Photo: (left) José Cortés with the Party for Socialism and Liberation running under the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. (right) Republican Carl DeMaio.
By Noah Long
On January 22, two candidates vying for California’s 50th congressional district held dueling events pushing different visions for the future of US imperialism in the city of El Cajon in San Diego County, California.
One third of the population of El Cajon are foreign born, and it also has the highest rate of poverty among adults in San Diego County.
On one side was the reactionary Republican Carl DeMaio who held a “Border Security Town Hall,” and on the other was the revisionist ‘socialist’ José Cortés who attempted to pull disillusioned people back into the electoral farce with false promises of ‘change’ and ‘revolution.’
DeMaio is a right-wing radio personality and former San Diego city councilman who has campaigned on “strengthening border security” and frequently traffics in demonizing South and Central American immigrants. His reactionary immigration platform includes building Trump’s border wall, dismantling asylum laws, cutting welfare benefits to immigrants, and a chauvinistic promise to accept only the “best and brightest” immigrants.
Meanwhile Cortés is a phony ‘socialist’ with the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) running under the Peace and Freedom Party’s (PFP) ticket. While PSL claims that Cortés has a true “platform for revolution” and portrays him as a fighter for the working-class, his campaign is nothing more than a doomed bid for a seat at the table in the same imperialist system that created monsters like DeMaio.
Cortés’ campaign claims that they want to make “jobs, free healthcare, education, and housing constitutional rights,” in addition to other nebulous ‘progressive’ reforms. The US Constitution is a profoundly reactionary document that was created to legitimize settler colonialism, entrench slavery, and ultimately develop US imperialism; no amount of reforms or amendments can change the state’s bourgeois class character or bring down US imperialism.
The PFP is an eclectic, ‘multi-tendency’ party which endorses vague interpretations of ideas like ‘revolution’ and ‘socialism,’ so that they can campaign for minor reforms and sell it as revolutionary change. The PFP has run a strange array of people as presidential candidates in the past two decades, including political prisoner Leonard Peltier, Ralph Nader, the now disgraced racist Trump supporter Roseanne Barr, and Gloria La Riva of the PSL.
Both candidates are running in the wake of the resignation of Duncan Hunter, the corrupt Republican Congressman in California’s 50th congressional district. According to California Governor Gavin Newsom, there will be no special election to fill the currently vacant seat because of the timing of Hunter’s resignation, and the seat will remain empty until the inauguration of the new Congress in January of 2021.
Cortés, along with PSL’s front the ANSWER Coalition, went to this town hall and stood outside giving speeches, claiming that they would “not allow” DeMaio to speak. However the ‘protest’ was not a confrontation of reactionary immigration laws at all, but was instead nothing more than a coordinated campaign stunt.
Cortés stated “If we’re elected into Congress, we’re gonna hold all these career politicians, all these lackeys who’ve sold us out for a quick dollar, and we will be relentless. We will enter every single hall of power where they feel the safest, and we will shout them down. We will organize a mass movement of working class people, of our people, across lines, across lines, and we will take the halls of power, with our voices, and with our bodies.”
Cortés’ hollow rhetoric puts a ‘revolutionary’ dress on the same tired message the people had heard from Democrat politicians for decades. They always claim that they will be the ones to truly make a difference, to fight tooth and nail against bourgeois politicians and the ruling class, but this cannot be done from within the imperialist system.
Cortés went on to supply his ‘revolutionary’ credentials by mentioning that he began organizing during the “El Cajon uprising.” This took place in 2016 when Alfred Olango was murdered by the El Cajon Police Department and the masses took the streets in anger, breaking windows, blocking roads, and directly confronting the riot police who were called to suppress them.
Opportunists like Cortés go into these mass uprisings to sell the people out and traffick in their struggles for personal gain. Instead of uniting with the most advanced revolutionary elements to transform the largely disorganized rebellion into a organized movement for striking larger and more consistent blows against the reactionary state, they try to pacify the masses by encouraging participation in meaningless elections and toothless legal marches.
Voting is a counterinsurgency tool used against the people, meant to discourage and condemn revolutionary violence in favor of an activity that does nothing to threaten the ruling class’ base of power. By taking the people who have already seen through the lie of ‘reforms’ and opted to take concrete action, and leading them back into the electoral farce, opportunists like Cortés directly serve the US imperialist system that brings misery to the working class at home and the oppressed nations throughout the world.
PSL themselves admit that elections will not fundamentally change society, however with every new election cycle they endorse candidates like Cortés who over and over again claim that they can affect change within the system, effectively restoring people’s faith in the system that exploits and oppresses them.
The masses of San Diego should not be fooled by the electoral circus that rolls into town every year, Cortés and Demaio are two sides of the same coin which is firmly in the pocket of the ruling class. Instead, revolutionaries have brought forth another possible path, one of actively boycotting elections in favor of organizing the people to directly confront their enemies, the enemies of the working class, including sellout politicians, murderous police, and the rich businessmen who destroy people’s lives and communities for profit.