Socialist Worker

New York socialist vote shakes up the right wing

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2611

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after the stunning result

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after the stunning result


The US is more polarised by the day. On one side stands racist, sexist US president Donald Trump.

On the other stands the millions who are fighting back. From those who went on the Women’s March, to activists in Black Lives Matter, and the tens of thousands of teachers who struck earlier this year.

The election of Alexandria Ocasio?Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), in an internal Democratic Party election is a vivid illustration of that resistance.

She defeated Joe Crowley, a ­leading member of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, one of the central branches of government.

The DSA played a central role in Ocasio-Cortez’s election victory and are already reaping the benefits.

In the 24 hours after the election result over 1,000 people joined the organisation. It has grown in size to over 40,000 members from some 5,000 in 2016.

Joined

Abdullah Younnus is co-chair of the branch of the DSA in the Queen’s district. “That’s more than joined us after Trump’s election. This is huge,” he said.

“We’ve broken the Democrats’ electoral model. Our electoral strategy sees chapters endorse candidates and then have campaigns run by members in those chapters.”

The fight is on to decide in which direction the resistance travels. The Democratic Party leadership want it to be siphoned off into their electoral machine. It’s crucial that isn’t allowed to happen.

The DSA is formally separate from the Democrats, but members frequently belong to both parties.

Ultimately, its aim is to achieve social-democratic reforms by transforming the Democratic Party. But, even more so than the Labour Party in Britain, the Democratic Party is beyond reform. It has repeatedly betrayed protest movements.

The DSA wants to roll out its model of campaigning across the country.

Yielded

The chair of the DSA’s chapter in Los Angeles, Sam Dean, told Socialist Worker, “It has already yielded victories at the state level in Pennsylvania and Virginia.

“Ocasio-Cortez will be able to use her public profile to support the coming waves of leftist candidates and the ongoing non-electoral ­struggles across the country.”

Abdullah pointed to the electoral fight to get Julia Salazar elected to the New York State Senate.

She’s facing a similar opponent to Ocasio-Cortez—a Democratic incumbent who’s been a state senator since 2002 and a city councillor for ten years before that.

Ocasio Cortez’s victory has sent shockwaves through the US political establishment. It is now almost certain she will go on to represent the district in the House of Representatives. There she’ll come up against the full weight of the Democratic Party machine.

Abdullah argues that having a powerful voice for the left in the House of Representatives could complement the movement on the streets.

That’s true, but it comes down to where real power lies. Workers have the power to shut down the economy which, when they use it, trumps anything wielded by a politician.

As people get closer to office, they tend to move rightwards as they come under pressure to portray themselves as responsible managers of the state.

Despite this, the victory is an indicator of the mood of resistance to the attacks from the White House and is a hopeful sign of things to come.


Tension over how far to resist attacks on migrants

One key issue which set Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign apart from Crowley, the establishment candidate was immigration.

Some 70 percent of people in the district she won are from ethnic minorities. Her campaign demanded the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (Ice).

Far from backing off under outrage from ordinary people, Ice is continuing with business as usual, spurred on by Trump’s racist rhetoric.

The Democratic establishment have jumped on the protest bandwagon after the child separation scandal broke.

But their opposition is largely limited to how the issue polls among voters.

Some 66 percent of voters are opposed to the policy that has seen some 2,300 children separated from their families.

But when it comes to less popular policies, such as abolishing Ice, the party’s leadership is quieter.

As Sam from Los Angeles DSA put it, the Democratic establishment has given up on “convincing their ostensible base of working-class Americans that it’s worth showing up to vote for a Democrat who actually represents their interests.”

Trump could be forced to back down.

Instead, the Democratic Party leadership has attacked protesters for targeting Republican politicians.


Anti-union law passes

The US Supreme Court made a vicious ruling attacking trade unions last week.

It means that unions can no longer automatically claim membership fees from public sector workers who are not in the union, but benefit from, for instance, negotiated rates of pay.

The Janus vs AFSCME case was voted through by five votes to four in the court.

Union leaders will now face a squeeze on their funds.

That makes rank and file action like the inspirational struggles waged by teachers all the more important.

During the court discussion trade union lawyers sometimes used conservative arguments. They said no-strike deals would no longer be guaranteed.


Muslim ban is upheld

Trump’s ban on people from seven mainly-Muslim countries coming to the US was also upheld in the Supreme Court last week.

The judgement found Trump had “ample power to impose entry restrictions,” so long as he believed entry “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States”.

The court’s decision passed by five votes to four.

And now one of the “moderates” on the court is retiring, leaving one of the lifetime seats vacant for Trump to fill with another right winger.

This could trigger a series of new attacks on abortion rights that will have to be met by mass campaigns (see page 20).


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