Workers Vanguard No. 920
12 September 2008
Break with the Democrats! For a Revolutionary Workers Party!
Obama Offers Facelift for U.S. Imperialism
As the glittery red-white-and-blue media circuses of the two bourgeois parties’ presidential nominating conventions in Colorado and Minnesota faded away, the last whiffs of police tear gas dissipated, and the last police barricades were dismantled, official U.S. unemployment hit a five-year high of 6.1 percent, while the actual business of American imperialism continues unabated. The occupation of Afghanistan—supported by both capitalist candidates—heated up as the U.S. killed or wounded 500 people in one week alone. Meanwhile, U.S. commandos openly made incursions into Pakistan on September 3, the sort of action advocated by Democratic Party presidential nominee Barack Obama. With bipartisan unity, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden’s proposal for a $15 billion bribe to Pakistan’s new president to ensure compliance with further U.S. incursions was supported by the Bush administration. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended shifting some troops out of the Iraq quagmire in order to send them to Afghanistan, a move in line with Obama’s recent call for 10,000 additional troops into Afghanistan. And both parties continue threats against Iran over its nuclear program.
As Marxist opponents of this racist capitalist-imperialist order, we stand for the political independence of the working class from the capitalist class enemy. Working people need a party that fights for their class interests, a workers party committed to sweeping away the murderous imperialist order through socialist revolution. We are opposed to any political support to any capitalist politician—Democrat, Republican, Green or “Independent.” A vote for any bourgeois candidate is a vote of confidence in the reformability of capitalism and a vote against the need for socialist revolution. Nor would we run for executive office—president, governor or mayor—ourselves (see Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 60, Autumn 2007). In the U.S., the president is the top cop responsible for the most massive military power in history and for the domestic machinery of repression that maintains social oppression and exploitation.
To the U.S. rulers, Obama, the son of a Kenyan man and a white American woman, is an acceptable choice for president because he would refurbish the tattered image of U.S. imperialism. Obama serves as a very powerful propaganda weapon for the bourgeoisie, telling black people and the oppressed to shut up and stop complaining, because, you see, “the American dream” works! Former Bush supporter and former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan pointed out in promoting Obama: “What does he offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it’s central to an effective war strategy” (Atlantic Monthly, December 2007).
Indeed, when Obama spoke in Berlin on July 24, more than 200,000 Berliners, waving U.S. flags, cheered him on. It was a public relations triumph that President Bush could not have pulled off; as one commentator quipped, the only way Bush would have gotten that kind of crowd was if he was being tried as a war criminal. Obama’s speech itself was a rip-roaring rehash of just about every anti-Communist Cold War cliché known to bourgeois speechwriters.
Berlin was where John F. Kennedy made his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in 1963—after his failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and his dispatch of U.S. troops to Vietnam. It was also in Berlin that Ronald Reagan demanded that Soviet leader Gorbachev “tear down that wall” in 1987 during Cold War II. Obama’s performance, a virulent mix of classic “Cold War liberalism” with neoconservative Reaganite rhetoric, was designed to show how tough an imperialist Commander-in-Chief he would be.
Obama declared that after World War II “the Soviet shadow had swept across Eastern Europe.” Left unsaid, of course, was the fact that it was the Red Army that defeated the scourge of Nazi terror in Europe at the cost of over 20 million Soviet lives. Obama sang the praises of NATO, “the greatest alliance ever formed to defend our common security.” He gave shout-outs to “the German people” who “tore down that wall” and to “American bases built in the last century” that “defend the security of this continent.” It was a speech geared to reinvigorating “Western allies” behind U.S. imperialist aims abroad: “The Afghan people”—the same ones the U.S. and NATO forces slaughter with impunity—“need our troops and your troops.”
While the Soviet Union has been destroyed, Obama’s anti-Communism still serves a real purpose in targeting the deformed workers states of Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and especially China, the most powerful of the remaining deformed workers states. Just as we did with the USSR and the deformed workers states of East Europe, today we stand for the unconditional military defense of the remaining workers states against imperialist attack and capitalist counterrevolution.
The 1991-92 counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state, a world-historic defeat for the international proletariat, has created a one “superpower” world dominated by U.S. imperialism. It is in this context that the U.S.-led occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan must be seen. As revolutionary working-class Marxists, we oppose U.S. imperialist adventures and invasions everywhere. We wrote in “U.S. Imperialists Out of Afghanistan, Iraq!” (WV No. 918, 1 August):
“The Spartacist League, U.S. section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), stood for the military defense of Afghanistan and Iraq against imperialist attack without giving any political support to the reactionary, woman-hating Taliban cutthroats or the capitalist dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. We underlined that every victory for the imperialists in their military adventures encourages more predatory wars; every setback serves to assist the struggles of working people and the oppressed the world over. Today, we call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. troops and bases from Iraq, Afghanistan and Central Asia!”
