The fallacy of the 'anybody but Bush' movement
By Fred Goldstein
All those gripped by the "anybody but Bush" fever should pause to reflect on the actual situation, stripped of fraudulent hype and false hopes.
To be sure, the Bush administration is one of the most reactionary regimes in recent years. Under the false slogan of the "war against terrorism," Bush has invaded Afghanistan and Iraq; expanded U.S. military bases in Central Asia, sent troops to the Philippines, Yemen, Africa and now Haiti; and given the Sharon government the go-ahead to step up its aggression against the Palestinian national movement. Bush pushed passage of the Patriot Act and engaged in wide-ranging repression against peoples of the Middle East and south Asia. Bush has threatened Iran, Syria, North Korea and Cuba. This is only a partial list.
But wait a minute. Who is the leading candidate to take Bush's place? John Kerry. What is Kerry's actual record? He is trying to out do Bush in his promotion of the so-called "war against terrorism"--the ideological premise for all the international aggression and repression of the Bush administration--and it has been adopted whole by Kerry.
Kerry voted for the war against Afghanistan and fully supports the present occupation of that country. Kerry voted for and fully supported the war in Iraq. His homepage declares, "Whatever we thought of the Bush administration's decisions and mistakes--especially in Iraq--we now have a solemn obligation to complete the mission, in that country and in Afghanistan. Iraq is now a major magnet and center for terror ... we must stay in Iraq until the job is finished." Thus he is for the occupation of both countries--the crimes begun by George W. Bush are fully supported by Kerry.
Kerry voted for the Patriot Act. While he might trim a provision or two here or there, he has not denounced John Ashcroft's witch-hunt or demanded the release of thousands being held in detention or facing deportation for manufactured or petty charges simply because they have been caught in the massive "homeland security" dragnet. He has not denounced the arbitrary search, seizure and prosecution of Muslim organizations on trumped-up charges across the country.
Kerry is a staunch supporter of Israel--and for the same reason that he is a supporter of the "mission" in Iraq. That "mission" is to seize the second-largest oil reserves in the world, set up strategic bases in the center of the Arab world, and guard the oil-rich Persian Gulf for the oil companies, U.S. capitalist industry and the Pentagon. On this question there is not a ray of daylight between Kerry and Bush, style and rhetoric aside.
Bush, of course, is the darling of Wall Street, the oil industry and all the corporate benefactors who have thrown money at him for his campaign--$150 million and still rising.
However, it should be remembered that the U.S. Senate has long been known as the "millionaires' club" and Kerry is among the richest members of the club. Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry have a combined fortune, according to the Center for Public Integrity, of anywhere between $200 million and $840 million, depending upon the valuation of their portfolio. And it is not all Heinz money. Kerry comes from a wealthy background.
Kerry is a trusted agent of the ruling class, having been in the Senate for 19 years. He serves on the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Intelli gence Committee and Committee on Commerce, Science and Trans portation. This latter committee regulates the auto industry and the communications industry. Kerry has been involved in the growing centralization of monopoly power in the media.
In these committees Kerry rubs shoulders day-in and day-out with many of the 50,000 corporate lobbyists who have a lock on Washington. He deals with representatives of finance and industry, with the CIA, the DIA, State Department officials and military officials, and in general has been groomed as a guardian of ruling-class interests.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, he has been the largest recipient of corporate donations in the Senate. In the last election cycle alone, he got large contributions from the health care, automobile and airlines industries, among others. His rhetoric against special corporate interests is pure demagogy.
Kerry to Wall Street:
'I'm pro business'
A Feb. 17 Wall Street Journal article entitled "Kerry Gets a Lifeline from Wall Street" described house meetings with financial big-wigs, including top executives from such firms as Blackstone Group, UBS bank, Citibank and others. Louis Susman, vice-chairperson of investment banking for Citigroup, is Kerry's national finance chair. Citigroup is one of the largest globalizing exploiters in the world and is the bank that helped finance the schemes of Enron, WorldCom and Parmalac, among others.
The article noted Kerry's problem of having to bash corporations in order to gain popular support at the same time that he seeks corporate money. "Kerry is using populist corporate-bashing rhetoric to woo the party's liberal base, even as a campaign adviser privately sends the reassuring message that the senator is really 'pro-business' and will be 'more nuanced going forward.'" Such is the cynicism of capitalist politics--and in particular Democratic Party politics, whose leadership is loyal to the imperialist ruling class but whose voting base is largely among the workers, the oppressed and progressive sections of the middle class.
What stands out clearly under a close examination of the politics, the finances and the history of Kerry is that the entire presidential election, as it is projected by the anybody-but-Bush ideology--as a race between progressivism, liberalism or whatever sanitized label is used to justify voting for Kerry and the Democratic Party--is dangerously false and misleading.
Are there differences between Bush and Kerry, between the Republican and Democratic Party leaderships? Of course there are differences. Is the Bush administration further to the right than a Kerry administration might be? Yes. But what does this mean for the workers and the oppressed and all genuine opponents of reaction?
