Q&A with Socialist Equality Party Presidential Candidate, Jerry White

by Jim Brash, member of the North Star editorial board on September 29, 2016


[The following interview was conducted via email. Due to time constraints, all the quetsions I initially asked were not answered. Also, questions that were viewed as being related by the interviewee have been grouped together along with their answers. Finally I did not do any follow up questions. I hope you, the readers – will ask the follow-ups that you think are needed, and that Mr. White or a representative will happily, if not promptly-reply.]

TNS: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.

JW: Thanks for giving me the opportunity.

TNS: This is your fourth run as the SEP candidate for president. Why are you running in 2016?

JW: Im running this year to warn the working class, youth and sections of the middle class of the real and growing danger of world war. As the US continues to lose its dominant world economic condition, it has more and more resorted to military action.
We see tensions between capitalist countries escalating, similar to what happened before the two world wars.

The US is making countless provocations against Russia and China. Tensions among countries within the European Union and between the EU and the US are growing. Germany and France, in particular, are proposing to turn the EU into a military force. Germany and Japan are building up their military for the first time since the post World War Two period.

Behind the backs of the American people, military planners are looking at how to use nuclear weapons in war. The Union of Concerned Scientists warned about the danger of nuclear war in a report, The risk of nuclear war with China: A troubling lack of urgency.

The other major plank of my campaign is the fight for social equality. Social inequality in the US is the greatest since the Great Depression. Its gotten so extreme that the wealth of the 400 richest individuals reached $2.34 trillion last year. That averages out to $5.85 billion per person. While for the working class, wages have declined, poverty is increasing, schools are falling apart, theres a lack of affordable housing, and more and more people cant afford to pay for utilities or even water.

These are the central demands of our program:
Oppose US militarism! Stop the drive to World War III!
Put an end to poverty and social inequality!
Defend democratic rights! No to government spying and police violence!

TNS: What have you learned about politics, the working class movement, and the fight for social justice, from your previous campaigns?

JW: During elections, the Socialist Equality Party campaigns for a socialist solution to the problems workers, youth, and sections of the middle class face. Of course we dont just do this during elections.

Looking at the period since 2000, the US government has waged continuous wars, and created ever-widening social inequality and poverty. It has also attacked democratic rights, with vast spying, the militarization of the police, military tribunals, Guantanamo, etc.

Weve seen that political parties falsely claiming to be socialist which we call the pseudo-left supported Obama under the banner of identity politics. Weve found people to be more and more alienated from the political setup, realizing they have no voice in it.

Weve seen that workers struggles have been isolated and defeated for decades because of the role of the union leadership. In fact there was a tremendous decline even in the number of large strikes. In 2008, American Axle workers struck for about two months. After the auto parts supplier signed the contract with the UAW, it reported that it expected to save about $300 million with the new contract, mostly by cutting about 2,000 union jobs in Michigan and New York, as well as salaried jobs.

Weve seen the unions lose any creditability in the eyes of workers. Weve seen that in more recent struggles, such as the Verizon strike earlier this year and the autoworkers contract struggle in the fall of 2015, workers challenged the pro-company contracts being pushed by the union leadership.

TNS: How does your experience as an editor and activist inform your candidacy?

JW: I joined the Workers League, the predecessor of the Socialist Equality Party, in 1979. I was working at United Parcel Service and attending the City University of New York. So Ive been engaged in socialist politics for 37 years. Ive spoken to workers on picket lines, during crucial struggles like the PATCO and Greyhound bus drivers strikes. Being labor editor of the World Socialist Web Site, Ive followed how the class struggle was developing. What was happening in the world economy and how did it impact workers in the US? How did the unions become transformed into the companies policemen of the working class instead of workers organizations? As the US was losing its economic world dominance, how were the capitalists responding? How was it that the struggles of workers were defeated? What policies were needed to win?

Workers need the answers to those questions so they can understand why they should join and build the SEP. But it wasnt just a matter of understanding contemporary issues. Key was also learning the historical lessons that, in fact, were gained through international struggles and the history of the Trotskyist movement as it built a revolutionary party in the working class.

TNS: Why didn’t the Socialist Equality Party back one of the other third party candidates, like Jill Stein, Monica Moorehead, or Mimi Soltysik?

JW: In the case of Stein, the Greens are not anti-capitalist or socialist or even anti-war. I saw Chris Wallace interview Stein on Fox one Sunday morning. He asked about her platform, which said she was against all wars. She said that was not in her platform; she was not against all wars, only regime-change wars. So, as long as the US calls it a humanitarian war, I guess she supports it.

