1) Want REAL Change? Support Cynthia McKinney's Power to the People Presidential Campaign!
Barack Obama is creating a buzz on the political scene such as we have not seen in a long time -- particularly among Black voters and youth. He is forging an electoral grassroots movement that is channeling a lot of the discontent of the American people with the powers-that-be.
Speaking in San Antonio, Texas, on the eve of that state's primary election, Obama sharply denounced the "Bush-McCain course, which threatens a century of war in Iraq, a course where we will spend billions of dollars a week that could be used to rebuild our roads and our schools, and to take care of our veterans and send our children to college."
Obama went on to decry "four more years of tax breaks for the rich, with the argument that we should give more to those with the most and let the chips fall where they may ... in a course that further divides Wall Street from Main Street." He compared Hillary Clinton to John McCain, and said that both are good at "giving speeches but not at providing solutions."
Responding to Hillary, he said, "There is nothing empty about the call for affordable healthcare, or jobs at a living wage, or secure pensions, or ensuring the birth-right of every child in this country to live a full, healthy and safe life." And echoing the Rev. Jesse Jackson, he concluded, "Our task is to set the country on a new course, to keep hope alive, to keep promise alive!"
All this sounds fine and good, and many people across the country are buying into it. Obama is viewed as an outsider, a new kid on the block, someone who just might be able to shake things up. Working people and the poor are hurting; they are anguished. They are hoping against hope that Obama will make a difference.
What Are Obama's Policy Solutions? Obama's message for change is compelling, but the question people need to be asking is how does Obama expect to do all these wonderful things when all his actual policy solutions point in the opposite direction.
* Take the question of rebuilding our roads and schools, taking care of our veterans and sending our children to college: How can this be done without drastically slashing the war budget and redirecting our priorities toward meeting human needs? It can't. Is Obama proposing cutting the war budget or curbing the militarism and interventionist policies of the U.S. government? Not for a minute.
Obama is a hawk when it comes to Israel, Iran and U.S. policy in the Middle East. His big objection is that Bush did not go after the "real terrorist states." Obama called for a nuclear attack, if necessary, against Iran and supports U.S. intervention in Pakistan, if necessary, to dislodge Al Qaeda and to prevent "rogue states" from building nuclear weapons. His statements, public and widely distributed, were praised highly by major sectors of the military-industrial complex. Obama simply wants to shift Bush's "endless war" to other hot spots around the world. * How about providing jobs for all at a living wage? Can this be done without breaking with all the corporate "free trade" and privatization agreements? It can't. Is Obama proposing to break with these agreements? Not at all.
Obama, like Clinton, is a supporter of NAFTA, CAFTA and "free trade." Both Clinton and Obama talk about including workers' and environmental rights in these "free trade" agreements -- which is nothing more than a sweetener to get working people to swallow the bitter pill of "free trade." Such clauses do not change the anti-worker and anti-environment character of these treaties. Obama walked out of the room during the U.S.-Peru FTA vote in Congress last summer -- so as not to upset his labor constituents -- but he praised the bill in the media, just as he praised "free trade" in his private meetings with Canadian political leaders prior to the Ohio primary. On this score, there is no difference between him and Hillary. * How about providing healthcare for all? Can this be done without removing the private insurance companies from the healthcare equation and instituting a single-payer healthcare system? It can't. Is Obama proposing to do this? Not at all.
Obama calls for a "free market" solution that keeps the HMOs in the driver's seat, maintaining the exorbitant administrative costs and profits in an industry that is sicker by the day. He does not propose "individual mandates," as Hillary does, but his "universal message" would barely place a band-aid on a system that needs fundamental reform -- through a Canadian-style, single-payer system. * And how about the "birth-right of every child in this country" to have a decent future? Should this not also apply to all immigrant children (and to their parents) -- whether legal or "illegal"?
Yet both Obama and Hillary voted to extend the Wall of Shame along the U.S. border. They support militarizing the border, employer sanctions and other such repressive measures against undocumented immigrants. They are strongly opposed to full and immediate legalization/amnesty. * And how about closing the gap between Wall Street and Main Street? Can this be done without making the rich pay their fair share of taxes (not simply ending the Bush tax cuts) and radically redistributing the wealth in this country? It can't.
