Workers Vanguard No. 913
25 April 2008
Obama, Clinton: No Friends of Workers, Blacks, the Oppressed
Break with the Democratic Party of Imperialist War and Racism!
For a Class-Struggle Workers Party!
The following article was issued by Workers Vanguard on April 17. It was distributed at the Philadelphia April 19 “Free Mumia” demonstration initiated by the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and at the Partisan Defense Committee/Labor Black League-initiated united-front protest for Mumia’s freedom in Oakland the same day.
The 2008 presidential elections have been called “historic.” For the first time, the nominee of the Democratic Party will either be a black man, Barack Obama, or a woman, Hillary Clinton. As the second term of the oddly demented and widely despised Bush administration comes to a close—with the bloody and unpopular Iraq occupation, the Abu Ghraib and other torture scandals, an impending recession, foreclosures, job losses, union-busting, escalating attacks on civil liberties—there is a desire among the populace for “change.”
Trade-union bureaucrats, black bourgeois politicians, reformist leftists and others have seized on social discontent to peddle the lie that support to the “lesser evil” capitalist Democratic Party—the other party of war and racism—will serve the interests of working people and the oppressed. But as we wrote in “The Obama Campaign and the ‘End of Racism’ Myth” (WV No. 906, 18 January):
“If this deeply racist country, where religious obscurantism and anti-woman bigotry are pervasive, ever sees a black or female president, it would certainly be a significant development. But it would do nothing to change the oppression of women, which is rooted in the institution of the family in class society, or of black people, which forms the cornerstone of American capitalism. Simply put, the liberation of black people and women will not happen short of the destruction of the capitalist system through socialist revolution.”
As Trotskyists (i.e., genuine Marxists), we fight for the political independence of the working class from the capitalist class enemy. We do not extend any political support on principle to any capitalist politician—Democrat, Republican, Green or “Independent.” In his 1917 work, The State and Revolution, Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin underlined that bourgeois democracy means voters get to “decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people.” The bourgeoisie uses the facade of “democracy” to mask its class dictatorship, to give a democratic veneer to decisions made, as Lenin said, in the stock exchanges, clubs and dinner parties of the big bourgeoisie. In this, the rulers are aided by the reformist left, which promotes the lie that Democratic Party “lesser evilism” serves the interests of working people and the oppressed.
The capitalist state—consisting at its core of the police, military, prisons and courts—is an instrument of repression that exists to defend the rule and profits of the bourgeoisie. It cannot be reformed to serve the interests of working people and the oppressed, and the history of working-class struggle confirms this basic fact, not least the 1871 Paris Commune. After France, under the regime of Napoleon III, was defeated by Prussia in 1870, a right-wing government was formed, acquiring a “democratic” sanction through the electoral support of the mass of peasant petty proprietors, then the majority of the populace. When that government sent the army into Paris to disarm the predominantly working-class National Guard, the proletarian forces drove out the army. This led to the formation of the Commune, which governed the city for nearly three months before the army crushed it, slaughtering over 20,000 people.
As Lenin pointed out, Karl Marx found only one point from the 1848 Communist Manifesto that he considered out of date. Based on the experience of the Paris Commune, Marx wrote in The Civil War in France that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes.” As Lenin underlined in The State and Revolution, “The working class must break up, smash the ‘ready-made state machinery,’ and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it.” The working class must rule with its own state, the dictatorship of the proletariat.
As a direct consequence of our revolutionary position, we Marxists do not run for executive office—such as mayor, governor or president—although Marxists can and sometimes do run for parliamentary office as a tactic to propagate our revolutionary program. The U.S. president is the chief executive responsible for the biggest military power in history and for the domestic machinery of repression that maintains social oppression and exploitation. To run for executive office means to aspire to be the next Commander-in-Chief, to decide who gets tortured, bombed and invaded (see Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 60, Autumn 2007).
