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.