A ELECTION CIRCUS MASKS CLASS DICTATORSHIP
No matter how the 2004 electoral circus turns out, the United States is and will remain a class dictatorship. Under the profit system, political parties exist for two primary reasons. The first is to serve individual groups of bosses in the pursuit of their particular profit goals. The second is to mislead workers into backing these profit goals with the illusion that the right to cast a ballot means the U.S. is a democracy.
Many people correctly saw through the crude, racist swindle that enabled Bush Jr. to steal the White House in 2000 by denying black workers the right to vote in Florida. But this isn’t the main reason to call the present government a dictatorship. Swindles and voting fraud are as American as apple pie. In 1960, the Democrat John Kennedy won out over Nixon because the Democratic political machine in Chicago had handed him the Illinois electoral vote on a platter by counting the votes of dead people.
The main lesson for workers in this election is the nature of state power in a class society. By "state," communists mean the entire government apparatus that enables the bosses to rule at the federal, state, and local levels. The state includes all levels of the three so-called "branches" of government. Every elected official, from Bush to the mayor of the least populated city or town belongs to it. Every legislative body, from the U.S. Senate down to the smallest state legislature belongs to it. So do all four branches of the military and every cop, judge, and immigration officer.
The capitalist state apparatus exists to prolong and protect the profit system. This is its role regardless of the party in power at any given moment. The state in this sense came into existence long ago, as a product of society’s first historical division into antagonistic social classes. Under slavery, the state existed to protect the privileges of the slave-owning class. Under feudalism, it served kings and lords, helping them rule over serfs and bondsmen. Now, under the capitalism, it protects the profits and private property of the wealthiest bosses, primarily against the working class, but also against real and potential rivals to U.S. imperialism.
The capitalist state therefore reflects the essential class violence of the system itself. This is perhaps less obvious today in a temporary period of relatively low class struggle, but even under present conditions, we see the class role of the police, for example in their systematic racist war of terror against workers living in the most oppressed sections of U.S. cities. The moment class struggle sharpens, the role of the police becomes crystal clear, as they protect bosses’ interests at gunpoint, shooting workers, protecting scabs, and enforcing back-to-work court injunctions. A classic recent example of the state’s role in class struggle was the decision by the Republican president Reagan to fire striking air traffic controllers in 1981. This fascistic action set the tone for the increasingly virulent anti-worker policies the bosses have been implementing ever since. The Democrat Clinton followed suit with his racist "welfare reform," which was a thinly disguised union-busting, slave labor scheme. The entire ruling class now agrees with the need for cloaking its post 9/11 moves toward a police state in the form of "anti-terror" measures. Anti-Bush squawking from the Democrats has to do with their discontent over Ashcroft’s clumsy, inept tactics rather than over goals. The real purpose of these measures is to discipline our class by preparing it for the sacrifice in blood and living conditions that the rulers’ long range war plans will require. All the rulers agree on this question.
In foreign policy, none of the big bosses in any significant section of the Republican or Democratic parties disputes the U.S. imperialism’s need to rule the world by force, to control the flow and pricing of all major sources of petroleum, particularly in the Persian Gulf, or to prevent the rise of a serious imperialist rival in Asia or Europe. The rulers differ only on methods and approach.
The post-World War II history of U.S. Middle Eastern policy reflects the consistency of the class role the bosses’ state apparatus has played with regard to this issue.
- Immediately after World War II, key U.S. advisor George Kennan warned the Democratic Truman administration that control of Middle Eastern oil must become and remain an absolute priority for Washington and Wall Street.
- The Republican Eisenhower organized a coup to overthrow a nationalist government in oil-rich Iran and replace it with the nazi-loving, pro-U.S. Shah. Eisenhower also forced British, French, and Israeli bosses to back down when their 1956 invasion of the Suez Canal threatened potential U.S. hegemony in the Middle East.
- After the Israeli fascists proved the strength of their military in the 1967 Six Day War, every U.S. president from Johnson through Bush Jr. has armed Israel to the teeth and given it the assignment of serving as U.S. imperialism’s local gunslinger.
