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Vol. 75/No. 24      July 4, 2011

Socialists respond to suit
attacking workers’ rights
(feature article)
NEW YORK—Attorneys for the Socialist Workers Party and Róger Calero, the party’s presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008, filed a motion with the Supreme Court of New York in Brooklyn June 7 calling for dismissal of a legal assault against Calero’s right to stand for office and the party’s right to run the nominee of its choice.

Filed by Christopher Klatell and Daniel Reich of the firm Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman, the motion argues that the complaint filed against Calero, the SWP, and others lacks “any merit whatsoever.” The lawsuit, filed by an individual named Christopher-Earl Strunk, targets Calero and two other 2008 presidential candidates—Barack Obama and John McCain—as well as their campaign committees and others.

Strunk claims that none of the three candidates is a “natural-born citizen” and thus should not have been on the ballot in New York. The suit echoes charges from so-called birthers and others that Obama is not a U.S. citizen. It alleges that since McCain was born on a U.S. military base in the Panama Canal Zone, he too doesn’t meet Strunk’s definition of a “natural-born” citizen.

“When I’ve run for president as the Socialist Workers Party candidate, our campaign literature has made clear I was born in Nicaragua,” Calero told the Militant. “The SWP never asks anyone we’re fighting alongside to produce a birth certificate, an ID card, or a diploma. The only ‘qualification’ any class-conscious worker needs to know is how well and how selflessly you fight.”

The motion filed on behalf of the SWP and Calero explains that regardless of whether he “would have been eligible to be President, SWP and its members are entitled to their choice of a nominee under the First and Fourteenth Amendments… . As the U.S. Constitution prevents courts from disregarding and undermining a political party’s decision to nominate a candidate, the Court cannot impose damages on Calero or SWP” for exercising these rights. Strunk is demanding $36 million in damages.

The motion notes that Strunk “has not alleged that Calero or SWP made any false representations.” Given the lack of any basis for the complaint, the legal papers ask “that Strunk not be granted leave to replead as such an exercise would be futile.”

The attorneys for the party and Calero also call attention to “the long and documented history of persecution of SWP” by government cop agencies. In 1973 the party filed a lawsuit in federal court against the FBI and other political police, documenting decades of government spying and disruption. The campaign waged by the party and supporters of political rights forced the government to reveal thousands of instances of the use of informers, wiretaps, “trash covers,” burglaries, and the unleashing of an “SWP Disruption Program.”

In 1986 the party won a federal court ruling declaring this spying and disruption illegal. On that basis, as well as evidence of ongoing attacks on the party by cops and rightists, the government since the late 1970s has been forced to grant the SWP an exemption from releasing the names of contributors to its election campaigns.

Given the lack of any factual basis for Strunk’s charges, Calero says, it would be easy not to take them seriously. But the SWP has had too much experience with harassing lawsuits dismissed by liberals as trivial but—once in bourgeois courts—become a weapon to deal blows to the workers movement. Working-class parties can be forced to spend substantial resources and leadership time responding to demands to turn over documents, submit to multiday interrogation, and prepare for repeated court hearings.

In 1979, for example, Alan Gelfand, a lawyer in California, filed suit demanding that federal courts expel the SWP leadership, claiming they were FBI agents. Federal judge Marianna Pfaelzer let Gelfand carry out this attack for 10 years before finally ruling when the case went to trial in 1989 that the suit “is groundless and always was.”

Nor should anyone make light of the harm to the workers movement as sections of the U.S. rulers take advantage of “America firstism” peddled by “birthers.” Bills have recently been introduced in more than 10 states to require presidential candidates to produce a U.S. birth certificate in order to be certified for the ballot.

In states such as New York, where Calero was on the ballot in 2004 and 2008, there is currently no requirement that a candidate be eligible to serve in elected office in order to have ballot status. This makes it easier for working-class candidates to run for office and gain a hearing for a course to fight the bosses’ attacks and advance a road to workers political power.

The bill introduced in Maine minces no words about its intended political targets. It requires only “independent” candidates to produce a birth certificate, not those of the two main capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans.

“Our attorneys have submitted the motion to have Strunk’s suit thrown out,” Calero told the Militant, “and we hope it will be. But we are ready for whatever comes our way.”
Related articles:
U.S. government, FBI tighten squeeze on rights of workers  
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