Whether it's AVP or ABB, whoever wins, we lose:
Neither Alien nor Predator, vote for Nader and against war!
-by Roy Rollin
A formerly much maligned fellow by the name of Karl Marx once wrote that under capitalist "democracy" the people were given the opportunity by the ruling class of deciding which member of that same class was to rule over them every four years. However apt that observation may have been, the promoters of the sci-fi flick "Alien vs. Predator" were more on the money with their "whoever wins, we lose" ad. For in spite of the "Anybody But Bush" (ABB) liberal-left's dire warnings that this is the most important election since Hitler ran against von Hindenburg in Germany in 1932 (or since Bush ran against Gore in 2000), this year's campaign is no exception to those rules.
For regardless of which war-monger comes out on top come November, the real losers will once again be the millions of working people who will be stuck with either George Bush or John Kerry for the next four years. Both are for the wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan in particular and for the capitalist "globalization, " i.e., imperialism, that necessitates them, in general. In other words, they are both for everything that anti-war and "global justice" activists are against. So much for the claims of the ABB editors of "The Nation" that "the odds of this becoming a race between Bush and Bush Lite are almost nil." With "odds" like those, they would have lost their shirts at OTB if they chose to put their money where their mouths are.
Kerry: a smarter, more effective "War on Terror"
Unlike the left-liberals, whose visions are constrained by ABB blinders, conservative columnists can at least see which way the wind is blowing when it comes to the war in Iraq. Thus former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan points out that "there's no difference between Bush and Kerry on the war" while George Will chimes in that "you can't slide a piece of paper between Bush and Kerry's positions on Iraq." The "band of brothers" ballyhoo at the DNC once again showed those willing to look and listen that Democrats can pledge allegiance to Bush's "war on terror" just as well as the Republicans can, perhaps even better if only given the chance to do so. The only "difference" they have with the GOP is that Kerry thinks he can be a more able "commander-in-chief" than Bush, whom Kerry actually "fault(s) for ... do(ing) too little ... in the war on terror." Thus Kerry promises to "increase the size of the U.S. Army in order to meet the needs of a new century and the new global war on terror." In other words, supporting the global war of terror that "meets the needs" of the same "new (American) century" that the Bush gang started, only in a "smarter, more effective" fashion.
The more dovish Democrats, who sense a humiliating Vietnam style defeat in the wings, may be so bold as to argue that the war on Iraq was a "diversion" from the "war on terror" in order to capture the votes of anti-war activists disoriented by all of the ABB blather. In fact, the Iraq war was part and parcel of the "war on the terror." Not only did most of the Democrats vote for the war, but none of them are in any hurry to end the occupation either. While Kerry's may now complain about "the $200 billion for Iraq," all of the Democrats in the Senate, including Kerry, have repeatedly voted to give Bush what ever he asked for to keep the occupation going. And while Kerry may now talk of eventually withdrawing US troops, that is, if they can be replaced by UN or European ones, that only means internationalizing the occupation rather than ending it. Kerry's chief national security adviser, former Clinton spokesman James Rubin, even told the "Washington Post" that had Kerry been president, "in all probability" he would have ordered an invasion of Iraq as well. Another key Kerry advisor told the press that not only is "there is no peace candidate in this race" but that "no candidate who is a peace candidate ought to win."
Of course John Kerry is "no peace candidate." Not only did he vote to give Bush what he called the "right authority" to wage war when-ever and where-ever he wanted to, but he still stands by his vote ... even though he also claims that Bush "misled" him into casting it! Yet how "misled" could Kerry have been if he also still argues that he "wanted to stand up to Saddam Hussein," since the latter claim was based on the bunch of lies Bush and Blair cooked up to sell their war with. No doubt Kerry looks forward to "rightfully" utilizing that "authority" when he "reports for duty" and decides who the next victim of the "war on terror" will be.
"War on Terror:" terrorist war abroad ...