- In 1980, when a nationalist-Islamic fundamentalist uprising overthrew the Shah, Democrat Jimmy Carter announced the "Carter Doctrine," which stated that the U.S. would consider any attempt to wrest control of Persian Gulf oil from U.S. companies as a cause for war. Every U.S. president since then has followed this strategic line. The cost in human life has been staggering. The U.S. cynically backed both sides of the murderous 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Bush Sr.’s 1991 Desert Storm I in Iraq slaughtered hundreds of thousands. A million people, mostly young Iraqi children, died in the wake of Clinton’s brutal sanctions and bombings. And now the Bush-Cheney war is adding to the toll.
As the Progressive Labor Party has often pointed out, the biggest mistake workers can make is to choose among supposed "lesser evils" under capitalism. Understanding the class nature of the state helps us avoid this error. As long as classes exist, a state apparatus will exist, and its role will be to keep one class in power to rule over the class that directly antagonizes and threatens it.
Communists have an alternative to the bosses’ dictatorship. We call it the Dictatorship of the Working Class (or Dictatorship of the Proletariat). But the working class cannot seize political power by voting for it. Only a prolonged, violent revolution supported by communist workers and led by a communist party can achieve this goal. History teaches us that even when the first stage of the goal is achieved, keeping power and building communism is even harder than the seizure of power. Nonetheless, the future of humanity and the survival of the working class demand nothing less.
These are the goals that our Party expects to win, despite all obstacles and the time needed to win them. As the rulers’ presidential circus unfolds, workers can take an important step in the right direction by shedding their illusions about capitalist elections and the capitalist state and by joining with the PLP to sharpen the class struggle and carry our class forward on the long, violent, and inevitably victorious road to revolution.
ELECTION IS BATTLE OVER TACTICS AND TAXES;
BOTH PARTIES' GRAND STRATEGY IS U.S. WORLD DOMINATION
Just days after George Bush took office in 2001, the Hart-Rudman commission handed him its final, 148-page report. This document outlined the measures the U.S. ruling class deemed necessary for maintaining U.S. capitalism’s worldwide dominance for the next quarter century. It proposed expanding the military, launching oil wars in the Middle East, creating a police state at home, centralizing the state apparatus, and linking business more closely with government. Carrying out Hart-Rudman’s provisions became job one for the U.S. president. Bush’s failures and shortcomings inthis regard, and Kerry’s shaky promise, are, for the rulers, central issues in the coming election.
Hart-Rudman said a terrorist attack on the U.S. would provide an invaluable recruiting tool for the military. Bush squandered that opportunity, was forced to send inadequate forces to Iraq, and now faces the rulers’ wrath for the quagmire there. Hart-Rudman said the National Guard should serve as a homeland police force. Bush sent the Guard to Iraq to bolster the overstretched regular army. Hart-Rudman called for a sweeping restructuring of federal agencies. Bush set up the Homeland Defense Department only grudgingly and is balking at revamping intelligence services.
Hart-Rudman urges that leaders prepare citizens to give up "blood and treasure" in the cause of U.S. imperialism. Bush has spilled the blood of a thousand working-class GIs and many thousands of Iraqis but hasn’t managed, or even tried, to shift capitalists’ profits from their pockets to the war effort. Thus, the Bush-Kerry race represents a conflict inherent in the profit system: the capitalist class’s need to defend itself militarily against foreign rivals cuts into the short-term gains of individual capitalists. Despite its glaring deficiencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush team remains adamant that U.S. capitalists can benefit from both war and tax cuts at the same time. Rumsfeld in particular believes that the U.S. war machine's vast technological superiority makes adding troops, and paying for them, unnecessary.
But capitalists focused on protecting the U.S. empire over the long haul are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Bush & Co.'s ineffective imperialism "on the cheap." The Council on Foreign Relations, the foremost of the think-tanks that help formulate U.S. imperial strategy, recently complained, "the Bush administration was never willing to commit anything like the forces necessary to ensure order in postwar Iraq. From the beginning, military experts warned Washington that the task would require, as Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki told Congress in February 2003, 'hundreds of thousands' of troops. For the United States to deploy forces in Iraq at the same ratio to population as NATO had in Bosnia would have required half a million troops. Yet the coalition force level never reached even a third of that figure. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his senior civilian deputies rejected every call for a much larger commitment....In truth, around 300,000 troops might have been enough to make Iraq largely secure after the war" (the CFR's Foreign Affairs, Sept./Oct. 04). While the CFR ceaselessly demanded an Iraq invasion, it called for attacking in the Fall of 2003, not the Spring, to give the Pentagon time to assemble a far larger force of U.S. troops and allies. As for paying the bill, CFR director and Goldman Sachs International vice-chairman Robert Hormats warned on the eve of the invasion: "We can afford a war, we can afford domestic programs and we can afford tax cuts. The problem is we probably can't afford all of them at once" (ABC 3/21/03).
