AN OPEN LETTER TO RALPH NADER
March 27, 2004
Before you declared your candidacy, many people, including The Nation magazine and other former supporters, called on you not to run for President in 2004, fearing that your candidacy would lead to George Bush's re-election.
I am writing now to call on you to withdraw from the race, but for reasons having nothing to do with George Bush or John Kerry.
You said on "Meet the Press," when you announced your candidacy, that "there's a democracy gap" in our country, and I agree.
You said, "There's just too much power and wealth in too few hands, increasingly giant corporation hands, that have no allegiance to our country or our communities other than to control them or to abandon them. They have taken over Washington."
You said, "Washington is now a corporate-occupied territory."
You said "corporations are saying no to the necessities of the American people. They're saying no to health insurance for everyone, no to tax reform, no to health and safety standards, no to stopping corporate welfare into hundreds of billions, no to straightening out the defense budget..."
You said you believe that Al Gore would have invaded Iraq. You said, "He would have. I think he was a hawk. He may have done it in a different way." You said, "[Gore] and Clinton got through Congress a regime-change resolution as a pillar of our foreign policy."
You said, "The corporate government remains in Washington, whether it's Democrats or Republicans. The military industrial complex, as Eisenhower pointed out, is getting bigger and devouring half of the federal budget's discretionary expenditure.... Washington is corporate-occupied territory, and the two parties are ferociously competing to see who's going to go to the White House and take orders from their corporate pay masters. So...they may be different in their rhetoric. But in the actual performance these corporate interests and their political allies are taking America down. They're taking our country apart: massive poverty, massive child poverty, massive consumer debt, environmental devastation....So, basically, it's a question between both parties flunking: one with a D-, the Republicans; one with a D+, the Democrats."
Again I agree–though I think this understates the destructive role both parties play in American life.
The question is, given the situation you describe—a government dominated by money and in the hands of corporate power; a duopoly of power between Democrats and Republicans, who answer to the same corporate paymasters, both of whom are tearing our country apart and taking it down; a mammoth, out-of-control military-industrial complex with a vested interest in maintaining the situation dominating the government—how can we change it?
I agree that it is important to raise these issues and bring them to public attention as widely as possible, and I applaud your effort to do that.
But you are as aware as I am that you stand zero chance of winning the election.
Even more to the point, you must be aware that no significant change in American society has ever come about through the electoral process. Change has only come about through determined direct action by millions of people. It was mass action that organized the first industrial unions in America through sit-down strikes and the forcible takeover of factories and mines. It was only courageous mass action by millions of black people and their white supporters which resulted in the achievement of civil rights for blacks. It was only the mass action of millions of Americans in the streets and the frequent refusal and rebellions by American soldiers in Vietnam and the heroic struggle by millions of Vietnamese that brought that war to an end.
The very reasons you offered that impelled you to run–a society and a government dominated by big money and powerful corporations–make change through the electoral process more implausible now than ever.
The electoral process has traditionally been used by the corporate paymasters who rule our country and who own both parties to provide the illusion of democracy, divide the populace over secondary issues, and persuade people to place their hope in the corporate party of their choosing. The electoral process is used, in other words, to prevent people taking matters into their own hands, organizing their own countervailing power, and challenging corporate domination.
The massive movement against war in Iraq before the war began shows that there is a huge swath of people in our country who oppose the disastrous path on which corporate government is taking us. There is a fault line running through American society which divides the war-makers from the people. The electoral process is meant to disguise that fault line, hide its significance from people, and once again force them to choose between two corporate parties.
I am writing to ask you not just to resign your candidacy, but to do something far more activist and effective.
New Democracy, the organization of which I am part, has called on American voters to engage in MassRefusal/2004. We are calling on people to refuse to vote in this presidential election, this sham vote over which representative of the corporate parties will rule us. We are calling on voters to announce to their friends and to the world that they refuse to take part in fake democracy and that instead they are determined to fight for real democracy, that they are determined to take our country into their own hands.
I am asking you to join us in MassRefusal/2004. I am asking that you announce to the world that you are resigning your candidacy because what's needed now is not another candidate but a mass movement to challenge corporate power. I am asking that you throw in your lot with us. I do not ask that you discontinue speaking out wherever you can on these issues. Far from it. I ask that you redouble your efforts to expose corporate domination of American life wherever and however you can.
We envision MassRefusal/2004 as only one of many steps in strengthening the existing movement to change the direction of our society. It is a step that millions of people can take together that makes a strong political statement at little individual risk. We expect to follow it with other refusals: refusal to allow the military to recruit our children; refusal to enlist in the military; refusal to fight endless wars; refusal to work for Empire. We hope that many who engage in MassRefusal/2004 will come together to plan what to do next to build the movement.
The situation in our country which you have so penetratingly described is extremely serious; on this, I know that we agree. President Bush has promised a future of endless war; candidate Kerry has said nothing to indicate that he has any other course in mind. And how could he, really? As you have made clear, the course of US government policy is not really in the hands of elected officials but in the hands of their corporate paymasters.
The future is indeed frightening, but it is also full of hope. The magnificent resistance of millions of Americans to the lies and war propaganda of the Republican/Democrat/corporate machine shows that we have a firm foundation of shared anti-corporate values on which to build for a second American revolution.
I hope you will join us now.
For New Democracy,
Editor, New Democracy
5 Burr Street
Boston, MA 02130
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