The only thing that the "war on terror," that both of capitalism's candidates support, actually has to do with "terror" is that it is being run by terrorists in Washington and on Wall Street. Both parties are equally as intent on terrorizing the rest of the world into submitting to the dictates of America's ruling rich, which is what they are in office for in the first place. Prior presidents carried out similar such policies under the equally flimsy pretexts of combating "communism" (the "cold war") or "narcotics" (the "war on drugs") in order to rip off the resources of "Third World" countries or to prevent the peoples of those countries from taking them back.
People in the "Third World" aren't the only ones on imperialism's hit list. Working people in the US also need to be terrorized into footing the bill for their overseas adventures even more than in the past. This flows from the expand-or-die nature of imperialist capitalism, which is a system, not a policy, and not just from the plans of the "neo-con" New American Century crowd around Bush, many of whom first earned their spurs in the Democratic party. In order to keep pace on the world market vis-a-vis their capitalist competitors in Europe and Japan, America's bosses need to keep cutting costs; the costs being workers' wages and living standards, before they start cutting their rivals' throats in inter-imperialist war.
... economic terrorism at home
Under the guise of fighting "terrorism," American workers will have to accept lower wages and living standards and give up their civil liberties as well so that they have fewer resources to resist with. Seizing Iraq's oil and dominating the Middle East is as key a component of the entire ruling classes' game plan as is driving down living standards at home. Hence the support for the war, the economic austerity and the police state measures that go with them by both bosses' parties. But how could it be otherwise? The twin tickets of millionaires are bound lock, stock and barrel to the rest of the ruling rich by the purse strings of their campaign contributions and common class interests. Therefore neither major party mouthpiece can have any solutions for the problems faced by working people and the poor, because they all support what causes them in the first place, imperialist capitalism.
In Iraq and Afghanistan the "war on terror" is waged with cluster bombs and depleted uranium. In the US, the corporate kingpins "only" wage economic terrorism against working people. Here their "weapons of mass destruction" of choice are mass layoffs and cutbacks in social services. The US economy has lost 2.7 million jobs since Bush took office, the most sustained loss of jobs since the "Great Depression." Meanwhile more than 1.3 million Americans found themselves falling into poverty last year, pushing the official poverty rate up to 12.5% of the population, which amounts to 36 million people. CEOs' salaries now rival those of rock stars and the more workers they lay off, the more money they get. While capitalism's candidates talk about "freedom," the only "freedom" that "matters" to them is the "right" of the same bosses who rob and rip off workers here to do the same to workers everywhere else. Hence Kerry talks of "exporting" American capitalism and "democracy" just as Bush claims his "crusades" bring "freedom" to their victims. At the same time both support limiting "freedom" and "democracy" within the US itself with laws like the USA PATRIOT Act, which Bush and Ashcroft proposed and Kerry and the rest of the Democrats dutifully voted for in the Senate. And at the same time they were intoning about "freedom," their conventions herded Boston and NYC protesters into mini-concentration camps.
From Clinton Hard...
When all is said and done, the foreign and domestic policies of America's ruling rich are two sides of the same coin and both Democrats and Republicans carry them out. Both benefit the bosses and harm the workers. This was as true under Democrat Bill Clinton as it is under Bush and will be so under John Kerry as well. Clinton balanced the budget on the backs of working people by carrying out more cutbacks in social services, including abolishing "welfare as we know it," than Reagan and Bush Sr. did…combined. He also doled out a $1.3 trillion dollar tax cut for the rich based on all that he took from the poor. Under Clinton's "miracle economy" inequality reached record highs as profits skyrocketed and real wages remained at 1970's levels.
