‘The president is not a free agent’: Interview with Mary Scully, independent socialist candidate for US elections. | Pakistan Today

‘The president is not a free agent’: Interview with Mary Scully, independent socialist candidate for US elections.

Islamophobia is the battle cry of war-mongering

I became a socialist as a result of questioning why it was so hard for me to get a higher education just because my family was poor. I had no mentors and fumbled my way through libraries trying to find books that would explain socialism to me, so I could see if I agreed with it

Mary Scully is running as an independent socialist candidate for President in the 2016 elections. She became involved with the Palestinian solidarity movement in 1967. She joined the Young Socialist Alliance in 1970 and Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in 1971. She left SWP after 11 years.

As a long-time activist in the labour, socialist, and social movements (including anti-war, Palestinian solidarity, civil rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights, disability rights, animal rights), she believes in social transformation and uses social activism to make this world suitable for human beings to live and love in.

She reports frequently on war, Palestinians, child labour, immigration issues, homelessness, sweatshops, human rights issues. She sees working people as the agents of social change and has an international perspective. She spares no sarcasm in skewering politicians in any country who betray the cause of human freedom.

She detests the violence of neo-liberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism, and is committed to advancing a socialist society in every way she can.

DNA had the pleasure to talk to her for this exclusive and comprehensive interview.

Question: Tell us about yourself and your political career and activism.

Mary Scully: I come from a very large working class family in St Paul, Minnesota. The most politicising thing in my life was my struggle as a working class woman against the expectations of me to be a housewife and hold a part-time menial job. I wanted to learn but in my youth, student loans were not available for college and my parents had never taught me to aspire to that.

Mary Scully

When I finally got access to student loans, I began attending a state university in 1966 and headed directly for the anti-Vietnam War movement. A year later, the Israeli Six-Day War began and pro-Israeli hysteria in media troubled me. I knew we were being played but did not understand why. Crossing the campus one day, I saw a young Palestinian picketing by himself and, wanting to understand, asked him why. He answered “They stole our land.” Now I knew there was more to the story and I set out to investigate it. Soon I was involved in Palestinian solidarity which at that time at my university was a handful of foreign students from Arab countries.

Feminism was also vital to my political development. Unequal power relations between men and women had become intolerable to me within the Catholic Church when I spent a few years after high school in a convent, in 1970; I left Minnesota for New York City to become part of the emerging women’s liberation movement. I was a key activist in organising the first women’s liberation march on August 26th, 1970 — something I am still very proud about.

I became a socialist as a result of questioning why it was so hard for me to get a higher education just because my family was poor. I had no mentors and fumbled my way through libraries trying to find books that would explain socialism to me, so I could see if I agreed with it. Ironically, a guy in the Palestinian solidarity group gave me a book called “Socialism on Trial” by James P. Cannon which convinced me I was indeed a socialist.

Q: You are running in 2016 as an independent socialist candidate. Tell us a little bit about it? What would be your campaign about and who’ll be your VP?

MS: Well, when I decided to run, I knew it would be an uphill battle. Mostly because the US left is so divisive and sectarian. But I wanted there to be a voice — even a muted one — that could stand against wars, stand with refugees and immigrants, speak out against Islamophobic war-mongering, build BDS and explain the Palestinian struggle, and defend civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights. I didn’t want any equivocations on human rights nor big talk in place of action.

Mary Scully2

The campaign got temporarily and briefly derailed several months ago when the women running with me as vice president began campaigning for Bernie Sanders without telling me. A primary purpose of my campaign is to educate about the political character of the Democratic Party as the party of capitalists, and against lesser evil politics, counterposing principled politics to expedience. So our vision was incompatible and I removed her from the slate. But, I wasn’t going to let that stop my campaign because the issues were far more important than the embarrassment of choosing someone who was a Bernie Sanders kind of socialist — and quite frankly wasn’t straightforward in her dealings.

Q: Pleasing Israel has always been the modus operandi of different American governments. How would you change that?

MS: I would launch a major international educational campaign to explain the character of Israeli colonialism, of US self-serving policy toward Israel, and elaborate the demands of Palestine justice so that Americans and people around the world understood why it had to change. I would immediately end all military and economic aid to Israel as part of dismantling the Pentagon and CIA and ending the US military budget. I would open the national security archives Wikileaks-style to expose the dirty deals done in our name and with our tax money at the expense of Palestinians.

