While the last preparations were being put in place for the corporate-sponsored, stage-managed "Democratic" Party Convention, independent left-wing presidential candidate Ralph Nader spoke in Boston about why he’s determined to challenge the two party status quo.
On July 23, 700-800 people crowded two big lecture halls at Harvard University to hear the anti-war, anti-corporate message from the man who is drawing more ire from some Democratic Party pundits than George W. Bush.
Nader spoke out strongly against the corruption of the two-party system that runs the country. He called George W. Bush "a giant corporation disguised as a human being residing in the White House,” and said "his administration was marinated in oil." But Nader warned that the Democrats are no alternative – their presidential nominee John Kerry is "for the war and wants to stay in Iraq, he toes the Sharon party line, he’s for corporate globalization, the WTO and NAFTA, and he voted for the PATRIOT Act—the greatest single assault on civil liberties in the country’s history."
Socialist Alternative, a socialist organization that supported the Nader campaign in 2000 and is doing so again in 2004, were the main organizers of the rally. The rally was sponsored and organized by members of Socialist Alternative at Harvard, who originally booked a single room with a 350 seat capacity expecting to fill maybe 200 hundred seats. But as the buzz about the rally grew, Harvard moved the meeting to a much larger room and even provided a second room with a live video feed!
The turnout was surprising given that organizers had less than a week to spread the word. With the help of energetic activists who came to Boston from as far away as Alaska with the goal of getting Nader on the Massachusetts ballot, thousands of flyers were posted and distributed throughout the greater Boston area.
Many posters were defaced or torn down, but still 700-800 people turned up, a tremendous figure especially given the obstacles we faced. These included the fact that half the population of Boston had fled the city to escape the Democratic National Convention; that the event also occurred at the same time as the Boston Social Forum, which attracted many local activists; and that the event was at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon.
The crowd was overwhelmingly made up of youth, a reflection of the support Nader is getting from young people. Currently, 12 percent of young people between the ages of 18 and 30 say they are going to vote for Nader. The amazing turnout is proof that despite the avalanche of attacks that "2004 is not 2000" from the corporate media and liberal democrats Nader’s campaign is attracting a very important layer of activists, workers and youth. It is helping legitimize the idea of independent politics and is paving the way for further independent anti-corporate, anti-war, and working class challenges to corporate politics.
Organizers of the rally invited other speakers to use the rally to help build local and international struggles. Jeff Booth, a Harvard worker, union member and a member of Socialist Alternative spoke about the Harvard No Layoffs Campaign. Harvard is the largest employer in the region and the richest university in the world with a $19 billion endowment, but has recently laid off hundreds of workers. A local Green Party candidate for state representative, Carolina Johnson, spoke about her local electoral challenge to corporate politics. Patrick Ayers of Socialist Alternative and a student at UMass-Boston spoke about using the Nader campaign to launch a new party that speaks "for the millions and not the millionaires." John Harris of Chelsea Uniting Against the War spoke about the anti-war movement and the lie that the U.S. invaded Iraq to liberate ordinary Iraqis from a brutal dictator. Fabio Arias, the vice president of the CUT, Colombia’s largest trade union federation, spoke about the struggle of working people in his country against neoliberalism.
At the end of the meeting, Nader answered a variety of questions from the audience. Organizers collected over a thousand dollars in donations. Anyone who donated $75 or more recieved an autographed copy of Nader’s new book, "The Good Fight." Also a number of audience members signed up to help collect signatures to get Nader on the
Socialist Alternative was the most visible organization at the event. We sold $164.50 of materials including dozens of copies of our pamphlet, "Support Nader’s Campaign for President: It’s Time to Break from the Two-Party System!" We also sold over 100 copies of our newspaper, Justice, which has a center-spread on Nader’s anti-war challenge and features a picture of Nader on the front cover opposite Kerry and Bush with the caption "Does your candidate support the occupation?" We also collected the names of more than 20 people interested in joining Socialist Alternative