Workers Vanguard No. 881
24 November 2006
U.S. Elections: Bourgeoisie's Midterm Correction
For a Class-Struggle Workers Party!
From the cesspool of bourgeois electoral politics, the Democrats emerged this month with a majority in the House of Representatives and a slim win in the Senate. The campaigns were marked by overt racism, anti-gay and anti-abortion bigotry, paeans to the war on terror from all quarters, general sleaze and hypocrisy—all of this exemplifying American bourgeois democracy. The midterm elections represented the victory of a section of the U.S. capitalist ruling class that engineered a kind of market correction on the political front. Republican candidates suffered from massive public revulsion at the corruption and sheer incompetence of Bush and his cohorts. But the overriding question was U.S. imperialisms occupation of Iraq, under which Iraqis are now being killed at the rate of almost 100 per day. The Iraq quagmire is vastly unpopular in the U.S. and has increasingly become an albatross for the ruling class.
The Anybody but Bush left was quick to claim victory in the elections, with the rad-lib Nation (4 December) cheering in a front-page headline: Its Party Time. But the real coup de grace was delivered to the Bushites by major sections of the U.S. military, along with Bush Seniors coterie and elements of the Democratic Party. When the likes of General William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, declares the Iraq war and occupation the greatest strategic disaster in American history, it is a safe bet that heads will roll. An editorial published in the Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times—publications owned by Gannett Co., Inc. that serve and reflect military interests—demanded Defense Secretary Rumsfelds ouster on the eve of the election. And they got it: immediately after the Republicans midterm thumping came Rumsfelds dumping.
Rumsfelds nominated replacement is one Robert Gates, a former CIA director and veteran of sinister Reaganite ventures such as the Iran-Contra affair, a secret White House operation in the 1980s that sold weapons to Iran to get cash for homicidal reactionaries fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. The U.S. rulers want to retool their war machine, the better to subjugate the peoples of the world in the service of the capitalist profit system. Predicting the problems besetting the military today, former Army chief of staff General Eric Shinseki warned before he was ousted in 2003, Beware the 12-division foreign policy with a 10-division Army. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group headed by James Baker, a key player in the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, is expected to soon deliver a reality-based plan for extricating U.S. forces from Iraq.
The pragmatists riding to the rescue include many from the upper crust who not only think that the CIAs torture methods are necessary but have themselves overseen plenty of this dirty work. To openly advocate it as the Bush gang does, however, is considered to be very poor PR, further tarnishing the darkened image of democratic U.S. imperialism. There is also opposition in the bourgeoisie to Bushs notions of faith-based government. While it is just good bourgeois politics to do whats necessary to extract votes from Christian evangelicals (whose votes were split in the midterm elections), it is quite another thing to act as if you actually believe the stuff. As the late muckraking journalist I.F. Stone put it: All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.
The bourgeoisie now sees a chance to restore the much-frayed national unity that was proclaimed in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks and used to package the rulers assaults on immigrants, black people and the working class as a whole. For this task, the Democrats—the other capitalist party of war and racism—are well-suited. They are widely viewed as a lesser evil than the justly loathed Bush administration, thus giving them, at least in the short run, more credibility in mobilizing support for further U.S. military adventures and depredations. And while occasionally opposing some of Bushs more egregious power grabs—e.g., voting in the main against the 2006 Military Commissions Act that included a frontal assault on habeas corpus legal protections—they are no less committed to maintaining the imperial presidency than the Republicans.
The labor traitors who head both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win federations celebrated their own role in the Democrats victory. A record amount of union money was spent for these midterm elections, and thousands upon thousands of union members were mobilized to get out the vote. Black liberal spokesmen continued to sell the party as the friend of the oppressed black masses, while Latino pols helped channel mass anger over draconian anti-immigration legislation proposed by Republicans in Congress earlier this year into votes for the Democrats.
The Democrats benefited from the social tinder at the base of U.S. society, with its widening class divide and murderous racism. But as death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal remarked in a 14 November column:
This election was not a vote in favor of Democrats, so much as it was a profoundly anti-Bush vote.
For days, weeks, perhaps years after this election, schools across Black and poor America will be as wretched, as defunded, and as dysfunctional as they were before. Will a Democratic majority repeal the disastrous No Child Left Behind law? The peoples rights to be secure in their homes and places (said to be guaranteed in the Constitution) will still be under constant and dangerous threats, not from the terrorists—but from the government.
