• $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • other
  • use Paypal

CALLING ALL COUNTERPUNCHERS! CounterPunch’s website is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. We are supported almost entirely by the subscribers to the print edition of our magazine and by one-out-of-every-1000 readers of the site. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners to the “new” Cuba. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads or click bait. Unlike many other indy media sites, we don’t shake you down for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it. So over the next few weeks we are requesting your financial support. Keep CounterPunch free, fierce and independent by donating today by credit card through our secure online server, via PayPal or by calling 1(800) 840-3683. Note: This annoying box will disappear once we reach our fund drive goal. Thank you for your support!


Left Parties in 2013?


Last week’s article by John Halle highlighted the growing strength of left-wing candidates for municipal office in the United States. As of writing, Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant has pulled ahead by a slim margin in Seattle, while Howie Hawkins, Green and Socialist, received 40% of the vote in his race for City Council in Syracuse, NY. My own campaign for city council in Albany, NY – I am a Green and ideological socialist – saw me come in second to a Democrat. I agree with Halle that the objective conditions for the left’s electoral success in the United States especially at the municipal level are more promising than they have been in decades.

In much of the country gerrymandering and the decay of old party machines have left towns virtual one party fiefdoms for generations. I know when Greens run serious campaigns in upstate New York, we are the second party behind the Democrats. A great deal of potential exists for left campaigns in towns and cities with no Republican presence; the capitulation of Democrats to the ruling class and its policies of austerity, privatization, and economic decay should be a constant theme for all left candidates.

Given the unlikelihood of revolutionary workers’ councils springing up in the not-too-distant future, the real left in the United States must make a cross-party push for serious electoral reform at the local level if it wants to see campaigns like Sawant’s become more than anomalies. Barriers to continued electoral success by alternative parties in the United States are structural, endemic, and onerous. To overcome them, we need an honest effort by the real left outside the Democratic Party to commit to a joint platform on electoral reform. The first test will come in states and municipalities with referendum and initiative, but should be fought anywhere a left grouping can do so. My humble suggestions:

1. Proportional representation: this is the lynchpin of continuing left-wing electoral success in the rest of the world. This reform is actually easier to achieve at local levels, where many officials are elected at-large and city councils could easily convert from multi-member plurality elections to party-list. For areas which prefer some form of geographical representation, mixed-member proportional provides the solution.

2. Ballot access barriers: The left needs to fight for one simple ballot-access standard for all parties across the United States and District of Columbia: 1% of voter registration or the vote for a statewide candidate confers permanent ballot access, and standard, low signature requirements for non-ballot access parties. Alternative party candidates often need to collect staggering amounts of signatures compared to ballot-status parties just to qualify. In New York, prior to 2010 the Green Party needed to collect 15,000 valid signatures from voters in 6 weeks for our statewide candidates, which meant at least 25,000 to ensure we made the ballot. At the local level prior to 2010 we often needed hundreds of signatures just to run for local office. Ballot status has conveyed a much easier procedure.

3. Public Campaign Funding: Campaigns can be expensive even at the local level. Clean money, clean elections block grants to candidates after they raise a small amount of money are still the best way to minimize funding disparities and increase the chance the left has to win. There is no reason to think this could not happen at the municipal level.

4. Permanent Voter Registration: The left needs to demand an end to opt-in voter registration, and instead push for permanent registration kept by the board of election via your address on tax returns, DMV records, etc. Making everyone permanently registered would benefit the left as it is often the poor, young, and transient who have a hard time remaining on the voter rolls.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, nor is it likely to be enacted in the near future. Clearly the real left in the United States needs to learn to embed itself in communities and raise demands that resonate with the population if it is to succeed at the polls.

Yet a serious drive by parties of the real left to win these battles would invigorate left-electoral campaigns and point the way forward to a more radical confrontation with the state and capitalism in the future as the parties grow based on their activist and electoral success.

Peter A. LaVenia, PhD. – Peter has a PhD in Political Science from the University at Albany, SUNY. He is currently the Secretary of the New York State Green Party and is a researcher and organizer for the civic activist Ralph Nader. 

Peter A. LaVenia has a PhD in Political Theory from the University at Albany, SUNY and is a member of the New York State Green Party’s executive committee. He can be reached on Twitter @votelavenia and at his website, unorthodoxmarxist.wordpress.com.

October 13, 2015
Dave Lindorff
US Dispatched a Murderous AC-130 Airborne Gunship to Attack a Hospital
Steve Martinot
The Politics of Prisons and Prisoners
Heidi Morrison
A Portrait of an Immigrant Named Millie, Drawn From Her Funeral
Andre Vltchek
Horrid Carcass of Indonesia – 50 Years After the Coup
Jeremy Malcolm
All Rights Reserved: Now We Know the Final TTP is Everything We Feared
Omar Kassem
Do You Want to See Turkey Falling Apart as Well?
Paul Craig Roberts
Recognizing Neocon Failure: Has Obama Finally Come to His Senses?
Theodoros Papadopoulos
The EU Has Lost the Plot in Ukraine
Roger Annis
Ukraine Threatened by Government Negligence Over Polio
Matthew Stanton
The Vapid Vote
Mel Gurtov
Manipulating Reality: Facebook is Listening to You
Louisa Willcox
Tracking the Grizzly’s Number One Killer
Binoy Kampmark
Assange and the Village Gossipers
Robert Koehler
Why Bombing a Hospital Is a War Crime
Jon Flanders
Railroad Workers Fight Proposed Job Consolidation
Mark Hand
Passion and Pain: Photographer Trains Human Trafficking Survivors
October 12, 2015
Ralph Nader
Imperial Failure: Lessons From Afghanistan and Iraq
Ishmael Reed
Want a Renewal? Rid Your City of Blacks
Thomas S. Harrington
US Caught Faking It in Syria
Victor Grossman
Scenes From a Wonderful Parade Against the TPP
Luciana Bohne
Where Are You When We Need You, Jean-Paul Sartre?
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The US Way of War: From Columbus to Kunduz
Paul Craig Roberts
A Decisive Shift in the Balance of Power
Justus Links
Turkey’s Tiananmen in Context
Ray McGovern
Faux Neutrality: How CNN Shapes Political Debate
William Manson
Things R Us: How Venture Capitalists Feed the Fetishism of Technology
Norman Pollack
The “Apologies”: A Note On Usage
Steve Horn
Cops Called on Reporter Who Asked About Climate at Oil & Gas Convention
Javan Briggs
The Browning of California: the Water is Ours!
Dave Randle
The BBC and the Licence Fee
Andrew Stewart
Elvis Has Left the Building: a Reply to Slavoj Žižek
Nicolás Cabrera
Resisting Columbus: the Movement to Change October 12th Holiday is Rooted in History
Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria