Sunday, February 03, 2008

Draft Manifesto For a Reconstruction Party: What We Want; What We Believe; What We Need Now!

[Note: This Draft Manifesto was produced by a group of Reconstruction Party activists who met in New Orleans on Saturday, Jan. 26 in support of the International Days of Action against Neo-Liberalism. This draft is being submitted for wide discussion and amendments to all activists interested in joining the effort to build a Reconstruction Party. Sister Cynthia McKinney participated in this meeting and contributed to this Draft Manifesto.]

What We Want; What We Believe; What We Need. Now!
Draft Manifesto for a Reconstruction Party

" . . . whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." -- Declaration of Independence

In the context of what is perhaps the most important Presidential election in a generation, we feel compelled to add our voices to the deafening silence coming from both the Democratic and Republican parties on the real issues of concern to us. We therefore insert this agenda -- our agenda -- into the current political discourse and assert our readiness to cast our votes on the specificity with which these issues are addressed in the electoral arena. We reject "differences" that will not make a difference and "changes" that will not bring about any change. The vision of the Reconstruction Party encompasses all communities in need of reconstruction.

1. We Want Freedom Now!

We want the power to determine our destiny. We want an electoral system that allows true representation and that ensures that all votes are counted. We want an economic system that provides opportunity, security, and dignity for all. We want an end to all spying on U.S. citizens. We want respect for human rights as the bedrock consideration in all the political deliberations of this country.

We believe that we will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny. We believe that free and fair elections are not possible in the current climate in which electronic voting machines, special interest money, corporate control of the two-party system predominate. In the 2000 Presidential election, an estimated 6 million votes cast were not counted, reflecting a crisis in our voting system and a concrete denial of self-determination.

We need to remove the dominance of special interest money from our elections by instituting public financing of elections that restores true power to the people. We need to eliminate privately owned electronic voting machines and every machine that does not provide a paper ballot. We must never again allow political parties to control the hardware on which official votes are counted (as in Ohio 2004). Voters should never again be told that election results belong to a private company and are not accessible by the public (as in Georgia 2007). And any individuals found to have participated in any act or scheme to deny U.S. citizens their right to vote, or found to have obstructed such right to vote in any way, including the counting of votes cast, should be brought to justice.

Freedom also includes the rights to education, health care, housing, living wages, and freedom from racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, gentrification, and police terror. Therefore, elimination of all health, education, home ownership, and social justice disparities must form the foundation of every plank of any acceptable political and economic platform that seeks to address the real concerns of the peoples' of the Americas.

Therefore, we need comprehensive federal investment in low-income families and communities, with an emphasis on people of color. The continuing plight of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita survivors, cases like the Jena 6, the Palmdale 4, the San Francisco 8, the ongoing situation with the country's Black farmers demonstrate the unfulfilled need to address these basic issues for communities across our country.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita survivors specifically need recognition as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); protection of their right of return, including protection of their right to vote in their home states; and reparations for the losses they incurred due to government abandonment and negligence.

Finally, we need repeal of the Patriot Acts, the Secret Evidence Act, the Military Commissions Act, and other legislation that rolls back bedrock civil liberties.

2. We Want Full Employment Now!

We want the definition of national security to include the general well-being of U.S. citizens and residents. No children in this rich country should be raised below the poverty line.

We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to implement an economic policy that provides an opportunity for every family to have gainful employment at a guaranteed income. No family should remain mired below the poverty level when the head of household works in a full-time job. We believe that workers must be free to organize unions wherever and whenever they choose. We believe that by setting a goal of carbon neutrality within the next 20 years, our country can begin the shifts in investment necessary to fuel an investment renaissance in jobs, energy independence from fossil fuels, and manufacturing.

Unemployment is at a two-year high. We need a living wage. Official statistics fail to capture the immense pain and suffering being experienced by the American people, especially people of color. We need massive infrastructure investments and a greening of our economy that can also put people to work. An end to the illegal and immoral war/occupation of Iraq can provide much needed funding for such an initiative that would focus on rebuilding the skills of every able-bodied American and restoring manufacturing jobs in this country to assist in the greening of our economy. Special emphasis should be placed on a green rebuilding program, consisting of all areas in need plus infrastructure, and especially New Orleans and the Gulf Coast with a massive public works project.