John Kerry allies himself with Hart-Rudman/CFR camp. His campaign advisors include Gary Hart, co-chairman of the Hart-Rudman commission, and Leslie Gelb, one of its 12 members, who once headed the CFR. In December 2003, Kerry presented his blueprint for war and fascism (basically the Democratic platform) to the leaders of the CFR in a speech at its New York headquarters. The rulers and their agents applauded when Kerry demanded adding 40,000 soldiers to the army immediately and a national service program to provide cannon fodder for future wars. He also pledged to fulfill Clinton's promise of 100,000 more cops. The New York Times, the rulers’ leading media outlet, expressed delight that "Mr. Kerry instantly embraced every recommendation of the 9/11 Commission"(8/15/04). It called for a sweeping reorganization of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and Defense spy agencies into a centralized police-state apparatus.
Until that CFR speech, Howard Dean had been the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Dean had some public support but no program to further U.S. imperialism’s strategy. After the speech, Kerry leapt ahead in the bosses’ polls and shortly thereafter locked up the Democratic nomination, paving the way for an undisputed July convention that turned into a pro-war festival.
Kerry knows that war and fascism don't come cheap. He plans to increase the top income tax bracket to its Clintonian level of 39.6% from the present 35% to help foot the bill. Roosevelt jacked up the top tax rate to 91% during World War II. Though with plenty of loopholes, Kennedy kept it there throughout his launching of the Vietnam genocide until his sudden demise at the hands of rival U.S. bosses. High taxes serve the main, imperialist U.S. rulers not only as a source of funds for their overseas military forays but as a form of control over their domestic competitors. John Forbes Kerry dreams of exerting the kind of domestic economic discipline that his idol JFK did.
Another insight into Kerry's outlook comes from his adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, a CFR headliner, who served as Carter's national security chief. Brzezinski's 1996 book, The Grand Chessboard, calls for the military encirclement of all of Eurasia by the United States. That is why Clinton created so many military bases in and near the former Soviet Union. Brzezinski's idea is that the 21st Century will be a second "American Century," if the U.S. can command the world's chief oil sources via military control of the Eurasian land mass. Brezezinski hopes that U.S. troops in the Middle East and the ex-Soviet Union can block the next threat to U.S. hegemony--an alliance of any two of China, Russia, and the European Union powerful enough to defeat the U.S. in war. The CFR warlords are blasting Rumsfeld's cost-saving plan to shift troops from Europe and Asia back to the U.S. Replacing two U.S. heavy divisions in Germany with Rumsfeld's smaller high tech forces would embolden France as well as Russia, they fear. Richard Holbrooke, a likely Kerry pick for Secretary of State, cautioned, "this is exactly what Chirac wants" (CFR website, 8/17/04). Kerry counselor Brzezinski stresses the need for U.S.-controlled oil pipelines through the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. He also sees the importance of alliances in military actions to prevent isolation of the U.S.
Currently, Brzezinski, the New York Times, and other liberal spokesmen are beating up on Bush for lying about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. These Kerry backers are attacking Bush because they want a change in the way the U.S. is occupying Iraq, not because they disagree with the war or the occupation itself. The liberals want to put a humanitarian face on the occupation and gain the acceptance of more Iraqis. They want to placate the French and Russians, for now, with junior-partner oil deals, with the U.S. calling the shots on the price and flow of Iraqi crude. And they want some co-operation from the Syrians, Turks, Saudis, and Iranians in stopping support for the resistance movements and building acceptance for the U.S.'s hand-picked Iraqi government. This, not objection to the war, is what lies behind the increasing attacks by the Democrats on Bush’s war policy as the election nears.
But while Kerry's proposed policies generally mesh with the needs of the dominant, liberal wing of U.S. capitalists, they worry about his opportunistic flip-flopping. The New York Times (8/15/04) editorialized, "Mr. Kerry, who voted against the first Persian Gulf war, tailored his positions on this one to his presidential ambitions. He was more hawkish when the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination seemed to be Richard Gephardt, and more dovish when Howard Dean picked up momentum. At the height of the Dean insurgency, both Mr. Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, decided to oppose spending $87 billion to underwrite the occupation of Iraq that they both voted to authorize."