With its hands directly on the means of production—factories, mines, transport
—the proletariat is the only class with the social power and objective interest to lead all the oppressed in sweeping away the capitalist order. Led by a Marxist vanguard party, the working class can expropriate the bourgeoisie and reorganize society on a socialist basis. But the workers’ social power is fettered by the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy, which ties the proletariat to the bourgeois class enemy, especially through the Democratic Party. What is necessary is a political struggle to oust the trade-union bureaucrats and replace them with a class-struggle leadership as part of the fight to build a revolutionary workers party that fights for workers power.
Race and Bourgeois Elections
Illusions in Obama are widespread, notwithstanding his actual policies, many of which are to the right of Clinton. In the face of the history of black oppression in the U.S., the possibility of electing the first black president has propelled many black people to support Obama. He has also been especially popular with liberal-minded college youth, who view Obama as a charismatic, honest politician, above the mudslinging and corruption that define American politics.
In fact, no less than Hillary Clinton (or John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee), Obama is a mainstream bourgeois politician. In their campaigns, both Clinton and Obama are pandering to backward voters, downplaying or outright disappearing such key questions as abortion rights for women. It is a testament to the grotesque nature of bourgeois politics that Clinton—who with her husband earned over $109 million over the last eight years—is perceived as the representative of the white working-class vote, while Obama, who has tried to run on an “end of racism” message, is pulling nearly every black vote.
Despite his best efforts, in racist, capitalist America, Obama, the son of a Kenyan man and a white woman from Kansas, could not disappear race in this race. This became clear when the media began playing comments made by Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. After Obama delivered his March 18 “A More Perfect Union” speech, we underlined in “Break with Democratic Party of War and Racism!” (WV No. 911, 28 March): “What Obama gave was, in fact, a ‘national unity’ speech, putting himself forward as the bourgeoisie’s best candidate to run bloody U.S. imperialism and keep working people, blacks, immigrants and all the oppressed down. Obama, linked to the Illinois Democratic machine, seems well qualified to be the chief executive of U.S. imperialism, including by refurbishing its credentials in the world arena.”
Flanked by eight American flags, Obama in his speech promoted protectionist chauvinism, made clear his support for Israel, denounced “radical Islam” and cheered on the imperialist “war on terror.” He denounced welfare and conciliated racist opposition to affirmative action and school integration through busing, while promoting the “quintessentially American—and yes, conservative—notion of self-help”—an echo of Booker T. Washington, who over a century ago preached accommodation to the racist status quo by telling impoverished blacks to pull themselves up by their bootstraps (if they owned any). It was a speech completely in line with his lie that the civil rights movement moved this country “90 percent of the way” to ending racism. Obama talked about race in order to disappear the brutal realities of racist American capitalism today, condemning Wright for speaking “as if this country
is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past.”
From the racist atrocity of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in the face of Hurricane Katrina to the mass incarceration of nearly a million black men and women, black oppression has been and remains the bedrock of American capitalism, which is based on the exploitation of the entire multiracial working class. This reality has left its imprint upon the American working class. The U.S. is the only advanced capitalist country lacking a mass workers party representing even a deformed expression of the political independence of the proletariat.
The history of the U.S. workers movement is one of heroic and often bloody economic struggle (for example, proletarian holidays such as May Day and International Women’s Day have their origins in the American workers movement). At the same time, the capitalist rulers have long fomented ethnic and religious hatred to keep the proletariat divided and thus politically backward. Well into the 20th century, the rulers pitted “native” Protestants against mainly Catholic immigrant workers. With the mass migration of blacks from the South to the industrial cities of the North, religious and ethnic hostilities in the proletariat came to be supplanted by anti-black racism, serving to obscure the irreconcilable class divide. It is in the vital interest of the entire working class to fight against black oppression. As we underlined in “The Obama Campaign and the ‘End of Racism’ Myth”:
“Contrary to the myth promoted by Obama and other liberals, black oppression continues to be the central defining feature of U.S. society. It is materially rooted in and central to American capitalism. As against both liberal integrationists and black nationalists, our struggle for black liberation is based on the program of revolutionary integrationism. While opposing every manifestation of racist oppression, fighting in particular to mobilize the social power of the multiracial labor movement, we underline that full equality for the black masses requires that the working class rip the economy out of the hands of the capitalist rulers and reorganize it on a socialist basis. Only then will it be possible to eliminate the material roots of black oppression through the integration of black people into an egalitarian socialist society based on a collectivized economy with jobs and quality housing, health care and education for all.”