There are political parties like Workers World, running Moorehead, that use words like socialist or revolution. But these parties dont seek to unite the working class to fight for socialism. They deny the central role of the working class and the necessity of a socialist revolution to change society.

They also deny that a revolutionary party plays an essential role in bringing Marxism into the working class so it can understand its historic role and liberate itself from capitalism. I was in a forum with independent and third-party candidates. During that forum, Soltysik said well, people understand what they need, they dont need us to tell them.

People know they should have free college education, clean water to drink, etc. But those basic social rights are being destroyed by the capitalist system today. To defend those social rights, the working class needs to take political power away from the capitalists. If they already knew how to do it, it surely would have happened in every capitalist country, since working people are the vast majority.

These pseudo-left parties promote identity politics, dividing people by nationality, race, gender, sex They actually represent the interests of a small upper-middle-class layer of the population that want positions in academia, corporations, trade unions, and government. They dont want to overthrow capitalism; they want more of its wealth to go to them.

TNS: What are your thoughts on the Bernie Sanders campaign that came to an end early summer? Do you think he was simply playing the role of sheepdog or was there more going on there?

JW: The large support for Sanders was an expression of the radicalization of workers and young people attracted to his campaign on social inequality and opposition to the billionaire class. Sanders’ role, however, was and is to channel growing anti-capitalist sentiment back behind the Democratic Party, which, under the Obama administration, has overseen a historic transfer of wealth from the working class to the corporate and financial elite.

TNS: How do you view the politics of Donald Trump?

JW: Trump is a billionaire gangster who claims his program will serve the best interests of America and its workers. The Trump campaign is tapping into the same social anger as Sanders, and giving it a fascistic right-wing expression, as similar political movements that have developed over the past decade in Europe.

In the end, the actual policy differences between Clinton, a political gangster, and Trump, a business gangster, are comparatively small. The next administration, regardless of who heads it, will escalate the drive to war against Russia and China, and intensify the ongoing assault on jobs, living standards and social benefits. But the rise of Trump points to new dangers in the political situation.

TNS: Does the split among the GOP over supporting Trump represent a real or potential split among that wing of the ruling class?

JW: The military-intelligence apparatus and Wall Street prefer Clinton to Trump since she is a tried and true defender of both. Clinton has campaigned for and won endorsements from Republicans on that basis. Clintons problem is that as a stooge for Wall Street and a warmonger, its hard for her to make an appeal to the working class. She promotes identity politics. Thats why its such a close race. Both candidates are despised by most of the population.

TNS: Do you see that because of the Sanders campaign, and the dissatisfaction with Clinton and Trump, there is new space being opened up to socialist and alternative activists as well as the candidates they identify with?

JW: I definitely think people are looking for alternatives to the two-party system. And in our campaign, weve found that a lot of people, and particularly young people, are interested in finding out what genuine socialism is.

TNS: How has the fight been going for ballot access this year? How many ballots are you on, including where you have gained write in status?

JW: Were on the ballot in Louisiana. As you know, the ballot system is set up to block independent parties from getting on the ballot. We are asking people to cast a write-in vote for me whenever possible. Even becoming eligible to be a write-in candidate is very difficult. And many states dont even allow it.

TNS: Do you consider your candidacy an opportunity to organize, mobilize, & educate folks about socialism, working class politics, and community activism, etc?

JW: The election campaign is an opportunity to expose the dangerous war plans of the government and to campaign for the working class to build the SEP as a mass socialist party of the working class. We call for the international unity of workers to defend itself against global capitalism. How can workers in the US carry out a struggle against GM, for example, without uniting with workers in Canada, Mexico and throughout the world? Its impossible. We advance socialist policies to solve the problem of poverty, unemployment, war and all of the social ills created by capitalism. A workers government would nationalize all utility companies and corporations making over $10 billion a year.

TNS: As a candidate, what type of obstacles have you overcome or are in the process of overcoming?

JW: The establishment media refuse to cover third-party campaigns. They want to limit choices to the Democrats and Republicans. I issued a statement recently opposing the refusal of the Committee on Presidential Debates to allow Jill Stein and Gary Johnson to participate in the Clinton-Trump debates. People have a democratic right to find out about their political choices.

TNS: Barack Obama received a Nobel peace prize and then went off and bombed more countries than his predecessor. What has happened to the anti-war/peace movement in the U.S.?

JW: What happened was that the anti-war peace movement supported the Democrats, with the idea of pressuring them. In February 2003, there were huge protests against the invasion of Iraq in cities across the world. While millions of American people continued to oppose imperialist wars, the anti-war peace movement allied itself with Obama.