No ethnically identifiable groups should also be economically identifiable. Sadly, today that is not true. Forty-three percent of the poor are Black, and 24 percent of Latinos are poor. We need a specific program agenda that reduces poverty and dismantles existing economic disparities.

We need to promote and enact laws for U.S. corporations that keep labor standards high at home and raise them abroad. Toward that end, it is clear that we need a repeal of NAFTA, CAFTA, the Caribbean FTA, and the U.S.-Peru FTA and justice for immigrant workers, including an end to the guest-worker program riddled with abuses. In that regard, we also need immigration reform that includes amnesty and a path to documentation of those workers who are already in this country, have been here working for years, and who are undocumented. Surely the current policies are little more than union-busting, wage depressing tactics that rob all workers of their dignity and a fair wage for their labor. We need a complete overhaul of our country's labor laws, beginning with the repeal of Taft-Hartley, to ban scabbing, stop the unjust firing of union organizers, and enable workers to exercise their voices at work. Finally, we need justice for victims of corporations that have participated in crimes against humanity, torture, human trafficking, or other illegal activities.

We need equal pay for equal work. It is intolerable that women and minorities performing the same job as white men receive less pay.

3. We Want Reparations Now!

African Americans are now sustaining the worst loss of wealth in U.S. history due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis, an estimated $71 billion to $92 billion, according to United for a Fair Economy.

We believe that the U.S. government never kept its promise to former slaves of the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules were promised as restitution for slave labor and the mass murder of Black people. Enduring racial disparities reflect the U.S. government's failure to address the reality and the vestiges of Black poverty in this country. Hurricane Katrina is but a manifestation of the generations of previous neglect combined with current neglect.

A 2003 Harvard University study found that Black infant and maternal mortality rates are 2 and 3.5 times higher than for whites. The New York Times wrote that by 2003 nearly one half of all Black men between the ages of 16 and 64, living in New York City, were unemployed. Dr. David Satcher found in 2005 that 83,750 Black people died from premature deaths for no other reason than that they were Black. And in its 2005 report, United for a Fair Economy told us that it would take 1,664 years to close the home-ownership gap and that on some indices the racial disparities are worse now than at the time of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In its 2006 report, United for a Fair Economy told us that Blacks and Latinos lost ground, and that in order to close the racial wealth divide in our country, it would take the equivalent of a "G.I. Bill for Everyone" that would include comprehensive federal investment in low-income families and communities, with an emphasis on people of color. In its 2007 report, United for a Fair Economy concluded that, while Blacks overwhelmingly vote Democratic, they had little to show for such party loyalty according to the statistics reflecting the State of Black America and the policy initiatives of the Democratic Party in its first 100 hours as a Congressional majority. In 2008, United for a Fair economy concluded that it would take 440 years to close the racial disparity on per capita income.

That one million Black votes were not counted in the 2000 Presidential election is symptomatic of a host of broken promises, the denial of self-determination, and a refusal of both major parties to deal with the vestiges of slavery, racism, and discrimination with which too many families are forced to live today.

We urgently need policies enacted on the federal and local levels that will address the enduring disparities in education, health care, imprisonment, family income, wealth, home ownership, that reflect purposeful malign neglect of communities of color in this country. Further, these public policies must also specifically recover economic losses sustained during the current sub-prime mortgage crisis.

4. We Want Resources for Human Needs Now!

We want budget priorities that satisfy pressing and unmet human needs in health care, education, wealth development, and ending enduring disparities, not that further corporate greed or the war machine. We agree with United Nations representative and the findings of the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that the United States must do more to help those hurricane victims without financial means to rebuild.

We believe in full reproductive rights for women -- for legal rights and safe access to comprehensive prenatal and postnatal/infant care; family planning services and contraception, including "morning after" medication; and abortion.

We believe the United States has a responsibility to alleviate human suffering at home and abroad. We believe it is shameful that U.S. children suffer from malnutrition and that U.S. mayor's report to us that homelessness and hunger have intensified in our cities. While food prices are rising and food banks report decreased supplies, our children suffer from worms and the physical stature of U.S. residents is now declining because of childhood malnutrition. According to the 2007 CIA statistics, the United States ranks 42nd in the world in infant mortality and 45th in life expectancy.

