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Corporate power vs people’s power

by Peter Boyle

There are two starkly different election processes underway now, but most readers will probably have only been reading about one of them: the US presidential elections, which Forbes magazine estimates will likely cost as much as US$3.3 billion all up! But in Cuba, just 145 kilometres from the coast of Florida, a very different election process is taking
place.

Proposed candidates for the Cuban People’s Power national and provincial assemblies, elected by neighborhood-based municipal assemblies, will have been submitted for endorsement by all Cuban electors (16 and above) in a secret ballot on Sunday January 20. Of the 614 Cuban national assembly candidates proposed by the municipal assemblies (one of whom is Fidel Castro), 42% are women, 61% were born after the revolution in 1959, 63% have never been on the national assembly before. Not one of them is a multi-millionaire.

Meanwhile, in the US presidential elections, with one exception among the three leading Republicans and three leading Democrats, each contender is worth tens of millions in private wealth. The exception, according to the Washington Post, is Barack Obama: “As a community organizer-turned-law professor-turned-state senator-turned U.S. senator, the bulk of Obama's wealth has come only in the past few years, with the huge success of his second book, The Audacity of Hope.

Obama is not yet a multi-millionaire but on past experience he will soon be – win or lose.

“The top presidential contenders have found their places among the upper, upper class in different ways”, the Washington Post reported in March last year.

“Mitt Romney, for example, had a long, successful career in finance before running for Massachussets' governor in 2002. Hillary Clinton [with wealth between $10-50 million] was never rich until the end of her husband's term, when they each wrote best-selling books and he made millions giving speeches. John McCain [$25-$38 million] has accumulated most of his wealth through his wife Cindy, a heiress to a major beer distribution company. Rudy Giuliani turned his time as mayor of New York into a lucrative consulting conglomerate and speaking career.”

You need to be rich to win elections in the US. According to a January 16 Agence France-Presse report, in 2000, George W. Bush won the presidency with $193.1 million, $67.6 million of which were federal funds. In 2004, he raised $367.2 million (including federal funds) for his re-election, while his challenger, Kerry, raised $328.5 million.

Hilary Clinton claims to have raised a total of $128.1 million in campaign funds in 2007, of which $26.7 million was raised during the last few months of the year. Obama says he has raised $114.7 million in 2007, of which $25.1 million came in during the last part of the year. This year, especially since the presidential primaries began, Clinton and Obama’s campaigns have raised millions more.

Contrast the Cuban elections where you don’t have to be rich to run for elections. The government pays all the costs and the people who vote for you know you because they are your neighbours and workmates. You don’t get paid for being an assembly member so it is a public service not a privilege. You have to account to your voters regularly and they can recall you at any time. That’s why it’s called people’s power.

Green Left Weekly is a champion of people’s power and itself is a product of a kind of people’s power. Like the Cuban electoral system and unlike the US and Australian electoral systems, Green Left does not depend on corporate funding.

Each year we set out to raise $250,000 to keep Green Left Weekly running. Last year we made 92% of our target, $230,242. We thank our readers and supporters for helping us achieve that. Now we begin on our 2008 Fighting Fund target of the same figure. Collections are just beginning but we have a great start with participants in the recent January 3-6 congress of the Democratic Socialist Perspective, a tendency in the Socialist Alliance, pledging a massive $103,453 in individual donations to be paid over the course of the year. The rest will have to be raised through other donations and through fund raising activities.

If you can help us kick off the 2008 Fighting Fund, you can directly deposit a donation to: Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 901992. Alternatively, send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007, phone it through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia), or donate online

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