The way forward in the struggle against the racist capitalist system requires breaking the political chains that bind workers, blacks, and the oppressed to the class enemy, particularly through support to the Democratic Party. It means waging political struggle against the labor tops, many of whom are leading lights in the Democratic Party, as well as against the reformists who have again and again pushed the “fight the right” politics of “lesser evilism.”
Such a political struggle for the political independence of the working class and the fight for black liberation must have as its starting point revolutionary internationalism. It was the Bolshevik leaders of the 1917 October Revolution and early Communist International who imparted to the young American Communist Party the necessity of addressing the fight against racial oppression in the U.S. Underlining the link between the struggle for black freedom and opposition to U.S. imperialism, Spartacist League Central Committee member Don Alexander noted in a presentation at a recent gathering of the SL/U.S. CC (“For a Workers America!” WV No. 908, 15 February):
“Our struggle for black freedom is not confined to the national terrain
. We have something special to say to the majority of the oppressed black masses, who in larger numbers historically oppose U.S. imperialist adventures against dark-skinned peoples: the violent and bloody and corrupt and hypocritical ruling class that slaughters Iraqis and Afghanis is the same ruling class whose cops gun down black youth and Latinos on a daily basis
“We are determined to make clear—not least because in America black oppression is the envelope for class exploitation—that it is in the interest of white, Latino and other workers to fight for black liberation.”
Mobilize Labor’s Power to Free Mumia Now!
The upcoming Pennsylvania primaries, set for April 22, intersect the March 27 decision by the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the frame-up conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal for the 1981 killing of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. Mountains of evidence of his innocence exist, including the confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, killed Faulkner. But the courts have either rejected or refused to hear that evidence. A former Black Panther Party spokesman, a supporter of the persecuted MOVE organization, an eloquent journalist and fighter against oppression known as the “voice of the voiceless,” Mumia represents for the ruling class the spectre of black revolt.
Against the recent court decision, the Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League—and the PDC’s fraternal defense organizations have initiated and called united-front demonstrations in cities across the U.S. and the world under the slogans: “Mumia Abu-Jamal Is Innocent! Free Mumia Now! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!” (See ad on page 8.)
The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal lays bare the inherent injustices of the capitalist system. It underlines two of the most fundamental questions for the American proletariat: the nature of the capitalist state and its courts as instruments of repression against working people and the oppressed, and the fight for black liberation. What is necessary is a class-struggle fight to free Mumia—one based on the understanding that capitalist society is fundamentally divided between two hostile classes, the capitalist exploiters and the working class. It is the working class—
which can cut the flow of capitalist profit by withholding its labor—that has the social power to make the courts yield and to win Mumia’s freedom. This is the political program that the SL and PDC have consistently advocated in our struggle for Mumia’s freedom, not least against the reformists and liberals who have promoted illusions in the capitalist state and its “justice” system, as exemplified by their longtime subordination of the call to free Mumia to the demand for a “new trial.”
Crassly expressing the logic behind the illusions promoted by groups such as Workers World Party (WWP) is a statement titled “No Justice, No Peace” by a representative of the New York Coalition to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, which stated: “Both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama endorse capital punishment, even though they know the system is imperfect and it doesn’t deter violent crime. Let’s see where they stand on Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has not had a violent past; in fact, it’s quite the opposite, as you already know. It’s not too late to force them to do right by Mumia and all the other political prisoners rotting in prison.”
Who are they kidding?! Clinton’s biggest backer in the state is Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, the district attorney who oversaw the frame-up conviction of Mumia. In turn, Obama’s praises have been sung by Philadelphia right-wing radio broadcaster Michael Smerconish, who described Obama’s March 18 speech as “stunning” and, though a Republican, recently declared, “If I could, I would vote for Obama.” Smerconish recently co-authored Murdered by Mumia with Maureen Faulkner, a lying tract aimed at greasing the skids for the legal lynching of Mumia.