With Bush and Kerry as their best offerings, the rulers are having trouble producing a leader as galvanizing as an FDR or a Hitler. But that doesn’t lessen their need to destroy foreign rivals or crack down on workers at home. Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Patriot Act show that the capitalists’ warmaking and fascism are deadly under inept leadership. If a President Kerry should prove more capable than Bush, the working class would suffer even more.
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS PROTEST BUSH BUT DEMOCRATS ARE NO LESSER EVIL
On August 29, about 500,000 people marched in New York against Bush and his wars. Spirited demonstrators took on the NYPD in clashes throughout the Republican convention. They represented millions who reject Bush’s wasting of human lives for oil and his pandering to greedy corporations. While the protests are encouraging, the rulers are hoping to direct these protests into the voting booths for the equally deadly Democrat Kerry. Bush and Kerry both serve the capitalist class that requires expanding imperialist wars and tightening control over the workers. They appeal to different voting bases and have some serious tactical differences over how to maintain U.S. world domination. But their essence is the same.
Democrats and Republicans support U.S. imperialism’s strategic objectives, including an all-powerful U.S. military and control of the Middle East. In July 2003, the Senate voted 95-0 to support President Bush’s $368 billion military appropriation. In July 2004 they voted 96-0 for a $425 billion military appropriation. Like the resolution authorizing the U.S. attack on Afghanistan, not one Democratic Senator stood in opposition.
Democrats and Republicans share U.S. military policy in the Middle East, including annually voting to award Israel $3 billion to oppress Palestinian workers, threaten surrounding countries, and maintain an enormous arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons to act as U.S. imperialism’s hired gun protecting the oil-rich region’s western flank.
The Democrats supported the Iraq war from build-up to actual attack. Those who conditioned their support on multilateral approval through the United Nations dropped their reservations like a hot potato once the war began. Most Democrats unconditionally supported the war, and as with Vietnam, began to ask questions only when the mission began to falter. Now they want to capitalize on mass opposition to the war to win the election.
Imperialist war is not result of the bad policies of diabolical politicians that we can vote out of office. It is the nature of the capitalist beast. Wars for oil and other resources, for access to markets and cheap labor, and for depriving other capitalists of these things are inevitable as long as capitalism exists. Elections and mass reform movements cannot end imperialism since they just provide a band-aid solution to a deadly cancer.
Only a mass communist movement can organize workers, soldiers and students to wipe out the imperialist warmakers and replace their dictatorship with the revolutionary dictatorship of the working class, abolishing their racist profit system. The bosses won’t give up their profits peacefully, That is why the most important thing we can do is to build a mass international PLP as a way to wage the long and difficult struggle to put an end to the hell of capitalism.
Armed with communist politics, we can turn the horrors of the capitalists’ wars against them. The torture and murder of prisoners at Abu Ghraib disgusted millions. On the job, barracks and schools, in the unions and mass organizations, we could have responded with more demonstrations, forums, and literature. We have the opportunity to transform widespread outrage at these atrocities into a mass movement against the capitalist dictatorship that commits them, at home and around the world.
The enemy isn’t far to seek. On the job, we can attack war profiteering corporations and union bosses who try to sell us out to the imperialist Democrats. The schools and universities are crawling with military recruiters and ROTC programs. We can expose the universities’ role in military research and in shaping the racist, fascistic ideology that leads U.S. imperialism. In the community, we can target politicians who dismantle social programs to fund the war effort. But we can never think that an end to imperialist war will come before the working class, led by a mass international PLP, seizes power with communist revolution.
Democrats’ War Crimes
- Wilson led the U.S. into World War I, making it a full-fledged imperialist power.
- Roosevelt and Truman directed the unnecessary murders of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Tokyo, Dresden, Frankfurt, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki during World War II.
- In the Cold War, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter armed and funded pro-U.S. dictators and insurgencies around the world.
- Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson wasted millions of workers’ lives trying to defend U.S. imperialism in Korea and Vietnam.
- Kennedy invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.
- Johnson invaded the Dominican Republic supporting a rightwing military Junta about to be overthrown by a popular rebellion. LBJ actually diverted thousands of U.S. troops bound to Vietnam to invade the Caribbean island claiming "communists were about to take over the rebellion.".
