No to ‘Lesser Evilism’
Forward to a Revolutionary Workers’ Party!
The following statement was distributed during the 2004 American election campaign.
This year’s presidential election takes place in the shadow of the dirty colonial war in Iraq, a bi-partisan bid to secure U.S. control of Middle East oil, thereby cementing the global dominance of the world’s only “superpower.” Although the conquest of Iraq has turned out to be considerably more painful and difficult than the Bush gang anticipated, Republicans and Democrats remain united in supporting this criminal adventure that has so far cost the lives of almost a thousand U.S. military personnel and many thousands of Iraqis, mostly civilians.
Today the U.S. has a chain of military bases that stretch from the oil fields of formerly Soviet Central Asia, through Afghanistan to the Persian Gulf. It is hardly coincidental that the “war on terrorism” is being fought in regions with major oil deposits and/or the pipeline routes necessary to access them. While the war on Iraq never had anything to do with Saddam Hussein’s supposed “weapons of mass destruction,” the failure to find even a trace of the Iraqi dictator’s biological and chemical weapons has been a minor embarrassment for the British and American governments that had originally supplied them. The paranoid fantasies about the danger of Iraqi terror attacks, endlessly repeated by the lapdog media, were never anything more than projections of the imperialists’ plans for Iraq.
There are no substantial differences between the Democrats and the Republicans on Iraq or anything else—they are both committed to the pursuit of class warfare at home and imperial conquest abroad. But the war for Iraq is not going well, and important elements of the ruling class are seriously concerned about the competence of the present administration and its doctrine of unilateral preemptive attacks. Colonial wars have their own logic, and Kerry, just as much as Bush, is committed to crushing Iraqi resistance with bloody repression. To pull out now would be a humiliation that would significantly weaken the U.S. position in this critical region and within the entire imperialist world order.
Kerry is campaigning on his record as a Vietnam combat veteran and the claim that he can wage a smarter and cheaper war in Iraq. He has also pledged to expand the military by 40,000 and has chastised Bush for not taking a harder line on North Korea. As Marxists, we oppose everything that the Democrats (and Republicans) stand for. We defend the North Korean workers’ state despite its deformations, and side militarily with Iraqi resistance to the imperialist crusade.
Kerry’s Promise: ‘A More Effective War’
Vermont’s governor, Howard Dean, created a sensation last winter when he emerged as the surprise front-runner in the early Democratic primaries on the basis of his criticism of Bush’s “war of choice” on Iraq. The fact that Dean pledged not to precipitously withdraw from Iraq tended to be obscured by his energetic attacks on the administration’s policy, an issue which most of the other candidates downplayed. Dean’s sudden popularity unnerved the upper echelons of the Democratic hierarchy, who feared that if he won it could vastly increase pressure for a U.S. pullout. They soon began to denounce him as unelectable, and eventually coalesced behind Kerry. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times was speaking for more than himself when he proposed that if Kerry wanted to be president, he should declare:
“If I am president, I will not cut and run. I will not pull our troops out [of Iraq]…the way Ronald Reagan fled from Lebanon [in 1983]….The best way to endanger [American troops] is to suggest to the terrorists that there is daylight between me and President Bush—that if he won’t run, I will….” — New York Times, 15 February 2004
Kerry has repeatedly stated his intention to “stay the course” in Iraq, and recently announced that even if he had known there were no weapons of mass destruction, he would still have voted to authorize Bush’s attack. Kerry promises “a more effective war on terror” without having to pander to the born-again “End-Time/Rapture” Christian Zionist fanatics at the core of Bush’s electoral base. A sizable section of the capitalist moneymen who previously backed Bush seem inclined to agree.
Bipartisan Domestic Policy: Austerity & Repression
The U.S. today, contrary to official mythology, is a country with very limited social mobility. People born poor tend to stay at the bottom, regardless of how hard they work. Between 1973 and 2000, real incomes for the bottom 90 percent of Americans fell by an average of seven percent, while those in the top one percent went up 148 percent, and the top .01 percent increased 599 percent (Nation, 5 January ). Since then, income distribution has been further skewed by Bush’s tax cuts on corporate profits and stock dividends that, like his cuts in income tax rates, have disproportionately benefited the rich.
Today there are ten million Americans actively looking for work, while millions more have given up or are struggling to make ends meet with low-paying part-time McJobs. While job creation turned up slightly this year, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that the average wage of new jobs is 15 percent lower than those lost (Z Magazine, July/August ). As usual, the hardest hit are American blacks, the last hired and first fired, whose unemployment rate in June 2003 was double that of whites, and whose median net household worth is only a fifth that of white families.