Obama says we have to go beyond race and class, but he offers only a general promise for change, in partnership with Corporate America. But can this corporate-dominated economic and political system be "humanized" by pleas from Obama for change? Can racial oppression and class exploitation be overcome in alliance with the bosses, in the framework of the two-party system, and with vague pleas for change? Obviously not.
How Can We Promote Real Change?
Many prominent political activists have gotten behind Barack Obama, arguing that giving "critical support" to Obama is the best way to hold him accountable and push him to the left.
We disagree. The Democratic Party, as history has demonstrated time and again, is the graveyard of all social protest movements. Pointing working people toward the Democratic Party, however "critically," is to foster dangerous illusions in the institutional framework of U.S. imperialism and to mislead folks as to how progressive change can be brought about.
If the Democrats don't self-destruct at their upcoming Denver convention over the issue of "superdelegates" or what to do about the Michigan and Florida primaries -- and if Obama is actually the Democratic nominee and is then elected president -- one cannot exclude the possibility that he could be forced to go further than his program or even intentions would suggest in addressing some of the concerns of the American people.
But this pressure won't come from folks caught up in the workings of the Democratic Party. The only possibility of pushing Obama to address some of the people's needs is if -- and ONLY if -- there is an INDEPENDENT movement built to advance consciously the issues that are on the front-burner for the people of this country -- particularly for the Black people and youth, who are Obama's main constituency.
It was the Civil Rights Movement, after all, that won the Civil Rights Act -- not LBJ, as Hillary would have us believe. We even won this with a Republican Chief Justice.
If Obama is elected president, this electoral movement, with its heightened expectations and illusions, is bound to come up against, and clash with, the realities of the policies implemented by Obama. Supporters of the Democratic Party will no doubt tell us -- as they have done countless times in the past with other Democratic Party presidents -- to give Obama more time and a wider political space to act, and not to push him prematurely (so as not to awaken the Republican sharks waiting to attack him).
We will be told -- including by many of Obama's "critical supporters" -- to be patient, and then more patient, while at that very same time Obama puts into place the corporatist-type structures used so craftily by the ruling parties and institutions in Europe in the recent period (both of the right and of the so-called left) to co-opt, silence, demobilize and ultimately demoralize the working class and social protest movements.
Central Importance of Cynthia McKinney Campaign
This is why Cynthia McKinney's "Power to the People" candidacy is so important today. Brother Larry Pinkney, an editorial board member of Black Commentator, explained it this way:
"Sister Cynthia McKinney has both the credibility and the capacity to truly excite the people in a substantive vs. superficial fashion; and can inspire people to see that they themselves / we ourselves are the only viable solution to the Republicrats and their flawed and corrupt electoral system. We must move the people from being excited about meaningless superficialities that do nothing to address systemic change -- to being excited about substance that is the catalyst for systemic change."
McKinney's independent campaign is needed to lay the groundwork for building an independent political movement for real change -- a movement that needs a political instrument: a Reconstruction Party.
This sentiment was expressed concisely by Washington, D.C., activist Netfa Freeman on his blog:
"We need to be about the business of thinking and acting outside the box and building political parties that are outside the box, parties that serve the economic, social, and political interests of the masses of people. This is precisely why the candidacy of former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney for President and the Power To The People Coalition is of such enormous importance for the present and for the future. This coalition is all about collectively laying the foundation for systemic change -- which is the only way that we can enjoy real change."
On January 26, a meeting of the National Organizing Committee for a Reconstruction Party took place in New Orleans with the participation of delegates from seven states, mainly from the South. The meeting produced a powerful Draft Manifesto for a Reconstruction Party that can be accessed by visiting the website of Sister Cynthia McKinney at www.allthingscynthiamckinney.com.
This Draft Manifesto, which is still a work-in progress, puts forward very clear solutions to the front-burner needs and demands of the people in this country -- particularly for African Americans and all other oppressed sectors of society.
