UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Socialist No-Alternative

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,” how are we 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 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 percent 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 (though I don’t know how UMBSA would have created a “democratic socialist Iraq” without military action to remove Saddam Hussein). You may even 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 this very sort of sudden abandonment by colonial powers in the early 20th century that made the Middle East ripe for dictatorships and extremism in the first place.

Rather than advocating for Bush to “bring the troops home now,” UMBSA should be in front of the U.N., advocating for other nations 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 American Empire.

The only thing that makes less sense than UMBSA’s stance in Iraq 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.

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. Can UMBSA envision a war with Iraq under 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. Nader stands a good chance of doing that again in 2004. It is beyond me why UMBSA would support him; it is beyond me why UMBSA would support any platform that would ensure the very policies that UMBSA now protests. UMBSA would be better serving itself by supporting an independent run by Pat Buchanan.

My problem with the Socialist Alternative isn’t that its alternatives are unviable; it’s that they’re undesirable. We need an extreme-left voice in American politics; we need loud advocates for social justice, but a nonsensical platform does not help America. UMBSA is filled with bright, passionate minds. 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.

Arthur Guray Political Science Major, 2005