by Tim Hall
(CV #39, January 2007)
. The recent Congressional mid-term elections resulted in the Democrats replacing the Republicans as the dominant party in Congress. According to the capitalist press, this was a "November Revolution." Supposedly the Bush nightmare of reaction and oppression was over. Motion to end the war in Iraq was predicted. "Farewell to fascism!" a Detroit liberal columnist cried. "Let the investigations begin!" crowed others. But this was just a fairy-tale, told for the gullible. The election was a referendum in which the masses voted against the war, but now, two months later, Bush is massively escalating it, and the Democrats, while screaming loudly, refuse to cut off the main funds for the conflict. Their anti-war stand is all talk -- as always.
. On January 10 Bush announced his plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq for an open-ended commitment to suppress the sectarian violence and get his accomplice Iraqi government on its feet. Bush claims to have a firm commitment from Iraqi Shiite Prime Minister Maliki to suppress the Shiite militias in Baghdad, an improbable claim as these militias are loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, a powerful Shia force who would end his current support for Maliki. Completing this unbelievable scenario is supposed to allow a U.S. withdrawal two or three years down the road. What this strategy really means is a murderous assault on the Iraqi masses, Shiite and Sunni alike, largely in Baghdad, conducted by Iraqi and American forces jointly. The U.S. military campaigns, while allegedly targeting terrorists, have always meant death and destruction for the Iraqi masses as a whole. This is to be stepped up now. This assault will further fan the flames of sectarian conflict, since whatever action the Maliki government takes against the Shiite militias will be conducted by an army brigade made up of Kurdish soldiers from the north, as the Shiite members of the Iraqi military are not regarded as reliable. These Shiite forces are themselves infiltrated by sectarian Shiite militias which, like their Sunni militia enemies, slaughter innocent people. Essentially, Bush's response to the anti-war vote by American voters in November is a maelstrom of suppression of the workers and the poor of Iraq, more hellish, if possible, than what goes on at present.
. Bush links the success of his escalation to the Iraqi government meeting a series of "benchmarks." One of these is the suppression already described. Bush is also demanding the passage, in the Iraqi parliament, of a bill distributing the oil wealth of the country. It is impossible to see how a government that cannot apportion power equitably among its power blocs can apportion such wealth peacefully. But the bill also opens the door to large-scale foreign investment and control of the huge oil wealth of Iraq. Western capitalist monopolies like Exxon, Mobil and BP will be guaranteed 70 % profits until their drilling costs are repaid and 20%, double the international average, after that. So much for the statements of British Prime Minister Blair and former American Secretary of State Colin Powell that the war was "not about oil!" The Iraqi masses are to be slaughtered and their national resources plundered. Such is the aim of the Bush policy.
. This is Bush's answer to the American masses' vote against the war. Do the Democrats have a powerful reply to this outrage to the voters? Hardly! The Democratic leaders in Congress, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid, have protested loudly, threatening a quick vote -- to what? Merely to state opposition, not to cut the purse strings for the war. According to Pelosi, "we will not cut off funding." Sen. Joseph R. Biden has declared that it would be unconstitutional for Congress to cut off funds to the military during a war, even though this has been done many times before. Sen. Carl Levin has even stated that he would support Bush's "surge" of troops if it were accompanied by proper goals. Rep. John Murtha and Sen. Ted Kennedy are preparing bills to deny funds -- to what? Not to the war as a whole, but only to Bush's planned increase in troops, a measure that any creative Pentagon financial planner could surely evade. With his escalation, Bush has essentially spat in the face of the anti-war masses in the U. S. The Democrats protest: "Not so much spit! We simply won't allow it!"
. Why do the Democrats flout the desires of the masses? A major part of the U.S. bourgeoisie, the main Democrats and also some Republicans, see that the occupation of Iraq, at least in its current form, is failing. But they still want to impose U.S. domination on the region. They want to slowly withdraw some troops, maintain tens of thousands of American "trainers" in the Iraqi military, and re-deploy to Kurdistan or some other safe havens from which they can quickly re-intervene. True, Bush also talks about withdrawing troops, but only after victory for the occupation regime. And there are also differences within the Democrat/moderate Republican camp over whether or how to fight for their position. But none of these positions envisions immediate or complete withdrawal, which is the demand increasingly desired by the masses in the U.S. The Democrats cling to their imperialist aims because they are financed by the same class of rich capitalists that fund the Republicans, and the economic and political nature of this class demands an imperialist drive for world domination, the source of the highest profits. Democratic Rep. John Murtha, for example, wants to hold back funds for Bush's escalation in order to strengthen U.S. military forces for imperialist activities elsewhere in the world. The Democrats' tactics, representing liberal imperialism, are just as violent as the conservative imperialism of the Republicans but are reinforced with alliances and sugar-coated with pretty words.
