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Interview with Doug Barnes, National Secretary, Freedom Socialist Party


The Freedom Socialist Party is a socialist political party with a unique program of revolutionary socialist feminism. The party formed in 1966. The current National Secretary of the FSP is Doug Barnes. One potentially exciting aspect of the FSP’s current electoral contemplation is the party’s desire to run on a united slate with other socialist candidates. Many commentators on the left have wondered why this hasn’t happened more often. Doug Barnes graciously agreed to answer our Context2012 questionnaire for third parties.

POLITICALCONTEXT.ORG: Is your party running candidates in the 2012 elections?

DOUG BARNES: The Freedom Socialist Party is considering running candidates in 2012 but has not made a decision yet.  We would like to run on a united slate with other socialists, and we will also support other anti-capitalist and socialist candidates who are running.

PC: What are the demographics of your existing base?

DB: The Freedom Socialist Party is a socialist feminist party with a strong base among rank-and-file unionists, women, communities of color, queers, immigrants and other people who are shut out of the mainstream political process and who suffer capitalism’s worst abuses.

PC: What is your strategy for deepening your base within your existing demographic, and broadening your reach to other demographics?

DB: Here are links to past campaigns that give the flavor of how FSP candidates are openly socialist and provide concrete, radical solutions to the problems faced by voters:

http://www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/?q=node/727

http://www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/?q=node/1224

http://www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/?q=node/860

PC: In your opinion, what are the chief barriers to the viability and success of third parties in the United States?

DB: There are a huge number of laws that make it very difficult for alternative parties to get on the ballot. Public funding, spending limits, and equal media coverage would help counteract the influence of corporations and the wealthy. Instant Runoff Voting and Proportional Representation would also make it easier for minority parties to overcome exclusion.

PC: Does your party make the opening of space to alternative candidates a major part of your public message? Do you have a strategy for the opening of political space which you have laid out for voters and activists?

DB: We have been part of coalitions working to get alternative parties on the ballot and to achieve Proportional Representation. We have won court decisions protecting the privacy rights of donors to radical campaigns and allowing the party’s name to appear on the ballot. We have published articles and held public forums calling on other anti-capitalist parties to collaborate on united slates in order to bring the largest number of candidates to voters. At major elections, party branches issue letters to supporters that take positions on ballot measures and recommend votes for radical candidates only. We have worked for an independent labor party that would give working people their own political voice.

PC: Do you work in solidarity with other political parties? If so, which ones? If not, why not?

DB: We work in solidarity with people of many different parties on areas of agreement such as ending U.S. wars, defending labor rights, fighting fascists, supporting queer rights and reproductive justice., etc. However, we endorse electoral campaigns of socialist or anti-capitalist parties only. In the past this has included the Socialist Workers Party, Workers World Party, Peace and Freedom Party, Party for Socialism and Liberation, and the Socialist Party.

PC: How do you raise funds for your operations? What methods of fundraising have proven to be most successful for your party in the past?

DB: FSP campaigns are funded solely by small donations from individuals, unions and grassroots organizations, and by holding events such as barbecues and house parties.

PC: A broad, philosophical question: Why does your party exist?

DB: The Freedom Socialist Party is a working class organization composed of women and men of many races, nationalities, sexual orientations and ages who are fighting for a new, just social order that will serve the majority of the human race. In a time of environmental and economic crisis, perpetual war, high unemployment, immigrant scapegoating and rampant corporate theft, we work collectively for a future cleansed of all oppression and violence.

PC: Where can we find your most recent national platform?

DB: General platform:

http://www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/?q=node/16

…and Platform on the Economic Crisis:

http://www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/?q=node/1232

PC: What else would you like our readers to know about your party?

DB: The FSP website, www.socialism.com, is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to learn about the party’s views, history, and current activities.

PC: May we have a brief bio from the person answering these questions?

DB: I am the National Secretary of the FSP. I joined the party as a young gay activist in the 1970s. I’ve organized in defense of labor rights while working as a bus driver and library staff person, and I was the campaign manager for FSP campaigns for Seattle City Council in the 1990s. I’m currently very involved in fighting FBI raids on radicals in the Midwest and California. (See story here.)

PC: In what city and state is the national party headquarters located?

DB: Seattle, WA

PC: What year was the party founded?

DB: 1966

PC: Who were the leaders that founded the party?

DB: Clara Fraser, Richard Fraser, and others

PC: Any significant “firsts” for the party–Who was your first candidate on a ballot, who (if any) was your first candidate elected to office?

DB: In 1991, FSP candidate Yolanda Alaniz was Seattle’s first Chicana to run for City Council and received 18% of the vote.

The Context2012 project is designed to build public awareness of all third parties in the United States, to raise consciousness of the alternatives to what Ralph Nader has called the “two party elected dictatorship.” Recently, we sent out questionnaires to over thirty of these parties, from the Freedom Socialist Party to the Constitution Party, from the Libertarians to (believe it or not) the Whigs. Responses are coming in with impressive speed, and we will run new interviews every day for as long as we continue to receive them.

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About Matt J. Stannard

Policy Director for Commonomics USA, longtime writer, speaker, and legal & policy consultant on economic justice and public deliberation.