The People’s Weekly World editorial Nov. 9 commented on continuing the political struggle against Bush’s policies, domestic and foreign. Obviously all readers of this paper will agree, the question becomes how to reach the people who don’t subscribe or who don’t know our paper is here.
The issues of struggle that this editorial raises are important. I believe there is a broad popular majority among Americans who want to struggle for such things as jobs and economic security, comprehensive national health care, non-privatized Social Security, pension plan protection, immigrant rights, racial and gender equality, peace, disarmament and a humane and non-belligerent foreign policy.
My question is, can we be effective by trying to press the whole agenda at the same time? Or should we be more focused?
My gut feeling tells me we have to focus. For example, I recently attended a meeting called by the IBEW to thank people for the winning grassroots work we did in the Pima County, Ariz., election, and to indicate what needs to be done next. The number one correction that needs to be made, we were told, is to register the 50 percent or so of union members who are not now registered voters.
Certainly that is of highest importance. But is it enough, given the success of the Republican Party in the 2002 elections? I think not. (Forty percent of that union’s members are registered Republicans and vote as such.) The major task before us is to learn why 50 percent of the public does not vote. How do we get them involved? How do we influence them to become voters, vote on working-class issues and support working-class candidates?
I believe the message coming from the non-voters is this: ‘We no longer believe in the system. Neither of the major parties are addressing this fundamental question.’ This is not an easy problem. Throughout the history of our nation, there have been attempts to organize independent parties. For the most part these have failed, so that we still do not have an effective third party, and so we are left between the wall and a hard rock. Nonetheless, I agree with the Nov. 9 editorial that we cannot give up – we have to work and try harder.
Being so close to the Mexican border, the issue of a more humane and non-belligerent foreign policy appeals to me. We in Arizona and the Southwest have been struggling against the ever-increasing militarization of the border and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and the formation of paramilitary vigilante groupings.
I believe that a national demand to tear down the steel fences and dismantle the out-of-control INS (or put it under the Labor Department rather than the Department of Justice) would be a huge step in the direction of a humane and non-belligerent policy. What would replace it? A negotiated treaty between the two countries, with organized labor involved. Of course, such a change of message would be considered ‘radical and impossible.’ But this campaign would connect with many other struggles, including peace, social justice and the environment.
The second overwhelming issue involving citizens of Arizona is the ever-rising cost of protecting their health. That combined with the ‘right to work’ (for less) law, and the drive toward lower and lower wages, should provide the material for a platform to continue our grassroots organizing. My hope is that some of these ‘radical’ ideas will be reflected in 2004, for they are not so radical that they could not be accomplished.
Lorenzo Torrez is chair of the Communist Party of Arizona. He can be reached at email@example.com