Despite posturing as a friend of blacks and working people, Kerry is firmly committed to the maintenance of the status quo. In April he told guests at a $25,000-a-plate dinner at Manhattan’s “21” Club that he is “not a redistribution Democrat” (New York Times, 16 April ). Kerry is proud of having voted for the USA-Patriot Act, the main instrument used by the Bush administration in its continuing assault on democratic rights and political dissent. A chilling example of the domestic face of the supposed “war on terrorism” was provided on 7 April 2003 when police on the Oakland docks opened fire with rubber bullets and wooden dowels on longshore workers and a peaceful demonstration of anti-war protesters. Many were injured, some seriously. This brutal repression had apparently been sparked by a warning of possible “violence” issued five days earlier by the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center:
“So why was the warning issued in the first place? In an interview with the Tribune, Mike Van Winkle, spokesman for the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center, issued a remarkably broad definition of terrorism. ‘You can make an easy kind of link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that’s being fought against is nternational terrorism, you might have terrorism at that protest,’ he said. ‘You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act.’” —“Outlawing Dissent,” Salon.com, 11 February 
The supposed threat of “terrorism” has been used as a pretext for intimidating, marginalizing and harassing protesters at both the Democratic and Republican national conventions. Even the New York Times (17 August ) recognizes that: “The F.B.I.’s questioning of protesters [intending to attend the Republican National Convention] is part of a larger campaign against political dissent that has increased sharply since the start of the war on terror.” Government agents are busy infiltrating a wide variety of organizations, and seeking to lure the unwary into participation in criminal activities for which they can be “stung.” Harassment of political critics, racist round-ups of Arab and Muslim citizens, and the deportation and/or imprisonment of immigrants for petty visa infractions seem to be among the main activities of the government’s burgeoning “counter-terrorism” program to date.
‘Anybody But Bush’?
The blatant reaction promoted by the Bush administration has led many supposed leftists to follow muckraking filmmaker Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky in reluctantly supporting Kerry. Moore has never been anything more than a pro-Democratic Party liberal, but Chomsky, who has produced a considerable volume of insightful analysis of U.S. policy over the years, has a popular reputation as a formidable opponent of both Republican and Democratic “factions of the business party.” While admitting that Kerry is just “Bush-lite,” Chomsky says that this year he will be voting for him anyway “despite the limited differences both domestically and internationally” because “in this system of immense power, small differences can translate into large outcomes” (Guardian [London], 16 March ).
Various opportunist “socialist” outfits are calling for votes to consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader, despite the fact that he too is an open partisan of capitalist free enterprise who has never claimed to be any sort of socialist. As a representative of small capitalists who feel they have not been well served by what he calls the “two-party duopoly,” Nader has never identified with the workers’ movement. Twenty years ago he personally smashed a union organizing drive at a magazine he owned (Washington Post, 28 June 1984). Tim Shorrock, one of the fired employees, bitterly observed:
“Ralph Nader may look like a democrat, smell like a populist, and sound like a socialist—but deep down he’s a frightened, petit bourgeois moralizer without a political compass, more concerned with his image than the movement he claims to lead: in short, an opportunist, a liberal hack. And a scab.”
— Left Business Observer, October 1996
Nader’s anti-labor record has not prevented Socialist Alternative, affiliated with Peter Taaffe’s Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), from singing his praises:
“Socialist Alternative strongly supports Ralph Nader’s decision to run an insurgent campaign against the Democrats and Republicans, as we did in 2000. We firmly believe Nader’s campaign will be the best way in the 2004 elections to forward the interests of workers, young people, women, people of color, LGBT people, the environment, and the anti-war movement.”
—“Support Nader’s Campaign for President,” 25 February 
A few months later, after Nader accepted the endorsement of the Reform Party, the reformists of Socialist Alternative found themselves in an awkward position:
“As active and enthusiastic supporters of Ralph Nader’s independent campaign for President, we are deeply concerned by his decision to accept the Reform Party’s endorsement and to consider accepting their ballot lines. With good reason, the Reform Party is widely seen as a right-wing, racist, anti-immigrant organization.”
Rather than break with Nader, these “socialist” cretins ludicrously proposed:
“The Nader campaign must boldly explain that the racist, homophobic, sexist ideology espoused by right-wing demagogues only serves to strengthen the corporate elite who run this country by dividing the exploited majority against each other and creating scapegoats….”