We need to reject forced, coerced, or uninformed medication and sterilization. We need a universal access, single-payer, health care system. Americans should be able to purchase drugs from other countries if the price is cheaper, and the U.S. should negotiate with drug companies to provide cheaper drugs for all U.S. residents.

We need an education system that prepares our children for lifelong learning and that prepares adults to survive and thrive in a global economy. We need subsidized higher education; no student should graduate from college or university tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. We need affordable childcare in order to facilitate lifelong learning by parents. We need an end to the criminalization of our children in school. The Jena 6 and Palmdale 4 incidents, along with thousands of other incidents that take place in schools across our country, demonstrate that administrative measures are not taken when they could be to prevent the criminalization of our children. It is clear that current practices merely feed an insatiable criminal justice system building prisons, not for restorative justice, but for profits.

We need equal access to institutions and programs that help families build wealth. In 2004, 76 percent of Whites owned their own home, compared to 49.1% of Blacks and 48.1% of Latinos. Both African-Americans and Latinos have been disproportionately hit by the higher-cost loans that characterize sub-prime lending. Just in the sub-prime mortgage crisis alone, Latino families have lost between $76 and $98 billion, due to predatory lending practices on the part of lending institutions.

We need affordable housing for the working class and homeless throughout this country struggling to make ends meet. We oppose the senseless destruction of public housing in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Housing is a fundamental human right that we must protect and extend.

We need to stop giving outrageous sums of money to the Pentagon. The Pentagon cannot balance its books and admits to having "lost" $2.3 trillion. It claims it can't balance its books because its computers don't communicate with each other. However, even after having spent $20 billion to make the computers talk to each other, they still cannot, and hence, Department of Defense books cannot be properly audited. By canceling increased funding for the F-22 and weaponizing space, we would have $1.4 billion to devote to basic needs. A careful examination of corporate and millionaire welfare, combined with elimination of Pentagon waste, would yield at least an additional $99 billion that could be put to better use.

We need to repeal the Bush tax cuts and take appropriate steps to regain control over our monetary system because they both have contributed to the current economic crisis facing our country.

We need to defend and strengthen laws ensuring clinic access and that expand services to women and children fleeing domestic violence.

We need a Department of Peace that would put forward projects for peace all over the world. We should deploy our diplomats to help resolve conflicts through peaceful means. In the meantime, the Pentagon must oversee the orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from the more than 100 countries around the world where they are stationed. We should deploy our Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild infrastructures and communities here and abroad.

5. We Want to Stop the War at Home Now!

The decision by Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown to prosecute the San Francisco 8 is chilling in the message it sends about impunity in the face of clear police wrongdoing. The San Francisco 8 (several of whom were members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense), are being prosecuted and investigated by the very same police officers that committed torture against them decades ago. Obviously not satisfied with the 32 Black Panthers killed by law enforcement by 1973, a decision has been made to continue targeting Black Panther members in another way.

We want the hundreds of political activists falsely imprisoned by COINTELPRO and similar programs from the 1960's to the present to be released from prison immediately. We want full disclosure on all the governments spying and destabilization programs and for restitution to be provided to victims of these governmental abuses and their families for the suffering they have long endured.

In addition, members of the general public have become targets for police repression, including Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, and other easily identifiable minorities. By 2004, Cincinnati had seen 18 young people murdered at the hands of brutal cops. Louisville, Kentucky saw seven young Black males killed in four years. In New York City, three unarmed Black men were killed within a period of 13 months. In fact, the book Stolen Lives lists the names of over 2000 people killed by police during the 1990s. Unfortunately, it is clear that the poor and people of color are disproportionately affected by the disproportionate application of force by law enforcement. Adding insult to injury, offending police officers are rarely if ever punished.

We believe that disparities in sentencing and in the criminal justice system as a whole can be overcome with political will to change the policies and punish those guilty of the racial profiling that often result in disparate treatment at each step of an encounter with the criminal justice system.

In study after study, the dismal performance of the criminal justice system against people of color has been documented. Policies designed to close the disparities in sentencing and treatment at the hands of the criminal justice system must be implemented with more than deliberate speed.

