The Thistle Volume 13, Number 1: August 29, 2000.

David McReynolds & Mary Cal Hollis

In contrast to the Democratic,Republican, and Green parties, the Socialist Party has an underlying philosophy that is both coherent and radical. It is coherent in the sense that members of the Socialist Party differ on details, but are united on certain fundamental principles. It is radical in the sense that all members of the Socialist Party recognize the need for fundamental change in our society.

Socialists believe that the problems facing America and the world, such as environmental despoliation, the systematic waste of public resources for private profit, persistent unemployment concentrated among women and racial minorities, and the maldistribution of wealth, power, and income, are not mere aberrations of the capitalist system - they are the capitalist system.

This is why Socialists are not impressed by political appeals based on the personal qualities or “charisma” of any individual politician. Socialists believe that it is the system - and the institutions which make up that system - that must be changed. Socialists differ fundamentally from liberals in this regard. Socialists critically support liberal reform measures (such as increases in the minimum wage) not as ends in themselves, but as guideposts pointing to the need for a fundamental transformation of our society. They also reject the type of movement building that relies on well know personalities whose personal philosophy and past actions run contrary to the party’s underlying principles.

Membership in the Socialist Party implies a clear agreement with and commitment to the fundamental points of the party’s statement of principles, Socialism As Radical Democracy. There are many different points of view within the Socialist Party, but all of them are in agreement with these basic points of democratic socialism. This year the Socialist Party is running David McReynolds and Mary Cal Hollis for president and vice-president. The following is a speech delivered on September 7, 1999 in which McReynolds laid out the reasons he is running for the presidency.

Let me note that while I think the media has every right to ask questions about the personal life of a candidate, as it might relate to job performance, and while I am prepared to respond fully to questions about any past or current drug use, legal or illegal, the media missed the key point about Governor Bush and the allegations he may once have used cocaine.

Anyone seeking the nomination for President on the Democratic or Republican ticket must raise so much money that the real question is not the drugs used in the past, but, to put it bluntly, which corporate forces have bought and paid for the candidate. Neither Governor Bush nor Vice President Al Gore are free agents. They represent corporate America.

If anyone wants to know what interests I represent I respond simply that if I’m nominated at the Socialist Party convention in October I will represent a group of concerned citizens with little in the way of financial resources. I will represent their hopes, and the platform and beliefs of a Party, which I joined in 1951, while a student at UCLA. And I will work to limit the kind of obscenity we see today when the corporations openly bid for the candidates. Campaign financing laws must be enacted that provide a level playing field, with no special favors to large donors.

It is good that a range of views be offered to the electorate. There is very little to choose between Bush and Gore, very little real debate of substance on our domestic and foreign policy. The arena of debate must be broadened, the range of issues discussed extended. That would be my job as the candidate of the Socialist Party.

Having seen our government engage in wars without Congressional approval, in open violation of the UN Charter, whether in Panama under George Bush, or in Kosova under Bill Clinton. I believe this nation must not go to war without the full consent of Congress, after debate. The theory of Executive Wars must end.

Watching our military with its almost hallucinatory budget, I urge the Pentagon budget be cut immediately by 50%, with radical further cuts each year. We face no military threat from our immediate neighbors, Mexico and Canada, and are protected by vast oceans from invasion. The American military now extends into every area of our lives, and I pledge to resist the militarization of this nation, this obscene continuation of a Garrison State so sharply denounced by the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he left office and warned of the military/industrial complex. Given the ads taken out in the New York Times by concerned business leaders worried over the misuse of our tax funds for unneeded military spending, my position only seems radical because neither major party is prepared to speak to it.

Nuclear weapons remain a grave danger and we must strive for an immediate end of all further nuclear testing and take immediate steps to scale down our own arsenals of nuclear weapons even as we engage with other nuclear powers to reduce theirs until we have zero nuclear weapons, and a sense of trust and verification which will give us assurance that no new weapons are tested and the list of nuclear states diminishes to zero rather than expanding to disaster.

I call for the closing of all foreign U.S. bases, including the base in Guantanamo, Cuba. I call for the end of sanctions against Iraq, Cuba and Libya.

