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Socialist candidates for White House make campaign trail stop in Sunnyside

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Stephen Durham and Christina Lopez

Disbanding the U.S. military and a minimum wage of $20 are just two of the pledges by Freedom Socialist presidential candidate Stephen Durham.

Durham and running mate Christina Lopez were in Sunnyside yesterday, Wednesday, one of the stops on their campaign trail.

They acknowledge that winning a write-in campaign for president and vice president of the United States is unlikely.

"The main motivation for us running this campaign is to get our ideas out amongst regular working class people," said Lopez, the Freedom Socialist Party's candidate for vice president. "The chances of us winning the White House are very small. Our main motive is to actually go out there and reach out to people who are pretty much frustrated with the two-party system.

"It's been my experience there are a lot of people who are frustrated," she added.

Nationalized industry

The platform of the pair's party, the Freedom Socialist Party, includes goals of stopping war, providing full employment, providing cradle-to-grave health care, opening the borders, stopping discrimination and ending the war on drugs.

"This campaign is for the whole country," said Durham, a union activist and former candidate for the New York State Assembly. "There are important things that candidates need to learn from people who are in rural areas. There's a domination of the cities, but we live in a globalized economy. What's happening in Latin America is affecting what is happening here on the farms."

"We call on nationalizing the oil industry under workers' control," said Lopez, a Phoenix, Ariz. native and president of Seattle Radical Women.

"You'd probably have to work a way towards gradual nationalization because people are used to the old ways. So that's not one of the industries that I think would nationalize right away.

"We should look at how to get more alternative forms of energy," added Lopez.

They say smaller businesses would be supported with tax breaks and subsidies in order to afford the $20 minimum wage.

Durham also sees the break-up of the U.S. military as a way to solve many of the country's woes, freeing up budget dollars to make sure Social Security and Medicare stay solvent.

He claims another benefit of doing away with military involvement in other countries would be to free the U.S. from reliance on foreign oil.

"I just want to make the point that the largest consumer of fossil fuels in the whole world is the U.S. military. An F-16 fighter jet in 30 minutes consumes the same amount of crude oil that an average driver uses in a whole lifetime to drive a car," Durham asserts.

"The dependence on oil is really tied to war, not only the consumption but guaranteeing the sources."

70 percent tax rate

Besides using military dollars to support domestic programs, the Freedom Socialist platform calls for a 70 percent tax rate on the wealthiest Americans.

Durham says it would only apply to the top 1 percent of wage earners in this country.

Though large companies could face being nationalized and high tax rates, the party says people will still have incentives to produce and succeed.

The difference, they say, is that more people would benefit than just the entrepreneurs.

"The whole idea of being a socialist is that the benefits of technology are rendered to the society as a whole rather than just being out for the quickest and the fastest profit," said Durham.

"There's a lot of workers, we're the majority," he added. "We're the ones who sell our labor time and create goods and services."

Open borders

"Capital goes everywhere," said Durham. "Why can't workers?"

That's part of his and the Freedom Socialists' call for open borders with Mexico.

"We think people who are here and work, and work for wages, which most of the immigrants do, they deserve to have the benefits of citizenship," he said. "So we're for making citizens out of everybody that's here."

Durham claims the American border with Mexico violates the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. He asserts that treat stipulated an open border.

"The borders are functioning to drive down wages of working people," Durham claims. "For example, Mexico has the lowest minimum wage in all of Latin America. So people can't make a living in their own country so they come here. And what happens? The immigrants who come here end up working for less and that pulls the whole wage structure to the bottom.

"The capitalist class gets all of its wealth from labor. They really depend on cheap labor, and the border functions to create that cheap labor."

Lopez says the border crackdown is having a negative impact on agriculture here in the Yakima Valley and elsewhere.

"(Agriculture has) been using undocumented workers for a long time, for generations! Only now when it serves the xenophobic groups' interest do they crack down on immigrants. And this has had a big impact on agribusiness," she says.

Revolutionaries

Durham and Lopez say their goal is more than running for political office, it is about an overhaul of the U.S. government and economy.

"The foundation that exists is capitalism," says Lopez. "Fundamentally, we're also revolutionaries. We advocate that that foundation has to come crumbling down in order to have a total transformation."

In calling for a "working-class democracy," Durham says the very fabric of American government needs to change.

"The interest of the government should be to feed, clothe, house and educate the people," he says. "We feel that's possible."

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