Neither bourgeois party spoke much about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
—the man-made racist atrocity against black New Orleans. Small wonder, as each was complicit in that atrocity. Katrina, however, is very alive in the consciousness of the black population and the working class as a whole. Along with general disaffection over a losing war in Iraq, which was prepared by lies from the outset, the racist contempt shown the people of New Orleans by Washington was another nail in the coffin of the incumbent Republicans. But the reality of ongoing devastation along the Gulf Coast is raw, tangible evidence of the racist oppression embedded in this capitalist profit system.
It took the Civil War, the Second American Revolution, to end black chattel slavery in this country, and it will take a third, socialist revolution to complete the unfinished business of the Civil War. Should there be any doubt, look at Tennessee. A virulently racist campaign was launched against black Democrat Harold Ford Jr., himself a social conservative, who seemed poised to become the first black Senator from the old Confederacy since Reconstruction. Then a TV ad created by a Karl Rove operative showed a scantily clad young white woman saying shed met Harold at the Playboy party and asking him to call. This play to racist hysteria over miscegenation worked. Ford, who had been slightly ahead in the polls prior to the ad, ended up losing by a slim margin.
Now, in the aftermath of the elections, Trent Lott, like some zombie sucked out of the Mississippi mud, is again stalking the Senate halls as Republican whip. This is the same man who fell from grace a few years ago after openly yearning for the Dixiecrat days of arch-segregationist Strom Thurmond, saying that if Thurmond had been elected president in 1948, we wouldnt have had all these problems over all these years.
Malcolm X had it right when he said, If you stick a knife nine inches into my back and pull it out three inches, that is not progress. Nostalgia for the Clinton years is a sure sign of how bad Bushs America has been for black people. It was Clinton who promised to end welfare as we know it. And, as corporate profits skyrocketed, Clinton carried out his vow, condemning millions of black, white and immigrant women and children to hunger and homelessness. The Clinton White House presided over a quantum leap in the prison population—now over two million—mainly as a result of the racist war on drugs. Today, while black people constitute 12 percent of the U.S. population, 44 percent of all prisoners in the U.S. are black.
As Marxists, we understand that bourgeois elections are routinely putrid affairs that amount to determining which party will oversee the affairs of the capitalist class as a whole. Our task in analyzing social discontents, including as revealed through the distorted prism of the elections, is to lay bare the irreconcilable class antagonisms at the base of this society. It is the working class, with its strategic black component, that produces the wealth of society. This is the only social force with the objective interest and potential social power to smash the capitalist system and lay the basis for the construction of an egalitarian socialist society. We stand for the complete political independence of the proletariat from all capitalist parties—Democrat, Republican and Green. This is an ABC precept of Marxism, but one that has been consciously denigrated by the fake-socialist left and one for which we must all the more consciously fight anew, as part of the struggle to forge a revolutionary workers party.
Reformists Touching Faith in Democratic Imperialism
Amid the euphoria that swept over West European social-democratic circles following the U.S. elections, Simon Jenkins wrote in the London Guardian (9 November): Overnight six years of glib European identification of American with rightwing fantasism is over. The gun-toting, pre-Darwinian Bushite, the tomahawk-wielding, Halliburton-loving, Beltway neocon calling abortion murder and torturing Arabs as Islamofascists has been laid to rest, and by a decision of the American people. He went on: An era of ill-conceived, belligerent interventionism has come to an end—by democratic decision, thank goodness. Sharing in the giddiness is the U.S. reformist left, which is now gearing up to make the Democrats fight.
V.I. Lenin, co-leader with Leon Trotsky of the Bolshevik Revolution that ripped one-sixth of the globe from the capitalists grip and established the first workers state in history, polemicized against those who would lull the working class with illusions in the parliamentary road of reforming imperialist capitalism. In The State and Revolution (1917), he denounced German Social Democrat Karl Kautsky, whose thoughts go no further than a government...willing to meet the proletariat half-way—a step backward to philistinism compared with 1847, when the Communist Manifesto proclaimed the organisation of the proletariat as the ruling class (ellipses in original).