. The Democrats' capitulation on the war resembles their capitulation on the impeachment issue. For years the left-wing Democrats have tried to channel the mass movements into centering on impeachment, and replacing Bush with a Democrat, instead of organizing a struggle for their demands. But as soon as the Democrats won, what happened to the impeachment talk? Liberal Rep. John Conyers, on orders from Pelosi, dropped it like a hot potato! Bush had provided Conyers with material for a lengthy dossier of impeachable offenses, including the lying justifications of the war itself. But the great impeachment warrior hastily announced that it was "off the table."
. In the elections the voters also repudiated the moral hypocrisy of the ruling politicians. However, an indication of how non-seriously both ruling parties take this repudiation may have been provided by the House Ethics Committee. This committee, composed equally of Republicans and Democrats, took no action against the bipartisan house leadership, which had ignored the harassment of young pages by (now-resigned) Rep. Mark Foley since at least 1995. To add to the irony, Foley was the leading Congressional spokesman against pedophilia! Hearings, rather than action, have been promised on other issues. The Democrats plan ethics action to restrict gifts to politicians, but such problems are dwarfed next to the truly massive fraud and mis-management conducted by such corporations as Halliburton and enabled by the Bushites and politicians of both parties, especially in connection with the Katrina debacle and the Iraq war itself. It's as if, when confronted by elephants, the Dems choose to slap mosquitoes and swat flies.
. On such fundamental democratic issues as the Patriot Act, torture, the writ of habeas corpus and the continuing police murders of African Americans, the Democrats have made no promises of change and are apparently doing next to nothing. They have already arrived at a sordid compromise with the Republicans which allows torture to continue, contrary to the Geneva Conventions. There are two bills, being sponsored by Sens. Leahy and Dodd, which would reverse parts of Bush's anti-democratic Military Commissions Act of 2006, which removed the right of American citizens to challenge their arrest (the right of habeas corpus). But if the Dems' "fight" against the war is an indicator of their seriousness, not much will be done about this crucial issue. The Bush administration intends to retain the ability to declare an American citizen a terrorist and deprive him or her of the right to liberty and the right to see the evidence against them. The police intend to continue killing blacks. It will take mass mobilization to turn these policies around, something to which the Democrats are generally allergic. But if these tyrannical measures continue, then farewell to "farewell to fascism!"
On the economic front, the Democrats have no solutions for the working-class masses. The workers are facing growing insecurity of employment, speed-up on the job, destruction of worker rights and the smashing of unions and unionization drives, spreading impoverishment, privatization of social services, energy deregulation, the rising prices of education, insurance, transportation and many other burdens. Though the Democrats have some differences with the Republicans over "free" or "fair" trade, they are a party of market-place solutions as much as the Republicans. Both parties represent the bourgeoisie, which is the target of worker struggles and unionization. So in their economic program the Dems propose only the minimum they hope will get them votes in future elections. With regard to the minimum wage, any raise will be welcome to the nearly starving working poor, but the bill that is likely to be passed will be half-hearted and too small. It may raise the minimum wage from the microscopic $5.15 to $7.25, but any worker knows that this is still far below what it takes to feed, clothe, shelter and transport a single individual. With regard to the deficit, since Clinton's administration theDemocrats have pursued deficit reduction by cutting social programs for the masses. Now Pelosi is saying that any spending increases (which would include any reinstatement of needed social programs) will have to be "offset" by spending cuts elsewhere (no doubt of other social programs).
. One front where there likely will be motion is immigration, though the motion will not be very good. Despite the massive immigrant worker demonstrations of last spring, the capitalist establishment defeated any new moves towards immigrant citizenship and settled on a policy of repression and fences on the Mexico border. Since the election this policy is being enforced even more brutally, with raids and deportations of immigrant workers in many states. The election of the Democrats may revive some version of the McCain-Kennedy Act, which would have created a guest worker program and a tortuous road to citizenship for a very few immigrants of the millions presently illegal. This bill, while preferable to the policy of blanket repression, was so bad that even many major immigrant groups that are close to the Democrats were turning against before it failed in the past Congress. The new Congress is unlikely to come up with anything much better.
. There you have the "November Revolution." At most it means a mere shift in ruling class
tactics -- and continued war! The working masses need a mass action program to fight back. First
of all, they should come out forcefully against the war -- against Bush's escalation and against the
Democrats' feeble opposition. For serious change, for a reversal of the tyrannical Bush policies
and any other major improvements, the working class and the poor need to raise such demands as
immediate withdrawal from Iraq, a reversal of all Bush's anti-democratic laws, an end to police
brutality and murders, full rights for immigrants, the elimination of anti-worker and anti-union
laws, and the need for action on the environment. The workers and poor need their own
movement, with their own demands and their own organizations. The anti-war movement should
emphasize appealing to the working class, while activist workers should play a vigorous role in
anti-war protests. The Republicans are our obvious enemies; we must learn that the Democrats
are our enemies to an equal degree. We must fight for every improvement possible, but
ultimately the entire capitalist class must be driven from power in a working-class revolution.>
. (The above article is based on the editorial from the upcoming issue of 'Struggle', a proletarian
literary zine. )
February 25, 2007.