The Socialist Party of Southern Maine condemns the white supremacist rally and march currently being held in Charlottesville, Virginia. As an anti-racist organization, we stand with people of color as well as oppressed and marginalized groups against individuals who hold to the ideas of white supremacy as well as the racist institutions that white supremacists seek to uphold. We condemn the violent tactics used by the white supremacists as well as their inflammatory rhetoric, which comes on the heels of a presidential campaign and cabinet that has further emboldened far right and racist groups. We stand in solidarity with all counter protesters and anti-racist groups and will continue to work with organizations in Maine to fight back against the right and white supremacy.
The Socialist Party of Southern Maine strongly condemns Portland City Government for disallowing the Fair Rent Portland and Give Neighborhoods a Voice referendum campaigns a place on this November’s municipal ballot. City officials listed August 9th as the deadline for signatures to be submitted in order for these referenda to be included on the ballot. Both campaigns followed instructions in good faith and met the established deadline, but were then told that the clerks office “just determined” the deadline was incorrect, as it did not give the city enough time hold a public hearing before the November election. Denying each of these campaigns a spot on the ballot by changing the rules after-ther fact, whether an act of incompetence or prejudice (or both), will result in an unfair and undemocratic municipal election. The Socialist Party of Southern Maine finds this unacceptable, and demands that the City of Portland adhere to its original rules and to give Portlanders the ability to vote on both referenda on the November ballot. These two campaigns did the hard work to get the measures to the ballot, and the voters of Portland deserve a voice on these important issues. In the difficult political condition our nation currently faces, we need government to be more fair and transparent, and work harder to inspire public engagement; instead our municipal government is treating Fair Rent Portland and Give Neighborhoods a Voice capriciously and denying our citizens a democratic say in Portland’s future. We call on City Council and the Mayor to immediately correct this injustice by instructing City Government to place these two referenda on the ballot, thereby allowing Portlanders the unfettered and fair democratic process they are due.
Last month, the Maine Socialist Party held its founding convention. Members of the Socialist Party USA had already established two local chapters in the state, one for Southern Maine and Eastern Maine respectively. Now, those chapters have united into a statewide organization dedicated to fighting for a future of social, economic, and environmental justice.
In a recent column published in the Koch Brothers-funded Maine Wire, John Frary opined on the newly formed Socialist Party (SP) of Maine, imagining the founding convention as a gathering of “cranks…vegetarians, sandal-wearers, nudists…birth-control fanatics…climate-control fanatics and associated eco-weirdos.” Despite, by his own admission, having neither attended the convention nor any local meetings, nor interviewed any party members, Frary feels comfortable dismissing the entire organization as a bunch of “cranks.” Frary’s column, which is thoroughly devoid of substance, contains no criticism of the SP’s actual activities or platform but consists entirely of such ad-hominem attacks on individuals he has never met.
Frary’s column is a particularly sad example of the low state of public discourse in America today, but this kind of vicious attack is unsurprising, especially when we consider its source. The Maine Wire is published by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a think tank established to promote the interests of big corporations and wealthy elites. Among the big-money financiers of the Maine Heritage Policy Center is the Cato Institute, a group co-founded by infamous billionaire Charles Koch and dedicated to advancing the ideological agenda of the super-rich. This agenda, which disguises itself with wholesome words like “heritage” and “freedom,” centers around tax cuts for the super-rich; destruction of regulations to protect consumers, workers, and the environment; and the privatization of public services like education and healthcare.
It’s not hard to see why millionaires and bollionaires are in favor of such an agenda – it directly benefits their class interests. That’s why they invest money into publications like the Maine Wire, which devotes its pages to attacking anything which is good for the rest of us poor, working class, and middle class folks – things like single payer healthcare, a raise in the minimum wage, higher taxes on the rich to pay for infrastructure and education, or, in this case, the foundation of a grassroots political party. Without citing any reason or evidence, Frary labels the Maine SP “big government cultists” who believe that “democracy is too important to be left to the people.” In reality, the Maine SP’s vision of socialism is one of democratic control over the economy; that is to say, taking economic power away from banks, corporations, the rich, and their cronies in the capitalist government, and giving that power to ordinary people and local communities. This is precisely the opposite of “big government,” a bogeyman phrase used by the defenders of the ruling class to shut down discussions on alternatives to capitalism.
In his column, Frary implies that the Maine SP is out of touch with the struggles of ordinary folks of Maine. It is, of course, the epitome of irony that a mouthpiece for out-of-state billionaires would make this accusation against anyone, but that’s beside the point. The recent actions of the Maine SP speak for themselves. Socialist Party members have shown their solidarity with the LGBT+ community at June’s pride events in Portland and Bangor, with the Penobscot Nation at a recent rally for tribal sovereignty and water justice, with citizens in Augusta demanding action on climate change, and with workers in Bangor fighting for expanded access to public transportation. The Socialist Party has worked with grassroots organizations to build community gardens in low-income neighborhoods, and stood on the picket line with AT&T workers when they went on strike in May to demand a decent contract.
