How The Liberal Left Helps Capitalism; A Reply to “Political Affairs” on the Elections
By MN Roy
So according to Thomas Riggins, associate editor of “Political Affairs,” not voting for the pro-war and pro-Wall Street Democrats smacks of “ultra-leftism.” Surprise, surprise. For those not in the know, “Political Affairs” is the mouthpiece for the reformist Stalinists of the mis-named “Communist Party.” The latter have been making a living on the left by supporting almost any and every Democrat since Uncle Joe Stalin himself instructed the CP to support FDR in the 1930s and derail any moves on the part of the CIO in the direction of an independent labor party. All in the name of “anti-fascism,” of course. Only the biggest “fascists,” the Jim Crow “Dixiecrats,” were to be found inside of the Democratic party, and were a key component of FDR’s “New Deal” coalition since they controlled the white-only single-party South.
The immediate target of Riggins’ wrath would appear to be anti-electoral anarchist types who oppose participating in capitalist elections on principle. However, he’s probably even more aghast at those supporting the independent campaigns of Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney. For the latter are challenging the Democrats from within the electoral arena and, therefore, constitute an even bigger threat to them. And unlike Obama and the Democrats, Nader and McKinney are actually anti-war and anti-corporate. But as all graduates of the Stalin school of class collaboration know, voting against the Democrats not only constitutes “ultra-leftism” but “helps” the Republican “right” as well.
According to this “logic,” the Democrats are supposed to be on the “left.” That would come as quite a surprise, if not a shock, to them, let alone to the Wall Street swindlers and speculators who were bankrolling Obama big time even before he helped push through the “bail-out.” It would certainly raise the eyebrows of Colin Powell, Paul Voelker and Warren Buffet, hardly individuals who would give thumbs up to anything remotely “progressive.” Or maybe the “left” that Riggins is alluding to are the respectable reformists of the CP and the rest of the “progressive community” that shares their infatuation with “lesser evil” politics.” Only what’s “left” or “progressive” about voting for a party that supports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as soaking the poor to bail out the rich. Or maybe I just don’t understand “dialectics” since I never got around to reading any of Uncle Joe’s lamentable tracts on the subject.
Of course, what all of these labels leave out of the picture is any discussion of capitalism and class. Or that the Democrats, no less than the Republicans, are a party of, by and for the capitalist class. Only, they have a division of labor, working separate sides of the street. While one may work on Wall Street, while the other does so on Main Street, they both work for Wall Street.
No less than the musings of the mainstream media, terms like “left,” “right” and “center” are deliberately designed to prevent working people and “movement” activists from reaching any kind of radical conclusions that it is the system as a whole that is the problem, rather than the dirty doings of the “ultra-right” or the “neo-cons” around Bush and Cheney. This is more necessary than ever since both of capitalism’s candidates have essentially the same program of increased imperialist aggression abroad and making the workers pay for the crisis that capitalism caused at home. And in the midst of the on-going debacles on Wall Street, capitalism stands more nakedly exposed than ever.
Sure, there are the usual dime’s worth of differences around “social issues” that don’t cost the capitalists anything. They have to be magnified out of proportion so that there appears to be such a great divide between the Coke and Pepsi candidates. Then the reformists can hoot and holler about keeping the “ultra-right” out of office at all costs. But if they didn’t have some second-rate issues separating them, then the two-party con game would cease to function as the most effective method yet devised of maintaining the rule of the few over the many. Besides, if the rad-libs make such a big deal over this kind of stuff, it’s mainly because they gave in long ago on every issue of substance, from the war to the bail-out, in order to get the Democrats, who rolled over in the Congress “they took back,” into the White House as well.
So when all is said and done, whether the author is Thomas Riggins, Sam Webb, Judith LeBlanc, Leslie Cagan, Gus Hall or Earl Browder, it’s still the same old Stalinist shit.
Whether it’s “popular front,” “fight the right,” “ABB,” “taking back Congress,” or just plain old “lesser of two evils,” it’s still the same old Stalinist shit.
Whether it’s opposing McCain, Bush I or II, Dole, Reagan, Nixon, Goldwater or supporting Obama, Kerry, Gore, Clinton, LBJ, and every one was the “most important election ever,” it’s still the same old Stalinist shit.
And no matter how you slice it, it still stinks as far as working people and radical activists are concerned. They go into that Roach Motel of the left, otherwise known as the Democratic party, as “radicals” opposing capitalism and come out as “progressives” trying to “reform” it or work within it. So while the Gus Halls and the Michael Harringtons may leave us, there’s always a Tom Hayden or a Carl Davidson waiting in the wings to take their place, telling us that electing a Democrat will “open up more space for the left.” As if the bought-and-paid-for politician pals of Wall Street will listen to the millions who vote for them rather than the millionaires who own them.
The reformists may delude themselves that a Democrat in the Oval Office may be more susceptable to “pressure” from below than a Republican, but they seem to forget that when you get taken for granted, the way they do with the blank checks they give to the Democrats every four years, you get taken. As Bill Clinton, who they also supported, once said, “where else will they go.” Certainly not to the streets, for they all kept quiet for Clinton’s 8 years of neo-liberalism and myriad of military interventions around the world, lest the Republican “right” get back in. No doubt, they will so the same for Obama, especially as they’ve kept the anti-war movement on hold for over four years. To paraphrase one of reformism’s leading lights, Howard Zinn, it’s who is in the White House that determines who will be (or won’t be) protesting outside of it.