Perhaps it was more than irony that Obama gave his “Perfect Union” speech in Philadelphia, the city where Mumia was framed up. Not far from where Obama spoke, a brutal massacre took place: the 1985 bombing of the MOVE commune, which slaughtered eleven black men, women and children and destroyed an entire black neighborhood. This was carried out by black Democratic mayor Wilson Goode in collusion with the Feds. In seeking the presidency, Obama is following the tradition of black Democrats who have been employed as mayors and police chiefs of major urban areas—from L.A. to Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and elsewhere. Their job has been to keep working and black people down. Their value to the racist rulers is embodied in the statement by black former New York City mayor David Dinkins: “They’ll take it from me.” Obama simply seeks to become the overseer for the whole bloody plantation.
The very existence of the death penalty in the U.S.—a legacy of black chattel slavery—underlines the centrality of black oppression to American capitalism. No other advanced capitalist country but Japan continues to use this barbaric practice. As Marxists, we oppose the death penalty on principle, for the guilty as well as the innocent. We do not accord the state the right to decide who lives and who dies. Abolish the death penalty! No to legal lynching!
For his part, upon taking office in the Illinois state legislature in 1998, Obama voted to expand the list of crimes eligible for the death penalty. While he supported the moratorium on capital punishment by Republican governor George Ryan (who went on to commute the sentence of every death row inmate before leaving office in 2003), Obama’s purpose was to refurbish the Illinois killing machine to “make sure you’ve got the right person before you consider the death penalty.”
On April 16, the racist U.S. Supreme Court voted 7-2 to uphold capital punishment by lethal injection, which had been challenged by death row inmates who pointed to cases showing that the condemned victim suffers excruciating pain during their killing while being paralyzed and unable to cry out. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “simply because an execution method may result in pain” does not mean that it is “cruel and unusual.” The spectacle of the Supreme Court “Justices” debating how best to kill a human being is testament to the utter barbarism of American capitalism. It recalls the “debates” in bourgeois circles over what torture techniques to use against detainees. Virginia has already announced that it will lift its unofficial moratorium on executions; the machinery of death is about to start up again.
“Socialists” in the Service of the Bourgeoisie
Much of what passes for the left in this country has either explicitly or implicitly endorsed a Democratic Party victory over the Republicans in the upcoming election, invariably through accolades for Barack Obama. Having built an “antiwar movement” premised on appealing to bourgeois (Democratic) politicians to “end the war” in Iraq, the liberals and their reformist supporters have now buried that “movement” in the morass of American electoral politics. As reformists, their starting point is not the fight for socialist revolution, but rather the lie that capitalism can be reformed to serve the interests of working people and the oppressed.
Workers World Party leader Larry Holmes delivered a presentation on “Globalization, Economic Crisis & Obama” (published in a Workers World posting, 21 February) that spoke of the Obama campaign posing “a problem for serious leftists or revolutionaries. But I think inevitably it will be more helpful than harmful. Right now, things have been so difficult, almost anything that shakes things up is beneficial, because at least Obama has a lot of people thinking and talking and debating, particularly all these white people.”
To be sure, WWP has not openly endorsed the Democrat Obama; rather, they are enthusing over capitalist Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney (whom they endorsed when she was a Democratic Party Congressional candidate in 2004). They have, however, gone to great lengths to leave the door open. A Workers World (9 January) editorial states:
“With an Obama candidacy, working-class and revolutionary organizations will have to stay sensitive to the impact of racism on the electoral campaign, even as the left differentiates itself from Obama as well as the Republican. The left will also have to adjust its approach should there be an active intervention of the population in the electoral process, especially if an economic or war crisis arises during the election.”
Stay tuned. Workers World supported Jesse Jackson in 1988 and other black Democrats since.
