How a Revolutionary Socialist Would Respond at the New Hampshire Debate

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No candidate on the debate stage is advancing a program for socialist revolution. What might that look like?

Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images

The long, convoluted Democratic Primaries continued with the New Hampshire debate this Friday. The perceived “leftward shift” of the Democratic Party has been accompanied by both red-baiting and excitement. However — despite what the essays in Jacobin and the tirades on Fox News may claim — there was no candidate on the debate stage advancing a program for the working class and socialist revolution. 

And there never will be a revolutionary socialist in the Democratic Primaries, since our aim is to build a party that is independent of capital. Socialists do not run in elections to become the left wing of bourgeois state and maneuver to win a few crumbs. When socialists run in elections, it is to advance working-class consciousness, expose the farce of bourgeois democracy, and show that class struggle is the only reliable way to win.

That said — for the fun of it — we’ve imagined how a revolutionary socialist might respond if they were to stand up on the debate stage.

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You call yourself a socialist. Undoubtedly, President Trump is going to use this against you in debates and try to scare voters should you be the nominee. Are you concerned about that being used against you?

No. I am a socialist. And Trump is going to try to muddle what that word means, so I think it’s important for me to be clear. 

Socialism means a true democracy of working people — much more democratic than our current system of voting once every four years. When I say democracy, I don’t mean the electoral college or the fiasco we just saw in Iowa. I mean a democracy in which working-class and oppressed people actually run society and make decisions about our jobs, production, childcare, our neighborhoods… In short, a government of the working class.

Socialism means that the vast majority of people, the working class, will experience democracy in every aspect of our lives, including and especially where we spend most of our day: our jobs. It means doctors, nurses, and patients getting together to decide how to run our healthcare system — not insurance companies, big pharma, or for-profit hospitals. It means teachers, students, and community members getting together to decide how to run our school systems, not billionaires like Betsy Devos, who has been trying to dismantle public schools since the start of her career. In order to have this kind of democracy, production has to be under the control of the working class. 

Trump will say this is scary. And it is scary. It is scary for the few who have built inconceivable wealth off of the sweat of the labor of others. It is scary for the small group of people who are destroying our environment for their own personal profit. 

We will take everything stolen by the big capitalists and put it in the hands of the working class. So, yes, for them it is scary. But, for the vast majority, it means a world where we allocate our immense resources and our incredible potential to meet our collective needs. It means nothing less than a habitable planet and the liberation of all humanity. 

President Trump recently ordered the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. The next Commander-in-Chief will have to be prepared to contend with enemies of the United States. Iran has long been considered part of the “axis of evil.” If you were Commander-in-Chief, would you have ordered the killing of Soleimani?

Let me begin by saying that I have no interest in being the Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful imperialist army. The United States has over 500 military bases around the world. It dropped 7,243 bombs on Afghanistan just last year. I don’t believe there is any good or moral way to manage the killing machine that is the US army. 

I don’t think that the United States government should go into other countries to kill their leaders. The US has a long history of doing just that. The US has organized coups and propped up right-wing dictators. We don’t learn about that history in school, but we should. Look up, for example, the role of the United Fruit Company in Central America or the CIA in Chile and Iran. In fact, the US overthrew a democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh, in 1953.

Politicians will tell you that these interventions are in the interest of freedom and democracy. They’ll say that it protects American lives and American interests. But US military intervention is and always has been in the interest of US corporations like the United Fruit Company.

And it’s not the kids of CEOs who are going to war. It’s working-class and poor kids who join the military because they want a college education and healthcare. It is trans people who are forced into homelessness and unemployment, and enlist as a way to survive. Corporate stocks skyrocket with the possibility of war, but I think about the countless families who hold their children tighter, both in Iran and in the US, thinking about what the possibility of war means for their family. 

These interventions pit the US working class against the working class abroad; they are often built on racist stereotypes about Muslims. But the Iranian working class is not our enemy. They’ve been participating in huge protests against their own government due to repression, unemployment, and a lack of democracy. Regular working-class Americans must stand with them in common struggle — first and foremost against US imperialism and the crippling sanctions imposed. But we also understand Khamenei and his regime, of which Soleimani was a part, is indeed very repressive, which is why Iranians are standing up against it. 

Soleimani was an enemy of the Iranian working class. So is the US. And the US is a much more dangerous, better armed enemy. The US government is no less the enemy of American workers. The same capitalists who bomb workers abroad come back to the US and hold our health care and education hostage, criminalize and incarcerate Brown and Black people, poison our water, and decimate our environment. The American and Iranian working classes have the same enemies. 

You have not yet said what Medicare for All would cost, but many experts agree it would be too expensive. Other candidates on this stage have expressed the same reservations. Don’t the voters deserve to see the price tag before you send them a bill that could cost tens of trillions of dollars?

Let’s be clear: when the richest nation in the world, the country with the biggest concentration of billionaires, says there isn’t money, it’s a lie.

There is money for Medicare for All. 

Just look at the military budget, which currently stands at $748 billion. This budget should be cut to zero: the United States has no business building a war machine to kill people abroad. Look, too, at the massive wealth of Facebook, whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a net worth of $74 billion. Look at the massive wealth of Amazon, whose CEO Jeff Bezos has a net worth of $126 billion. There is enough money for Medicare for All.

