Seattle Communist Study Group
(CV #33, March 25, 2004)
. The following article, along with another one denouncing the imperialist occupation of Iraq, made up a leaflet distributed prior to and at the March 20 demonstrations by the Seattle Communist Study Group.
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Kerry wants to be a better "war president" than Bush!
Nader and the left-Democrats: Pro-Capitalist "anti-Capitalist" and Pro-war "anti-Warriors"
Building the movement
. A year ago, Bush was pushing to attack Iraq, pressuring other nations to join, but signaling clearly that with or without their support, the US was going to invade. On February 15th last year, anti-war activists staged a massive world-wide demonstration against Bush's naked imperialism, the biggest demonstration ever, with tens of millions marching. Bush earned the hatred of the masses by brushing this aside as a "focus group".
. Today, some who participated in those demonstrations have turned to fighting Bush's re-election, putting forth the slogan "anybody but Bush". It is essential to understand what "anybody" means: what it is the Democrats (and Nader) represent, and what kind of supposed opposition they present to Bush's policies. Playing on the hatred of Bush, some voices are loudly declaring that any action except an all-out fight for the Democrats' candidate is an outright betrayal of any progressive goals, because anything short of this consists of "handing Bush another term", the worst imaginable future. The reality is somewhat different.
. In order to really oppose what Bush represents, the masses need to understand the nature of that
war in particular, and of imperialism in general, and they need to recognize that the Democrats
are imperialist in their own right. They need to fight to build an independent anti-imperialist
Kerry wants to be a better "war president" than Bush!
. Kerry is now declared as the Democratic nominee to run against Bush in November. He made his name as an anti-war protester in Vietnam Veterans Against the War, demonstrating, and testifying to congress that US soldiers were committing war crimes in Vietnam. Back then his position was as a liberal reformer within the anti-war movement. Today, he is campaigning on his record as a decorated veteran, and brandishing his medals as proof of his supposed greater authority to wage imperialist wars than Bush.
. In seeking the Democratic nomination, Kerry says up front that he tried to sound more radical to draw the left into his campaign, but, now, as he looks to November, he will position himself to the right, to draw in the Independents and moderate Republicans. When asked about some of his more left-sounding slogans during the nomination race, he says of the November campaign, "You have to begin to talk to America in a broader way. I understand that. I think the message will become more broad based. . . ." This clearly, shows Kerry's shameless opportunism.
. On a variety of issues, Kerry shows that he holds many of the same sorts of pro-big business and pro-imperialist positions that Bush does. What differences exist between them are differences in how best to pursue the capitalists' imperialist needs. If his rhetoric is any guide, Kerry may well pursue the Iraq occupation and/or the "war on terror" more, not less vigorously.
Various opportunists assert point-blank that if a Democrat were in office, we would not be occupying Iraq. The Democrats might have pursued the imperialist control of Iraqi resources through the UN, but remember that Democrats in congress overwhelmingly voted for the Iraq war resolution, Kerry among them Their backpedaling now while they are seeking reelection, just shows their dishonesty. In justifying his vote for the Iraq war, Kerry says, "I voted for the resolution to get the inspectors in there, period. . . . Did I think Bush was going to charge unilaterally into war? No. . . . Am I angry about it? You're God damned right I am."
. Kerry's wounded-sounding complaint that he was taken in by Bush is hardly believable, given that it was obvious to everyone in Washington that Bush was lying, and would say anything to justify war against Iraq. His actual position in support of the war is more strongly pro-imperialist than he tries to sound. The Progressive Policy Institute formulates policies for the "New Democrats", who rank among their members Kerry, Clinton and Gore. The PPI wrote a foreign policy paper hardly distinguishable from the Bush doctrine of "preemptive" invasion anywhere anytime. This paper calls for "the bold exercise of American power", based on "muscular internationalism". This phrase suggests the full gamut of imperialist power projection, from back-room bullying, to multilateral or unilateral military action.
. One of the loudest arguments for supporting Kerry heard from Democrats at anti-war events is that, supposedly, the US would not have invaded Iraq if Gore were in office. Yet, in November of 2001, one of Gore's top advisors was arguing that the US should "destroy the Iraqi regime, root and branch", and "that the United States should strike while we have the opportunity". As well, Gore's running mate, Lieberman fought to push the Iraq war resolution through congress. In this election, Kerry has called for 40,000 more active troops in Iraq, and complained that Bush has underfunded the military. Thus, the assertion that the Democrats definitely wouldn't have invaded just doesn't hold water. They might have intensified the murderous sanctions regime, they might have invaded multilaterally, but they were certainly fully on board with the Bush-led invasion, and with the occupation.
. Sometimes Kerry sounds more extreme about the war on terror then Bush. He says, "At the core of this conflict is a fundamental struggle of ideas. Of democracy and tolerance against those who would use any means . . . to impose their narrow views. The War on Terror is not a clash of civilizations. It is a clash of civilization against chaos. . . ." At least in rhetoric, this is hardly "Bush lite". Kerry is clearly a hard line warrior against "terror", someone who will carry the fight worldwide with gusto. Kerry makes clear that he will take up the "war on terror" where Bush leaves it off.
