Saturday, November 28, 2009

Candidate "loyalty oath" is stain on democracy

By John Bachtell

Candidates for office in Illinois are presented with the option to sign a so-called "loyalty oath" and submit it with their nominating petitions. I was interviewed about this by WBEZ and it appears on the station's political blog:

The "loyalty oath" is a vestige of the McCarthy period and was struck down as unconstitutional by the courts in the 1970s when the CPUSA ran a slate of candidates for state wide office. The state legislature chose to make the oath optional.

Its continued presence suggests something illegal about communists, socialists and others who hold radical views. It suggests they don't believe in democracy and should be held in suspicion as "un-American," and agents of a foreign power and that they have no right to participate in the electoral process.

Once you start suggesting a group has no rights it puts the democratic rights of all on shakey ground.

A complete break needs to be made with this kind of Cold War mentality. For it not only attempts to perpetuate myths about the CPUSA and other socialist groups, to make us illegal, illegitimate, unpatriotic, not part of the democratic process. It also distorts the democratic process for all, denying voters freedom of choice.

The fact that so many candidates willingly sign the "oath" reflects the continued power, although declining, of anti-communist fear tactics. Let us debate the power of ideas and not scare people and candidates. What happened to the "free market place" of ideas? Who's afraid to debate?

The fact is the CPUSA has been a fundamental part of the political process of the United States for 90 years. US socialist traditions stretch back to the 1840's and are deeply embedded in the fabric of our country, in the politics, culture, economics, etc. The CPUSA has made historic contributions to expansion of democracy including workers rights, the organization of the trade union movement; civil rights with involvement in the early Civil Rights movement and the Modern Day Civil Rights movement; basic social guarantees like Social Security and unemployment compensation; etc.

We have fought to not only defend the US constitution (including when it was being shredded during the McCarthy period when communists were jailed for their beliefs), and by extension the state constitution, but to expand and deepen democracy and democratic rights. In fact we have defended the constitution against some of the same right wing nuts who sign the "loyalty oath" and then support calls for curtailing democratic rights - those in the mold of Bush, Cheney, et al.

Our vision for the USA is a profoundly democratic one, radical reforms through a path of greater democracy - both economic and social: the expansion of the Bill of Rights, the curtailing of the economic power of the super wealthy and large corporations, the development of grassroots economic and social democracy, the expansion of democratic participation by taking money out of politics, the restructuring of the economy in a way that serves the overwhelming majority of people, not the elites.

How about a "loyalty oath" to defend the rights of workers, to oppose all forms of discrimination, to live free of economic and social fear in a clean environment. Now that's an oath I could sign!

No comments:

Post a Comment