Disregarding the CWI’s advice, Nader’s chief campaign spokesperson, Kevin Zeese “boldly explained” that his boss had “an 85 per cent area of agreement” with the Reform Party (Salon.com, 14 July ). This was confirmed when Pat Buchanan, the Reform Party’s 2000 presidential candidate (described by Socialist Alternative as “a man best known for his virulent racism, homophobia, and far-right nationalist agenda”) asked Nader about his position on immigration:
“Buchanan: The Democrats have picked up on Bush’s amnesty idea and have proposed an amnesty for illegals who have been in the country for five years and who have shown that they have jobs and can support themselves. Would you support the Democratic proposal?
“Nader: This is very difficult because you are giving a green light to cross the border illegally. I don’t like the idea of legalization because then the question is how do you prevent the next wave and the next?”
— American Conservative, 21 June 
It seems that Nader and Buchanan’s views overlap on more than immigration:
“Buchanan: Let me move to the social issues. Would you have voted against or in favor of the ban on partial-birth abortion?
“Nader: I believe in choice. I don’t think government should tell women to have children or not to have children. I am also against feticide. If doctors think it is a fetus, that should be banned. It is a medical decision.
“Buchanan: Between the woman and her doctor
“Nader: And whoever else, family, clergy.”
The British Socialist Workers Party, which considers those who refuse on principle to vote for capitalist politicians to be hopelessly old-fashioned “sectarians,” is also supporting Nader:
“At this point, only the Nader campaign genuinely offers political space to demand the US out of Iraq and to contest Washington’s broader interventionist agenda. Only Nader is likely to press the attack on the corporate puppeteers of both political parties.”
— Socialist Review, June 
In fact, Nader is standing as a third capitalist candidate with policies that, on many questions, are not so very different from those of the Republocrats. Contrary to his leftist touts who paint him as some sort of anti-imperialist, Nader’s Iraq policy is in fact “multi-imperialist.” Rather than call for the unconditional, immediate withdrawal of all imperialist troops, Nader proposes to continue the occupation under the aegis of the United Nations Security Council, the central political institution of the capitalist world order.
Break With the Democrats! Forward to a Workers’ Party!
The prostration of fake “socialists” before petty-bourgeois hustlers like Ralph Nader is not a whit better than the defeatist claim pushed by Chomsky, the tired old Stalinists of the Communist Party and the AFL-CIO bureaucrats that radical youth, blacks, poor and working people should vote Democrat to “block the drive to the right.” In fact, those who vote for Kerry out of fear of Bush only add momentum to the rightward shift of American politics that over the past 30 years has narrowed the space between the twin parties of U.S. capitalism to the point where they are virtually indistinguishable.
A vote for Kerry is a vote for the Patriot Act; for continuing Zionist brutality against the Palestinians; for the overthrow of the deformed workers’ states of China, North Korea and Cuba; for the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq; and for further encroachments on what remains of the rights of working people at home. Kerry is promising nothing to blacks or other victims of the systematic racism of American capitalism. He promises nothing to the millions of unemployed and those trapped in dead-end, minimum wage jobs. What he is offering is more tax breaks and subsidies for corporations and the rich, and more belt-tightening for the poor and working people.
When the Democrats occupied the White House during the 1990s they carried out a wholesale assault on those they pretend to represent. Bill Clinton, who proudly claimed to have ended “welfare as we know it,” also oversaw the expansion of the racist “war on drugs” and nearly doubled the number of people in jail during his tenure. By 2000, almost half the eligible voters, roughly 100 million people, decided that there was no reason to even bother to vote.
Marxists reject the reformist illusion that capitalist society is necessary and inevitable, and with it, the notion that the task of would-be leaders of the workers’ movement is to make recommendations on which of two (or three) poisons is least toxic. The picture of America presented in the capitalist media in no way reflects social reality. It conceals but does not resolve the enormous, and growing, social tensions in American society that must, sooner or later, erupt in cataclysmic upheavals. The pervasive illusion that “there is no alternative” is a critical factor in holding this entire decaying social order together.
Capitalism is a cancer that, left unchecked, will ultimately destroy human society. It will not disappear on its own—it must be uprooted and replaced with a higher, socialist, form of economic organization. The development of the consciousness necessary for the working class to carry out this task must begin with an assertion of absolute independence from the political agencies of the exploiters. Only a socialist planned economy, organized on a global scale, can lift the majority of humanity out of the poverty, hunger and disease to which the market has consigned them. The objective interests of working people and the oppressed stand in stark opposition to a social order based on the pursuit of private profit. They can only find political expression through the creation of a mass revolutionary party based on a program of wholesale expropriation of capital and the reorganization of society according to the principle that those who labor must rule. This is the revolutionary perspective upon which the International Bolshevik Tendency is based and for which we fight.