The time is now. We urge all unionists and political activists to (1) read and distribute widely this Draft Manifesto for a Reconstruction Party, (2) get behind the Cynthia McKinney "Power to the People" presidential campaign, and (3) contact the coordinators of the National Organizing Committee for a Reconstruction Party in New Orleans by writing to . -- The Editors
Cynthia McKinney Speaks Out at U. of Maryland
[Note: On February 19, Cynthia McKinney, presidential candidate of the Power to the People coalition, addressed a gathering of students, faculty and activists at the University of Marlyand in College Park, Md. Her 59-minute speech was broadcast live on C-Span and can be viewed at: www.cspanarchives.org/library/index.php?main_page=product_video_info&products_id=204109-1&highlight=mckinney. We are reprinting below brief excerpts from this speech. -- The Editors]
On Breaking With the Democratic Party
It was on my birthday, March 17, that in front of the Pentagon I declared my independence. I watched as the Democratic majority in Congress decided to vote to support funding for the war. And of course I had participated in every antiwar demonstration that I possibly could . those in Washington, Chicago, New York, California. And this antiwar position -- stopping an atrocity -- became very important to me.
When the Democratic majority could have voted to stop the war funding, they didn't. When the Democratic majority could have voted to institute a livable wage, they didn't. When the Democratic majority could have voted to roll back the Patriot Act, the Secret Evidence Act, and the Military Tribunals Act, they didn't. And the Bush tax cuts; they didn't. I had had enough of "didn'ts" and wanted to go where I could go to find people who would, and who were committed to doing something. And that's what I did.
On the 10-Point Reconstruction Platform
I recently have joined with the Hurricanes Rita and Katrina survivors. From the various places that they have been displaced to from around the country, they have decided to come together and put forth a platform of political action so that their voices won't be forgotten in this important election season. They have come up with a 10-point plan called the Reconstruction Platform.
1) The 10-point plan starts with freedom. They want freedom now, and they say that freedom consists of election integrity. How is it that we can hold elections and not be sure that the results actually reflect the will of the voters? They want voter choice. They want civil liberties, and they want their survivor rights, as enshrined in the proceedings of the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
2) They want full employment now. That includes the right to organize, the repeal of Free Trade agreements, greening the economy and jobs at a livable wage. If workers' pay rate had increased equivalent to the increase in CEO pay in this country, the minimum wage would be $22/hour according to the Institute for Policy Studies.
3) The Reconstruction Platform also calls for Reparations Now! They want a budget for human needs instead of corporate greed that includes a single-payer form of healthcare in our country.
4) They want an end to police brutality.
5) They also call for an end to the drug war. They say that the drug war is an attack on truth, is an attack on justice, is an attack on people whose problem is addiction.
6) They call for an end to prisons for profit. They call for release of political prisoners like Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier. It makes no sense that our country is the incarceration capital of the world.
7) They call for protection of the environment and recognition that we have got to green our lifestyle in this country. We need to do more than reduce waste. We need to change the way we live in this country, and war is not an acceptable energy policy.
8) We should end militarism. We should not have our soldiers stationed all over the world. We have much more to offer the world than our military might. But sadly 90% of our security budget gives to the world a view of our military force.
9.) We should institute a Department of Peace. We should end the militarization of space, and we should dismantle Africom. The last thing we need to send to Africa is a military command.
10) Finally, we need to stand for peace. We need peace now!
The Reconstruction Platform is the political expression of people who are hurricane survivors and those who support their political aspirations. The Reconstruction Party does not yet exist, but the aspirations for the party and its membership, as reflected in the platform, is in the process of being formulated.
What does that have to do with the Green Party? Everything, because I am a part of the Green Party now. What we are finding is that the two-party system has failed to support the needs of the Internally Displaced People who are survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. They, in an act of self-empowerment, have decided they want a political expression. And I would be very hopeful all Greens would support the political expression of those who find themselves outside the two-party paradigm.
On Universal Struggles
The embodiment of the 10-point Reconstruction Platform as espoused by the Reconstruction Movement can help to create the sort of movement in this country that actually got me involved in politics. That's what we don't have now. We need a movement in this country.
