Stephen Durham Responds to Questions

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The Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) decided to launch a campaign for president and vice president because the austerity program that is the establishment’s answer to the economic crisis demands a bold anti-capitalist and feminist challenge.

Poverty is growing. Millions are without jobs and healthcare. Young Black men, Latino immigrants, and Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. face official and unofficial harassment and persecution. Women are losing their reproductive rights. As the FSP organizer in New York City, where our headquarters is based in Harlem, on a daily basis I see people just struggling to survive. I am running to offer working-class solutions to the hardships caused by the one percent.

Unprecedented international protest in 2011 reverberated in the U.S. with militant labor protests in Wisconsin and elsewhere and with the Occupy movement. I and my vice presidential running mate, Christina López, believe the time is right to provide an electoral vehicle for working, unemployed, and retired voters to reject business as usual in the White House and Congress. Socialist solutions are desperately needed and people are ready to consider them. They are sick to death with the ongoing capitalist agenda of imperialist war, cutbacks, racist and phony wars on drugs and terror, and the consequent erosion of civil liberties.

I have decades of experience as a union worker and militant activist in the restaurant industry, which afforded me the chance to organize jointly with and learn from low-paid immigrant and female workers, who experience the worst the system has to offer. I have participated in many of the movements for social justice, from the 60s anti-Vietnam war and student movement at UC Berkeley to the early days of the modern gay rights movement, to work on behalf of political prisoners and involvement in the Occupy movement. I have spent time living in Latin America and building ties with other revolutionaries there, which has given me the opportunity to utilize my knowledge of both Spanish and Portuguese.

My Chicana running mate, who comes from Arizona and is now Radical Women’s organizer in Seattle, was drawn to FSP by its emphasis on fighting for racial liberation as an indispensable component of building class solidarity and revolutionary organizing. She is an experienced organizer around issues close to Californians’ hearts. For example, Christina boldly confronts immigrant bashing, defends abortion clinics, fights police brutality, and is a leader in a three-year fight against budget cuts in Washington State.

As candidates, Christina and I are wholeheartedly committed to doing everything in our power to use this campaign to represent the needs of the most oppressed and spur the growth of a multiracial, feminist, working-class mass movement for fundamental change.

Christina and I also want to continue to contribute to the ongoing building of Occupy Wall Street. The Occupy movement has taken steps in the crucial work of forging alliances within the working-class majority, including the jobless, unionists, the heavily indebted, immigrants, and young people. With our campaign we want to continue building these alliances, raise neglected issues, and provide for a serious protest vote on Election Day. We aim to help advance a powerful radical movement, one ultimately capable of upending class relations and putting the working class—the class that creates all of society’s wealth–in power.

The FSP has been involved in and strongly supports Peace and Freedom Party’s (PFP) tenacious efforts to build a broader left collaboration nationally. Why not get together electorally? Left parties in Latin America do it all the time! Since its inception in 1966, FSP has critically endorsed and promoted other Left candidates and proposed joint electoral slates. Unfortunately, most other Left parties have met these proposals with indifference.

I believe that Left cooperation is especially urgent at this moment, as a right wing that has been on the rise for three decades commandeers the national stage. The most fateful example of the sectarian failure of the Left to join forces at such a time is the rise of fascism in Germany. This is a history that must not be repeated.

In support of the goal of Left electoral cooperation, FSP has worked with the Peace and Freedom Party for decades. We have run candidates on the PFP ticket. We have joined other dedicated activists in the hard work of keeping this unique party on the ballot in California. As the FSP organizer in Los Angeles in the late 1970s and early ’80s, I personally participated in the forging of a socialist PFP platform which has stood the test of time. FSP is a strong and consistent voice for socialist feminism, which is also the PFP’s political perspective.

We greatly respect PFP’s resistance for over 40 years to the domination of the twin parties of big business. This is a democratic candle in what is a rigged labyrinth of undemocratic laws and regulations that vary from state to state. Every four years in presidential elections, the ruling class in this country encourages voters in the name of democracy to go to the polls to choose which capitalist party is going to oppress them for the next four years. No wonder so few eligible voters vote!

Our platform (partially listed below) contains eminently logical reforms. It also indicates a direction for lasting change and a socialist future. We come to this election with a distinctive and powerful program of revolutionary socialist feminism — a program that can unite the working class by addressing its divisions around race, gender, sexuality, and nationality.

Christina and I believe that it is a unique and very good thing that voters can examine both the presidential and vice-presidential candidates at the outset. We are in this race to help build a stronger movement to challenge capitalism, by teaching and showing that fighters for feminism, race liberation and queer rights are central to doing this job.


(For other major issues on the Durham and López platform, see

Foreign Policy. To put it bluntly, we don’t think a few changes here and there in the U.S.’s global militarization will accomplish anything. Durham and López oppose all imperialist war and call for U.S. troops to be brought home, the 1,000 military bases abroad closed, and the Pentagon dismantled. Embargoes, sanctions, wars and military occupations should be called off immediately, because they have brought misery and ruin to vast numbers of human beings and to lands overseas, but much profit to the infamous U. S. capitalist ruling class. We think the relationship among the working classes of all countries can be, and already is in many places, one of solidarity and assistance.