Then there is the International Socialist Organization (ISO), an anti-Communist grouping that supported the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state, a world-historic defeat for the international proletariat. In California, the ISO ran its honcho, Todd Chretien, as a U.S. Senate candidate for the capitalist Green Party in 2006. Now, the ISO has geared its ranks to set their sights on the bourgeois electoral prize, ditching their former support to Ralph Nader—Green candidate and “independent” in 2000 and 2004 respectively—as a “poor use of scarce resources for those who want to build a stronger left.” While criticizing Obama’s policies, the ISO’s International Socialist Review (March-April 2008) elaborates:
“If a Democrat wins the White House and the Democrats hold the Congress, will this mark a rebirth of liberalism? The answer is both yes and no. In the sense that both Clinton and Obama stand to the ‘left’ of McCain on most issues, and a Democratic victory would break years of right-wing Republican dominance, liberalism would receive a boost. What is more, millions of Americans would vote for Democratic candidates hoping that they would act on the issues that concern the majority: ending the war in Iraq, fixing the housing mess, providing universal health care. If the mainstream political system began to raise these ‘liberal’ issues, people’s expectations that something could be done about them would be raised. And just breaking the stifling conservative orthodoxy of the last generation would make liberalism a more viable ideological alternative for millions who want to see real social change.”
To the ISO, the aim is to resurrect Democratic Party liberalism, which is based on the maintenance of racist American capitalism (though with the facade of a “human face”). Small wonder that on the ground ISO members in the Bay Area were circulating a leaflet: “Elections ’08/The Obama Phenomenon Hope for Change.”
Among the groups that have most openly pushed “Anybody but Bush” Democratic Party “lesser evilism” is the misnamed Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), which created the “World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime!” project—not coincidentally, the same project of the Democrats this year. During the 2004 elections, they advised: “vote for Kerry if you feel you really have to” (Revolutionary Worker, 29 August 2004). One can guess where the RCP will end up this year with the far more popular Obama.
Meanwhile, the Progressive Labor Party (PL) has openly declared, with the bizarre “logic” that only PL can conjure: “Unless we actively participate in Obama’s campaign and expose his true purposes, any Obama success at the polls will prove deadly to the working class.” Not content with this reformist/Stalinist liquidation into the campaign for a representative of the class enemy, PL adds a grotesque twist, comparing Obama’s followers to the Hitler Youth: “Many earnestly hoped for the better world Nazi imperialism claimed to offer. And Hitler, after all, professing ‘socialism,’ was able to rally many well-meaning people seeking change” (Challenge, 26 March). This is the same group that grotesquely ran on the back page of its paper, Challenge (3 January 2007), a doctored photo of Obama in a Klan suit! After deploying its members into such reactionary outfits as church groups and the imperialist volunteer army, and (again) into “active participation” in Obama’s campaign (and now vicariously into the Hitler Youth), one can only wonder what PL will do next.
“Made Men” of the Bourgeoisie
While a shell of its former self, the Communist Party (CP) in pushing Democratic Party “lesser evilism,” especially support for Obama, does put succinctly what the rest of the left pushes in somewhat more tortured terms. CPUSA Online (10 April) plainly states in regard to Obama and Clinton that “neither candidate is of the left. But history teaches us that when mobilized, labor and people’s forces can push through and win progressive gains in a climate like today. Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not run on a New Deal program, but was propelled to create it by the unity in action of millions of unemployed and their allies. A landslide vote gives leverage to organize with the new President and Congress.”
Contrary to the dreams of the CP (and the rest of the reformist left), it is not “the people” that gets to decide who will head the U.S. government, but the bourgeois rulers, who vet their candidates to ensure that they fit the criteria. Any bourgeois candidate—regardless of color or gender, or of how liberal or conservative they may be—must be the “made men” of the bourgeoisie, roughly analogous to the Mafia’s “made men.” For example, liberal icon Earl Warren is best known for his role as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that ended de jure school segregation and for the expansion of civil liberties under the “Warren Court” during the tumultuous 1960s. Originally, Warren was a little-known California district attorney until winning his spurs through his frame-up prosecution of three officials of the Maritime Firemen’s Union on the West Coast. The unionists were charged with conspiring to hire a pair of goons to beat up a chief engineer who had been fighting the union’s organizing efforts (and who was later found beaten and knifed to death). Nominated by the Democratic, Republican and Progressive parties, Warren became California attorney general from 1939 to 1942, in which capacity he called for the expulsion of Japanese Americans from the West Coast.