TNS: Recently, incarcerated activists around the country called for a national prison strike. What type of prison and bail reform do you think is needed? How can we show solidarity with the incarcerated members of the working class around the country?

JW: Our goal is to establish a workers government to dismantle the whole repressive apparatus of the capitalist state. We live under a system that legalizes torture; locks up more people than any other country; spies on millions worldwide; has laws that allow military tribunals to lock people up with no right to a lawyer or trial; has murdered millions in imperialist wars; has militarized the police and used them against protesters who oppose police shootings. The government is preparing for massive social unrest and working class struggles that will erupt by setting up the framework for a police state.

TNS: You’ve repeatedly called for international unity in the working class. How can we accomplish this?

JW: Were building the International Committee of the Fourth International to unite the working class. Our website, the World Socialist Web site, enables workers throughout the world to read a socialist and internationalist perspective, in many languages.

TNS: How do we overcome sectarianism on the American Left?

JW: The problem of the pseudo-left is not sectarianism but opportunism. In Greece, the pseudo-left supported Syriza, a capitalist party. After campaigning against austerity, Syriza imposed the austerity demands of the European Union, IMF and European Central Bank. The pseudo-left parties are willing to all get together for pragmatic short-term gains.

The SEP has a Marxist program based upon the laws that govern the movement of capitalist society. We actively intervene in the actual struggle of the working masses for this program. What the pseudo-left calls sectarianism is our refusal to cover up for other political parties betrayals.

TNS: Would you endorse the SEP joining some type of popular unity, socialist unity, or united front with other alternative and left parties if it would foster working class unity and move the working class further along the road towards people power, self-emancipation, and revolution?

JW: No, this would not advance the working class in the way you suggest. It would be a roadblock for the working class.

TNS: Why do Black Lives Matter to Jerry White?

JW: Our standpoint is that of the international working class, comprising the vast majority of the human race, rather than any specific group defined by language, ethnicity, gender and so on. Black Lives Matter has highlighted police violence against African-Americans, which is at an atrocious level. But police violence is fundamentally a class question, not a race question. The police force is part of the capitalist state, which defends capitalist property relations, not white supremacy. What almost all the victims have in common is that they are from the working class, and usually from its poorest layers.

TNS: You’ve been involved in trade union activism for a few decades. What is the current state of the union movement from your point of view?

JW: The unions are no longer working class organizations. They defend their own privileged position by working with the capitalists to make them more profitable at the expense of workers. We call for the formation of rank-and-file committees, independent of the pro-capitalist and nationalist trade unions, in order to fight for common actions to defend workers and organize a joint offensive against the attack on jobs, benefits and working conditions.

TNS: How adversely has 8 years of the Obama administration affected the American working class?

JW: Social inequality has increase dramatically; unemployment is high and long-term unemployment is the highest since the 1930s; military interventions have increased; decent health care is out of reach for the working class, the infrastructure is crumbling, all under Obama.

[To the reader, please keep in mind that some questions have been grouped together followed by concise reply.]

TNS: What significance has the fight for a $15 minimum wage and the opposition against Right to Work, played in rejuvenating working class politics?
TNS: Do you support a $15 Minimum wage? Do you think it should be higher, if so why?
TNS: What are your thoughts on climate change and the actions needed to save life from extinction on Mother Earth?
TNS: Do reds need to be greens and greens need to red for the climate mobilization to be successful long-term?
TNS: Do you think single payer health care should still be advocated for? Why or why not?
TNS: What are your thoughts on the carbon credits trade?
TNS: How far can reforms go under capitalism as they pertain to the working class?
TNS: What are your thoughts the rising movement for transgender rights?

JW: The capitalist system has not granted any real reforms since the 1960s, when the US began to lose its economic dominance. Instead, theyve tried to destroy every social reform the working class has won. From the 1970s on, the Democratic Party shifted steadily to the right and abandoned its previous policies of liberal reform.

To regain world dominance, successive Democratic and Republican governments have launched wars abroad, starting with the Balkans War, and a war against the working class at home to destroy its social rights.

The SEP is raising certain demands for the working class to fight for. These demands arent separate from the goal of socialist revolution. They are demands based on the needs of the working class, such as the right to a livable income, the right to a job, the right to education, etc. The fight for these demands strengthens the working class, unifies its struggles, and shows the necessity of taking political power and establishing socialism in the United States, as part of the socialist reorganization of the world economy.

TNS: Please explain your work with WSWS Autoworkers Newsletter, why was it founded and what it has accomplished thus far?
TNS: You’ve been active with the Committee Against Utility Shutoffs in Detroit. What has become the plight of the working class in Detroit?
TNS: How has your efforts with CAUS paid off?