Of course, in each succeeding election, it keep’s getting harder to tell exactly which candidate is the “lesser,” as opposed to the “greater,” evil or who is the “progressive” and who is the “reactionary” candidate. And this year’s contest is no exception no matter how many meaningless banalities and platitudes Barack Obama throws out about “hope” and “change.” Surrounded by Carter and Clinton era cold warriors and counter-revolutionaries and Goldman-Sachs “Chicago Boys” de-regulators, and endorsed by Bush gang war criminals like Colin Powell, Obama is even less likely to deliver any “change” than a meal from MacDonalds used to claim to do.
Both McCain and Obama supported giving the crooks on Wall Street $700 billion of the workers money and dictatorial powers over it to Henry Paulson, one of their own. Only Obama and the Democrats were even more gung-ho to do so, with no strings attached, than were the Republicans. Both of them also supported giving the rest of the government dictatorial powers over the American people, since they both voted to renew the police state “PATRIOT” Act and the revised “FISA” Act. And both support the death penalty. While you wouldn’t expect to hear John McCain speaking up for the likes of Troy Davis, let alone Mumia Abu Jamal, you won’t hear a word from Obama about their cases either. Indeed when the NYC cops who murdered Shawn Bell got off scott-free, Obama admonished his supporters in the Black community not to resort to violence!
Both McCain and Obama support George Bush’s “war on terror,” want to increase spending on the war machine and the size of the military to fight it, maintain the occupation of Iraq and intensify the war in Afghanistan. Both agree with George Bush that the “surge” was such a smashing success, that such a shift in focus is now, not only possible, but, desirable. Only Obama and the Democrats, who have been beating the drums for a bigger and better war in Afghanistan long before McCain jumped on board the band-wagon, sugar-coat it by calling it “withdrawal.” Obama’s even called for a “surge” of 15,000 troops in Afghanistan to make better use of the handful of combat troops he wants to “redeploy” from Iraq. And let’s not forget their shared enthusiasm for rocket-rattling against Iran and Russia. Only McCain, not Obama, is willing to negotiate with Iran over uranium.
Both McCain and Obama staunchly support Israel’s “right” to oppress the Palestinians, invade Lebanon and bomb Iran any time they please. Both just as strongly oppose the governments of Cuba and Venezuela. Only Obama went out of his way to condemn the Cuban revolution as constituting a “dark age” in that country’s history. Does that mean that he thinks that the rule of the US-backed dictator Batista and the gangster Meyer Lansky was a “golden age” for Cuba. It would indeed be strange for a Black man to think that, since Jim Crow was the law of the land under Cuban capitalism just as it was under American “democracy.”
Both McCain and Obama oppose any kind of real national health care plan or any other substantial increase in social spending since both of them voted to give away the farm to Wall Street and the Pentagon. Besides both are agreed that belt-tightening 1970s-style austerity is the only game in town insofar as working people go since the corporate crooks that support both of them aren’t about to pay for the crisis that they and their system caused.
Only it seems that more of them support Obama than McCain! They know that Bush and his gang of “neo-con” nit-wits have, in the words of last time’s “lesser evil,” John Kerry, “fucked it up,” and its time to change dicks if they’re going to keep screwing us. Whether its reflected in the amount of campaign contributions from Wall Street or endorsements from the likes of Colin Powell, most of the ruling rich feel that Obama, not McCain, is the preferred candidate for implementing austerity at home just as he is viewed as being the better man for the job of refurbishing the empire’s credentials abroad. I may be a little old-fashioned, but I didn’t think that it was the job of the “left” to help improve the image of imperialism!
After all, who better to bomb dark-skinned peoples around the world and who better to gave working people the short end of the already shortened stick, and Black working people the shortest end of it, than some-one who actually looks like them. As Democrat David Dinkins, the first Black mayor of NYC said, before he laid waste to the municipal budget and largely Black work-force at the behest of Wall Street, “they’ll take it from me.” No doubt behind closed doors Obama has re-assured his wealthy backers and supporters along those same lines. Only when he does it, it will be in the name of “shared sacrifice” and “national unity” since the “united we stand” rhetoric of the “right” no longer does the trick.
So then, who really helps the “right,” or rather the ruling class, in implementing their common class agenda of increased aggression and austerity? Those who oppose it and the Democratic party politicians that are a key component of implementing it or those who tell you to vote for those same Democrats year in and year out? Who was responsible for putting the anti-war movement on the back burners in 2004 and 2006 in order to elect pro-war Democrats? Who is responsible for demoralizing and demobilizing the thousands of radical activists who took on the system believing that “another world is possible” to the point that many of them would fall for the sound byte shenanigans of Obama? Who helps the mainstream media, even if only in a small way, in keeping any thinking about capitalism (and class struggle against it) out of working people’s minds in favor of meaningless monkey chatter about “progressive” versus “reactionary” politicians when the whole system is reactionary to the core? And who actually helps drive people into the arms of the “right” by associating the “left” with the neo-liberal austerity promoted by the Democrats at the behest of Wall Street. To ask the question is to answer it.
The only way to really fight “the right,” that is the capitalist class, is by building a strong and independent left that has a program and party to do so. You wouldn’t tell workers to vote for their boss to represent them at their jobs, so why tell them to vote for their bosses’ candidates to represent them in Washington, or anywhere else, for that matter? Now, more than ever, it’s time to make the break; to vote against Wall Street and its wars, to vote for Nader or McKinney, and begin to build a movement of, by and for the working class and against capitalism. Only to do so it will be necessary not only to break with the Democrats, but with their “progressive” apologists and hanger-ons, including and especially Thomas Riggins and the CP.