Whilst watching the coverage of the US elections, it has been a breath of fresh air for many Iraqis, to receive the news that in America, there will now be an alternative to the Democrat vs Republican race to the White House and it’s an alternative which many Iraqis will be able to support on the grounds of political agreement.
The breath of fresh air comes in the form of a newly-formed movement called the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), which is standing a slate of candidates in the upcoming American elections, who are going to be campaigning on a programme of radical issues which puts them in direct opposition to the belligerent policies of George W Bush.
The socialist candidate running for President is a woman called Gloria La Riva, who in her time as an activist has been involved with organising the US trade union movement, took a leading role in the US campaign to free Nelson Mandela during the 1980s and has also been heavily involved in anti-racism campaigns.
In the 1990-91 Gulf War, Gloria was also leading the anti-war movement against the first US bombardment, which introduced the Sanctions regime, and her activities helped secure the 200,000-strong presence on the San Francisco anti-war march on January 19th 1991.
In response to the genocide which followed the first Gulf War, which saw an estimated 1.5 million children under the age of five die in the silent Holocaust of Sanctions, Gloria La Riva campaigned against the blockade and her film “Genocide by Sanctions”, went on to win her second prize for documentaries in the 1998 San Luis Obispo Film Festival. La Riva is also a voluntary organizer for the anti-war coalition ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and a coordinator for the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five.
Having both travelled and written extensively on the Cuban revolution, Gloria La Riva’s role in the US workers’ movement saw her address the million-person May Day rallies in Havana, in the years 2000 and 2002. Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, she led a solidarity delegation to New Orleans and has since shown the survivors’ heroism through the documentary “Heroes Not Looters.”
Another PSL candidate who is turning many heads has been Michael Prysner, a soldier turned anti-war activist who is taking his experiences as part of the illegal invasion to the US ballot box. Having graduated high school in 2001, in 2003 Michael Prysner found himself based in Iraq for over a year and, horrified by what he saw happening, he decided to start informing the American public about the devastation which the invasion of Iraq has caused.
On March 17th 2007, Prysner took part in the national anti-war march on the Pentagon, which brought together tens of thousand of protesters. A few months later in September, he was arrested in Washington as part of a contingent of veterans who participated in a mass die-in.
Drawing on his experiences in Iraq to prove the criminality of the war, Prysner has become a powerful commentator on Iraq and will be sending a clear message to the American people, “Families in Iraq are not our enemies. The hungry and impoverished workers in Iraq are the same as workers who struggle to survive in the United States.”
Speaking on the effects that the Iraq war has had on US soldiers, Mike recently attacked the Bush administration for its failures over soldier suicide and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and announced that like many others he too had experienced the bureaucracy of the Veterans Administration (VA) system.
“I have walked into the mental health office and been pointed in a hundred different directions, told to come back another time, and told to drive over an hour to another VA office. After several months of frustration, I ended up with a bag full of pills. This was the treatment I was offered.”
In his article, “U.S. war machine is the real enemy, not Iraqis”, the Iraq Veteran informed his audience, that “Real liberation will come when we – soldiers, workers, immigrants, students and families – no longer let the ruling class divide and create barriers between the exploited in the United States and the exploited abroad’Soldiers should refuse to fight and, instead, bring the struggle home. Real liberation will come when we struggle together against our common enemy, instead of being used against each other to profit the rich.”
Apart from standing on a platform against the war in Iraq, the Party for Socialism and Liberation are also raising the banner for change, by demanding that there be decent jobs for all, with full “job training for youth and the unemployed”, “Free, high quality education from pre-school through to college” and “Free, quality healthcare for all”.
The decision to stand socialist candidates in the US elections has been met with a lot of support among campaigners abroad, with the Iraq Solidarity Campaign already pledging its support to the Party for Socialism and Liberation, having already supported, along with the Iraqi Women’s League; the US Million Worker March back in 2005.
In their manifesto, “People Over Profit”, the PSL proclaim that “Politicians and corporate bosses have a message for working people: salute the flag, stop thinking and send our loved ones to fight in imperialist wars. They proclaim we “are one nation”, when they want to drag workers into the next war of aggression.”
Hussein Al-Alak is Chairman of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign.
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This post was written by Hussein Al-alak