Commentary

NEW YORK — Last week at a demonstration in Times Square marking the 2,000th American death in the Iraq war, I saw an old friend and asked if he was working for Fernando Ferrer. He said that although he’d probably vote for him, he wasn’t “enthusiastic.”

I told him I was enthusiastic — very. When was the last time we had a chance to vote for someone who advocates taxing Wall Street profits? When was the last time we had a chance to vote for a candidate for mayor who actually hails from New York’s working class?

Progressives of all races and nationalities should be lining up to volunteer in this historic campaign. To sit it out and blame Ferrer’s supposed shortcomings is to miss the point — completely.

It is missing the point to ignore Ferrer’s solid record and campaign positions in favor of working people on every issue, including the big ones — housing, jobs and education. On that last issue alone we should work our hardest to elect Ferrer, because unlike Bloomberg, he would fight Albany for the billions of dollars it owes our public schools. Ferrer has solid proposals for building affordable housing. He advocates economic development that would provide the kind of good-paying jobs that are a requirement for surviving in this city.

To be “unenthusiastic” about Ferrer is also to completely miss the point of Bloomberg’s game plan for NYC — which would surely continue into a second term — namely, taking a hard, pro-business line on union contracts and services for poor and working-class people while giving Republican-run Albany and Washington a pass. Last-minute campaign promises notwithstanding, there is every reason to believe that Bloomberg would continue and even accelerate the pro-landlord, pro-developer, pro-corporate direction of his first term.

And speaking of Washington: does anyone doubt that the Republican Party will celebrate if Bloomberg is re-elected in overwhelmingly Democratic and majority Black, Latino and Asian New York City? So I’m enthusiastic — very — about doing whatever I can to deny Bush and company that celebration.

And last but not least: to take a pass on this election, to give up, is to miss an even more fundamental point, that is, the value of the struggle itself.

Because, after all, the point is to move people into action and to build a stronger, more united movement for social justice, even when the odds are against the people.

The point is to fight for working people’s right to participate in the political life of our communities. The point is to demand equality and a voice.

The point is to build real relationships based on grassroots work on issues of common concern, issues that won’t go away after Nov. 8, and relationships that will be the basis for continued struggle.

As we go into the home stretch, and despite Bloomberg’s record-breaking spending spree, the Ferrer campaign is in a fighting mood. In the Oct. 30 debate, Ferrer clearly demonstrated the difference between his program and Bloomberg’s. He sharply and effectively took Bloomberg to task for his anti-people Republican record.

Campaign workers say the spirit of that fight is growing, and that what will count in the end are people responding to the message that was expressed at an East Harlem rally last weekend: “Nuestros votos no se venden!” (Our votes are not for sale!)

And when you’re out in the street campaigning, it’s clear that many people — regular New Yorkers — get the point. The Ferrer campaign is counting on those regular New Yorkers who are increasingly being priced out of the city, on Local 1199ers, on the Puerto Ricans and other Latinos who are inspired by this first Puerto Rican candidate for mayor, on the African American community whose political sophistication is a factor in every election.

The bigger the turnout, the better for the struggles ahead, whether or not Ferrer is able to overcome the lead that Bloomberg has secured with his political power and his personal fortune.

Win or lose, this fight is clearly the place to be for everyone who cares about what the future holds for New Yorkers, for our city’s multiracial, multinational, immigrant, working-class neighborhoods, for our right to political representation and democracy.

Elena Mora (emora@cpusa.org) is chair of the New York District of the Communist Party USA.

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