Lenin excoriated Kautsky for striving for the shifting of the balance of forces within the state power, and for winning a majority in parliament:
We, however, shall break with the opportunists; and the entire class-conscious proletariat will be with us in the fight—not to shift the balance of forces, but to overthrow the bourgeoisie, to destroy bourgeois parliamentarism, for a democratic republic after the type of the Commune, or a republic of Soviets of Workers and Soldiers Deputies, for the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
Such a revolutionary outlook could not be further from that of the present-day reformist socialists, who are imbued with death of Communism ideology and shamelessly seek a government more yielding to the oppressed and exploited via the Democratic Party. For full-throated hailing of the Democrats electoral victory, the reformists of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and the Communist Party USA (CP) cannot be beat. The latter, consistent with their decades of prostration to the Democrats, headlined: Mission Accomplished: Labor Kicks Ass (Peoples Weekly World, 9 November). This has the same amount of truthiness as that other famous Mission Accomplished charade, when Bush announced the end of combat in Iraq.
The ISO and Workers World Party (WWP) openly crossed the class line in the elections, not only calling for votes to but running candidates for the small-time capitalist Green Party, which functions as a way station for disgruntled liberals on their way back to the Democratic Party fold. Immediately following the elections, the ISO echoed the Democrats own propaganda. The ISOs Socialist Worker (10 November) wrote, For anyone who cares about peace or justice, the Republicans meltdown is sweet vindication, even while they conceded that the Democrats proposals on Iraq are aimed at repackaging the occupation, not ending it. The articles bottom line: Turning back the right-wing agenda will depend on rebuilding political and social movements that can put pressure on all the politicians in Washington.
Besides its bourgeois Green Party campaign, the WWP, through its International Action Center, called for votes for black Democratic Congressional candidate Charles Barron in Brooklyn, declaring that this capitalist politician would help put one of our own in Congress (Workers World, 27 July). While claiming to oppose the Democratic Party, the WWPs erstwhile comrades in the Party for Socialism and Liberation and its ANSWER coalition offered their own plan to promote the Democrats electoral fortunes, organizing nationwide rallies on October 28 to force the issue of the Iraq war onto the U.S. political stage...less than two weeks before the election. ANSWERs demand to Cut the Pentagon budget! Double the education budget!—stale fare offered by the entire reformist left—purveys the lie that the rulers of the capitalist-imperialist system can be convinced to adopt a more humane foreign policy and meet the needs of the workers they brutally exploit.
The World Cant Wait project of the eccentric Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) held its own measly rallies in October, calling for Bush to step down. The RCP desperately seeks to cozy up to such bourgeois political figures as Al Gore, whom its newspaper Revolution (29 January) said will inevitably be part of the whole swirl and ferment that will go into driving out the Bush regime. In hoary Stalinist fashion, the RCP justifies its groveling before the Democrats by claiming that the Republicans are running a fascist regime. No, theyre just the right-side profile of the ugly face of bourgeois democracy.
In these elections, we were able to advance one electoral tactic: extending critical support to Socialist Actions Jeff Mackler in his campaign for U.S. Senator from California. Macklers campaign drew a crude class line, running against not only the Democrats but also the ISOs Green candidate, Todd Chretien. Despite our principled opposition to SAs reformist politics, and despite SAs ludicrous rejection of our call for votes to their candidate, the critical support tactic was a means to further the fight for the political independence of the proletariat (see Critical Support to Socialist Action in Senate Election, WV No. 876, 15 September).
Democratic Party of War and Racism
The Democrats wasted no time following the elections to assert their commitment to serving imperialist military interests. Congressional Democrats voted against making John Murtha—a longtime hawk who turned defeatist over Iraq—Nancy Pelosis second in the House. While some pointed to Murthas ethics problems, the vote was a warning to those within the party who seek early withdrawal. Meanwhile, black Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel is again openly calling to reimpose the draft.
A New York Times (19 November) editorial insisted that the Armys overall authorized strength needs to be increased some 75,000 to 100,000 troops more than Mr. Rumsfeld had in mind for the next few years. It went on: Rebuilding the Army and Marine Corps is an overdue necessity. But it is only the first step toward repairing the damage done to Americas military capacities and credibility over the past six years. It is not lost on the U.S. rulers that the Iraq fiasco doesnt exactly help the militarys recruitment efforts. After Republican Senator John McCain called for more troops to be sent to Iraq, General Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, responded that this might not be possible, given there just arent many more troops.
