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Make Your Vote Count for Socialism
Posted on Feb 28, 2012
By Scott Tucker
Stewart Alexander believes fair elections are worth a fair fight and he’s asking for your vote. The Occupy Wall Street movement encouraged a more honest discussion of class and capitalism in this country, but Alexander is not simply a critic of big banks and high finance. He is a democratic socialist, an African-American community activist and the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party in 2012.
Alexander believes the candidate of “hope and change” is a defender of the status quo and of corporate rule. In his words:
“The phrase that came to mind immediately upon hearing President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech is ‘too little, too late.’ After spending the last few years coddling the banks and the richest 1 percent, Obama has the nerve to now call for ‘economic fairness.’ To him, this means tweaking payroll taxes and making a rhetorical call to reverse the Bush tax cuts for the rich. For working people in America, real fairness means the right to a job, a guarantee of health care for all and an end to the military-industrial complex. Obama won’t deliver this. That’s why I am running for president against him.”
The boom-and-bust cycles of capitalism require a semblance of representative government, even though Congress has become the front office of the corporate state. Even the most “progressive” reforms of the tax code now proposed by career politicians remain a form of institutionalized robbery of the working and middle classes.
“This is why,” Alexander says, “we propose creating a progressive tax structure where the rich pay far more than the average working person. In a democratic socialist society neither Obama nor Romney would be allowed to pay an effective tax rate of 26 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Corporate taxation, financial gains taxes and personal income taxes will be modernized—all loopholes will be closed and the rich will pay a steep tax on their income. This is what economic fairness looks like to a socialist.”
Is a radical revision of the tax code the whole program of democratic socialism? No, but it is certainly one reform consistent with social democracy in the realm of the economy. Alexander is not simply a “left-wing Keynesian” reformer. After all, economist Paul Krugman plays that part admirably in the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times. Krugman repeatedly insists that the Obama administration must ramp up a “stimulus package” that might actually stimulate, rather than stifle, the economy. But Krugman would need genuine social democrats in the White House to listen to his advice, whereas Obama has filled his inner circle with Wall Street aristocrats such as Timothy Geithner. Alexander’s reform of the tax code has a much deeper foundation in workplace democracy, and in working class solidarity across national borders.
Alexander has also been a strong critic of Obama’s “continuation of the Bush era security state policies.” He has the same moral fire and political clarity as Eugene Debs, a Socialist presidential candidate who won 6 percent of the national vote in 1912, and gained more than 900,000 votes in 1920 even when he was behind bars at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. Debs called for working class unity against war and imperialism, and he paid a high price. We now live under a regime of escalating state surveillance and police repression, and Alexander’s class conscious policy of peacemaking will not earn him a Nobel Peace Prize:
“Obama’s approval of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) annihilates centuries of civil rights protections,” Alexander writes. “The president now has the right to indefinitely jail any citizen in America without having to work within the protections of habeas corpus. Added to the NDAA is the fact that, as I write this, Bradley Manning is rotting in a jail cell. Manning is Obama’s prisoner—a moral testament to the president’s commitment to continue the job of restricting civil liberties.”
Alexander was born in Newport News, Va., in 1951. He was one of eight children of Stewart Alexander, a brick mason and minister, and Ann E. McClenney, a nurse and housewife. In 1953, the family moved to the community of Watts in Los Angeles. Bricklaying and masonry jobs were scarcer in Los Angeles, and the family endured some hard times. At the age of 16, Alexander worked nights with his father cleaning airport terminals.
In the late ’60s, Alexander attended George Washington High School in Los Angeles County. Though integration of public schools had become public policy, the foundation of the educational system fractured along lines of race and class. By the time Alexander graduated from high school in 1970, the school had fewer than 50 white students. This was part of a wider social pattern that became known as “white flight.”
In December 1970, Alexander joined the Air Force and trained as a transportation and cargo specialist. Later he attended college full time at a Cal State University campus. One professor actively discouraged his studies, and when he quit college he began working 40-plus hours a week as a stocking clerk. During this time he married his first wife, Freda Alexander, and they had one son.
After working as a licensed general contractor and with Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank, Calif., he returned to Los Angeles and applied for a job as a warehouseman and forklift driver. Though his military experience made him well qualified for the job, the warehouse manager refused to interview him. Only the threat of a lawsuit (including filing a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) gained him the interview and the job.
The manager later confessed to Alexander that it was his policy to hire only blacks who were “twice as good” as whites on the job. Having fought to get that job, being “twice as good” also meant that Alexander (one of only two African-Americans among 200 employees) had to work more than twice as hard.
During this time Alexander began working with civic and community groups, including the NAACP. He later traveled to Tampa, Fla., working as a grocery clerk and as an organizer with the Florida Consumer Action Network (FCAN). In 1986, Ralph Nader was the guest speaker at the state convention of FCAN, and Alexander joined him in political discussions during the event. Alexander also worked briefly with an affiliate organization, the Long Island Citizens Campaign. Both groups were formed to protect the environment and the health and safety of consumers.
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