As for Roosevelt, quite the blue-blooded patrician, his New Deal coalition in response to the Great Depression included everything from the Stalinized CP to Northern liberals to racist Southern Democratic Party Dixiecrats. Thus, FDR opposed anti-lynching legislation. His New Deal consisted of palliative reforms intended to stifle the huge workers upsurge that created the mass, integrated industrial unions of the CIO in the 1930s, and subordinate the labor movement to the state. In 1942, FDR issued the notorious order to imprison Japanese Americans in concentration camps for the duration of World War II. FDR was supported by the CP, which helped line up many of the more advanced workers behind Roosevelt in World War II. In contrast, our forebears in the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party denounced the Second World War as an interimperialist war in which revolutionaries took no side between the competing “Allied” and “Axis” powers, but stood foursquare in defense of the Soviet Union and its Red Army. For this, 18 of their leaders were imprisoned. The CP’s support to World War II included no-strike pledges, smothering the struggle for black rights and support to the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It is also the case that Roosevelt gave J.Edgar Hoover free rein to conduct domestic surveillance on anything and anybody considered “subversive” after Hoover squelched a coup conspiracy against FDR in 1934. The details of the coup were given away to Hoover by Major General Smedley Butler, ex-commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. He had allegedly been asked by the newly formed fascistic American Liberty League, a group financially backed by a number of prominent capitalists, to lead a march of half a million veterans on Washington in the interest of staging a coup. The free rein given to Hoover paved the way for the Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), begun during the 1950s McCarthyite anti-Communist witchhunt. COINTELPRO continued through the 1960s, resulting in the killing of 38 Black Panther Party members and the railroading of hundreds more to decades in prison hellholes, including Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Or take the Kennedy clan. In 1954 Robert F. Kennedy served as counsel on Joseph McCarthy’s witchhunting Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Robert Kennedy later became counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field under arch-segregationist John McClellan. That committee, on which then Senator John F. Kennedy also sat, was created in 1957 as an offshoot of the earlier McCarthy committee in order to go after the unions. The powerful Teamsters union was a particular target of the Congressional witchhunters, and Robert Kennedy was infamous for his role in grilling Teamsters head James Hoffa, as captured in the 1992 movie Hoffa. Hoffa made no secret of his disdain for the labor-hating, ruling-class twit. After John F. Kennedy was elected president, Robert, as attorney general, set up a special squad in the Justice Department devoted to getting Hoffa, the biggest government operation against a U.S. citizen in the history of the country.
Hoover remained firmly in charge of the FBI under the Kennedy regime. This had something to do with how JFK ended up on a PT boat in the South Pacific during World War II, which he milked to play up his “war hero” credentials. The real story is that FBI surveillance revealed that JFK had an affair beginning in late 1941 with a Danish woman, Inga Arvad, thought to be a Nazi spy. Kennedy’s politically influential father, Joe, a well-known anti-Semite, an admirer of Hitler and until early 1941 U.S. ambassador to Britain, opposed U.S. entry into the war. As Seymour Hersh wrote in The Dark Side of Camelot, “The men at the top—Franklin Roosevelt and J. Edgar Hoover
—were interested in payback, in reminding Joe Kennedy to stay in line and to remember that he was dealing with enemies who would be only too happy to hurt him.” JFK was duly shipped to the South Pacific as “payback,” but returned home a “war hero” after his PT boat was sunk. He then began his political career, winning the presidency in 1960. One of his first acts in office was to launch the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to smash the Cuban Revolution. JFK, to whom Obama is often compared, epitomized the “made man” of the bourgeoisie.