In contrast, reformist left groups, such as the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Workers World Party (WWP) and the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), and the various antiwar coalitions they built—ANSWER (founded by WWP but now run by the Party for Socialism and Liberation), United for Peace and Justice (where the ISO worked) and the RCP’s Not In Our Name—refused to militarily defend Afghanistan and Iraq against U.S. attack. Through their refrain of “money for jobs and education, not war,” the reformists promote the lie that imperialism can be reformed through some peace-and-justice-loving “different policy.” But as Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin wrote in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916), as the first interimperialist world war wreaked its devastation:
“Private property based on the labour of the small proprietor, free competition, democracy, all the catchwords with which the capitalists and their press deceive the workers and the peasants—are things of the distant past. Capitalism has grown into a world system of colonial oppression and of the financial strangulation of the overwhelming majority of the population of the world by a handful of ‘advanced’ countries. And this ‘booty’ is shared between two or three powerful world plunderers armed to the teeth (America, Great Britain, Japan), who are drawing the whole world into their war over the division of their booty.”
The occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq have gone hand in hand with the capitalist rulers’ onslaught against working people, minorities and most everyone else domestically. What is necessary is class struggle against the capitalist rulers at home. Such a perspective requires political combat against the pro-capitalist trade-union bureaucracy, which subordinates the proletariat to its capitalist class enemy, particularly through promoting Democratic Party “lesser evilism.” Above all, what is required is the forging of a revolutionary workers party, built independently of and in opposition to the Democrats, Republicans, Greens and all capitalist parties; a workers party that fights for socialist revolution and a workers government.
Evil Dead II: Obama’s Heroes
Obama told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in 2007 that the U.S. needs “the first truly 21st century military.... We must maintain the strongest, best-equipped military in the world.” He stated in March that he “would return the country to the more ‘traditional’ foreign policy efforts of past presidents, such as George H.W. Bush, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.” Such a “tradition” includes the Bay of Pigs invasion under Kennedy, the covert wars against Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1980s under Reagan, and the invasion of Panama and the Iraq War of 1990-91 under Bush Sr.
Obama’s foreign policy coterie includes Democratic advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Madeleine Albright. Brzezinski is the anti-Communist Dr. Strangelove who served as National Security Advisor to Democratic president Jimmy Carter and as godfather to the reactionary Afghan mujahedin cutthroats financed by the CIA against the Soviet Army, which intervened in Afghanistan in late 1979 in defense of the USSR’s southern flank and on the side of elementary human progress.
Madeleine Albright was Democrat Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State. When asked about the U.S. starvation blockade against Iraq that killed one and a half million people, she said: “We think the price was worth it.” She was also a key player in Clinton’s U.S./NATO devastating aerial war against Serbia in 1999, supported at the time by liberals and many reformists as the kind of “human rights” interventions that the U.S. should be carrying out.
Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, Obama’s vice presidential choice and the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was aptly described by radical-liberal columnist Alexander Cockburn—a supporter of right-wing libertarian Republican Ron Paul!—as a “corporate serf” (along with his new boss Obama) and “a man so ripely symbolic of everything that is unchanging and hopeless about our political system that a computer simulation of the corporate-political paradigm senator in Congress would turn out ‘Biden’ in a nano-second” (CounterPunch Diary, 23/24 August). In his speech at the Democratic convention on August 27, Biden outlined the Obama camp’s imperialist blueprint:
“Our country is less secure and more isolated than at any time in recent history.... The emergence of Russia, China and India as great powers; the spread of lethal weapons; the shortage of secure supplies of energy, food and water; the challenge of climate change; and the resurgence of fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the real central front against terrorism.... We’ve once again seen the consequences of this neglect with Russia’s challenge to the free and democratic country of Georgia. Barack Obama and I will end this neglect.”
World, watch out.
The “End of Racism” Lie
Both conventions were an exercise in rank hypocrisy. With the vice presidential nomination of Alaska governor Sarah Palin, Republican anti-abortion bigots have now discovered the evils of sexism. Or witness the spectacle of Republican politicians pretending to care about black and poor people, as they scaled back the first day of their convention when Hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast. The threat of Gustav to the Gulf Coast recalled the racist atrocity by the bourgeois rulers—Democrats as well as Republicans—in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and reminded everyone that the levees have yet to be adequately rebuilt.
One should also recall that following the horror exposed by Katrina in 2005, Obama declared, “the incompetence was color-blind.” The Obama campaign touts the “end of racism” myth, with the Obama family itself supposedly living proof that black people can make it in the U.S. The “end of racism” lie and the burial of the struggle for racial integration as a “failed experiment” are the domestic side of the reactionary “end of communism” mythology promoted by imperialist ideologues after the counterrevolutionary destruction of the USSR. Both myths are deeply false. Black oppression, rooted in chattel slavery, is deeply interwoven in the social fabric of capitalist America. It can be measured in astronomical unemployment rates, police terror, the consignment of nearly one million blacks to prisons and the purge of black youth from higher education. Obama looks upon all this and claims, as he did in his speech in Selma last year, that America is “90 percent of the way” toward racial equality! In fact, it is only the current lack of militant labor and black struggle against conditions of oppression that makes this lie even possible.