The Bill of Rights didn't fare much better under Clinton and Gore than did the remnants of the "New Deal." Their "War on Drugs" put thousands of Black and Latino youth behind bars for the most trivial of offenses while laws like the "Anti Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act" made sure that they stayed there. And if every time Bush is in trouble there's a new terror alert, every time Clinton got caught with his pants down some Third World country got bombed. For most of his two terms in the White House, Clinton was busy starving or bombing Iraq on a daily basis as well as pummeling Yugoslavia, the Sudan and Afghanistan. Staunch "free traders" and advocates of "globalization," the Democrats inaugurated NAFTA and stood staunchly behind the WTO's efforts to make the world safe for the Fortune 500. With the Soviet Union out of the way, all of America's rulers are in favor of taking advantage of being unrivaled and unchallenged on the world scene and they will continue to do so regardless of who occupies the Oval Office. Their only differences are over how to do it.
...to Bush Lite...
For all their talk about there being "two Americas," Kerry and Edwards both argue that corporate welfare needs to continue for one of them ... in order to provide "incentive" to their big business backers to "provide" jobs and even health care for the other since "smaller government" remains on the order of the day insofar as spending on social services goes. If this sounds a lot like Ronald Reagan's "trickle down" economics, remember Kerry shut down his campaign for a week to pay tribute to that union-busting racist cold warrior after he dropped dead. Low wages (and that's what GATT and NAFTA, not to mention welfare "reform" were all about in the first place) and high profits are two sides of the same coin and a key reason why in recent elections there have been so few "differences" between both bosses' parties.
Yet for the "Anybody But Bush" left, which now extends from "lesser evil" liberals to "another world is possible" anarchists, comes the common cry: Bush has to be beat at any cost. Only who will notice the difference even if he is? At every step of the way, the Democrats have gone along with what their apologists call the "Bush Agenda." Kerry and Edwards don't even pretend to offer the traditional dime's worth of "difference" that in the past nominally served to distinguish Republicans from Democrats, promising the bosses that they would "be more effective for business than (Bush)" and "far more effective in opening up marketplaces…and…being ambassador(s) for business…" By "increas(ing) the size of the U.S. Army," Kerry will certainly have plenty more "ambassadors for business" to "open up marketplaces" with!
... to Bush Smart
Even against Bush, it would be hard to pass off John Kerry as a spend and tax "social liberal" á la FDR or LBJ. In the Senate, Kerry voted with the Republicans to "balance the budget" on the backs of working people and the poor and also voted for Democrat Clinton's abolishing welfare. He has repeatedly reassured his billionaire bankrollers that he is not a "redistribution Democrat." While the Republicans may still attempt to do so in order to garner a few more middle class votes, the truth is that under Clinton, the "new Democrats" long ago co-opted the Republicans reactionary agenda as their own, since it is the agenda of the ruling class as a whole.
As if to underline that, the Democrats go out of their way to point out how "mainstream" they have become since the sixties and seventies. Translated into plain English, that means that the Democrats are every bit the party of the white middle class yuppies that bother to vote as the Republicans are and gone are the days when "special interests" (i.e., labor, Blacks, women) supposedly called the shots. Today the Democrats promise potential supporters in key "swing states" more Bush-lite, boasting that if they liked Bill Clinton, they'll love John Kerry. To their corporate backers, they can say with a much straighter face that if they liked George Bush, they'll love Kerry even more, since he's the same thing, only a hell of a lot smarter. For those on the left and in the labor movement, who long ago gave the Democrats a blank check, the message is a lot more blunt: grin and bear it, we're the only game in town if "beating Bush at all costs" is the be-all and end-all of your agenda.
They all taste great for the bosses
So as the Iraq occupation falls further and further into discredit, it is hardly surprising that more and more of the ruling rich are choosing to cast their lot with the Democrats, or, at the very least, hedge their bets on both of them at the same time. Why go down with Bush, when you can go for "Bush Smart" instead? If Kerry can get the cooperation of the other imperialists in exchange for a few contracts, and still keep the US in control of Iraq's oil wells, then why stick with the bumbling Bush. Since the Democrats continue to enjoy the support of the trade union bureaucracy and the middle class misleaders of the Black and womens' movements, Kerry can not only continue to pillage and plunder abroad and ravage the living standards of workers at home, but can do so with an impunity that Bush can never hope to do, just as Clinton did.
