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News ::
03 Sep 2003

By Saul Kanowitz

San Francisco
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Sept. 4, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Saul Kanowitz

San Francisco

An enormous amount of money and media space is being used to cover the
Oct. 7 recall vote and the complementary special election for governor
of California. The Democratic and the Republican parties are calling on the workers and poor people in California to vote for their party's
respective candidates.

Both big-business parties are saying they can solve the problems
plaguing the state of California. What course of action best serves the independent interests of the multi-national working class in

Historically, the right to recall elected officials is a progressive
social development. It removes barriers between the masses of people
and the representatives of the government.

Recall can facilitate the will of the majority of society, who are the
workers and the poor. During the Paris Commune of 1871--the first
attempt to establish a government of the workers--the right of recall
was one of the laws the communards enacted.

The current recall campaign and referendum, however, has a completely
different character. It began as a right-wing attack on the already
bankrupt program of Gov. Gray Davis, who is a political centrist and a
Democrat. With heavy funding and hired canvassers, the campaign was
able to gather enough signatures to force a recall referendum on Oct.

On that day voters will vote on two points. First, they vote yes or no
on the recall of Governor Davis. Then they vote on who should replace
Davis as governor. If Davis loses the recall vote, whoever of the many
candidates gets the most votes becomes California's next governor.


The Democratic Party points to this right-wing offensive in order to
put pressure on progressive organizations and the labor movement to
provide resources, first to "get out the no vote on the recall" and
then to back the campaign of Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. Once again they
ask the working class and oppressed to choose the lesser of two evils.
The message is, "Well, Davis may be a disappointment, but what is
coming is even worse."

Organizing for a no vote on the recall gives legitimacy to the Gray
Davis administration.

But what is Davis's record? During the height of the economic boom, he
presided over an energy crisis in which billions were shelled out to
the energy companies. This exacerbated the current budget crisis that
has led to enormous cuts in social services and increases in fees for
services and education that fall most disproportionately on the poor.

In October 2002 Davis vetoed a bill that would have given an estimated
1 million-plus undocumented workers, mostly from Latin America, the
right to obtain a driver's license or state ID. By denying these
workers the basic right to drive, Davis kept a section of the workers
in a desperate and vulnerable position. This in turn drove down the
living standards of all working and poor people in the state.

This bill could have served as a modest effort at combating racism and
building solidarity between documented and undocumented workers. Now,
Davis is having to turn to the Latino community and admit he was wrong
to veto the bill. He is now promising to sign it and is asking for
their vote.

In several cases involving women who had been victims of domestic
violence and had been convicted of killing their abusers, Davis
overturned decisions by the state parole board that would have granted
them parole.

Under the Davis administration, the prison-industrial complex consumed
more of the state budget than the deteriorating educational system. The prison system was the only sector to see an increase in funding for the fiscal year 2003-2004.

Workers, oppressed people and the middle class in California have all
become angry and disillusioned with the Davis administration. Those
drawn to work on the recall campaign are mostly disenchanted
middle-class and poor whites. The recall forces appealed to them with
reactionary and racist demagogy, objectively against their own class
interests. But they are not a cohesive right-wing movement that present an immediate threat and must be stopped at all costs, including surrendering independent working-class politics, which is what some are urging.

Instead of spending resources to shore up the capitalist electoral
system, the interests of the working class and oppressed people would
be better served by calling for a vote of no confidence in both arms of this system, the Democratic and Republican parties.


The program of the big-business candidates arbitrarily identified by
the capitalist media as "viable" is more of the same, but under the
direction of a different face or party. They all call for continued
cuts in social services and education, "efficiencies" in
government--which is code for attacks on state workers--and tax and fee increases that protect the rich and hurt the poor.

This goes for the three major Repub lican candidates, State Senator Tom McClintock, former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth and movie
actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as for Bustamante.

Among the 135 candidates left on the ballot as of Aug. 26, some are
more progressive. But without an enormous social upheaval, none of the
progressive or radical candidates will sit in the governor's chair. The budget crisis will still be placed on the backs of the workers and the poor, as it is now.

During the 2002 gubernatorial campaign, the labor movement gave
millions to Davis' election. The governor is reportedly seeking an
additional $10 million from labor for the recall campaign. But whether
Davis remains in office or Bustamante, Schwarzenegger, McClintock, or
Ueberroth wins, the workers and oppressed of California will face the
same fundamental conditions.

It's not that there are no differences among the major candidates. It's that it would be more effective use of resources to organize
independently of them.


What if that $10 million went towards organizing a statewide march
against the budget cuts? What if the state AFL-CIO provided buses free
to all poor and oppres sed communities affected by the Repub lican/
Democratic budget for a mass rally in Sacramento to denounce the
big-business legislature?

What if students from around the state, at the University of California and Community College levels, brought their grievances on the 30 percent or more increase in tuition to Sacramento--and refused to leave until the legislature taxed the wealthy to complete the construction of the Merced campus and roll back tuition?

What if the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community got out the rainbow
flag and brought demands for statewide domestic partner benefits to

What if the labor and progressive movement issued drivers' licenses or
IDs to the million undocumented workers and those workers showed up at
Sacramento demanding validation of their IDs?

What if all this happened on the same day and no one refused to leave
until all these demands were met?

That would be the beginning of a genuinely progressive recall of the
bankrupt capitalist system.

Workers World Party does not call for a no or a yes vote on recall. At
the same time, it endorses the gubernatorial candidacy of C.T. Weber of the Peace and Freedom Party, which has popularized an anti-racist and anti-war program in the state since the Vietnam War.

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not
allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY,
NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) Subscribe
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