I would provide billions in reparations to Palestinians to rebuild what the US-Israeli collaboration destroyed. But of course, all that would require more than being voted into office; it would certainly involve some scuffles with the ruling elite.

Q: The same Narendra Modi that was banned to enter US was given a huge welcome in the joint meeting of Congress on the invitation of Paul Ryan. What do you make of that?

MS: I believe that allowing Modi to speak to the US Congress was part of Obama’s strategy for regenerating the discredited reputation of Modi for the 2002 pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat.

The US government knows exactly who Modi is; they know his treacheries against oppressed castes, working people, the environment; US corporations and banks are invested in his neoliberal infrastructure programs; they are silent partners with Israel and India in the occupation of Kashmir. They don’t give a damn about any of that. He’s a guy they can work with. They’ve established a broader military alliance with India because they need his cooperation and military might in the Asia-Pacific region in their designs for hegemony against China.

US hands off Egypt - Mary Scully

Q: In your opinion how poisonous is the world going to get if Donald Trump is elected as the President of United States?

MS: Well, I’m not one who worries about which two-bit politician will be elected. As a socialist, I believe there is a ruling class, an oligarchy who rule through think tanks, special trusted consultants (like Kissinger), secret bodies, the Pentagon, CIA, and FBI.

Whether Trump realises it or not — and Clinton certainly does — the president is not a free agent. He’s more than a puppet but basically his administration manages the policies determined by those other bodies. So Trump can make all sorts of proposals but he will not be able to implement whatever crazy-assed, racist schemes he comes up with.

A key example is that wall he wants to build on the US southern border. There is already a wall there, in some places fifty-feet high and all of it heavily guarded with border patrols, helicopters, surveillance drones, and all manner of high-tech equipment. It’s as secure as the US government wants it to be because it has to remain porous to some degree to allow immigrants to cross and work in several US industries where undocumented labour is critical — not just agribusiness, but construction, meat processing, etc.

Q: For Muslims the choice between the war hawk Hillary Clinton and the xenophobe and Islamophobe Trump is a very dire one. How do you see the current political climate?

MS: To be frank, outside of rhetoric, I don’t see a difference between the two of them. Once again, they are not free agents and will not alter the fundamental policies decided by the oligarchy. But there is no evidence that Clinton is one whit less xenophobic and hateful toward Muslims and other immigrants. She’s running a populist campaign but it’s all lies — just like the ones Obama told when he ran for office.

Islamophobia is the battle cry of war-mongering and both will employ it if elected.

Q: What do you make of the campaign of Bernie Senders? Should we feel the ‘Bern’?

MS: This is where longevity counts. I have been through — in the sense of following them — over six decades of presidential campaigns. I well remember the Eisenhower campaign in the 1950s because my mother was profoundly political — profoundly conservative but political.

I was turned off the Democratic Party in the 1960s when I worked for an elderly woman who had once been the head of the Minnesota Democratic Party. When I was at the university, I lived with her and took care of her home in exchange for room and board. Through her I met all the Minnesota politicians at the time. I am, like most working class people, deeply sensitive to elitism and have a visceral detestation for it. I realised those politicians didn’t represent my class, in fact, those elite politicians didn’t even acknowledge my presence in her living room. They treated me as a servant or a serf.

She persuaded me to join the Democratic Party which I did in 1967. I had the same reaction: that it wasn’t a party for working people, that there was no place in it for someone like me. I left it, never to turn back, after they voted to oppose the Vietnam War and in the same meeting voted for Hubert Humphrey, a pro-war senator, as presidential candidate.

Since then, I’ve seen several Bernie Sanders kind of campaigns: Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Jesse Jackson, and others. They play an orchestrated role of roping in disaffected progressives, of demobilising social movements and subordinating them to electoralism. They don’t pan out in the long run; they don’t build progressive movements like the anti-war movement. They weaken them. So should we feel the Bern? We should feel burned all right.

Q: All the goodwill and camaraderie we saw between Americans belonging to different faiths after the death of Muhammad Ali withered away after the Orlando shooting. What do you make of it?