JW: Our political campaigns in the working class have enabled us to win members and supporters to a socialist solution. With the Committee Against Utility Shutoffs, we held meetings and organized a demonstration in a Detroit neighborhood wracked with poverty and shutoffs, to reach out to other sections of the working class.

During the Detroit bankruptcy, we campaigned to unite the working class, youth and sections of the middle class to fight the cuts. We took this campaign to workers throughout the country, since Detroit was the model for every city.

We held a daylong workers inquiry to expose the political, social and economic forces behind the bankruptcy with its plans to destroy the pensions, working conditions and jobs of public sector workers and move to privatize of city services. The SEP also organized a large demonstration outside the Detroit Institute of Art to oppose the selloff art that is part of the heritage of the working class.

In the fall of 2015, during the autoworkers contract struggle, Black, white and immigrant workers of all generations came together to defend jobs, wages and working conditions. The SEP autoworkers newsletter was circulated widely in plants throughout the country. The UAW was frightened of this resurgence of the class struggle and worked hard to suppress it.

TNS: Why do you think climate science denial has become popular the right-wing of the duopoly?

JW: Because corporate America is has only one goal making profits. Even if workers lives and the planet are destroyed in the process. The Democrats acknowledge the scientific validity of climate change, but dont do anything to stop it because they represent the capitalists.

TNS: What are your thoughts on the return of voter suppression as a tool to disenfranchise communities of color?

JW: The SEP is opposes the government destruction of the democratic rights of the working class, such as voter ID requirements, denial of ballot access and other rules. In fact, the whole working class is disenfranchised when only allowed the choice of two parties that are controlled by Wall Street.

TNS: Now I’d like to ask you a few questions related to the U.S. Empire’s activities on the world stage.What are your thoughts on the relationship between the USA & Israel; whether or whether not Israel is an apartheid state; solidarity with Palestinians, and the BDS movement?

JW: The SEP opposes Zionism, and all religion-based states. Zionism has been disastrous for the Palestinian and Israeli working class. We call for the Israeli and Palestinian working class, along with their class brothers and sisters throughout the region, to struggle together to defend their common interests and set up a United Socialist States of the Middle East.

TNS: What are your thoughts on US and Russian intervention in Syria? TNS: Is The US/NATO attempting to encircle and isolate Russia?

JW: The US government sees Syrias alliance with Russia as a threat to its domination in the region. The purpose of its imperialist war is to replace Assad with a ruler that would be a puppet of the US. As in all its military interventions, the US uses various types of pro-war propaganda to try to win support from masses of the population who oppose war. The wars are labeled humanitarian or part of the war on terror. But they all have one goal, US capitalisms control of the world.

The US and NATO are deploying thousands of troops on Russias western border and have created a 40,000-strong rapid reaction force in preparation for war.

What you see with Syria now is various pseudo-left parties advocating for an increase of US military intervention. This is creating the danger of the wars escalating into a world war, since each area becomes a powder keg that brings all the imperialist countries, as well as Russia and China into play.

TNS: What are your thoughts on the situation in the Ukraine over the past few years?

JW: We opposed the right-wing coup fomented by the United States.

TNS: Is Russia an imperialist state? If so or if not, why? Is China an imperialist state? If so or if not, why?

JW: The SEP opposes the Kremlin regime and the capitalist oligarchy it represents. Its an enemy of the working class. The Stalinist bureaucracy in the 1980s set about destroying the nationalized property relations created by the Russian Revolution so it could be a property-owning class. The Stalinist bureaucracy in China started reintroducing capitalism after Tiananmen Square in 1989.

However, Russia and China are not imperialist countries. As Lenin explained, imperialism is a specific stage in world capitalism, its dying stage. There is the dictatorship of finance capital, where giant syndicates and banks dominate the world market, with each imperialist country in competition with every other.

Calling China and Russia imperialist is a justification for lining up behind the aggressive and militaristic policies of Western imperialism, which seeks to reduce Russia and China to semi-colonies.

TNS: Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership a move by the U.S., to economically weaken or isolate China?

JW: Yes.

[At this point in the interview there were several additional questions during the email exchange, that due to time were not answered.]

TNS: What advice would you give to young people newly becoming activists and discovering socialism, and entering working class politics, & taking independent political action?

JW: Id say, join and build the International Youth and Students for Social Equality! Study the program of the Socialist Equality Party, the history of the Fourth International, and read our analysis each day on the World Socialist Web Site, www.wsws.org.

I would encourage your readers to go to the World Socialist Web Site, where these and many other questions are discussed and consider the programmatic answers we provide.

TNS: Thank you for your time and all the best to you and your campaign.

JW: Thank you.

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