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An Interview with Presidential Candidate Jerry White

— September 2, 2016

Jerry White is the presidential candidate of the Socialist Equality Party. The following is the second of a four-part, abridged transcript of my interview with White, which took place in Detroit on August 30. In this second part, White discusses the pseudo-left nature of the Green Party and analyzes the candidacies of Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

For the unabridged version of the interview, please contact Legal Reader.

And I was going to ask about Jill Stein and the Greens.

Right. Sometimes it’s more difficult in the American context, but if you look at Europe you already have the Green Party which has held political power. In 1999, the Balkan War, the first political party that promoted the reassertion of German militarism was the Green Party. Their foreign minister was a man named Joschka Fischer who was from the Green Party and who supported the bombing of Yugoslavia.

So once these parties are in power, they jettison their pacifism and completely adapt themselves to the geopolitical interests of their own ruling class. They are not parties of the working class. They are not parties that are fighting to unite the working class internationally against the capitalist system. They are middle-class parties that seek to—and they love this term “space”–to find space within the current political establishment. To assert their own self-interests, which have nothing to do with getting rid of the capitalist system but only advancing their own political aspirations and their economic aspirations.

Kind of a New Deal liberalism?

Well, it would be one thing if there was a New Deal liberalism taking place anywhere, but there isn’t. Every one of these parties, including the Greens, have imposed austerity. You look at Syriza. Syriza is made up of former Stalinists, former Maoists, and also the supporters of the same ideological predecessors of the Occupy movement in the United States, sort of neo-anarchists and so on. And they ran on a program that they were going to oppose austerity and the European Union’s demands in Greece. Once they took power, it was a matter of months in which they first called a referendum in which the population called for a total No vote against the restructuring package of the E.U. and the IMF, and then they turned around and imposed on the population the deepest austerity cuts ever.

Again, this is what we mean by the pseudo-left. Elements of the middle class who utilize leftist phraseology in order to tap into the genuine concerns of masses of people over war, over inequality, over austerity, but their political programs are not socialist, not anti-capitalist, and once they take power they carry out the dictates of the most powerful financial and corporate interests.

And so those who are maneuvering with Jill Stein and the International Socialist Organization, they hope to build a Syriza-style coalition in America.

They held that “Socialist Convergence” in Philadelphia.

Yeah, exactly. That was what that was about. And continuing the “political revolution” of Bernie Sanders.

Thinking about 2008 and the sort of slow slide that we’ve been in ever since, it has given rise to

the so-called ‘political revolution’ of the Bernie Sanders campaign on the one hand and the neo-fascism fronted by Donald Trump on the other. What does this critical moment mean to the Socialist Equality Party? Is it opportunity?

Well, the political radicalization that was given initial expression in the Sanders campaign—and we distinguished enormously between the sentiments of masses of people and the program and intentions of Mr. Sanders, who we from the beginning warned was going to back up the nominee of the Democratic Party and was not a genuine socialist—so this political radicalization, the fact that 13 million people voted in a country which is supposed to be based on anti-socialism and anti-communism, where socialists were supposed to never get political support, that represents an immense political shift to the left in the population.

And that’s the product, not because somebody woke up one morning and changed their mind, but of the profound destabilizing impact of endless wars, of the 2008 crisis which has particularly hit the younger generation really the hardest with the trillion dollars more in college debt, the devastating decline in and stagnation of wages which has occurred, as I mentioned in the auto industry. And we have some figures here if I can refer to them: As I say, the real economy is stagnant while the stock market has tripled. You know, budget cut after budget cut. Since 2008, some 300,000 teachers have lost their jobs, for example. Schools have been closed by the thousands.

In the City of Detroit, during the bankruptcy of 2013-2014, pensions have been cut for public sector workers in violation of the state constitution, totally backed by the Obama administration who supported the federal bankruptcy of the city. Look at the figures on life expectancy, which have hit sections of white workers and white male workers the hardest. So much for white privilege and male privilege. The gap between the life expectancy of the richest white and the poorest white males is almost fifteen years now. I mean, areas like Appalachia have been devastated, and the impact of twenty years ago when Mrs. Clinton worked with her husband in eliminating welfare has created conditions of deep poverty, which primarily hit whites who are the majority of the poor people. So these aren’t racial questions, these are class questions.