MS: I don’t know the actual scale of that phenomenon. So many Americans are “live and let live” kind of people, not rightwing ideologues. I do know that media and politicians are whipping up anti-Muslim hysteria. They will be successful in strengthening that rubbish among the already converted. But I think we need to answer it with anti-war organising. You can’t chase the propaganda. It’s bigger than us since they own all the media. But you can hold forums, panels, debates, pickets, protests with speakers who are from all the religions.

I don’t know any other way to counter that rubbish except not being demoralised and politically organising.

Q: If you are elected as president, what would be your policy towards the Middle East? 

MS: Being elected president would assume a socialist transformation in this country. But if that were possible for my candidacy, I would close every military base in the world; I would eliminate 100 percent of the defence budget; I would dismantle the Pentagon and CIA and set up investigations to see who should be prosecuted for human rights and war crimes; I would use defence spending for massive reparations to the peoples of the Middle East who US militarism has harmed. I would hunt down the armament sources for organisations like ISIS and for oppressive regimes like Assad and I would expose those sources, campaign against them, and organise massive protests to shut the war machinery down.

The Sanders school of socialism is also not mine because it accepts the permanence of inequality and of classes — besides being utterly provincial in its concerns.

Socialism is an international thing — profoundly so

Q: Historically speaking Pakistan has always relied on the US aid. How do you see the relationship between the two countries?

MS: It’s been a couple years since I closely examined that relationship but of course the Pakistani military functions as an ally-proxy for the US. That aid would be ended immediately and all US military personnel, advisers, equipment, and of course CIA operatives would be pulled out, if I’m elected. Reparations for the destruction caused by drone bombing would be forthcoming.

Q: You are a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause. Do you believe in the two-state solution?

MS: I call the two-state solution a bantustate solution. It’s not just unworkable; it’s a grotesque miscarriage of justice. Why should Palestinians settle for a discount on self-determination? I frankly have no time for people who even raise that as a possibility. But let us just say, they know as well as we do that a bantustate solution means continued Israeli colonialism, continued occupation and ethnic cleansing.

I agree completely with the Palestinian proposal for a democratic secular state where Jews and Palestinians live as brothers and sisters. The magnanimity of that proposal speaks to the willingness of Palestinians to resolve the conflict without creating massive suffering for Israelis born and raised there. As for the settlers in the West Bank, I leave it to Palestinians to decide, but I would not oppose their eviction. But once again, that is not for me to decide. I will support what Palestinians propose in the context of a democratic secular state.

Q: In France a presidential candidates’ campaign spending is capped at $30m. Why are American polls so pricey?

MS: Good question. Partly because they’re a spectacle and go on so damn long. But mostly, it’s because the two major candidates are bankrolled by banks, corporations, capitalist interests. Often the same banks, etc, finance both candidates.

Q: How hard is it to run as an independent candidate in America, especially when you are up against behemoths with a huge media campaign and deep pockets?

MS: I have actually a fair amount of experience in this. The US electoral system is completely undemocratic. It takes hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get on the ballot. Each state requires thousands of voter signatures for ballot status. And even if you fulfil the requirements, they find ways to disqualify you. So it’s very hard.

I don’t anticipate achieving socialism through an election but my purpose for running is to counterpose socialist solutions to the capitalist candidates.

Q: American drones constantly terrorise the skies of Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. Do you believe in the efficacy of drones?

MS: I am horrified by their use and consider them war crimes. If I were president, they would be grounded, destroyed, and those who administered them would be prosecuted for war crimes. The US military and CIA actually have their own drone programs. All of them would be downed. And once again, reparations paid to the people who have suffered so terribly from them.

Q: The American silence on the carnage of Syria carried out by the Assad regime and Russia is tantamount to complicity. The so called Obama’s red line on the use of chemical attacks was also crossed ages ago but we didn’t see any action. What do you make of it?

MS: Generally, it’s because of the utter weakness of the international anti-war movement, particularly in the US. But in Syria, it also has to do with the obfuscation and opacity about what is going on. I am deeply disturbed to see that large numbers of sincere Palestinian supporters are getting caught up in pro-Assad and pro-Russian campaigning. Then of course you have anti-Assadists who are calling for US intervention, as if the US weren’t already involved militarily up to their eyeballs.

