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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Socialist No-Alternative

Submitted by: Arthur Guray, Political Science Major, 2005

To the Editor:

The UMB Socialist Alternative offers us no alternative at all.

As The Mass Media reported in its March 25, 2004 cover story, the UMB Socialist Alternative recently organized a bus trip for students to attend an anti-war rally in New York City. The protest was a success, peaceful and well-organized, and I applaud the Socialist Alternative for taking steps to help students engage in national politics.

Sadly, though, the alternative that UMBSA advocates for is little more than contradictory nonsense.

The national website for the Socialist Alternative (www.socialistalternative.org) outlines the clear, simple three-point platform of the group’s stance on the war in Iraq: 1) “An immediate end to the occupation – bring the troops home now.” 2) “The people of Iraq to control their own country through genuine democratic elections.” 3) “A democratic socialist Iraq, with full rights for all minorities, including the right to their own state, as part of a voluntary socialist federation of the region.”

You don’t need to be in college to see the inherent contradiction of this platform. If we “bring the troops home now,” as UMBSA would have us do, how on earth are we going to ensure “genuine democratic elections” for the people of Iraq? Who will continue rebuilding the infrastructure? Who will help set up a free press? Who will organize a government, and ensure that it can write a constitution and set of laws safe from violent extremists?

The U.N. certainly isn’t willing to take control. Neither is our “coalition of the willing”-the U.S. is still providing close to 90% of the troops and money for nation-building in Iraq.

You may believe that the Bush administration was wrong to go into Iraq in the first place. You may believe that Bush should be impeached for lying to the nation about the “imminent threat” of Saddam Hussein. But these arguments are irrelevant to a discussion of what we should do in Iraq now. Whether UMBSA likes it or not, we are occupying Iraq. Saddam Hussein is in custody. The Coalition Authority, which really means the United States, is the only force of security and stability in that nation.

To “bring the troops home now” is to condemn Iraq to civil war and chaos. It is to turn 21st-century Iraq into the Afghanistan of the 1990s, where tribal leaders will war until a sufficiently brutal regime can again take power. It is to turn our back on the Iraqi people, and it is this very sort of sudden post-colonial abandonment by the West in the early 20th century that made the Middle East ripe for dictatorships and extremism in the first place.

These contradictions are apparent, without even discussing how the Socialist Alternative would create “a democratic socialist Iraq” without military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Rather than advocating for Bush to “bring the troops home now,” UMBSA should be in front of the U.N., advocating for other countries to get involved and take control of the situation in Iraq, so that Americans do not have to worry about corporations taking advantage of our unique control over the region. Rather than advocating for an “end to war now,” UMBSA should be advocating for a standing army in the U.N., so that America will have no excuse in the future to involve itself in unilateral nation-building, and thus reduce the possibility of an American Empire. Rather than being anti-everything, UMBSA needs to be pro- more.

The only thing that makes less sense than UMBSA’s stance in Iraqi, is UMBSA’s support for Ralph Nader. Earlier this month, UMBSA submitted a letter to the editor urging students to vote Nader in November. This stance can only be taken in ignorance of the realities of history and politics.

UMBSA spends a good portion of its letter criticizing the two-party system, as if it were some sort of conspiracy of the powerful. In fact, two-party systems are not created; they evolve in all democracies. Even in multi-party democracies, such as Italy, parties converge into two major coalitions, again and again. This isn’t advanced political theory; it was a staple of the syllabus of the late Professor Rusty Simonds’ Political Science 101 class. The causes are self-evident: parties, whenever they can, will ally in order to increase their influence. Fighting against a two-party system is like fighting against the rising of the sun.

A third party on the left can only hope to fragment the Democratic party, and thus increase the chances of Republicans winning a plurality of votes, as happened in 2000. UMBSA would be better serving itself by supporting an independent run by Pat Buchanan. That’s the other obvious political reality: Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the 2000 election. Can UMBSA envision a war with Iraq under a President Gore? Can UMBSA envision a Patriot Act under President Gore? Can UMBSA envision President Gore pulling out of the Kyoto treaty, or passing a tax cut and creating some of the largest deficits in recent American history?

Ralph Nader’s popularity in 2000 helped ensure the election of the staunchest anti-socialist candidate at the time. It is beyond me why UMBSA would support him again. It is beyond me why UMBSA would support any platform that would ensure the very policies that UMBSA now protests against.

These issues are not aberrations; the Socialist Alternative platform is filled with these contradictions. Taken individually, many of their stances have merit: universal education and health care, a raise in the minimum wage, strengthening environmental controls and protections for workers and unions, an increase in immigration and funding for community needs. Yet the Socialist Alternative fails to offer us a comprehensive plan for realizing any of these goals. It argues for all these social programs without telling us where the money will come from.

In another notable contradiction in its policies, the Socialist Alternative platform argues for “defend[ing] immigration rights; papers for all,” “stop union busting, plant closures and layoffs,” “a minimum wage of $12.50/hour or $500 per week minimum guaranteed income” and “a 30 hour work week without loss of pay”. Under this platform, companies would have to increase wages without laying anyone off, and yet we’d see a flood of new workers that corporations, because of these restrictions, wouldn’t have the money to hire. Unemployment would surge, yet under the Socialist Alternative’s plan, employment would be guaranteed. We would have to pay these new immigrants $500 per week. Where would this money come from?

Also amazingly absent is any platform for price-controls; so under the “socialist alternative”, I’ll be making “$500 per week minimum guaranteed income” (by the way, 30 hours at $12.50 per hour is $375; we’d have to raise the minimum wage to $16.67 to fulfill UMBSA’s $500-a-week-in-30-hours demand), and then likely paying $5 for an apple, or $50,000 for a Kia. Not much of a win, if you ask me.

My problem with the Socialist Alternative isn’t that its alternatives are unviable; it’s that they’re undesirable. To be sure, we need an extreme-left voice in American politics; we need loud advocates for social justice, but a nonsensical platform does not help America. The UMB Socialist Alternative is filled with bright, passionate minds, and they desperately need to apply those minds to developing a practical, workable platform. UMBSA needs to think before it shouts, and raise the level of its political debate beyond the clever slogans of its signs.