Workers Vanguard No. 927
2 January 2009
UCLA SDS Hitches Skateboard to Obama Bandwagon
(Young Spartacus pages)
On 3 November 2008—one day before the U.S. presidential elections—Stop McCain, Stop the War! (a new Students for a Democratic Society [SDS] working group) along with Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the Strategy Center of Los Angeles (the group behind the Bus Riders Union) held a rally on the UCLA campus under the call “Speak Out: No to the War! No to McCain! No on the Six [California ballot propositions]!” for the purpose of “going to the polls on November 4 and sending a resounding defeat to John McCain.” This call to vote for the capitalist politician Barack Obama is but the latest and most explicit expression of the rad-lib SDS’s pro-Democratic Party politics.
In our article “UCLA: 16 Arrested at SDS/SWF Protest—Drop the Charges! For Free, Quality, Integrated Education for All! Down With Racist Fee Hikes!” we laid out exactly what kind of a group SDS is:
“SDS is a part of the radical liberal milieu that actively pushes ‘anybody but Bush’ politics. Their efforts are aimed at pressuring (through various means, including ‘direct action’) and boosting the electoral fortunes of the Democratic Party, which is the other capitalist party of racism and imperialist war. Indeed, when the SYC was distributing our defense letter defending those arrested for protesting fee hikes, SDSers told us that they were going to vote for Democrat Barack Obama in the upcoming presidential elections.”
—WV No. 918, 1 August 2008
When SDS organizer Babken DerGrigorian read our article he was furious; he claimed that these characterizations were slanders, insisted that SDS members are radicals and denied that any of their members were voting for Obama. But facts are stubborn things.
In the subsequent months, written arguments about why SDS should work in the Obama campaign have spilled from the pens of UCLA SDS’s leading lights. Dave Shukla argued that “Our fellow students and youth are becoming more anti-militarist, anti-capitalist, and for economic democracy—without hardly even knowing it!... SDS will miss this historic opportunity if we collectively ignore what the elections are already doing for our movements” (“Will SDS Miss the Boat? Engaging With Those Newly Politicized by the Elections is Crucial for Radical Movements,” SDS News Bulletin No. 5, June/July 2008). Gurujiwan Khalsa followed up with, “A huge majority of people in this country are deeply concerned with the current state of affairs in it. Obama’s candidacy happens to be the way that many are expressing that concern. We ought to plug into this groundswell. We ought to talk to them on their terms” (“What Is at Stake in the Coming Elections and What SDS Ought to Do About It,” SDS News Bulletin No. 6, undated). Babken DerGrigorian certainly did not want to miss the boat—he dove into the groundswell, taking a job as a staff member for the Obama campaign!
The speeches at the rally argued that it was crucial to defeat McCain and Palin, the continuators of the Bush regime, as was, in the words of leading SDSer Eric Gardner, “holding the Obama administration to their antiwar promises.” The claim that Obama made “antiwar promises” is patently false, as evidenced by his defense of American imperialist interests, such as his calls to increase troops in Afghanistan and his military threats against Iran and Pakistan.
The irony is, jumping headfirst onto the Obama bandwagon only netted SDS a headache—basically the only attendees at the demo were the organizers! People won’t hobnob with Robin when they can hang with Batman: the pro-Obama students didn’t stay home—they were a little way down UCLA’s Bruin Walk with the real deal, the Bruin Democrats.
We in the Spartacus Youth Club know campaigning for capitalist politicians only builds faith in the capitalist system. We stood in opposition to this rally for the Democratic wing of the bourgeoisie, selling Workers Vanguard with the front page headlining, “McCain, Obama: Class Enemies of Workers, Oppressed” and “Down With the Rotten Capitalist System! For a Workers Party to Fight for Socialist Revolution!” On the battlefield of class struggle, the SYC stands with the working class and for its historic task of international socialist revolution. SDS has proven time and time again, they stand with the capitalist camp and its current commander, Barack Obama.