March 4, 2004

US elections: Their future and ours

James Petras

Aristotle defined an oligarchy as a polity in which the few elect the rulers to govern over the many. That formula fits exactly the description of US primaries and general elections. In New York State where only 15% of the party members voted in the recent Democratic primaries, Kerry won with 8% of the registered Democrats. In the general elections in November, 25 million voters (out of 50 million) can decide who will rule over 280 million citizens. The great majority of blacks, Hispanics and poor workers will not vote because they perceive that neither the Republican Bush nor the Democrat Kerry speak to the problems that most affect their lives. As Cason and Brooks wrote (La Jornada, (March 4, 2004) the electoral campaign is over lana and most voters prefer Kerry because he is perceived to be capable of beating Bush - the incumbent reactionary. The rational hatred of Bush by many US voters however has another side to it - an irrational embrace of a reactionary Democrat. Senator John Kerry, the wealthiest man in the US Senate, has ties to Big Banking and a voting record that is the envy of any conservative. In foreign policy Kerry criticizes Bush and Rumsfeld for not sending enough troops to Iraq. He proposes to send more than 40,000 more soldiers to protect the US colonial occupation authority, its puppet "provisional" regime and US oil interests. Kerry unconditionally supports Israel's war against the Palestinians, Sharon's apartheid wall and the continuance of $3 billion dollars in annual military aid. Kerry has declared his support for the Miami mafia's economic and travel blockade of Cuba, despite major business, farming and tourist interests' opposition to US travel and trade restrictions. Kerry has been a vehement supporter of free trade, the WTO and ALCA throughout his years in the Senate. Kerry has supported the Bush Administration's war on Iraq, Afghanistan and his hostility to Syria and Iran. Kerry has never questioned Bush's attempt to overthrow President Chavez of Venezuela, nor challenged Bush/Noriega/Reich three-year blockade of Haiti (only after Aristide's ouster and during the current election campaign has he called for an "investigation"). Kerry has not called for any cuts in the bloated military budget, nor has he differed with Bush's bellicose posturing toward North Korea, and provocative policies toward Russia (organizing military bases in the Balkans, in the Caucuses and now in the Baltic countries). It is probable that a New Cold War will emerge whoever wins the presidential elections.

In domestic policies, John Kerry is known as 'Senator Yes'. He voted for Bush's repressive Patriot Act, the tax cuts for the rich, and deregulation of the financial sector. Kerry has refused to support any progressive national health plan, the legalization of Mexican residents, controls on speculative capital, substantive economic programs for blacks, public funded job programs, progressive labor legislation, or any job protection. Kerry's only proposal for "labor reform" is to obligate employers to give workers 3 months notice before they are fired. Kerry's proposed remedy for the loss of 3 million jobs under Bush is to give greater tax incentives to big business to employ US workers.

John Kerry's past voting record and current electoral program strongly suggests that he too will be a "War President" perhaps with less abrasive diplomats and more formal consultation with European regimes. He will continue the free market, trickle- down economic policies promoted by Clinton, and radicalized by Bush.

Where are the US Left and Progressives?

The overwhelming majority of what passes for the US progressives and even the left has taken the position "anybody but Bush". The politics of the "lesser evil" leading to a "greater evil" is a familiar policy promoted by US "progressives". They supported Kennedy in 1960 and got the Viet Nam War and nearly got World War III (with the missile crisis). They supported Lyndon Johnson (as the lesser evil) and got 500,000 soldiers sent to Indochina where 58,000 died. They supported James Carter and got the Second Cold War. They supported Clinton and got the Balkan invasions and bombing of Belgrade. History repeats itself, first as a tragedy and secondly as a farce. In contrast to past Democrats, Kerry doesn't promise Peace, a Great Society or National Health Care as past Democrats like Kennedy, Johnson and Clinton and then betray the voters. He offers nothing new and innovative - just empty platitudes, opposition to Bush and his personal war record. Kerry's chief foreign policy adviser, Rand Beer, was on President Bush's National Security Council until recently.

Progressive support for Kerry will virtually eliminate the Left as any meaningful option in these elections. Even worse, it will weaken if not eliminate any mass protests like Seattle (1999) from the political agenda. The "Anybody but Bush" slogan will put the progressives on the side of war, ALCA and the social exclusion camp. Of course there will be peace demonstrations on March 20, which Kerry will ignore. And there will be debate by progressives over program at the Democratic Convention in Boston, but that will be window dressing. Kerry will respond not to the small minority of dissident delegates but to the 1000 wealthy campaign contributors who will provide him with the millions to finance his electronic campaign to get the 25% of the electorate necessary to win.

Where does that leave us and the popular movements in the US and Latin America? As far as the US is concerned, a small minority of the electorate will vote for progressive candidates (like Ralph Nader); the majority of the electorate will not vote and a plurality will capitulate and support Kerry, thus abandoning the struggle for peace and justice. Election year 2004 - the US Left will be wandering in the wilderness.

In Latin America however, 2004 has started as a year of great confrontations - the successful US invasion and overthrow of Haitian President Aristide and the intensified destabilization campaign against President Chavez. Washington's 2004 military offensive however is being seriously challenged from the "outside" not from within. In Iraq, Cuba and Venezuela, Bush's War Presidency is suffering profound defeats. The colonial occupation "coalition" in Iraq today has lost control of all the major cities: only the mercenary Iraqi police patrol the streets at night taking heavy casualties. The US soldiers are on the periphery, for fear of the 90% of Iraqis who violently oppose their efforts to foment 'internal conflicts'. Politically if not militarily, the US is losing the war: the puppet provisional regime will collapse immediately on the withdrawal of the US troops.

Cuba has successfully disarticulated the US surrogate opposition internally, diversified its trade with US companies and has prepared its security system against forthcoming provocations from the Bush/Noriega/Reich gang.

In Venezuela, President Chavez has the backing of millions of activists and the loyalty of the Armed Forces and has accelerated his social reform agenda. The US- funded destabilization and violent paramilitary groups have been repulsed but are not yet eliminated. Despite three failed attempts to oust Chavez the US is still pursuing a strategy of internal violence, civil war and military invasion with unpredictable consequences for all of Latin America.

For the popular movements in Latin America and the US in their quest for self- determination, social justice and peace, the US oligarchic elections are a noisy mass media spectacle that offers little hope or inspiration. For better or for worse, the real conflict is not between Bush and Kerry, but between Bush/Kerry against Chavez, Castro and the Iraqi people. The future of the oligarchs of the world, rides on the US electoral outcome. The future of humanity rests with the successful resistance in Iraq, Cuba and Venezuela and the rest of the Third World popular movements, against whichever of the two oligarchic candidates wins in November.

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