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Se puede? Not by protest alone

by James Cooke Saturday, May. 06, 2006 at 4:37 AM
jc26cooke@yahoo.com

It only took a day for the effect of the immigration protests to be known. On May 2nd politicians from both parties gave a wealth of interviews and speeches that clarified their positions: nothing had changed. In fact, many had remarked that the protest had a ‘backlash effect’, hardening and inflaming the already conservative opinions of Republicans, while dulling the already flimsy stance of Democrats. Trent Lott, in speaking for many on the right, implied that a massive deportation sweep during the protests would have been appropriate, given that “we had ‘em all in a bunch”. On the other side of the isle, Diane Feinstein gave a more passive response to the protests, representing the unaffected character of most Democrats to the millions who appeared in the streets; the passionate outcry from the masses was referred to as ‘counterproductive’, since protesting does not “changes votes on the floor of the senate”— the latter point is certainly true, becoming more obvious as pro-immigration and anti-war protests continue to draw millions, but fall onto deaf ears in Congress. Demonstrations, boycotts, protests, or any other indication of public opinion has proven unable to sway the actions of either party. The façade of the two-party system is unveiling itself with impressive speed as social tensions near the boiling point.



The current movement for immigration rights has become more powerful and militant than the civil rights movement of the 60’s, but is in danger of suffering a similar fate. Politicians took a divide and conquer approach to the African American problem that resulted in a new, tiny layer of middle-class black professionals. The rest were left leaderless and in squalor. The more probable resolution of the ‘immigration debate’ will result in a ‘two-tiered’ approach as well, making citizens of the immigrants who have been here the longest— including most of the current leaders of the movement. The most vulnerable of the immigrants will continue living lives of exploitation and fear, facing deportation each time a prominent politician wants to take a ‘tough-stance’ position on the subject.

A certain result is that the more ‘radical’ of the demands of the movement, especially the insistence on ‘full rights’ for all immigrants, will never materialize under the current context. At this juncture, the racist dimensions of the debate are becoming an important base of support for an alienated class of elites, finding itself in an ever-deepening crisis. The once solid foundation of unity among conservatives has begun to splinter, due to worries about a crumbling economy, the debacle in Iraq, and repeated political controversies. Anti-immigration rhetoric is a desperate rallying cry that will increase with intensity as the crises continues, hoping to divert attention away from the largely bipartisan, antidemocratic polices in Washington. This is why few Democrats are capitalizing on the controversial issue propounded by Republicans, they benefit equally from all the commotion that the immigrant fear-mongering has created.

Obscured by all the rhetoric is that broad layers of society have no political outlet for their concerns. There is a seething anger in many who have been shocked by a militarized foreign and domestic policy. Both parties are unwilling to backtrack on their current course, able only to offer repeated rationalizations for a profit-gauging globalization and an illegal, preventive war doctrine. As inflation and gas-prices create havoc for millions of working families, no party is advocating nationalization or any other form of sustained relief. Neither party is advancing any policy that will have a positive effect for the majority of the population; oil companies, war-manufacturers, and business in general continue to be the sole beneficiaries under the current arrangement.

It’s time for anyone considering themselves liberal, progressive, or ‘left’ to abandon the Democratic Party for good; they cannot be reformed, fixed, or persuaded. Their continued silence amid the gross crimes of the Bush administration is equal to complicity. The ‘anybody but Bush slogan’ has been proven futile, as there is no indication that a strategy by Democrats would be any different than that of Bush’s, minus the much-touted blathering about ‘tactics’.

An independent working class political party is of the utmost necessity. Only a party uncorrupted by business can express the desires of the pro-immigrant and anti-war groups, as well as the sections of society that suffer under the continual assault on living standards by corporations. An independent party is needed to erase tax-cuts for the rich (enabling Social Security and Medicare to remain fully funded), immediately withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, nationalize the energy and health-care systems, and divert the obscene amount of money away from militarization towards social services; these policies seem radical or even insane from our ‘representatives’ point of view, but the average American would support them unreservedly.

Although the Green Party seems like the logical alternative for a political party, a closer examination will prove the contrary. The Green party’s ambiguous progressive principles become jelly-like when challenged by a crisis in the profit-system. In Germany, the Green Party has lost complete credibility; it continues to cooperate with right-wing sections of the government in attacking the living standards of the average citizen, though all hope should have been abandoned when it enthusiastically supported the imperialistic bombing of Yugoslavia. Because the Green Party accepts the profit-system as inevitable, it is subject to the unpredictable fluctuations of the market; in times of economic crises, abstract principles like ‘social justice’ become quickly molded into something exploitable by corporations. Any party that does not have a firm ideological stance in favor of the interests of workers as opposed to business will find itself subtly compromised until the differences between parties are as hard to separate as Republicans and Democrats.

A socialist approach remains the sole political perspective capable of defending the rights of workers during this especially turbulent time in world economy. Not since the 30’s have workers faced such a zealous attack on their living standards, something that has now become popular doctrine among politicians and economists alike. The motto is clear: workers must make sacrifices. Few mainstream analysts however, are suggesting that CEO’s and share-holders sacrifice any of the immense wealth they are accumulating. This is exactly the ‘radical’ demands that socialists are making. In a political climate becoming increasingly reactionary, the slogans of socialists are starting to resemble good common-sense.

Crucial to a dependable political party is its unbending subservience to the interests of the working class; thus far, no non-socialist political party will even recognize the existence of ‘class’ in American society; such an obscurantist approach is not accidental, and highlights the hidden-interests of the parties in question. Class does exist. There are rich and poor, owners and workers— there is Bill Gates and there are the homeless. Any political party that attempts to gloss over this grossest aspect of our economic system hints at having a vested interest in the current arrangement.



The act of creating an independent party is hard work, but an absolutely necessary task. If no political alternative is available for the vast energy of the current protest movement, the power of the masses will be inexorably lead into dead-ends; a worse case scenario could see the movement evolve into aimless riots that end in state repression. The movement for immigrant rights has reached an important juncture: their goal was to apply political pressure in hopes of a legislative change. This has failed. The best that can be hoped for under current circumstances is a racist ‘compromise’ bill. The mainstream political parties must be abandoned at once, and a party with socialist principles must be sought. At this stage, the Socialist Equality Party appears most capable in addressing the real issues of the workers movement on an international level. Their program can be read at www.wsws.org.



Other reputable socialist organizations are:

Freedom Socialist Party – www.socialism.com

International Socialist Organization (ISO) – www.internationalsocialist.org

International Marxist Tendency – www.marxist.com

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