Economy. What’s really wrong with the economy is capitalism, and the quicker we can dispense with it, the better. Revolution, of course, doesn’t happen overnight. But on the way, we can collaboratively organize and fight for massive, publicly-funded training and jobs programs, with jobs at union wages and childcare for working parents. Repeal of anti-union laws will hasten this development. Regarding education, we need more free and well-funded public schools, trade schools and universities, not more privatized charter schools and higher education for the rich.

The Durham and López ticket also stands for boosting jobs by restoring help for elders, children, single mothers, and the poor, homeless and hungry. Social Security needs to be strengthened, foreclosures stopped, and much more low-cost housing built. How to pay for all these logical needs? It seems pretty obvious to us: disarm the war machine, and dismantle the Pentagon. And while we’re at it, nationalizing the banks and energy industry under the management of workers’ committees would be a giant step in the right…er…left direction.

Heath Care. Heath care is a basic human right, not a privilege for the privileged! Any socially responsible government would make it universal and free to all residents by increasing taxes on mega corporations and the wealthiest. Obama’s Affordable Care Act hands over mandatory coverage to private insurance companies. It excludes undocumented immigrants, restricts other immigrants’ access, and reaffirms denial of federal funding for abortion. Women need full control over their reproductive rights, and that includes safe abortion and contraception. No religious institution or employer can be permitted to impede women’s access to these rights, nor to advancements in medical knowledge and technology or to secular sex education.

Actually, the health conditions in this country are an international travesty, and our health care system needs a complete overhaul. This can be done by nationalizing the entire industry, including pharmaceuticals, medical supply companies and hospitals Control would be given to healthcare workers in collaboration with patients.

Discrimination. I have been a gay rights activist since the Stonewall rebellion era, and my running mate, Christina, is an outspoken, part-Apache Chicana feminist who grew up in Arizona. We have lived lives of experiencing discrimination and organizing against all forms of it. We believe in restoring affirmative action, repealing right-wing laws against immigrants, and dismantling Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as the Department of Homeland Security. If the U.S. had no border restrictions for workers, as it doesn’t for corporations, Homeland Security would be out of a job!

The Freedom Socialist Party has long held that the “war on drugs” is an assault on addicts, especially targeting Black and Latino men. Drugs should be legalized so that drug abusers can get treatment and job training. For-profit prisons should be outlawed, as should the government’s terrorist-baiting against Muslims and others from the Middle East and Africa. Elected civilian review boards over the police must be established to curtail police brutality and murder. As for discrimination against the Left, we call for genuine freedom of association and speech. That means repealing The Patriot Act, stopping indefinite detention of “suspicious” foreigners and U.S. citizens, dismantling the FBI, and outlawing police spying and disruption of free speech activities. That includes drone planes hovering over our rallies and meetings!

Education. Our campaign calls for multicultural education for all ages, and opposes high-stakes testing and the drive to privatize education through the establishment of charter schools. Quality free public schooling, including ethnic studies, should be available to all—whatever their immigration status—through college and trade school. To pay for it, federal, state and local governments can tax corporate profits. Student debt must be cancelled. Teachers unions, parents and students should work together on curricula decisions on local and national levels. But in choosing texts, there needs to be an overriding national method to prevent racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, anti-union bias, religious intolerance and all other forms of discrimination. “States’ rights” do not supersede students’ national rights to an education without bigotry.

Environment. Durham and López support an environmentally sustainable energy policy. That means nationalizing the energy industry, including oil, coal and gas under the control of energy-industry workers. This will create safe jobs and sane policies that reject the current lethal energy practices. Auto company bailout money should be redirected to reopen factories and retool them to manufacture mass transit, such as buses, subways, light rail and trains. Subsidies to agribusiness and biofuel companies can be redirected into building an integrated mass public transit system with service to rural and underserved urban areas. Free public transit would increase public use. Internationally, U.S. corporations that pollute, exploit, and support corrupt regimes overseas should be immediately nationalized under workers’ control.

Here in this country, “safe” nuclear energy, fracking for natural gas, deep water drilling for oil, and mining “clean” coal are not solutions. They destroy land, water, air and us. The fight against the Keystone pipelines shows a revived and militant environmental movement. It’s a crucial time for all progressive activists to join with that movement, and with Native American activists and industry workers to put the struggle for safe energy into workingclass hands.

Electoral Reform. As long as this country’s social and economic structure serves the “one percent,” its political structure will, too. But the following changes would improve elections in the present and further expose capitalism’s abiding corruption. The Durham and López campaign endorses the following steps, long advocated by the FSP:

Curb corporate control through public financing of campaigns • Get rid of laws
that restrict ballot access for minor parties • Replace winner-take-all with proportional representation • Establish instant runoff voting • Upgrade and standardize processes and equipment nationally • End the disenfranchisement of prisoners and ex-prisoners • Dump the Electoral College.

Socialist election campaigns. As the Freedom Socialist Party says on its website

Working class voters deserve candidates who will fight for their interests. By publicizing a provocative platform of much needed and achievable demands under any rational system, FSP candidates are on the cutting edge. Win or lose, we move the political debate into areas that never would be discussed otherwise, and present a cogent, leftwing alternative to the Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Greens who all support capitalists.

It would be an honor to be on the PFP ‘s ticket for the California 2012 Presidential Election.

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Submitted on 4/1/12