Now, with statewide organization and a rapidly growing membership of energetic activists, much more is on the horizon. The Maine SP plans to run serious electoral campaigns in 2018, with the goal of talking to Mainers about socialism and building a broad, organized movement of poor and working class families, indigenous communities, students, immigrants, the elderly, the disabled, all marginalized and oppressed people, and anyone who shares our vision of a future based on cooperation, democracy, peace, and freedom.
6:00 - 6:05 Approve agenda 6:05 - 6:15 Introductions and welcome to any new members 6:15 - 6:25 Reports from recent events 6:25 - 6:45 Quick update on organizing for upcoming event 6:45 - 7:00 Election of additional Local Executive Committee officers 7:00 - 7:25 Round table discussion on choosing future reading 7:25 - 7:55 Discussion https://jacobinmag.com/2017/07/socialism-liberalism-left-frase 7:55 - 8:00 Set next meeting time/location and potential items for the agenda
The following statement was adopted by the Local Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of Southern Maine on February 22, 2017.
Justice for Victims of Police Violence! Hold the Cops Accountable!
The Socialist Party of Southern Maine stands with the family and friends of Chance David Baker, and all fighters for racial justice and human rights, in mourning his senseless killing by an officer of the Portland Police Department on Saturday, February 18th. Earlier in the month, two young people, Kadhar Bailey and Ambroshia Fagre, were killed by a cop in Kennebec County. These killings in Maine share several features of the epidemic of police violence that plagues the United States as a whole.
IT’S THE SYSTEM: MAINE NOT IMMUNE
In July of last year, Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling scolded Black Lives Matter protestors, saying, “We don’t have police brutality in Portland, and that’s a good thing….” It was a falsehood when he uttered it, and the lie is now exposed. Police brutality against working-class people, especially people of color, immigrants, the homeless, and the disabled, is nationwide and systemic. Maine is not immune, nor is Portland.
From 2000-2016, 63 people were killed by police in the State of Maine. This is a high number, considering our state’s low population. For example, in the same time period, police killed the same number of citizens in West Virginia, a state whose population is about 40% larger than ours. In most states, a disproportionate number of those killed are Black, Hispanic, or Native American. In Maine, of 63 killed, one each were Hispanic, Native American, and Black. (Source: FatalEncounters.org) Chance’s killing brings the last number up to two, out of a total, now, of 66. The overwhelmingly white composition of Maine’s population renders even these figures suspiciously high. The institutional racist bias of policing makes itself felt even with few people of color.
A map of police killings in Maine overlaid on poverty data shows that most killings take place in the cities, towns and townships with the highest poverty rates. Homeless people and people with insecure housing—like Chance—are far more likely to become victims of police violence. And while the possible role of mental illness in Chance’s killing has been disputed by those who knew him best, what is indisputable is that people with mental illness or other disabilities (such as hearing impairment, asthma, autism) are more likely to be victimized than the general population.
Police violence brings together intersecting forms of oppression into a lethal net: The marginalization of the ill, the disposability of the poor, the fear and hatred our power structures direct against people of color. When Sgt. Nicholas Goodman aimed his weapon, he targeted the body of one young man with the concentrated force of these deadly injustices. Sgt. Goodman pulled the trigger, but the capitalist system loaded his gun.
COP APOLOGISTS: “COMPLY OR DIE”
For some, it seems there is no act of violence that a police officer can commit for which they will not find an excuse, or at least “the benefit of the doubt.” This is written into law and is an attitude rampant among judges and prosecutors, with the result that of the few cops who are even indicted for brutalities, almost none are ever convicted. Mainstream media echo it, and elected officials propagandize in the name of “law and order.” Thus the excuses already given for Chance’s killing. “He was carrying a gun.” But Maine is an “open carry” state, where citizens have the right to hold weapons in public, and besides, it was pellet gun. “The cop couldn’t have known it was a pellet gun.” Isn’t he trained in firearms recognition? Did he take the time to find out? And again, what happened to “open carry?” “Chance was acting erratically.” That’s what the cop has said. Was there no de-escalation available to him, short of shooting him in the head?
It seems clear based on what we do know that Sgt. Goodman made a snap judgment, in which at least some of the factors likely to prejudice cops played a part—Chance’s skin color or appearance, the fact that the encounter took place in a relatively low-income part of Portland. Note also that he had gotten away with a previous killing in 2008, with no apparent damage to his career. He placed all the risk of the encounter on Chance, taking none on himself.
The excuses which cops and their apologists make add up to a “comply or die” mentality that is incompatible with democratic rights, including not only the right to bear arms, but also the rights of free speech and assembly. The last excuse to which they resort—“It’s a dangerous job and someone’s got to do it”—is the biggest lie of all. Police officer is not even one of the 10 deadliest jobs in America: loggers, fishermen, farmworkers, airline pilots, truck drivers, garbage collectors, and various types of construction workers are made by their bosses to take bigger risks with their lives than any cop. So much for the supposed danger—we’ll get to “someone’s got to do it.”
