CIVIC CENTER — Though he's been painted as a friend to the Sandinistas whose “class warfare strategy in New York City is directly out of the Marxist playbook,” Bill de Blasio has little in common with the real far left, according to NYC's only socialist candidate for mayor.
“Just the opposite,” according to Dan Fein, 68, who is running for mayor next month on the Socialist Workers Party line. “He defends capitalism. He's a candidate of the Democratic Party, one of the main capitalist parties in the United States.”
Fein, who lives in Harlem and works at an electronics assembly plant, said his socialist campaign is “the only relevant game in town” for voters turned off by “bourgeoisie politics.”
“We're not for Wall Street, the bankers and capitalists,” said Fein. “We’re for the working class."
Both de Blasio and Fein have their roots in Cambridge, Mass., but the biographical similarities end there.
De Blasio got his undergraduate degree at NYU and a Masters degree at Columbia University, while Fein dropped out of the University of California, Berkeley.
De Blasio and his wife visited Cuba after getting married, while Fein said he's “been to Cuba a couple of times to support the revolution, not to go on my honeymoon."
Fein said coworkers had asked him about “this de Blasio thing" after the socialist accusations began to appear in the press. He said he welcomed the chance to talk about actual socialism.
“The word socialist and communist have been used way before Bill de Blasio came along,” said Fein.
He said GOP candidate Joe Lhota was wrong to accuse de Blasio of being in the red camp.
“He's of a tradition of folks that use the word incorrectly,” he said.
Like other socialists, Fein felt the red-baiting tactic was a losing strategy for Lhota.
“Maybe some people are affected by that, I don't think many are,” he said.
Frank Llewellyn, a political activist in New York City and the former national executive director of Democratic Socialists of America, felt Lhota’s painting of de Blasio as a red for his involvement with a group that supported Nicaragua during its revolution in the 1970s was a sign of desperation.
“That [de Blasio], like so many other Americans from that period, didn’t like the fact that the Reagan administration was trying to undermine the government of Nicaragua, that certainly doesn’t make him a radical or a Marxist or socialist,” Llewellyn said.
“I think Lhota, who is really not a known entity in New York politics, he's using it as it as a bogeyman catch phrase, scaring people with the term,” said Eljeer Hawkins, a healthcare worker and organizer for the group Socialist Alternatives. “I think it's going to fall flat.”
In fact, Hawkins said, the attacks on de Blasio could turn into a good thing for his and other socialist groups.
“I think more people will begin to investigate the word and the terms,” he said.
Llewellyn said he was pleased to hear de Blasio talk about issues he felt were important to working class New Yorkers.
The de Blasio campaign declined a request for comment.
“I’m glad that one of the mayoral candidates wants to move the city in a different direction than where the business community and Wall Street are,” Llewellyn said.
But he also isn’t expecting a revolution should de Blasio win in November.
“I don't have any illusions that just because he's probably going to be the mayor that that's necessarily going to lead to great change," he said. "It’s hard to have great change.”