Much of this has to do with the theoretical degeneration of the left and activists’ deference to celebrity figures because the conflict is so opaque and reporting so tendentious. Another very serious problem is the dominance of libertarian theoretical methods such as Global Research is notorious for using. It’s become so you can’t tell the difference between the rightwing and the left on the question of Syria. I think actually there is no left on the question of Syria — at least not one that amounts to a hill of beans.

Q: Assad’s carnage keeps creating more refugees and the refugee crisis shows no end. Even on the front of housing refugees, America has shown hesitancy. Why there’s so much hesitancy in giving asylum to Syrian refugees?

MS: I believe the US has only accepted less than 2,000 Syrian refugees. I haven’t thought closely about the issue of why they are not accepting Syrians, but I think it’s likely a part of the general US immigration shutdown. But of course it also serves Islamophobia and panders to the extremist right to exclude them.

MS: In one of your recent interviews you said: “The US electoral system is completely rigged.” Why do you say that?

MS: It’s become quite clear to the general public now with the Sanders campaign that the super delegates thing is completely undemocratic. Most Americans previously thought presidents were chosen by popular vote. Now they know the score.

But I say it because the US election laws make it very difficult and mostly impossible for independent candidates to get ballot status — even write-in ballot status.

Q: There’s always this never ending debate on gun control and gun rights in America. When are we ever going to see serious legislation on that front?

MS: You may be appalled but I don’t believe anti-gun legislation is the answer. US militarism has created a machismo gun culture. That won’t change, no matter how many restrictions are placed on gun ownership, until US militarism is discredited and defeated — such as was accomplished briefly after the Vietnam War ended with the so-called “Vietnam Syndrome.”

You can call me a foolish leftist, but I am not comfortable leaving all the assault weapons in the hands of the US military and police. And I say that even though I personally detest weapons and refuse to even handle them.

I am willing to have broad, collaborative discussions on this however and perhaps my mind will change and I will favour some restrictions, at least on assault weapons.

Q: A lot of the people associate socialism with autocracy. What is socialism to you and how do you define it?

MS: Socialism is to me at 71 exactly what it was to me at 21: it is equality for every man, woman, and child; it is the end of persecution for being who you are; it is the opportunity and social space to create music and art; it is physical comfort and lack of suffering for want of food or housing; it is creating a world suitable for children to come of age in, to live and love in.

The Stalinist school of socialism is not mine. If it lacks democracy, if coercion or gulags are involved, if people have no meaningful voice in the policies governing their lives, it isn’t worth fighting for. It should only be opposed. The disability rights movement has a mantra: “Nothing about me without me.” And I think that a good motto for socialist humanity.

The Sanders school of socialism is also not mine because it accepts the permanence of inequality and of classes — besides being utterly provincial in its concerns.

Socialism is an international thing — profoundly so. If you don’t see other people as your kin — either as fellow workers or as brothers and sisters, then socialism has no chance of succeeding.

It may sound so corny, but I’ve always been a fool for the human race. I just love people and the sight of their suffering is more than I can bear without doing something about it. I trust human beings desire and are capable of fighting and building a humane world. If I’m wrong, I’ll have wasted my life fighting for human rights and against war. What’s the loss in that?

Q: Democracy in Pakistan has always been interrupted by military dictatorships and even now military holds the most power. As an outsider, how do you view these dynamics in Pakistan?

MS: Well generally, because I’m not enough well-informed about Pakistan, I would say all that is the legacy of British colonialism and foreign intervention, militarily and otherwise. Pakistanis are more than capable of building a humane society if they get international assistance in the form of antiwar and political solidarity.

Q: Any message you would like to give to the people of Pakistan?

MS: Only that I am profoundly sad that the US anti-war movement is still too weak to stave the hand of US militarism in your country. And that I hope we can work together to rebuild the international anti-war movement and forge bonds of unity and mutual respect.



2 Comments

  1. Sy siff said:

    "I will support what Palestinians propose in the context of a democratic secular state." In a democratic secular state only the Palestinians count? what about the Israelis' propopsals? they don't count? or are we dealing here with democracy Middle East style?

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