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California Chaos — What’s Behind the California Governor Recall Vote?

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October 7th is the date set for a special election to recall California Governor Gray Davis after the certification of more than 900,000 signatures of registered voters required by law. The recall campaign was bankrolled by the fundamentalist Republican Congressman millionaire Darrell Issa and the far-right People’s Advocate group which has sponsored ballot initiatives against workers, African Americans and immigrants in California over the past two decades, such as Proposition 187.

The announcement that movie star and political novice Arnold Schwarzenegger was entering the race as a Republican candidate, given his name recognition, and the lack of any well-known political alternative has added even more drama to the race. With strong support from the Republican Party and the political machine of former Republican Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan, as well as his own personal mega-fortune, he will be hard to beat. The Democrats are left struggling whether to support embattled Davis or their own alternative post-recall candidate Cruz Bustamante.

The recall campaign against Davis, which initially was not taken seriously by the political establishment, came as California descended into a huge budget crisis with a colossal $38 billion budget shortfall amidst a severe economic downturn. Newsweek warned that, “There is a sense that California has lost the ability to govern itself and is in need of cataclysmic social renovation. The state’s sulfurous civic life makes the last days of Rome look serene” (7/2803).

California’s budget deficit is so huge that it surpasses the entire budget of every state except New York. It resulted from the economic downturn after the dot-coms collapsed, the huge energy crisis resulting from deregulation, and tax cuts for the rich and big business. As a result, the Democratic majority and Republican minority in the state legislature are preparing “draconian cuts in social services, highway construction, and education” (Newsweek). Public universities are planning to increase tuition by at least 25%, while the state sales tax and car registration fees are both regressive taxes that will fall disproportionately on workers and the poor.

The recall campaign, which started as a “fringe right-wing” campaign, gained momentum because of these unpopular policies of Davis and the Democrats who were slashing jobs and services to satisfy their corporate sponsors. Polls show 45% of Californians support the recall, and only 20% support Davis.

The long-term aim of the Republicans on the national level is to attempt to politically control California for the next presidential elections. On the local level, Republicans want to completely destroy healthcare and public education, open the door to privatization, and eliminate any regulations on corporations.

The Democrats, on the other hand, have offered a slightly less onerous but equally brutal attack on the working class, the poor, immigrants, and children. For example, the Democrats offered cuts of $454 million from community colleges rather than the $782 million cuts proposed by the Republicans! The Democratic Party clearly do not offer a genuine alternative to the right-wing effort to take over the government of the largest state in the U.S.

The California crisis illustrates that neither the democratic rights nor basic needs like decent housing, quality public education, good paying jobs or decent healthcare, can be left in the hands of a political system that is owned lock, stock and barrel by an economic oligarchy.

What to Do?
Socialists opposed the recall campaign when it was started by the right-wing Republicans, and we would propose a mass movement of the working class to stop the cuts in jobs and services prepared by Davis and his backers.

Now that the recall is on the ballot, working people are faced with the choice of whether Davis deserves to be recalled. We believe that the working class in California will be hit hard if Davis is left in office. Therefore, we call for him to be recalled. Unfortunately, the union officials who should have been organizing the mass anger and opposition to Davis seem to once again be rallying behind Davis and the Democratic Party, which has served working people in California so “well” over the past period.

There is a need for a working class alternative to the election in October. A state conference should have been organized with representatives from labor, young people, immigrants, community activists, left Greens and socialists to agree on a fighting program:

  • No more cuts in services – Restore all services recently cut
  • Tax big business and the rich to pay for the deficit
  • Take the commercial energy resources of the state into public ownership under democratic workers’ control and management
  • A mass job creation program through public spending on health, education, and cleaning up the environment
  • End Bush’s occupation of Iraq and attacks on democratic rights
    With California labor leaders failing to provide an alternative, despite serious weaknesses in his program, a vote for the Green Party candidate Peter Camejo is the best way of demonstrating opposition to all candidates of both major parties, and the need for a working class alternative to the crisis.


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