The Kerry forces would like to point to the domestic arena to differentiate Kerry from Bush. While it is true that Kerry is not as far to the right on social issues, it must not be forgotten that he voted for the joint effort by Clinton and Newt Gingrich to destroy welfare--the so-called Welfare Reform Act, which plunged millions of women, children and single men into the deepest poverty. Nor should his support for Clinton's Effective Death Penalty Act be forgotten--which set up a vast acceleration of executions across the country. Of course, Kerry is also firmly against same-sex marriage.
Just because Bush is a reactionary, that does not make Kerry a progressive. In fact Kerry, or whoever might have been chosen by the Democratic Party as a candidate to take over the running of the capitalist state, would be a solid representative of U.S. imperialism whose goal would be to strengthen and expand its domination on the world arena.
Kerry's attitude towards the Pentagon, U.S. militarism and the domestic repressive apparatus of the state is firm and unyielding. In his major "anti-terrorism" speech in Los Angeles, reported in the Feb. 27 Washington Post, Kerry denounced Bush for "doing too little" in the "war on terrorism." He attacked the "doctrine of unilateral preemption" as having "driven away our allies and cost us the support of other nations." He said Iraq is "in disarray," with U.S. troops "bogged down in a deadly guerrilla war with no exit in sight."
Kerry is not opposed to the Iraq War. He is opposed to the fact that the Bush group underestimated the Iraqi people's capacity for resistance and hatred of colonial occupation. Kerry has no intention of putting a stop to the drive towards world domination. Kerry and his faction in the ruling class feel that U.S. domination through multilateralism is preferable because it's more effective. He and his co-thinkers feel that the Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz grouping, by breaking up the old alliances with the imperialist rivals in Germany and France--by refusing to share the loot with the other thieves and derisively calling them the "Old Europe"--and by their failures in Iraq and Afghanistan have actually demonstrated the weakness and dependence of U.S. imperialism, not its omnipotence.
The factions of the ruling class around Kerry feel that the U.S. military is overstretched; that the aggressive policies of the Bush administration have not been thought out; that the implications of trampling on alliances were disregarded, and that Washington had to humiliate itself when it sent its emissaries to try to raise funds for the occupation of Iraq and the Europeans sent them home empty-handed. They feel that vilifying the United Nations, such a historically and potentially useful tool for U.S. imperialism, was another blunder, because Bush now has to beg and cajole the UN Security Council to pull its irons out of the fire in Iraq.
Kerry to Spain: 'Don't pull out'
To show his dedication to the occupation of Iraq, Kerry criticized the newly elected Prime Minister of Spain, Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero, for declaring that he would pull Spanish troops out of Iraq. What Zapatero should have said, according to Kerry, is to declare "This increases our determination to stay until the job is done." So Kerry wants the Spanish imperialists to stay and help U.S. imperialism complete its "mission" of recolonizing the Iraqi people.
Kerry accused the Bush administration of stretching the military thin. Is his answer to pull the troops out? Not at all. He proposes adding 40,000 troops to the Army for "the remainder of the decade" so that he, Kerry, "would be prepared to use military force to protect out security, our people and our vital interests."
Kerry's criticism boils down to this: Bush's policies have weakened U.S. imperialism. And his program can be summed up in this: He will reverse Bush's mistakes and strengthen U.S. imperialism.
The ruling-class opposition to Bush has the view that alliances are essential to expanding Washington and Wall Street's global domination. Careful orchestration is necessary. The Bush experiment with openly declared "preemption" has failed. Better to follow the Clinton model in the war against Yugoslavia, or the Bush Sr. model in the first Gulf War of 1991. Round up the imperialist allies. Give them something for their efforts. Be dominant but not so openly arrogant that you engage in a policy of self-encirclement, self-isolation from your fellow bandits.
The masses of the world are too numerous and too formidable for U.S. imperialism to confront them all alone. Iraq and Afghanistan are early proof of that. Kerry proposes a renewed leadership which will return to the cunning of old.
The workers, the union movement, all the people who suffer from one or another form of oppression in U.S. capitalist society have absolutely no stake in rushing to prop up Kerry in the hope that this will somehow bring them salvation. Right now moves are afoot in the labor movement, women's movement, the lesbian, gay, bi and trans movement, and in many progressive circles to raise huge funds to pour into the Kerry campaign.
Kerry has reportedly already accumulated a $70-million fund, more than $40 million of it from the labor movement alone. The progressive, anti-Bush forces, instead of turning it over to a demagogic politician from the very establishment that is carrying out war, oppression and exploitation, could make use of even a small fraction of that money to mobilize the mass of the people into a militant fightback movement that could take to the streets, in Washington and cities across the country. That is the way to answer the Bush reaction.
This war drive has nothing to do with Bush versus Kerry. It has to do with the profit system that they both serve. The capitalist system is in a constant state of crisis worldwide. Every day the financial managers of Wall Street study the economic numbers, hoping they will bring them some news of job growth. They are confounded by their own system, which drives them more and more to exploit workers, expand production, increase productivity and lower wages to bolster profits. This contradiction drives them to every corner of the globe, and that requires war, intervention and occupation.
Only an independent, mass working-class struggle against the evils of the system and against the system itself can push back capitalist reaction and war.
Reprinted from the March 25, 2004, issue of Workers World newspaper
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