Before and after the Election . . .
For Real Change,
the Working Class Needs
its Own Movement!
Editorial of the Summer-Winter 2008 issue of Struggle magazine
. The November election is fast approaching. The media, giving the viewpoint of the rich,
presents elections as the only way for the working people to change society. We are offered two
candidates, both of whose campaigns are largely paid for by the wealthy. As the financial
structure of capitalism totters, both candidates and their political parties are offering hundreds of
billions of workers' tax dollars to bail out the rich, who are the cause of the crisis in the first
. John McCain, the Republican, openly stands for more of the Bush program of war and plunder
abroad, repression and plunder of the workers and poor at home. Barack Obama, the Democrat,
rides in as the new knight in shining armor, promising change, a new beginning. As the first
African American to be nominated for President by one of the two major parties, he has aroused
a lot of excitement among the people, who are sick and tired of the Bush nightmare and of the
endemic racism of American society. The long struggle of Blacks and other progressive people
against racism has created a situation where an African American can be the favored candidate
. But, sadly, Obama too stands for the same service to the wealthy, the same disregard for the
interests and needs of the working people, including Blacks, as Bush and McCain. The only
changes Obama actually offers are a Black man in the highest office and a slight adjustment in
tactics in foreign policy to combine more diplomacy with active military force within an
explicitly imperialist program of American domination of the world. Such changes as the
working class needs in this time of aggressive war abroad and, at home, mortgage foreclosures,
lay-offs and plant closings, wage-slashing, wholesale deportations of immigrant workers, brutal
police killings of Blacks and other minorities, etc., are not offered by either of these capitalist
. For any real, significant change, the working class desperately needs its own independent
movement, one that breaks with both capitalist political parties, with the opportunist minority
leaders and sold-out union bureaucrats, and battles the rich on every front. Only such a
movement would deserve the name "change." There are hints of the potential for such a
movement in the anger at the financial bail-out, in the anti-war protests, the bitter American Axle
auto workers' strike, the Black protests against the murders of Sean Bell and others, the protests
against the brutalization of the immigrants, and elsewhere. We understand that many progressive
people will vote for Obama with high hopes, but Struggle calls on activists to look carefully at
the bourgeois nature of the two candidates' programs and to build active protests and struggles of
. Here's what the candidates offer in foreign policy:
- Both McCain and Obama plan long-term American troop presence in Iraq. McCain babbled
about "one hundred years," while Obama betrayed his withdrawal promises by declaring to
keep at least 50,000 American troops in Iraq indefinitely. Both are committed to a long-term
major presence there in pursuit of Iraq's abundant oil and as a base for big-power imperialist
- Both McCain and Obama would escalate the war in Afghanistan. They would sacrifice
American and Afghan working people's lives to further the world-domination goals of
American big business.
- McCain and Obama, trying to deny to others the weapons possessed by the U.S. and Israel,
agree that force could be used to stop Iranian nuclear development. Obama would talk first but
emphasizes that he will not take military action "off the table."
- Both McCain and Obama side with the apartheid-like Israeli regime that has dispossessed the
Palestinians and is mercilessly squeezing them in the West Bank and Gaza. Heavily armed by
the U.S., the Israeli regime is a sword held over the heads of the peoples of the Middle East.
Obama, on a visit to Israel, buddied up to the Zionist leaders, encouraged their desire to annex
all of Jerusalem and denounced a Palestinian protester as a "terrorist".
. Thus McCain and Obama agree to continue the imperialist drive for U.S. world domination.
Obama would bring a slight shift towards diplomacy and cooperation with other big powers, but
the aim would be the same. He assured the wealthy corporation executives in a 2007 article in
Foreign Affairs: "I will not hesitate to use force, military if necessary, to protect the American
people or our vital interests, whenever we are attacked or imminently threatened." Far from
protecting the American people, either candidate would be an imperialist President, squandering
the lives of workers at home and abroad in wars and adventures to gain the highest profits for the
capitalists (these are the "vital interests" -- of the rich!).
. Here's what the candidates offer in domestic affairs:
- On the economy, both McCain and Obama have relied in vain on the blind forces of the
market to solve problems, but now each is supporting the use of workers' tax money for a
gigantic bail-out for the rich financiers, with no regard for the working people. Both support
some degree of cuts in corporate taxes. With respect to job losses, McCain recites the standard
Republican mantra of investment, while Obama promises spending on public works but could
easily claim that that is politically impossible, given the expense of the financial bail-out,
escalation in Afghanistan and maintenance of a large military force in Iraq. Neither one has
any program to alleviate the impact of soaring gas and food prices on the working people.
- Both McCain and Obama support measures denying the democratic rights of the masses. They
approve allowing the telecommunications companies to help the government to spy on the
people and they approve the extension of the Patriot Act. Of dubious effectiveness against
actual terrorists, these measures are already being used against legitimate dissent and protest.
- With respect to racism, McCain supports the standard Republican denial of the African
American struggle for equality. Election of Obama would be a symbol of anti-racism, but
Obama's actual program here is general proclamations, Republican-style lectures to the Black
masses about "responsibility" and ignoring the protests of Blacks and other people of color
against police murders and brutality. Although the civil rights movement opened the door for
Obama, he abandons its tradition of combating the brutalization of minorities.
- With respect to working-class struggles, neither McCain nor Obama lifted a finger last Spring
to help the striking American Axle auto workers, who lost a three-month strike against a
profitable corporation which cut their pay in half. Obama later came to Detroit and hobnobbed
with the auto capitalists while offering no support to the working masses, in an ironic
foreshadowing of his later trip to Israel. The United Auto Workers leadership, which helped
the capitalists slash workers' pay at American Axle, the Big Three and Delphi, is going all-out
for Obama, as are most other union hacks.
- On the matter of the dire situation of immigrant workers, who are being arrested, having their
families broken up and are suffering prison sentences before deportation, both candidates
offer these hard-working members of the American working class expulsion and the
militarization of the Mexican border. Neither candidates offer a clear path to citizenship.
McCain has backed away from even the nearly impossible route to legality he offered in the
2005 McCain-Kennedy Act. Immigrant workers are abandoned to the repressive ICE
(Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the xenophobic anti-immigrant attacks.
- With respect to the environment and global warming, McCain follows Bush in putting his
head in the sand and pretending that "clean" coal, nuclear power and drilling scores of
offshore oil wells will be progress. Obama's basic orientation is towards market-based
"solutions" such as cap-and-trade, which are failing to achieve their goals under Kyoto (see
the environmental articles at www.communistvoice.org for a detailed refutation of this
approach). Both candidates talk about alternative energy sources but support Bush-backed
frauds like corn ethanol and "clean" coal. What is really required is overall economic planning
which imposes environmental measures on big business. Here the need for an independent
workers' movement will become painfully obvious, to fight to prevent the capitalists form
using government planning to award themselves big subsidies and place the burden of the
environmental crisis on the workers. The workers will need to build their own environmental
movement, not rely on the promises of government bureaucrats or capitalist politicians such as
McCain or Obama.
. In short, all across the board, beneath the hype the actual programs of McCain and Obama are
shockingly similar. Both candidates are in fact running for Bush's third term. There is no "new
beginning"; this is just another Republican-Democrat contest, in which the interests of the
workers and the poor of all ethnicities are being trampled underfoot. This sad truth will become
more and more evident after one of them is elected, especially as the economic crisis inevitably
deepens. But this truth demands, ever more strongly, that the workers and poor build our own
movement, in our own interests, independent from and against the two capitalist political parties
and their defenders among the working people.
By Tim Hall
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