We know one thing for sure, when we read the counter-intelligence program papers, the one thing we know more than anything else is that the powers that be are afraid of a room that looks like this. They are afraid of Black people and white people and people of all religions and backgrounds coming together to move our country forward. They are afraid of that.
You know what? We need to make them afraid.
3) MORE VOICES FOR MCKINNEY
It is interesting that the nation's punditocracy, the talking heads who act like verbal sheepdogs of the American fleece, have almost totally ignored one candidate who can, in her single self, embody, not just the illusion, but the reality of "change", experience, a demonstrated stand against the Iraq War, and a life of living female.
I speak, of course, of Cynthia McKinney, the bold, outspoken former congresswoman from Georgia, who spoke out against the Iraq War when it wasn't popular. Her record of speaking out against the U.S. war machine, the military-industrial complex, and other issues of concern is head and shoulders above any of the other candidates running for office, on either party.
She has been politically courageous in many of her stands, which has made her persona non grata among both Republicans and Democrats. That's because she's not a corporate candidate. She's proven in her career as a member of Congress that she won't be bought off. Of who else running today can the same be said?
Wouldn't Cynthia McKinney be a significant change?
-- Mumia Abu-Jamal, political prisoner, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania
Cynthia Mckinney was too real and honest for the Democratic Party, so they used back-room maneuvers to get rid of her. Unfortunately she received only a minimum of support and no real protests from her fellow Democrats. She is truly a role model for America.
-- Wallace Nixon, writer activist, Mexico City
Cynthia McKinney will bring real change. All the candidates of the two corporate parties will continue the same policies. There may be minor, cosmetic changes in the war, such as moving U.S. troops from one country to another in the Middle East; or dressing up NAFTA with some more addenda that don't bind anyone. We've already seen this with the NAFTA side agreements on workers' rights and environmental issues. These addenda have been ignored; they are useless -- just as they would be useless if introduced into the body of these agreements. Sister McKinney is speaking out against this corporate agenda that pits workers against the other across borders to further the corporate agenda. We must look beyond party labels to the ideals expressed by the candidates. Go Cynthia!
-- Helen Spalding, retired AFSCME unionist, Bay View, Ohio
While I don't support the Green Party, former Georgia member of Congress, Cynthia McKinney is running on the GP ticket for president. She has no problems being human, honoring her Black heritage, and standing up to corporate imperialism. To realize a truly singular moment, think outside the Republicrat box!
-- Dr. Lenore Jean Daniels, writer/columnist, Black Commentator, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Cynthia McKinney is the greatest contemporary voice for African contemporary and historic justice.
-- Donald H. Smith, Ph.D.. Associate Provost and Professor (Emeritus), Baruch College, the City University of New York
4) EXCERPTS FROM DRAFT MANIFESTO FOR A RECONSTRUCTION PARTY
1. Freedom Now!
For an economic system that provides opportunity, security, and dignity for all. For the elimination of all disparities in health care, education, wages, home ownership, and social justice.
End racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, gentrification, and police terror.
Repeal the Patriot Acts, the Secret Evidence Act, the Military Commissions Act, and other legislation that rolls back bedrock civil liberties.
For an electoral system that allows true representation and that ensures that all votes are counted.
2. Full Employment Now!
For massive infrastructure investments and a greening of our economy that can also put people to work.
Repeal NAFTA, CAFTA, the Caribbean FTA, and the U.S.-Peru FTA.
Justice for immigrant workers, including an end to the guest-worker program riddled with abuses.
For immigration reform that includes amnesty and a path to documentation of those workers who are already in this country, have been here working for years, and who are undocumented.
Workers must be free to organize unions wherever and whenever they choose.
For a complete overhaul of our country's labor laws, beginning with the repeal of Taft-Hartley, to ban scabbing, to stop the unjust firing of union organizers, and to enable workers to exercise their voices at work.
For equal pay for equal work. It is intolerable that women and minorities performing the same job as white men receive less pay.
3. Self-Determination and Reparations Now!
The U.S. government never kept its promise to former slaves of the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules.
