Feb 04 2013

Oil Millionaire’s Speech Shows Why Democratic Party Needs Left Opposition

Source: Peace and Freedom Party

Statement by Kevin Akin, State Chair, Peace and Freedom Party

Posted on January 25, 2013 by the Communications Committee

With some admirable rhetorical flourishes, Gov. Jerry Brown’s State of the State speech on January 24th celebrated the opportunities ahead for California – that is, corporate opportunities, and opportunities for the owners of those corporations. Except for some talk about education and jobs, the needs and rights of working people were basically missing. Expansion of the rights of workers, particularly those at the bottom of the wage scale, didn’t appear in Brown’s vision for California. And in kissing up to the corporate rich, Brown went so far as to urge crippling the Environmental Quality Act to smooth the way for the destructive efforts of corporate developers and polluters.

There are progressive Democrats in the Legislature, but even with a Democratic Party super-majority, Brown made it clear that the Era of Limits (on workers) continues. Brown vetoed an expansion of labor rights for home-care workers, and they are not included in his rosy predictions. Farm workers continue to be denied their labor rights, as growers and contractors resist unionization with unfair and even illegal tactics, with no real enforcement and Brown-approved regulations that make union representation victories almost impossible, no matter what the workers want. Despite the sentiments of rank-and-file Democrats and some in the Legislature, big money maintains its stranglehold on both big parties. Brown, an oil millionaire and the son of an oil millionaire (facts you did not see mentioned in his campaign literature), has resisted efforts to enforce a decent safety environment in California’s oil fields, or to impose a tax on oil extracted from California land. A state regulator who tried to improve oil field safety was summarily fired by Brown last year.

In part because the “top two” election system that was rammed through by corporate influence has eliminated party primaries and made money the key influence in all legislative elections, the Democratic Party has moved to the right this year. Corrupt “business Democrats” are now more numerous in the legislature, and they, with Brown, can and will kill workers rights legislation, with Brown set to veto whatever bills get through to his desk.

What choices do workers have when they vote in the 2014 June primary? They can vote for the Democrats and get little or nothing, or they can vote for Republicans and get even less, or they can vote for working-class Left candidates when they are available. Peace and Freedom Party candidates, who represent the interests of working people, offer an alternative that is truly pro-worker and pro-labor. They don’t get enough votes to win – yet. The great labor leader Eugene Debs said “it is better to vote for what you want, but not get it, than to vote for what you don’t want, and get it.” If all the people who would benefit from enacting the Peace and Freedom Party platform voted for its candidates, they would win in a landslide. But people have been fooled into thinking that choosing between enemies is more “practical” than voting for their friends.

What California’s workers really need is a strong, empowered working-class Left, that challenges the Democrats from the Left. Not only would any Peace and Freedom Party candidates who were elected propose and support legislation that would directly benefit workers and their families, but Democrats protecting their left flanks would be more inclined to go along with laws that benefit workers. Fear of electoral defeat is a powerful motivator for legislators. When the only opposition is from the right, opportunists sidle off to the right. When there is a powerful threat to their jobs from the Left, they are much more willing to accommodate workers’ interests.

For these very practical reasons, the registration drive to build the size and influence of the Peace and Freedom Party is a key way for workers to fight for working-class power and better conditions for workers. Help build the threat to the “business-friendly” Democrats from the Left, and change California’s political landscape for the better. Register and vote Peace and Freedom Party!

Kevin Akin is the state chair of the California Peace and Freedom Party, and chair of the national Peace and Freedom Party Alliance.

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