This Saturday at about 4pm I went to the California Peace and Freedom Party's convention, at the Workmen's Circle in Los Angeles. After maybe an hour and a half of deliberation, the P&FP nominated Leonard Peltier for President. There had been an earlier, last-minute appeal by Ralph Nader at the convention hours earlier, although the primary voting (which had been advisory) had selected Peltier.
Peltier was acclaimed by a vote of about 16 to about 8 for Nader. There were thirty delegates in the tiny room where the statewide Party met.
Peltier's nomination represents another missed opportunity for the Ralph Nader for President campaign. But, even worse, it represents a missed opportunity for the California Peace and Freedom Party, who could have used the Nader/Camejo protest campaign as a major opportunity to promote socialism to an uninformed public.
Reasons for the Peace and Freedom Party's decision were given by the delegates in the tiny time-space given over to the process of selecting a Presidential candidate, within the tiny room where the decision was made. Each delegate was given one minute to explain his or her decision. Some delegates supported Ralph Nader as an opportunity to promote the Peace and Freedom Party, which lost ballot status between 1998 and 2003 because none of its 1998 candidates received 2% of the vote (the Peace and Freedom Party regained its ballot status by getting its registration total above 79,462 voters, an awfully small total in a state as huge as California. Many delegates disdained Ralph Nader as just another bourgeois millionaire. His campaign, however, is one of the few forces trying to incite class struggle anywhere in the US today, even if it doesn't come under that label and even if socialism still remains the word the so-called radicals are afraid to use.
What kind of socialism is it, that views socialist parties as the property of their possessors? What does it mean to proclaim that one is a leader in a socialist party, while at the same time insisting that socialism is one's "turf," to be jealously guarded against the meddling of outsiders? Isn't socialism to be given away, to as many people as possible?
Wasn't the point of nominating Nader/Camejo to put Nader/Camejo on the same slate as Marsha Feinland, so as to allow many many more people to know about the existence of P&F?
There are three reasons to have a political party:
#1) To invite people into the party for the sake of dominating them.
#2) To invite one's friends into the party for the sake of having a club of just one's friends.
#3) To invite the world into the party so as to give it a chance to change itself.
The Democrats and the Republicans have pretty much established themselves as partisans of strategy #1. The Greens might have worked toward #2 or #3 but now (with the Cobb candidacy) appear headed for #1, as an adjunct party of the Democrats.
And the Peace and Freedom Party? Looks to me like strategy #2 is the one they chose. A party for me and my friends. Hope we're cozy together. On the positive side, a tiny party of socialists is too small to attract the notice of the FBI, and ought to be able to fly under the radar for quite some time as long as it doesn't make waves.