Forty acres and two mules were promised as restitution for slave labor and the mass murder of Black people. Enduring racial disparities reflect the U.S. government's failure to address the reality and the vestiges of Black poverty in this country. Hurricane Katrina is but a manifestation of the generations of previous neglect combined with current neglect.
Restitution, self-determination and reparations Now!
4. Resources for Human Needs Now!
For full reproductive rights for women -- for legal rights and safe access to comprehensive prenatal and postnatal/infant care; family planning services and contraception, including "morning after" medication; and abortion.
Defend and strengthen laws ensuring clinic access and that expand services to women and children fleeing domestic violence.
For a universal access, single-payer, health care system.
For subsidized higher education; no student should graduate from college or university tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. For affordable childcare in order to facilitate lifelong learning by parents.
For affordable housing for the working class and homeless throughout this country struggling to make ends meet. Stop the senseless destruction of public housing in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Housing is a fundamental human right that we must protect and extend.
Stop giving outrageous sums of money to the Pentagon.
Repeal the Bush tax cuts and make the rich pay their fair share. Take appropriate steps to regain control over our monetary system.
5. Stop the War at Home Now!
Free the hundreds of political activists falsely imprisoned by COINTELPRO and similar programs from the 1960s to the present.
End the disparities in sentencing and in the criminal justice system as a whole. Change these policies and punish those guilty of the racial profiling that often result in disparate treatment at each step of an encounter with the criminal justice system.
6. End to the War on Drugs Now!
End the lies of the U.S. government around its own participation in the spread of drugs into poor communities in this country.
The war on drugs provides cover for U.S. military intervention in foreign countries; militarization is used to put down all social protest movements in countries like Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and elsewhere.
We need a budget focused on prevention and treatment. We need to end the funding of Plan Colombia and Plan Mexico and other militarized "plans" enacted that fund and support a failed drug policy at home and abroad.
7. End Prisons for Profit Now!
End the privatization of prisons and prison health services. End the racism that serves as an engine of growth for a profit-driven prison system. End the prison labor schemes that are little more than corporate subsidies that provide little training or rehabilitation for inmates. Race and class must not serve as the primary determinants of punishment. End to the death penalty.
Public policy solutions must focus on reconciliation and restorative justice.
8. Environmental Protection Now!
Our forests must be protected and restored. We want renewable energy, and we don't want policies that pit food production against energy production.
Stop the production and pervasiveness of toxic chemicals in our environment. Workers should not be exposed to toxic work conditions.
End environmental racism. Communities should be preserved and local economies using local resources should be encouraged. End the child labor, forced labor, and other illegal or unethical activity included in the goods we consume.
9. End to Militarism Now!
All U.S. troops stationed in more than 100 countries around the world must come home now. All homeless veterans must be off the streets and in veterans' homes. Keep the promise to veterans of free health care for a lifetime.
Military recruiters out of our schools and off our campuses. End all funding for war, products for war, preparation for war, intelligence for war or funds used to destabilize other countries, or to maintain or expand U.S. military presence at home or abroad. End the expanding police state at home.
The billions of dollars currently spent on militarizing domestic and foreign policies, and in weaponizing space must be spent on human needs and to alleviate human suffering.
10. Peace Now!
The two parties of corporate rule are not offering this vision of peace and partnership. We must reject the policies of political and economic destabilization that we have witnessed played out on the African Continent, in Latin America (particularly in Venezuela and in Bolivia), in the Caribbean and the Muslim world, and in Asia is urgently needed.
End all wars and occupations by U.S. forces, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. We need an immediate cessation of funding for war.
Prosecute all individuals guilty of violating the law, including having committed or authorized crimes against humanity, crimes against the peace, torture, or war crimes. We need a complete renunciation of the pre-emptive war doctrine.
Respect the right of all peoples to self-determination. Sadly, the Bush-Pelosi war policy is a formula for endless global conflict, deterioration of the rule of law among nations, and growing impoverishment, indebtedness and evisceration of civil liberties at home. This must stop!
[Note: For a full copy of the Draft Manifesto for a Reconstruction Party, a work in progress, please visit Cynthia McKinney's website at www.allthingscynthiamckinney.com.]