Yet if many of the bosses know what's best for them, the same, unfortunately, cannot be said of those who profess to speak for the working class. The AFL-CIO, for instance, has already thrown millions into the Kerry campaign and will no doubt throw many more millions its way, far more than it has earmarked for organizing open-shop bastions like Wal-Mart, and discourages any independent initiatives, like the "Million Worker March on Washington for Jobs and Against War" on tap for October 17th, seeing it as a diversion from their electoral efforts to "beat Bush" at the ballot box. AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney, may have come into office claiming to be a "new voice" for labor almost a decade ago, but he's leaving office sounding a lot like its old voices, turning thumbs down on a labor party based on the unions, let alone supporting Ralph Nader's anti-corporate and anti-war campaign. Indeed, Sweeney endorsed the pro-war Kerry just as he endorsed Bush's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
When you are taken for granted, you are taken
By giving Kerry a blank check, Sweeney allows the Democrats to continue to take the votes of working people for granted. For thanks to the AFL-CIO's clinging to the Democrats at all costs, it is assumed by Democratic party strategists that union members have no place else to go. The Democrats can thus move further and further to the right as they compete with the GOP for the middle class vote. The same holds true for the leaders of NOW and most major Black organizations. Gone are the days when Jesse Jackson pretended to be leading any kind of "rainbow coalition" crusade against the status quo...for he led it right into the dead end of Democratic party politics and now staunchly supports whoever gets the nomination come hell or high water. Back in the sixtes, Malcolm X pointed out how "when you put the Democrats first, the Democrats put you last." Today Ralph Nader makes the same point, that "when you are taken for granted, you are taken.'
Tailing along behind the big-time betrayers of working people and the poor are the liberal left misleaders of the anti-war and "global justice" movements. Only unlike the John Sweeneys and Jesse Jacksons, many of them fear that calling for a vote for the Democrats with a straight face will alienate the radicalizing youth that flocked to the anti-globalization and anti-war movements believing that "another world is possible" rather than in the "lesser of two evils." So instead they clamour for a vote against Bush, which, in effect, means the same thing. The problem, however, is that the Democrats made the "Bush agenda" their own, not to mention making it the law of the land when Clinton and Gore held office. So how is voting for Kerry going to "fight the right" rather than further whet its appetites for more of the same, especially when both the "right" and "left" ends of the bourgeois political spectrum stop at the same place? That's why a "regime change" is not enough...a system change is what's needed instead. Only for that, "lesser evil" Democrats like John Kerry will not suffice. They never have.
What the lesser evilists have to overlook is that when you vote for the supposed "lesser" of two evils, you usually wind up getting the worst of both of them. In the Germany of 1932, which many ABBers think the USA of today mirrors, the lesser evilists, who then went under the name of Social Democrats, told the workers they led to vote for the reactionary president, Paul von Hindenberg, against Adolf Hitler, as the way to stop the far right. Joining forces with the Communists in a working class united front against both was, of course, out of the question for them, just as voting for Ralph Nader is today.
So they elected the lesser evil, von Hindenburg, who then proceeded to honor the wishes of his working class electorate by appointing none other than Hitler, the greater evil, as Chancellor the next year. In 1992 and 1996, American lesser evilists pushed for Bill Clinton against George Bush Sr. and then Bob Dole. They got Clinton...along with the right wing's agenda on any and every issue. For just like in Germany in 1932 the ruling rich had a common anti-working class agenda. Only if they can get it by with a Clinton or a Kerry, then why bother with a Bob Dole or a George Bush...especially when working class misleaders are doing anything and everything possible not to rock the boat in order to get those same Democrats in.
With all of the ruling rich agreed upon a common program of pillage and plunder, where are there any evils that are any "lesser" than any of the others to be found amongst both bosses parties? Of course, the lesser evilists would be as hard-pressed to answer that question as they would be to explain how telling working people to vote for the political representatives of the bosses in every election is supposed to advance their struggles against those same bosses. After all, would they tell workers to elect their bosses as their union representatives? And just as workers need to be economically organized as a class in trade unions, they need to be politically organized as a class in a party as well. Or as Michael Moore was correctly arguing four years ago, "if you don't vote your conscience now...when will you start? We're at the place we're at because we've settled for the lesser of two evils."