The link between U.S. imperialist wars abroad and racist reaction at home is clear. Two years before the 1898 Spanish-American War, when U.S. imperialism came onto the world scene, the Supreme Court codified Jim Crow segregation with the Plessy v. Ferguson decision declaring “separate but equal” the law of the land, while the years 1889 to 1903 saw an average of two lynchings a week. Among black people, opposition to U.S. imperialism’s military adventures has historically been stronger than among the rest of the populace.
From U.S. imperialism’s genocidal “pacification” of the Philippines following its victory in the Spanish-American War, to its intervention in Nicaragua to suppress the Sandino rebellion in the 1920s and ’30s, to the occupation of the Dominican Republic in 1965, to Lebanon, Panama and Grenada, to its wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. imperialism has left a grisly trail of carnage around the globe, all accompanied by vicious racial oppression and contempt for “non-white” peoples. This includes U.S. imperialism’s counterrevolutionary wars against the social revolutions in Korea and Vietnam, resulting in the slaughter of some six million people. As one Iraqi driver bitterly commented after being trapped in Baghdad as the city was closed down during Obama’s visit this summer: “Why does it matter to us if a white man or a black man wins the election. Obama and Bush are two faces on the same currency, an American currency.”
Defeat U.S. Imperialism Through Socialist Revolution!
While bloodsoaked war criminals and corporate fat cats made deals as their candidates preened for the cameras inside both Republican and Democratic conventions, outside these bastions of bourgeois politics masses of police were mobilized to muffle protest. As the Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle, legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League—wrote in a September 7 protest letter: “The brutal suppression of the rights of speech and assembly, which was also carried out by the police in Denver outside the Democratic National Convention as well as the conventions in 2004, has become a staple of these spectacles to choose those vying to become what is ludicrously promoted as the leader of the ‘free world’.” We denounce the police violence at both conventions and demand that all charges be dropped against those arrested.
The fact is, however, that most 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. Having built an “antiwar movement” premised on appeals to bourgeois (Democratic) politicians to “end the war” in Iraq—and only Iraq, not Afghanistan—the liberals and their reformist supporters have now buried that “movement” in the morass of American electoral politics. The starting point of the reformist left 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.
In Imperialism, Lenin denounced such shams, noting that “reactionary, petty-bourgeois critics of capitalist imperialism dream of going back to ‘free,’ ‘peaceful,’ and ‘honest’ competition,” and insisting that “a ‘fight’ against the policy of the trusts and banks that does not affect the economic basis of the trusts and banks is mere bourgeois reformism and pacifism, the benevolent and innocent expression of pious wishes.” That sums up the support by groups like Workers World to the capitalist Green Party’s presidential candidate and former Georgia Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who spoke at a “Recreate ’68” rally outside the Democratic convention. She promoted the usual reformist pabulum about ending occupations abroad and redirecting “excessive” military spending toward higher education, and other good things like universal health care.
The reformist, anti-Communist ISO, for its part, claims that “Support for Barack Obama is one sign of a deeper shift to the left” (Socialist Worker, 13 August). The ISO never met a counterrevolutionary “freedom fighter” it didn’t like, so the Obama/Brzezinski crew’s anti-Communism is right up their alley. Socialist Worker (27 August) reprinted a piece by Dave Zirin, a regular contributor to that paper, under the title, “What We Didn’t Learn in Beijing.” The article chides the bourgeois media for insufficient China-bashing during the Olympics, condemning them for supposedly not asking “why the State Department last April took China off its list of nations that commit human rights violations.” While the ISO, the Revolutionary Communist Party and Workers World, as well as other reformist leftists, all have articles “exposing” Obama’s policies, these are thin covers for their actual politics of Democratic Party “lesser evilism,” as all their various coalitions in one way or another recapitulate the RCP’s classic call, “The World Can’t Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime!” This is also the goal—what an amazing coincidence—of the Democrats this year.
The Democrats’ rhetoric about “hope” and “change” is meant to refurbish illusions that the shell game of bourgeois electoral politics can work in the interests of the working masses. And, indeed, Democratic voter turnout during the primaries, including among black people and youth, has been very high. But while the Republicans may revel in inflicting suffering on working people and the oppressed, the Democrats put on a more kindly face and do the same thing. As Lenin captured it in his 1917 work, The State and Revolution, “To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament—this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism.”
This system of imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, cannot be reformed. It cannot be pressured into being more peaceful or humane. Lenin’s Bolsheviks showed in leading the October Revolution of 1917 that it can and must be defeated through workers revolution. The Spartacist League stands for forging a working-class party like the Bolshevik Party to overturn, by socialist revolution, this rotting capitalist order. Thus we stand in implacable opposition to the dual parties of capitalism, as well as petty-bourgeois would-be reformers like the Green Party. Break with the Democrats—For a revolutionary workers party to fight for socialist revolution!