- Carter, who today goes around "overseeing democratic elections," praised Somoza, the Nicaraguan dictator, for his "progress in human rights," just a year or so before he was forced to flee by a mass insurrection. It was also Carter, preaching his "Blood for Oil Profits" Doctrine, who began the U.S. military build-up in the Middle East.
- Clinton dropped more bombs on Yugoslavia than his predecessors did on Vietnam.
- Clinton enforced U.S. sanctions and "no-fly" zones, starving, bombing and killing over 500,000 Iraqis.
- Democrats’ Domestic Crimes
- Wilson used the Sedition Acts during WWI and imprisoned thousands for opposing the war and the draft.
- After the war, Wilson launched the notorious Palmer Raids jailing and deporting thousands of leftist immigrant workers.
- Wilson’s racist Immigration Act of 1917 kept out Asians.
- Roosevelt herded Japanese-Americans into concentration camps.
- Truman approved the anti-Communist legislation and purges of the McCarthy era.
- Johnson diverted troops of the 82nd Airborne from going to Vietnam to brutally put down rebelling workers in Detroit in 1967.
- In Operation Cointelpro, Johnson unleashed the FBI on anti-Vietnam War activists.
- Clinton signed "anti-terrorist" legislation that sharply curtails workers’ civil liberties.
- Under Clinton, the prison population doubled to over 2 million, the highest in the world, especially among black workers.
- Gary Hart helped create the imperialist, fascist manifesto known as the Hart-Rudman reports.
Virtually all Democrats in Congress voted for the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security.
My college campus recently had a "Rock the Vote" rally. A good friend and regular CHALLENGE reader encouraged me to attend and struggle to get on stage. Through friendships I made in an anti-war coalition, I was able to get to speak, and did so about the need for revolution.
I began by saying, "Most people who will speak today will say that the most important thing you can do to change the world is to vote on November 2. I disagree." No one booed. I explained that voting will never bring the social change necessary to end the war and create peace. History proves that such change only happens through massive social movements of organized people who have no interest in maintaining a system that is killing them.
I said whoever’s elected will not only continue the war, but also the massive racist cuts to education and healthcare, because they serve the capitalist system which needs inequality and war. They will cut these services to finance ever-widening war. I said I don’t believe peace and capitalism can ever co-exist. Capitalism breeds terrorism.
I reminded people that the county government recently closed another hospital in our city, and is threatening to close a trauma center, built after a black rebellion, which treats predominantly black and Latin workers. "Every one of us will know someone who dies because of that closure. Closing hospitals is an act of racist terrorism." The audience, especially black and Latin students, loudly cheered and clapped in agreement.
My friends thanked me and I made sure they all received a copy of CHALLENGE. I told them that’s where I learn how the working class fights back.
Later, a man I didn’t know thanked, saying, "You actually talked about something real. Everyone else was just saying the same empty things." I gave him the paper.
PLP’s line contrasts sharply contrast with some famous "anti-war" intellectuals, who are madly trying to convince many honest people that "anybody but Bush" will be better. The Democrats’ record of vicious imperialist war mirrors the Republicans. Kerry promises to manage the war better than Bush, not to end it. In 1964 some urged voting for Johnson during the Vietnam War "because Goldwater would bomb Vietnam into the Stone Age." Johnson was elected and proceeded to bomb Vietnam unmercifully.
The most recent example of this mis-leadership is Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn supporting Kerry with the petition "Vote to Stop Bush": "For people seeking progressive social change in the United States, removing George W. Bush from office should be the top priority." Marxist scholars like Michael Parenti ignore their own understanding of imperialism and openly back Kerry.
Communists’ main job is to serve the workers. That means being the first to speak up when the working class is being misled. Fear of isolation should not stop us. My experience at the Rock the Vote rally showed this.
PLP will not compromise our principles. Especially when there is such a vacuum, we must keep raising our anti-imperialist line and actions. Even if our friends don’t agree with us now, they’ll respect us, and when our analysis proves correct, will move closer to PL. My main error, which I will correct, was not to fight for action against the war and the war budget. As U.S. rulers prepare for greater attacks on workers in Iraq and in the local hospital closing, we must fight for leadership by organizing against them, presenting the alternative to capitalism.