. While Bush was widely criticized for claiming that 9/11 gave him a blank check for an
unending, worldwide war, Kerry claims the same for himself, saying, "America cannot rest until
Osama bin Laden is captured or killed. And when that day comes . . . it will be a victory in the
War on Terror, but it will not be the end of the War on Terror." The PPI argues that "like the
Cold War, the struggle we face today is likely to last not years, but decades". Kerry and his
ideologists see this as a blank check to extend US control anywhere the US bourgeoisie sees fit,
under the name of "fighting terrorism". The PPI also ups the ante on "America's national security
strategy" (code for US military and political interventions at home and abroad), saying that
"while some complain that the Bush administration has been too radical in recasting America's
national security strategy, we believe it has not been ambitious or imaginative enough. We need
to do more, and do it smarter and better. . . ." Furthering this, Kerry complains that Bush is
under funding the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA organization for destabilizing
governments disliked by the US bourgeoisie. These are not the words of a closet anti-imperialist.
If we want to oppose the Iraq occupation and the war on terror, we can't be sucked in to working
for his election, on the feeble excuse that "at least he isn't as bad as Bush".
Nader and the left-Democrats:
Pro-Capitalist "anti-Capitalist" and Pro-war "anti-Warriors"
. Disgust with the Democrats' brand of imperialism has drawn some to "independent" Nader's run for president. He denounces Bush's "corporate paymasters", and talks of the Democrats "dialing for corporate dollars". However, Nader is not independent of the capitalist system which drives imperialism. While he calls for more caution about the negative effects of US imperialist attacks, this reflects his support for the aims of imperialism. He is only concerned that these aims will be undermined if Bush isn't careful. Thus, he is concerned about the "potential for 'blowback'" resulting from Bush's aggressive brand of imperialism, but not concerned about the imperialism itself. As well, he was concerned that pursuit of the Iraq war "diverts and distracts from the war on terror", but unconcerned that the war on terror itself is a cover for world-wide imperialist adventures.
. Nader has said that his real reason for running is to "revitalize" the Democrats. He calls his campaign "a liberation movement" for the Democratic Party, aimed at "turning the rudder" of the party. This suggests that the Democrats have merely "lost their way", that they have "forgotten their traditional constituency" among the workers and poor. The argument goes that his campaign will force the Democrats to turn back to that constituency. He argues that his candidacy will force the Democrats to return to that constituency, and not take the left for granted. His real goal in running, then, is to strengthen the Democrats.
. Yet, all of this idea misses the big picture: the Democrats, like the Republicans, are a party of the exploiters, not a party of the workers, and this has always been so. Their differences with the Republicans do not include certain givens regarding full support for capitalism. Inducing Kerry to add a couple of left sounding phrases to his speeches during the campaign will not change this fact, nor will it in any real way change Kerry's policies if he is elected, just because he might have made certain promises during the campaign.
. Fundamentally, the Democrats are willing participants in the capitalists' reactionary offensive over that last several decades, and not because they have "lost their way" as liberals. They have moved right because the needs of the capitalists demand it. Several decades ago, the Democrats made more frequent appeals to the left, because the world situation was different then. The least of these differences is the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Those attacks were taken as a justification for intensifying shifts in policy which were already underway under Clinton and before. Also, the mass upheavals of the 60s and 70s are no longer with us, and today resistance is at a low level and disorganized. Thus the ruling class has less need for political deception, less need for the Democrats to appeal to the left.
. But today there is the anti-war movement. And left-wing Democrats like Kucinich, McDermott,
and others have worked to turn it into a pro-multilateral war movement, and a pro-UN
occupation movement, serving the same imperialist ruling class that Bush serves. More,
Kucinich's campaign played the usual left-Democrat role of trying to co-opt activists moving
toward opposing the entire establishment into work for the Democratic Party. Thus Kucinich
campaigners at many anti-war events passed out flyers saying he was a fierce opponent of the
occupation. However, "Dennis's" big cry was "US out, UN in", calling for imperialism under the
cover of the UN. Then Kucinich affirmed that he would support any of the Democratic
candidates against Bush. Now, to the surprise of few, "anybody but Bush" turns out to be not
Kucinich, but "more troops" Kerry. The former only worked to deliver him voting-fodder and
Building the movement
. The only way to effectively fight imperialism is to build the movement independent of the Democratic Party and Nader. The election offers no choice for those who seek an end to the occupation of Iraq, and the end of imperialism in general. Even so, it is important to follow and understand what the candidates are actually saying, and how this translates (or doesn't) into public policy. This can help workers to see clearly the duplicity of the candidates, and to recognize their actual class allegiances, how capitalist power is reinforced through the election process.
. For the widespread anti-Bush sentiment to be effective it needs to be channeled into activities to build independent motion and organization in society. To actually fight the capitalists' anti-people imperialist offensive involves participating in demonstrations and more. Anti-imperialists should link their struggles with workplace struggles, anti-racist struggles and struggles to fight attacks on immigrants, environmental struggles, and so on. They can use the events of this election to spark discussions and raise anti-imperialist, pro-worker politics. They can organize groups to study both the theory and the reality of imperialism. For example, Lenin's Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism shows that imperialism is not a misguided policy, but as a necessity for modern capitalism. As well, workers opposed to the capitalists' offensive can write and distribute their own literature, build connections to other workers and activists, and so on. All of these activities help to build toward a much-needed independent anti-imperialist movement.
. The alternative to Bush, Kerry and Nader is political independence and mass struggle!
Seattle Communist Study Group, March 15, 2004 <>
Last modified: April 13, 2004.