Even as we meet today, people are being killed in East Timor by the government of Indonesia, armed and supported by the United States. And even as we appeal to President Clinton to take immediate action to pressure the Indonesian government to respect the accords on self-determination, we also know that from the time of Henry Kissinger until today, the United States has been a patron of Indonesia, and has close military and economic ties to it. We pledge to oppose with our full might any further trade in arms by this government. The manufacture and sale of land mines, military air craft, guns, etc., must end immediately.

The war on drugs has resulted in an explosion of our prison population so that we now have the greatest number of prisoners of any nation in the world - something in which none of us should take pride. We have seen the creation of virtual prison industrial complex in which the ultimate victims are those men and women jailed, their families and friends, and the society which pays vast sums on incarceration rather than treatment and rehabilitation. In the city of New York it is easier to be arrested for the sale of heroin than it is to gain admittance to the drug rehabilitation programs.

The war on drugs is a costly, inhumane failure which has caused vast human suffering here, and resulted in exporting American problems to Latin America. Most drugs should either, as with marijuana, be decriminalized, or as with heroin, be available to addicts from a medical doctor.

There is talk of raising the minimum wage - I am more inclined to suggest a maximum wage in which the lowest wage paid in any industry would be not less than one fourth the highest wage paid to any CEO in that industry. There is a gross injustice when corporate leaders pull down wages in the millions of dollars while working American families often must work two jobs to keep food on the table.

It is urgent that the benefits of working Americans not be cut. They have declined sharply. We demand that the benefits of American workers be defended against every effort by the corporate structure to slice them.

We need a single payer system of medical care now. We are the only industrial nation which does not have such a program, so that ordinary people are often uncovered, or only partially covered, for the most basic health needs.

We have seen a spread of violent extremism and racism as well as a disturbing level of violence on the campus. The Socialist Party will continue to defend the full range of civil liberties and the Bill of Rights, as we have done over the decades. But the right to own firearms is not protected by the Bill of Rights, which refers to the right of each state to maintain a militia - not to the right of any citizen to own a loaded automatic weapon. I will work for a system of lincensed gun ownership and an end in the sale of automatic weapons which cannot meet any reasonable standard for hunting. The National Rifle Association may control Congress but it does not control the Socialist Party.

The Socialist Party will speak out against racism in any form, as we move toward a new century in which before the year 2050 non-whites will constitute a majority of our people. We will also speak out against police brutality and demand independent citizen’s review boards. Events in this very city have indicated the dangers of a police force out of control, commanded by a Mayor who shows signs of mental instability.

While I have listed some of the immediate demands, some of the urgent issues which I hope to address, let no one think the Socialist Party has abandoned the goal of social ownership of the commanding heights of industry, combined with democratic control, and decentralization and community involvement. The corporation is an artificial creation which has no inherent rights. If we won control of Congress we would place such vast corporate structures under social ownership. Capitalism as we know it is not a vision of the future in which we can take comfort, in which all things have a price, and all things are on the market place. For us, the unit of measurement is the human being, not the rate of profit. Just as we seek an economic system which draws on our best instincts.

There is much in America which is good, much that we are proud of - including the long struggle for labor’s rights, civil rights, women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, etc. Some of the proudest moments in our history, moments which helped to define us as a democracy, have been when the citizens opposed their own government when it was wrong, whether that was opposition in the South by African

Americans fighting segregation, or the mass peace movement which helped end the Vietnam War. We honor that history of struggle which has made our democracy fuller and freer. We will continue to take part in that struggle, viewing our society as one in which there is a conflict between workers and owners. We speak for the working class.

There are many problems still facing us, as our society seems overwhelmed by raw materialism, too often devoid of any values beyond consumerism. Let me say that there is a spiritual dimension to our common life, a dimension of respect for each person, a dimension of striving to fulfill our own lives and of helping others, not in terms of cash flow but of lives well and truly lived, lives engaged in a sense of justice and community.

That is what the Socialist Party stands for and, if nominated, I will seek to represent it across the nation, in the tradition of Eugene Victor Debs, Norman Thomas, Michael Harrington and Frank Zeidler. We want an America in which working people can fully and responsibly share in democratic planning and control of their own economy.

The words of Eugene Victor Debs are as revolutionary today as they were when spoken to a court in Ohio during World War I - they ring with biblical force calling us to tasks not yet done: “While there is a working class I am in it, while there is a criminal element I am of it, while there is a soul in prison I am not free.”


The Thistle Volume 13, Number 1: August 29, 2000.