Obama, the first black candidate with a real shot at being selected U.S. president, may not have the level of “experience” that other bourgeois politicians have, but he has made clear through his speeches and policy stances that he will serve his bourgeois rulers faithfully. An article by Doug Henwood in the liberal Left Business Observer (March 2008) notes that “big capital would have no problem with an Obama presidency,” adding that many top hedge fund honchos like Obama “because they’re socially liberal, up to a point, and probably eager for a little less war, and think he’s the man to do their work. They’re also confident he wouldn’t undertake any renovations to the distribution of wealth.”
No less than Hillary, Obama stands on much of the record of the Bill Clinton administration of the 1990s. They both support his destruction of welfare “as we know it,” consigning millions of poor women, disproportionately black, to the scrap heap. They both hark back to Clinton’s military adventures, especially the bloody U.S./NATO aerial war against Serbia in 1999, as exemplifying the “human rights” interventions that the U.S. should be carrying out.
Needless to say, neither Clinton nor Obama is calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq—at most they want a “responsible” withdrawal of “combat troops” while keeping the military bases in that country and in the Near East more broadly. Their opposition to the Iraq occupation is based purely on the calculation that it is a disaster for U.S. imperialism—as opposed to the bloody Afghan occupation, which they both ardently support. Obama has even threatened to bomb Pakistan to go after Al Qaeda.
Most recently, while Hillary Clinton has called for an outright boycott of the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics this summer, Obama has called for a similar boycott if China does not “respect the dignity, security, and human rights of the Tibetan people.” The aim of such calls is to further the weight of bourgeois public opinion behind the counterrevolutionary “Free Tibet” movement—a movement notably popular among the reformist left internationally—in order to undermine and ultimately overturn the 1949 Chinese Revolution that overthrew bourgeois rule in that country (see “Counterrevolutionary Riots in Tibet,” WV No. 911, 28 March).
Particularly since the counterrevolutionary destruction of the former Soviet Union, the military-industrial powerhouse of the non-capitalist world, U.S. imperialism has become emboldened in its bloody adventures abroad. The quagmire of the Iraq occupation has bogged down the U.S. imperialists for a time, but their strategic interests require multi-sided counterrevolutionary efforts, not least aimed against the Chinese deformed workers state.
We Trotskyists stood for the unconditional military defense of the former Soviet Union and the East European deformed workers states, while fighting for workers political revolutions to oust the Stalinist bureaucrats and replace them with regimes based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism. Today, opposing every act of imperialist depredation by our “own” rulers, we stand for the unconditional military defense of the remaining deformed workers states: China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam.
For a Revolutionary Workers Party!
In his 1913 essay, “The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism,” Lenin noted that “people always have been the foolish victims of deception and self-deception in politics, and they always will be until they have learnt to seek out the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises.” The reformist left and labor tops, in promoting bourgeois “lesser evilism,” serve to continue the deception of the working and oppressed masses that lies at the heart of bourgeois democracy.
What is necessary is a political struggle to break the multiracial proletariat from the class enemy. We fight for the mobilization of the proletariat for its own interests and for the interests of all the oppressed—fighting against racist oppression, for women’s rights, for full citizenship rights for immigrants—independent of and in opposition to the bourgeoisie and its parties. The multiracial working class needs its own party, a revolutionary party, section of a reforged Fourth International, that acts as the “tribune of the people” and leads the struggle to sweep away the capitalist order through socialist revolution and to establish working-class rule. This is part of the struggle to overthrow the capitalist order internationally through a series of socialist revolutions, which can lay the basis for the creation of a communist society free of exploitation, racial and every other form of oppression and war.
As Trotsky wrote in the 1940 Manifesto of the Fourth International on the Imperialist War and the Proletarian World Revolution:
“The great historical problem will not be solved in any case until a revolutionary party stands at the head of the proletariat. The question of tempos and time intervals is of enormous importance; but it alters neither the general historical perspective nor the direction of our policy. The conclusion is a simple one: it is necessary to carry on the work of educating and organizing the proletarian vanguard with ten-fold energy. Precisely in this lies the task of the Fourth International.”