News flash to the reformist left: no one is about to cut the Pentagon budget! Iraqi men, women and children will continue to be slaughtered by the U.S.-led occupying force and the intercommunal war unleashed by the occupation. The brutal U.S./NATO war in Afghanistan will continue to further devastate that country. The Democrats are at least as fervent as the Republicans in supporting Zionist Israels murderous repression of the Palestinian people.
If anything, the Democrats are sounding more belligerent than the White House toward the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state, the largest and most powerful of the remaining societies where capitalist rule has been overthrown. Joined by the chauvinist labor tops, Democrats are calling to get tough with China over its trade policies. Against this anti-Communist China-bashing, we fight to win workers to the understanding that new gains can never be won if those already made are not defended. For the unconditional military defense of the Chinese, Cuban, North Korean and Vietnamese deformed workers states against imperialist attack and domestic counterrevolution!
One key to the Democrats victory was that they ran anti-abortion bigots and other social conservatives to win some of the Republicans Christian evangelical base. This led conservative pundit William Safire to write in the New York Times (9 November): The rightward cast of many Democrats in the freshman class is hardly bad news for conservatism. And the heartening victory of Joe Lieberman over the angry far left in liberal Connecticut augurs a renewal of a brief period of bipartisanship at the waters edge. Safire denigrated such Old Bulls as Charles Rangel, John Dingell, Barney Frank and others he fears will crowd the airwaves with hearings grilling contractors and torturing accused torturers. Not to worry, according to Business Week (13 November): Business may find some unlikely allies in Democrats such as Charles B. Rangel of New York, Barney Frank of Massachusetts and John D. Dingell of Michigan.
The same elections that gave Congress back to the Democrats saw a number of socially reactionary measures go forward. In Michigan, a measure abolishing the remnants of affirmative action passed. Among many anti-immigrant ballot initiatives, a measure in Arizona making English the official language won by a three-to-one margin. We say: No to English-only racism! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants! While a South Dakota proposal to ban all abortions failed, bans on same-sex marriage passed there as well as in Wisconsin and five other states. In California, a proposition mandating lifelong monitoring for sex offenders passed, although it is now being challenged in the courts. The Spartacist League opposed this reactionary legislation, which is more than can be said for Socialist Actions Jeff Mackler (see Vote No on Sex Dragnet Prop 83! WV No. 880, 10 November).
Meanwhile, largely black Washington, D.C., still doesnt have voting representation in Congress, so those people were disenfranchised, as were those subjected to the usual voter fraud and states attempts to disenfranchise blacks and the poor with new registration rules. (Not a biggie for the Democrats this year, since they won.) We say: Full citizenship rights for the D.C. population!
Class Against Class!
A break in what has largely been a one-sided class war by the capitalists against the workers and others was seen last December, when for three days the New York City transit workers strike crippled the finance capital of the U.S. The strike by the largely black, multiethnic union, in defiance of the states Taylor Law ban on strikes by public workers, was overwhelmingly popular among the working people of the city and in the ghettos and barrios. But the pro-Democratic Party bureaucratic misleaders of the city unions refused to support the transit workers. Democrat Eliot Spitzer, then New York State attorney general, slammed the transit union with injunctions and massive fines and jailed Transport Workers Union Local 100 president Roger Toussaint for four days. Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton supported the Taylor Law as well. Nonetheless, the Toussaint bureaucracy pulled out all the stops to mobilize the membership behind Spitzers election as governor (see article, page 16).
It is the task of revolutionary Marxists to bring to the working class the political program that will transform it from a class in itself to a class for itself. A special WV supplement titled NYC Transit Strike: Union Power vs. Class Collaboration (see WV No. 861, 6 January) raised the call to break with the Democrats and stated:
Workers must rely only on their own class power. That means forging a multiracial workers party—not a party of electoral reformism but one like the Bolshevik Party of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky that led the workers of Russia to power in the October Revolution of 1917. Such a party, based on declassed revolutionary intellectuals and class-conscious workers in the unions and among unorganized workers, would lead the workers in struggle. It would promote international proletarian solidarity and seek to mobilize workers against U.S. imperialisms predatory wars—U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan! It would lead the fight for black liberation through socialist revolution. It would fight to mobilize labor in defense of the rights of women and gays. It would demand full citizenship rights for all immigrants and fight to unionize immigrant workers. Forward to a workers government!