So under those conditions, and under conditions where masses of people did vote—by the way, masses of white people voted for Obama. He couldn’t have won without that. Many white workers voted for Obama who thought, you know, perhaps the election of an African American meant somebody more sensitive to the needs of masses of people who are disenfranchised, and so on. Well, the opposite has been the case. The greatest transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top in history, the tripling of the value of the stock market simultaneously with wage stagnation and so on.

Now, it was inevitable that some right-wing demagogue was gonna seek to tap into this discontent in order to channel it behind xenophobia, behind anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim agitation, calling for the building of walls in Mexico and so on. I mean, that’s the same thing that’s happening in Europe with the National Front or Golden Dawn in Greece. Everywhere where there’s deep economic crisis there’s disaffection with the whole political system, which is seen as being completely oblivious to the concerns of masses of people. And on top of that, the promotion of identity politics by the Democratic Party, which tells masses of working people, “You have privileges because you’re white.” Tell that to an unemployed coal miner in West Virginia, you know?

So under those conditions the role of the Democratic Party has provided demagogues like Trump with all the ammunition that he needs. And if Clinton wins these elections, she is absolutely committed to expanding the wars not only in the Middle East but above all against Russia and against China with devastating and catastrophic potential for nuclear war. She had no answer to the social crisis, she’s gonna continue Obama’s policies of fueling the stock market rise, attacking wages, attacking social benefits, shifting the costs of health care away from the employers and the government onto the backs of workers, which is what Obamacare has been all about, and attacking pensions.

So under those conditions, Trump is actually positioning himself for after the election. And if not Trump, it’ll be some other demagogue.

Somebody who can speak.

(Laughs) Yeah.

That’s a thing that scares me, is that there’s somebody out there who’s going to be able to get up and give stirring speeches.

Yeah. And he has a Rust Belt strategy. He’s going to areas that have been devastated by deindustrialization, and he’s trying to tap into that anger. But I would say that’s a very real danger; however, the predominant tendency is a movement to the left. But that movement can find no expression within the Democratic Party whatsoever, and the Sanders campaign has proved that. Again, 13 million people voted for him because he was denouncing the billionaire class, and he’s now backing Hillary Clinton who’s an absolute warmonger, a representative of the billionaire class. She and her husband made hundreds of thousands of dollars with inside dealing with Wall Street. Bill Clinton deregulated the financial markets, got rid of Glass-Steagall, you know. He brought in Robert Rubin, all these people are their people. The Democratic Party is the primary party of Wall Street. That’s why it’s getting all the backing of the hedge fund billionaires.

And the other important thing is, the issue of war is the preeminent issue in the 2016 elections, and it’s deliberately being underplayed and downplayed in order to conceal from the masses of people the immense dangers. It’s the preeminent question. Right now the United States is backing the Turkish invasion of Syria. There is a very real possibility of a military clash with American troops involved, totally illegally, inside of Syria, and they could come into a clash with Russian military forces at any time.

And the same thing is happening in Asia, with the “pivot to Asia.” The provocative actions of the United States in the South China Sea. And these questions—it’s not panic mongering. It is a very, very real process of a possibility of a clash between U.S. and Chinese and Russian forces that creates the danger of nuclear war. Even the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote a document saying, every single day there’s a danger between the United States and China that some miscalculation could provoke war. And nobody knows about it! Who’s saying it? You read Jill Stein’s comments, she hardly mentions the issue of war. Sanders never said anything about such dangers, and he openly supported Obama’s drone assassinations and wars.

And this will have an immense impact on American society. The effort to really crack down on political dissent. And you can see it in the Hillary Clinton campaign. She’s actually managed to attack Trump from the right, saying he’s not militarily aggressive or prepared psychologically for confronting Putin. In fact, she accuses him of being a puppet of Putin. Using the kind of McCarthy-ite language that would have been, “You’re a puppet of Russia.” You know. And if you oppose war, it means you support Russia.

What you see in the Clinton campaign is this marriage between the interests of Wall Street, the interests of the Pentagon and the CIA. And by the way, she’s getting the full backing of those who were associated with Bush and the neocons. Paul Wolfowitz is now saying he’s going to support her. Because she’s seen as someone who’s really gonna protect the geopolitical interests of America, be aggressive against China, against Russia. And so you have this militarism and financial elite being married with the politics of gender and race, bringing in this upper middle-class layer who are going to provide this sort of pseudo-left cover for imperialism. But among the broad masses of people, there’s no support for war. That’s why they can’t make the election a referendum on war, because the people would say no.

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