Saturday, June 12, 2004

The Nader Factor: Getting Beyond Blame to the Deeper Issues

Re: Blaming Nader for Their Own Mistakes:
Democrat Snipers Target Nader, while Ralph
Has Other Problems of His Own Making

by Carl Davidson

A good number of progressives are upset with Ralph Nader as a "spoiler." But so-called "third party spoilers" are a symtom of progressive movements' problems in the electoral arena, not the cause.

The real causes are reactionary structures --winner-take-all primaries, court rulings against fusion candidates in all but two states, no proportional representation or instant runoff balloting, and so on. If any party wants to protect itself against "spoiler candidates" in a democractic way, the solution is to get rid of these causes. Telling people they can't run is a backward non-solution.

Nor are these structural issues the only causes. Others are outright electoral fraud and theft, are was done with the Black vote in Florida in 2000. This was the most direct racist cause of Bush's "victory", and to blame Nader for it only conciliates and covers up the GOP's racism.

Besides, even if one accepted the false logic, why limit it to Nader? Why not blame Monica Moorehead of the Workers World Party? She got 1500 votes in Florida which theoretically put Gore over the edge? Or why not blame Gore for losing Tennessee? Or, turn it around and blame or credit, as the case may be, Ross Perot for Bill Clinton in an earlier contest?

I like the Greens and Nader, with some differences in his tilt toward protectionism. But if he runs this time, I won't be voting for him. Having said that, however, unlike a few of my friends, I have no problem with any qualified candidate running for president any time, including Nader or a Green. It's their right and it broadens the spectrum of choice for everyone. That's a good thing for democracy.

But if he does run, I might have a serious quarrel with his tactics. Where does he aim the main blow? At Bush and the NeocCons? Or at the "conciliators" and "social props" of Bush and the NeoCons, ie, the Democrats, especially the Democrats with some sympathy or support in the progressive movements?

This is an old question first posed by R. Palme Dutt in his classic work, "Fascism and Social Revolution," supported by the 6th Comintern in 1928 and later repudiated by Dimitrov at the 7th Comintern later in the 1930s.

Dutt argued that the main blow had to be aimed the the "social fascist" "twins" of fascism, the Social Democrats, since they were really propping up Hitler and we had to get them, the Social Democrats, out of the way first. This didn't work out too well in practice.

I'm not too fond of analogies from one historical period to another--they tend to raise as many issues as they seemingly answer--but the question for Nader, the Greens, and all of us remains--Where do we want to aim the main blow in this election and which approach helps us to better strengthen progressive organization and alliances at the base?

Does Nader mainly want to expand the electorate and bring in new voters? Or does he mainly want to reduce the number of Democratic voters? Given our present setup, these are not unimportant questions for any progressive third party candidate at any time.

Finally, how is a campaign like Nader's helping to build independent grass roots organization? Perhaps I'm wrong and I know things are different elsewhere, but I don't see the Greens here in Illinois (unfortunately) being much stronger today than they were before the last Nader campaign.

My views are out there; I'd like to hear from others.

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