6. We Want an End to the War on Drugs Now!

We want an end to unequal justice in this country! We want an end to toxic spraying and military deployments in other countries. We want an end to the assault on our civil liberties. We want an end to the lies of the U.S. government around its own participation in the spread of drugs into poor communities in this country. We want an explanation of why a CIA rendition aircraft crashed in Yucatan with 3.2 tons of cocaine onboard. After the crack cocaine epidemic and what we now know of U.S. government complicity therewith, we want to know if the U.S. government is fighting or fueling the use of drugs in its so-called War on Drugs.

We believe that the war on drugs provides cover for U.S. military intervention in foreign countries, particularly to our south, and that this increased militarization is used to put down all social protest movements in countries like Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and elsewhere. We believe that unequal justice is epitomized in the U.S. prosecution of the so-called War on Drugs. We believe that the United States has the most expensive, most repressive, least effective drug policy in the industrialized world. And it is this drug war that has helped the United States incarcerate a higher percentage of its own people than any other country in the world. We believe that the War on Drugs is waged largely against the poor and the resultant massive incarceration serves the profit-motive of prisons whose stocks are traded on Wall Street. The War on Drugs has become a war on truth, taxpayers, civil liberties, and higher education for the poor and middle class, and sadly, it has also become a war on treatment, addicts, and reason.

We need an end to mandatory minimum drug sentences. We need a budget focused on prevention and treatment. The law should include legal regulation of drugs. We need legalization of industrial hemp as a cash crop. We need drug laws based on the truth. According to the drug policy reform group Efficacy, from 1984 to 1996, California built 21 new prisons, and 1 new university. California state government expenditures on prisons increased 30% from 1987 to 1995, while spending on higher education decreased by 18%. This trend is echoed in every state of the nation. Clearly, we need a drug policy that is based on truth, compassion, prevention, and treatment. We need laws that franchise citizens of the United States without regard to incarceration status. No non-violent drug offender should suffer permanent or temporary disfranchisement of voting and other citizenship rights due to entanglement in the current system of criminal injustice.

We need to end the funding of Plan Colombia and Plan Mexico and other militarized "plans" enacted that fund and support a failed drug policy at home and abroad.

7. We Want to End Prisons for Profit Now!

We want an end to privatization of prisons and prison health services. We want an end to the racism that serves as an engine of growth for a profit-driven prison system. We want an end to prison labor schemes that are little more than corporate subsidies that provide little training or rehabilitation for inmates. We want reconciliation, transformation, preparation, rather than incarceration based on retribution and vengeance. We do not want race and class to serve as the primary determinants of punishment. And we want an end to the death penalty.

We believe that the prison-industrial, criminal injustice complex of today still operates in many respects as a vestige of slavery. And just as punishment was meted out disparately for Blacks and whites during slavery, these conditions persist today. For example, in the state of Virginia, a white person could only be sentenced to death for murder, but slaves could be sentenced to death for 71 offenses. Today, according to "Minding the Gap," despite higher drug use by White Illinois teens, African American youth who make up 15.3% of Illinois's youth population, are 59% of youth arrested for drug crimes, 85.5% of youth automatically transferred to adult court, 88% of youth imprisoned for drug crimes, and 91% of youth admitted to state prison. Disparities permeate the system from the laws enacted, to those who enact the laws, to those who enforce and interpret them.

Paul Street reports in Black Agenda Report, "one in three Black males will be sent to state or federal prison at some point in their lives compared to one in six Latino males and one in seventeen white males." Writer Tim Wise writes, "According to FBI data, the percentage of crimes committed by African Americans has remained steady over the past 18 years, while the number of Blacks in prison has tripled and their rates of incarceration have skyrocketed."

Clearly, it is time to rethink prison policy and the criminal justice system upon which it rests. Just as prisons for profit underscored profit-maximizing strategies, we need to explore new terrains for justice-maximizing policies, including prison abolition. We need public policy solutions that focus on reconciliation and restorative justice. Racism should not be rewarded with profits.

