011 mass protests against budget cuts imposed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Niles joined the staff of the WSWS after completing his master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, where he specialized in African-American history. Niemuth has written extensively on US social conditions, working-class struggles and the government’s assault on democratic rights.