We can critically support independent candidates

October 22, 2018

Lance Selfa comments on an ISO statement regarding an endorsement in New York.

I’M WRITING in response to the New York City ISO statement rescinding its endorsement of the Howie Hawkins/Jia Lee Green Party ticket in the upcoming gubernatorial election in New York (“The independent left must oppose Islamophobia”). While I find much with which I agree in the statement the New York comrades issued, I think their conclusion of rescinding their endorsement of Hawkins/Lee was mistaken.

As is clear from the statement, neither Hawkins nor Lee hold the toxic views that Jimmy Dore espouses. In fact, earlier this year, Hawkins participated in an event in Utica, New York, in support of the anti-Assadist forces in the Syrian revolution. Lee is a rank-and-file teachers’ union leader who has worked in solidarity with the struggle for education justice in Puerto Rico.

I don’t think either of the candidates’ commitments to international solidarity is in doubt, and in September, they announced plans to co-sponsor a number of panel discussions, including ones on Puerto Rico and Palestine.

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That they have accepted support from a radio host who holds pro-Assad views is regrettable. But it seems to me that this is a situation that calls for comradely criticism and debate, not for ultimatums.

In 2016, the ISO supported Jill Stein’s campaign for president, while openly criticizing the pro-Assad views of her running mate Ajamu Baraka. In 2004, we supported the Ralph Nader/Peter Camejo independent presidential ticket, while also publishing our criticisms of decisions that we thought undercut the campaign’s left-wing character.

In these cases, we thought that these campaigns’ attempts to offer an independent, left-wing alternative to the pull of a “lesser-evil” vote for capital’s political B team, the Democrats, was the fundamental reason to support them. We did not support them uncritically, and we didn’t hold back criticisms of them. To me, the same logic should apply to the Hawkins/Lee campaign.

It is even more crucial to stand up for a left-wing political alternative today, a period, as the statement notes, “in which the socialist movement is rapidly gaining momentum in the U.S.” but where much of that “movement” is tied to the Democratic Party.

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Recently, democratic socialist and soon-to-be U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed the Democratic ticket in New York, including the corrupt corporate Democrat Gov. Cuomo, and the nominally independent Working Families Party handed over its ballot line to Cuomo.

In my opinion, those actions do a greater disservice to the cause of “building a new party of the left” than the shortcomings of the Hawkins/Lee campaign. And when some socialists in the Democratic Socialists of America (of which Lee is a member) are arguing for support of Hawkins/Lee against the Democrats, it’s even more unfortunate that the ISO in New York has rescinded its support.

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