8. We Want an Environmental Protection Policy that Works Now!

We want the range of production and consumption policies enacted by our policy makers to reflect the limits of the finite resources that sustain life on this planet. We want our forests protected and restored; we want sustainable resource use and reuse, and we want less waste to dispose. We want renewable energy and we don't want policies that pit food production against energy production. We want drinkable and clean water, soil, and air. We want to live within our resource means.

We believe that the production and pervasiveness of toxic chemicals in our environment is dangerous and must be stopped. We believe that workers should not be exposed to toxic work conditions. We believe that communities should be preserved and that local economies using local resources should be encouraged. We must put an end to child labor, forced labor, and other illegal or unethical activity included in the goods we consume: for example, Coltan (Columbite-Tantalite) and other minerals mined with slave labor and torture in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the 5 million deaths, political instability, and misery associated with pursuit of unfettered access to the mineral used in our computers, cell phones, and other electronic gadgets."

We need air, land, water, climate, production and consumption policies that reflect the real limits within which we must live. We need an entirely new paradigm that encourages us to produce green, local, and fairly; most importantly we need true, representative government that serves the needs of the people over that of corporations so that these policies can become law.

9. We Want an End to Militarism Now!

We want all U.S. troops stationed in other countries around the world to come home. We want all homeless veterans off the streets and in veterans' homes. We want the promise kept to veterans of free health care for a lifetime. We want military recruiters out of our schools and off our campuses. We call for an end to funding for war, products for war, preparation for war, intelligence for war or funds used to destabilize other countries, or to maintain or expand U.S. military presence at home or abroad. We call for an end to the expanding police state at home.

We believe that the United States has taken a dramatic turn against human rights and the rule of law by now permitting arrest and detention without charge, torture and spying without court oversight, prosecutors free to tape conversations between lawyers and their clients. We believe that the so-called "peace dividend" after the Cold War was stolen by the imposition of the War on Terror that is being waged against the people. War profiteers reap their profits while legislation passes that threatens to categorize as terrorists those who are innocent citizens. We believe it is wrong that the overwhelming amount of resources put into our foreign and security policies engage the world through military force.

We need the billions of dollars currently spent on militarizing domestic and foreign policies, and in weaponizing space to be spent on human needs and to alleviate human suffering.

10. We Want Peace Now!

We want to live in a peaceful world where the global community considers the United States a key partner for peace and development. We want the United States to adopt the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights, recognizing that we cannot have peace until we start with our own history here at home. We want the United States to be a leader in research, development, technology, and innovation in the things that uplift people and help us to live more harmoniously with natural forces of this planet.

We believe that another United States is not only possible but necessary! But, the two parties of corporate rule are not offering this vision of peace and partnership. We believe that an explicit rejection of the policies of political and economic destabilization that we have witnessed played out on the African Continent, in Latin America (particularly in Venezuela and in Bolivia), in the Caribbean and the Muslim world, and in Asia is urgently needed.

We need an end to all wars and occupations by U.S. forces, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. We need an immediate cessation of funding for war. We need prosecution for all individuals guilty of violating the law, including having committed or authorized crimes against humanity, crimes against the peace, torture, or war crimes. We need a complete renunciation of the pre-emptive war doctrine. We need an end to all wars and war's utility. We need to dismantle the apparatus that implements schemes of regime change around the world, and that instead assists in self-determination of all peoples. Sadly, the Bush - Pelosi war policy is a formula for endless global conflict, deterioration of the rule of law among nations, and growing impoverishment, indebtedness and evisceration of civil liberties at home.


Already, calls are being made that the end of race in American politics has arrived due to the phenomenal success at the polls of Democratic Presidential candidate Barrack Obama. None other than Dick Morris, former Clinton Presidential advisor, noted, "Obama -- by winning in a totally white state -- shows that racism is gone as a factor in American politics."

On CNN, Bill Bennett commented, "[Obama] never brings race into it. He never plays the race card. Talk about the Black community -- he has taught the Black community you don't have to act like Jesse Jackson; you don't have to act like Al Sharpton. You can talk about the issues." It is clear from the statistics that all working families without regard to race or ethnicity are hurting. But families of color are hurting the most. Let us not fail to speak out in our own name and to organize around these fundamental programmatic planks so that we can forge and win solutions to the problems facing our communities, our country, and our world.

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