California has been a Democrat-controlled state for a decade. Yet most residents still can’t afford a home, and nothing significant has been done about it. Millions of Californians lack health care. People work long hours and multiple jobs, but still can’t make ends meet. Poor communities suffer high rates of sickness and death due to air pollution or a lack of clean water. Fracking permits continue to be granted while climate change-induced wildfires rage across the state. Police shoot innocent people in the streets and violently crackdown on peaceful protests while politicians refuse to act.
For too long, Californians have trusted that if a candidate identifies as a Democrat, they must have their best interests at heart. That mistaken trust has led to dire consequences for the people of this state. Most Democrats get the majority of their campaign funding from fossil fuel corporations, the real estate industry, tech companies, and banks. Our state is unquestionably in a time of crisis, a crisis overseen by Democratic supermajorities in both houses of the State Legislature that consistently protect corporate interests over the interests of the people they’ve sworn to represent. Dissent against mainstream Democrats gets labeled as “divisive” and aiding and abetting the right, even when the targets of this dissent are Democrats acting in direct opposition to the needs of working class people.
Yet hope exists. Real movements continue to rise up from the ground that fight for working people, in spite of a lack of Democratic Party support. The Los Angeles and Oakland teachers unions, in partnership with parents and students, went on strike to fight budget cuts that would have devastated families throughout their districts. Homeless advocates, including Reclaiming Our Homes and Moms 4 Housing, occupied some of the state’s many vacant homes to show that while housing exists, we lack the political will to provide it to those in need. Tenant-led movements in multiple cities passed or expanded rent control in their communities, and more cities have begun their own fights. The Democratic Socialists of America has seen explosive growth and fought for bold initiatives statewide, while the youth-led Sunrise Movement continues to use direct action up and down California to demand climate change be addressed.
Electorally, self-identified democratic socialist candidates are running and winning local races. Katie Valenzuela offed an incumbent darling of real estate on the Sacramento City Council and stood as the only Councilmember who supported the City’s recent rent control campaign. Dean Preston won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, in part by fighting for tenants to have legal representation and pushing for massive investment in public housing. In Los Angeles, Nithya Raman won a seat on the City Council running on her record of fighting for and performing outreach to homeless people.
Yet a crucial problem still remains: the mainstream political conversation in the state considers all Democrats left, and consistently fails to articulate the real differences between candidates that answer to corporations versus candidates that answer to working people. Individual campaigns run to the left of mainstream Democrats do not get connected into the larger movement for economic justice, but are covered as isolated incidents led by individual groups, if they’re covered at all. Capitalism remains the only possible system imaginable in these conversations, while those who propose a democratic socialist alternative are sidelined as unrealistic idealists.
As Republican influence continues to descend further into irrelevance, the state’s Democratic Party stands poised to utterly control the future of California. A likely future exists in which candidates will be chosen for office throughout the state by the Party, priorities will be decided by them, and movements for working-class people on the ground will be co-opted through tepid Party support followed by watered-down legislation that fails to address the root cause of an issue. The state will move further towards a one-party state that accepts massive donations from the same industries causing California’s biggest problems: the fossil fuel industry, the financial industry, the private health-care industry, the tech industry, and the real estate industry. Party candidates will continue to represent these donors’ interests at the expense of state residents.
Another possible future exists. An organized, state-wide effort offering a cohesive left critique of corporate Democrat rule and an alternative vision for California that puts people over profits could grow to realistically challenge this one-party state. This left would continue to develop a vision that always prioritizes human needs over the need for profit. This would mean providing health care and affordable housing to everyone, addressing the climate crisis with solutions big enough to solve the problem, and keeping fossil fuel in the ground. It would mean building a powerful statewide labor movement to achieve a future in which employees in all industries have union representation and businesses are run democratically by the people that work in them. It would mean industries like tech and finance would pay their fair share to fund a healthy state and would be barred from financing political campaigns. It would mean schools with enough nurses and counselors to actually serve the children that need help, and equal funding for all schools no matter what their zip code is.
The California Fighter will give a voice to this growing left alternative to corporate Democratic rule and foster its growth and development. We will cover its movements and leaders, and connect local efforts to broader movements statewide, nationwide, and globally. We will articulate the difference between mainstream candidates and movements and their democratic socialist alternatives. We will provide a place for debate about the political vision of a leftist movement serious about winning and maintaining power, a movement that instead of pushing for a mildly less painful form of capitalism, believes in a system in which people have actual control over their own lives, both inside and outside the workplace. We will provide a space to share resources and ideas for how we win.
Sometimes, you have to fight for what you believe in. That time is now. We hope you’ll join us.
“Are you willing to fight for that person who you don’t even know as much as you’re willing to fight for yourself?”Bernard Sanders