Look at the billions in profits of health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry. Healthcare is a right and no one should be profiting off of it. I think we need free and public healthcare for all. So, I think we can and should expropriate the insurance companies, pharma companies, private hospitals, and all aspects of the healthcare industry. 

But to have the highest quality healthcare we also have to think about who should run it. Should it be people in boardrooms who may or may not have ever been a nurse or doctor? Or should it be the patients, nurses, and doctors who are involved in looking after people every day? I think the answer is clear.

We need healthcare that is free, public, and well-funded. And it needs to be run by those who understand it best: nurses, doctors, and patients. 

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It is just 48 hours after the acquittal of President Trump — a process that has certainly crystallized the divide in our country. You have talked about the need to remove Trump, but you are not in favor of impeachment. Is investigating President Trump the best way to try to unify the country?

I think the first thing we need to interrogate is the presidency itself. We all learn about how after the American Revolution, people rebelled against the inordinate power of a king. The position of president is a relic of that system: a leader who can just decide via executive order what to do and undo. The case of Iran is a good example: Donald Trump unilaterally pushed the United States towards war. I don’t think anyone should have any power like that. It’s not democratic at all. 

We have to get Trump out of office. He’s created concentration camps, in which eight children died just last year. He has separated children from their parents and dropped more bombs on Afghanistan than any other President. Several women have come forward to say he sexually assaulted them — and he said as much before he was even elected. But that’s not why the House voted to impeach Donald Trump. They voted to impeach him because he had some sketchy dealings with Ukraine, threatening to withhold military aid in order to get an investigation into Joe Biden.

But I think we have to tell the truth: this isn’t the first time the US has used “aid” as a manipulative tool for US interests. Look at the recent attempt to use aid to institute a coup in Venezuela!

And I think that the members of Congress were only compelled to act when Trump attacked one of their own: one of the Democrats. What about the attacks on working-class and oppressed people? I do think that there is a clear case of nepotism between Joe and Hunter Biden: I don’t think Hunter Biden should have been on the board of Burisma Holdings, one of Ukraine’s largest natural gas companies, making $50,000 a month. That’s a slap in the face to all the people listening to this debate right now who are struggling to pay the bills.

Without a doubt, Trump needs to be removed. But so do all of these politicians that write laws that favor billionaires and line their own pockets. They all need to be revocable and their privileges must be abolished. But that’s never going to happen through impeachment. Working people must look to the example of Puerto Rico, where mass protests and strikes forced the resignation of the governor. We must look to Lebanon and Iraq and Chile where workers and movements have attempted to link up to demand the overhaul of regimes. Trump must go. All of the capitalist politicians must go. But only the struggle of the workers and the masses can deliver their removal.

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Mayor Buttigieg has described himself as a moderate, but one of his policies goes further than some on the stage. He has called for the decriminalization of all drugs. You have called for even further measures. Do you then include heroin, meth, and cocaine, some of the drugs that have contributed to the current crisis? What do you think of this?

First and foremost, this is an issue of justice for Black and Brown people in this country: it is about a “war on drugs” that has been used to funnel people of color into the prison industrial complex. Black people are five times more likely and Latinx people are twice as likely to be imprisoned than white people . The War on Drugs was nothing more than a war on the poor. It was also an excuse to send guns into Mexico, further escalating cartel wars there. 

While the working class suffered under despotic drug policies, big pharma companies grew exceedingly wealthy by further preying on oppressed people in the form of the opioid crisis. Families like the Sacklers, founders of Purdue Pharma, suppressed research about how addictive prescription opioids are and earned billions. Today, the opioid crisis is talked about differently than the way that the crack epidemic was discussed: while Black people were criminalized for addiction, increasingly people understand addiction as a public health crisis — which is what it is. 

We shouldn’t criminalize people struggling with drug addiction. So I think we should decriminalize opioids, and in fact, I think that all drugs should be decriminalized. This should be applied retroactively so as to expunge all records and free all those who have been arrested for drug-related crimes. 

Mayor Buttigieg has signaled that he’d be open to the idea of expanding the Court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested leaving the Court as it is, saying quote, “Nine seems to be a good number.” And in fact she said if the number of justices is increased, “It would make the Court appear partisan. It would be one side saying, ‘When we’re in power, we’re going to enlarge the number of judges to have more people who will vote the way we want them to.’” Is Justice Ginsburg wrong?

Yes. She is. I don’t think that nine unelected people should be able to make any of the decisions that impact the lives of working-class people. While the Supreme Court has been forced to make some important progressive decisions like Roe v. Wade or Brown v. Board of Education, historically, it has been a bastion of conservatism. The court supported slavery and segregation and stood in the way of even minor progressive reforms during the New Deal Era. 

They are a group of unelected judges who receive lifetime appointments. Nine people have been given decision-making power over the entire country without having a democratic process to hold them accountable. We have not one but two known sexual abusers on the court and no legal mechanisms by which to throw them out! 

Their existence is predicated on defending the US constitution. The US constitution is an antiquated and racist document that was created to prop up the ruling class. We cannot reform the Supreme Court: adding more members will not solve the problem. We must abolish it. The Supreme Court, like the Senate, is not only an undemocratic institution, it is an anti-democratic institution. It must be abolished.

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Tatum Regan

Tatum is an educator from New York City.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

Tatiana Cozzarelli

Tatiana is a former middle school teacher and current Urban Education PhD student at CUNY.