Of course, Sweeney and Co. hope that the more votes that they can get out for Kerry, the more clout they will wield in Washington afterwards. Yet no matter how many votes they may garner for the Democrats, Kerry is not about to change course. For the real decisions that concern power and money in this country are decided in corporate boardrooms by unelected officials, (unelected by the majority of the American people, that is) not in Congress, or even the White House, and least of all in the polling places and voting booths. For only when money talks, do politicians like Kerry or Bush walk. Besides, as long as labor believes that it can get somewhere by going nowhere with the Democrats why should anyone bother paying attention to it?
ABB: voting for something you don't want and getting it
The liberal leaders of the more "mainstream" wing of the anti-war movement may think that they can pull the Democratic party to the left and thus get more influence in it. Instead they have pulled the antiwar movement off the streets and into the Democratic party and more under its influence. And they are not going to stop doing so on November 3rd either. Throughout the Clinton years the leaders of the main "mass movements" held back struggle after struggle in order to get the Democrats in and then did more of the same to keep them there even when they were carrying out policies identical to those of the Republicans. Now they advocate the same thing within the anti-war movement under the guise of "beating back Bush." Yet it was only through militant mass action that organized labor, Blacks, women and gays ever achieved anything to begin with. And it was the presence of the anti-war movement in the streets throughout the sixties that helped stop the war in Vietnam, not reliance on the same Democratic party that started that war and whose politicians attempted to co-opt the movement every step of the way with the active assistance of the lesser evil left.
Since the Battle of Seattle in 1999, the global justice movement has radicalized hundreds of thousands of young people to the point where they see that capitalism as a system is not part of the solution but the problem itself. The anti-war movement also proved that millions of people were prepared to take to the streets and engage in political activism in a way that they would not have before. Indeed, many global justice activists saw war as the logical culmination of "globalization;" hence the popularity of the slogan "no blood for oil." The task of the "left" is not only to continue to promote that kind of activism but to take it forward by connecting politics to economics and creating an electoral alternative that does so.
The Democratic party, on the other hand, is little more than a Roach Motel that activists from every mass movement from the labor movement of the 1930s to the civil rights, antiwar and womens movements of the 1960s and '70s went into, but never came out of. That's why Ralph Nader's anti-war and anti-corporate campaign, regardless of its many shortcomings, represents a small but significant step in the direction of building a left that is independent of the Democrats. Especially when the Demo-Greens tell their supporters to "vote their conscience" only in "safe states" and vote for Kerry in the others where it really counts.
Perennial socialist presidential candidate Eugene V Debs, who was jailed by the Democrats for opposing their "war for democracy" during WWI, once said "I'd rather vote for something I want and not get it than vote for something I don't want, and get it." Today the ABB crowd says they'll vote for someone who supports the war, the PATRIOT Act and "globalization" even though they oppose them all. Echoing the Democrats, they say that a vote for Nader is really a vote for Bush. The truth is that a vote for Kerry is a vote for the same imperialist agenda that the Bush administration stands for since it is the common property of the ruling class that they both serve. A vote for Nader will therefore be a statement against imperialist war, corporate greed and the rule of the rich.
It can serve as a badly needed wake-up call for the anti-war and "global justice" movements, the trade unions, the Black and womens' movements and all those who claim to speak on behalf of the exploited and oppressed that the twin parties of the capitalist class are not the only game in town and that it is not only necessary but possible to organize politically outside of the dead-end of the Democratic party. Hopefully it can serve to inspire rank-and-file trade unionists and movement activists into building a working class political party that can bring all of their struggles together into a mighty movement against capitalism and redefine them along class lines.
Roy Rollin attends the College of Staten Island (CUNY)