OUR IMMEDIATE DEMANDS
Systemic problems require systemic solutions, but people in communities subjected to police violence want measures taken to protect their lives now. The following immediate demands are supported by the Socialist Party of Southern Maine:
- Revamp the Police Citizen Review Subcommittee (PCRS): The national platform of the Socialist Party USA calls for “the immediate establishment of completely independent and democratically elected police control and oversight councils, with full power to fire police and to arrest, detain, and indict police officers who brutalize or abuse people or who commit any violation of laws or civil rights and liberties.” In Portland, this would mean changing the PCRS to provide for election of Subcommittee members; inclusion of appointed members with full voting rights from populations most harmed by police violence (homeless people, people of color, immigrants); and giving PCRS full subpoena powers, the right to hire and fire cops, and the right to appoint special prosecutors with the power to indict police officers and issue warrants for their arrest.
- Immediate purchase and implementation of body cameras: From their implementation in other cities, though, that the police cannot be trusted to handle this. Body cameras should be “always on” whenever an officer is on duty, with footage held on servers controlled by the PCRS.
- De-escalation training for entire Portland Police Department, with emphasis on non-lethal force.
- Integration of mental health support professionals with police.
The ACLU of Maine has also called for fast-tracking body cameras by PPD, and for de-escalation training. We join in these demands. We encourage all community organizations concerned about police violence to campaign for a revamped PCRS.
IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT POLICE
The police as an institution came into being fairly recently, as part of the rise of the capitalist system. The first city police departments in the United States were founded in the early 19th century. They had the roles of capturing fugitive slaves and returning them to their owners, and dispersing “disorders” (including strikes and demonstrations) by the poor. Racism and class discrimination reach back to the earliest roots of the police.
Police will outlive their usefulness when humans find a better way than capitalism to organize our lives. Socialism is not just “the government doing stuff for you.” The democratic socialism for which the Socialist Party stands means that we, the people, do for ourselves, by taking power in our workplaces and our communities.
“But what about crime?” First of all, the police don’t fight crime. Many of the worst crimes are never treated as crimes. The best way to get away with stealing is to own a bank; the best way to get away with murder is to be a cop or a general. Even among crimes that the law regards as such, the cops’ own statistics (Maine Department of Public Safety) show the total “clearance rate” in 2014, statewide, was only 34.8%. Because people in our communities do not trust the cops—nor should we—police are ineffective at their supposed job.
Many crimes come from the injustices of capitalism itself. Theft only makes sense if people are deprived of access to the goods they need. A sexist society breeds the misogynistic attitudes that make violence against women as rampant as it is. We do not pretend that socialism, in reducing the causes of crime, will totally eliminate it, though. That is why the national program of the Socialist Party USA includes the following demand: “We call for the ultimate replacement of the police with community residents trained in conflict resolution who live in and serve the community under community control.”
By fighting for justice for Chance David Baker and other victims today, we can build the confidence, organization, and trust in one another we need to make possible a world without police.
The following press release was issued earlier today by Tom MacMillan and Seth Baker. MacMillan was the 2015 Maine Green Independent Party candidate for Mayor of Portland, and is now a graduate student at the University of Maine and the Eastern Maine organizer for the Socialist Party USA. Baker was the 2016 Maine Green Independent Party candidate for State Senate District 27, and is now the chair of the Socialist Party of Southern Maine. We encourage anyone considering following their example to review the principles of the Socialist Party USA.
Contact: Tom MacMillan (207-272-5833) or Seth Baker (207-313-4073)
MacMillan, Baker leave Green Party and Join Socialists Over Lack of Accountability
On Tuesday, January 17, prominent former Green Party candidates Tom MacMillan and Seth Baker announced their resignation as a members of the Maine Green Independent Party and their intent to change their voter registration political party to Socialist Party USA. MacMillan ran for mayor of Portland in 2015 as well as serving as three-time chair of the Portland Green Independent Committee and Baker was the sole candidate for the Maine Legislature of the Greens in 2016 when he ran for District 27 of the State Senate.
“The Maine Greens political support for local Democrats over the past several years has drastically reduced our confidence in that party. However, what has moved us to leave the Green Party is their lack of accountability for MGIP Secretary Ben Meiklejohn’s support for the inauguration of Donald Trump as President. Secretary Meiklejohn has proven to be a reactionary and unprincipled leader in the MGIP and their leadership is unwilling to address the situation. Therefore, in order to stay true to our beliefs in justice and equality as well to be in solidarity with the millions of people rightfully worried about the incoming Trump administration, we are leaving the Green Party and plan to build the Socialist Party in Maine as a counterweight to the corrupt economic and political system. Working people need their own political party and from now on, our time, energy and activism will be committed to the Socialist Party as the best way to move forward for Maine workers.”
Socialist Party USA is a democratic socialist party which has roots dating back to 1901.
For discussion and debate: An article by one of our local members (which by no means represents the opinions of all SPSM or SPUSA members) on Cuba after 57 Years of Fidel.