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Why Workers World is endorsing Cynthia McKinney for president

May 10, 2008

Workers World newspaper in the past has supported the candidates of Workers World Party running for national office in the U.S. presidential elections and who have put forward a revolutionary socialist program. This time we are taking the unusual step of endorsing the candidacy of Cynthia McKinney because these are unique times and this is a unique candidate.

McKinney, a courageous Black woman and former U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia, has become one of the most militant leaders and voices for the U.S. left, progressive and Black movements.

Because of her militancy in the struggle against the war, the struggle to impeach Bush, as well as her struggle to expose the government’s role in the displacement of survivors of Hurricane Katrina, she was branded too Black and too radical to walk the halls of Congress. She was pushed out, not once but twice, by the leadership of the Democratic Party. Last year, McKinney severed her ties to that party.

On July 12, McKinney and her running mate, activist Rosa Clemente, won the Green Party’s nomination to run for president and vice-president, respectively. The Green Party’s nomination will put McKinney on the ballot in about 20 states, which is no small thing in the U.S. where the ruling class has made it very hard for any electoral formation independent of, and even slightly to the left of, the two major ruling-class parties to get ballot status. The Green Party is not the reason why we are supporting McKinney.

McKinney’s “Power to the People Campaign” gets most of its program from the draft program of the still-in-formation Reconstruction Party. Activists in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, together with supporters nationwide, have been developing a Reconstruction Party as a mass political vehicle to fight for the reconstruction of the Gulf and justice for Katrina survivors.

The draft program of the Reconstruction Party is inspired by the program of the original Black Panther Party. The Reconstruction Party draft program calls for, among other things: self-determination for Black people, the relocation of displaced survivors of Katrina back to the Gulf, jobs, healthcare and housing, reparations for Black people, an end to racist terror and political repression, an end to the prison-industrial complex and an end to the war.

McKinney’s campaign is laying the foundation for a radical coalition of Black, Latin@, Asian and Indigenous activists, trade unionists, progressives and revolutionaries. This is important and timely.

We have no illusions regarding the difficulty that McKinney’s campaign will face, because this presidential election is like none other before it.

The economic crisis and prospects for class struggle

Barack Obama is the first Black person to be the nominee of a ruling-class party, and he could be the first Black president of the U.S. Many are understandably excited about Obama’s candidacy, especially Black people.

No matter how far Obama moves to the right, most likely Black people are going to come out in unprecedented numbers in November in the hopes of achieving something that very few thought possible a year ago. Apart from Black voters, many others will vote for Obama in November for reasons that are historically progressive. And some will not vote for Obama because of his name, because they think he’s Muslim and because he’s Black.

Race, or what some of us call the national question, is central to this year’s election.

But then there is the negative side to this contradictory development. Should Obama win the election (a prospect that shouldn’t be considered certain), the U.S. imperialist ruling class will have a gifted Black politician to help them save their troubled empire. An Obama presidency as the face of an imperialist state will not change anything fundamental, but on the surface it will mark a change, a new situation.

The U.S. capitalist class desperately needs to try something new to help them with their overlapping crises of deepening economic turmoil and imperialist war. In the board rooms of Wall Street, some are, no doubt, hoping that someone like Obama can delay or derail an uprising against widespread depression-level social conditions, or at least be the scapegoat for the unbearable misery that the ruling class has in store for workers.

The Obama phenomenon is more than anything else a sign that the period of political reaction, which has held the working class back and weakened revolutionary movements, organizations and their revolutionary ideas, is coming to an end.

No matter who wins the election, the magnitude of the spiraling crisis of world imperialism, centered here in the U.S., is going to challenge all the forces who share an anti-imperialist, working-class-centered socialist orientation to put aside narrow views, sectarian habits and small differences that have festered during a long and demoralizing period of world reaction.

The material conditions for resurgence of the working class may sooner than later reach levels not seen in this country since the 1930s. In order for the working-class movement to grow politically and organizationally, it will take time, experience in the class struggle, and the assistance of conscious political forces who are dedicated to reviving the struggle.

What is required of all of us who consider ourselves among the dedicated? At a minimum it is a higher level of clarity, seriousness, confidence, solidarity and coalition building.

McKinney’s campaign is Black-led, anti-imperialist, working-class-centered and has a multinational radical base with the potential of unlimited growth.

Of course, we believe that the struggle should not be confined to the electoral arena, especially as the capitalist ruling class completely dominates the electoral process. We must be in the streets fighting the war, fighting foreclosures and evictions, fighting in solidarity with immigrant workers, etc. However, Workers World believes that supporting the McKinney campaign is a step forward towards the path that the movement needs to take.

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