November 13, 2016
“You cannot stop the neo-fascist catastrophe with the neoliberal disaster.” – Dr. Cornel West, Bernie Sanders delegate to the Democratic national convention, Dr. Jill Stein supporter, August 2016.
This prediction by Dr. West in August — that the neo-fascist catastrophe, Donald Trump, could not be stopped by the neo-liberal disaster, Hillary Clinton, proved true.
In spite of spending five times more money, enjoying the full support of the Democratic Party apparatus, major corporate media, and several key Republican leaders, Hillary Clinton could not defeat Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is not a politician; he hasn’t been a Republican. He has contributed to both parties over the years. He has never held an elected office. At the beginning of the primary season, the Republicans had seventeen candidates. They were mostly well established Republicans such as Jeb Bush, the brother of former president George Bush, who had a $150 million war chest. The primaries saw one establishment candidate after another fall as Donald Trump won primary after primary.
He ridiculed his Republican opponents and their last presidential candidate. He was eventually disowned by all the major Republican leaders past and present.
Trump spoke against the free trade agreements which devastated many working-class families and communities. He visited cities where factories had closed. He promised to tear up the agreements and “make America great again.” He promised not to privatize Social Security.
He also made threatening racist remarks about Mexican American immigrants, sexist remarks about women, and threatening remarks against Muslims, including preventing Muslims from entering the United States.
He encouraged physical attacks on people who disagreed with him at his rallies. Right-wing racist groups in the United States like the KKK openly support him.
Donald Trump is a millionaire right-wing populist whose upset election shows the depth of the economic, social, and political crises in the United States.
During the Obama years, the standard of living of the working class has continued to fall. Wages are stagnant; job growth is anemic; the jobs created pay very low wages. Hundreds of thousands of families lost their homes to bank foreclosures. They were forced to move in with relatives, downsize or become homeless.
Recently it was announced that the only section of the population whose conditions of health had worsened substantially was that of adult white high-school educated males who had an increase in suicides and opioid drug overdoses. This is a direct outcome of the economic crisis.
In late October 2015, Independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders decided to enter the race, declared himself a Democrat and pledged to support the Democratic nominee. He began campaigning against NAFTA and free trade, against Wall Street domination of political life, for universal health care, reducing student debt and free public education through college. As he said later, he had intended to run a campaign to raise issues, never thinking he could win the nomination. That was why he entered so late. Many of his supporters were unable to vote for him in the primaries. He declared his candidacy too late for them to acquire Democratic Party ballots in their state elections.
Sanders’ campaign took off. His rallies were the largest political rallies of any candidate Republican or Democrat. He had thousands of people all across the country from October 2015 through July 2016. He won important primaries.
Bernie Sanders was a declared socialist and a left-wing populist. His candidacy changed the face of U.S. politics. He was an openly socialist candidate who was immensely popular. Many of us are convinced that if he had been the Democratic candidate he would have defeated Trump. The story of how and why Bernie Sanders was denied the candidacy has many devious and devilish details but it is essentially a political one. It was his politics that were unpalatable to the capitalist elite.
The two major political parties are moribund. The major leaders of both parties are very unpopular nationally. The only energy and enthusiasm inside these parties came from these two candidates – Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump – who came into these parties from the outside. Unlike Sanders, Trump had high negative ratings even among his supporters.
The support for Hillary Clinton in the working class was tepid at best. She presented herself as “the anti-Trump.” She presented no positive programs for jobs, healthcare, or education. She used the discomfort of the top Republican leadership for Trump to court votes from wealthy, college-educated suburban Republicans. She ignored reaching out to poor and working-class people, including African-Americans and Mexican Americans. She assumed they had no one else to vote for but her. There was no need to win their support through policies directed at reducing poverty. Nevertheless, twenty-nine percent of the Latino vote went to Trump.
Trump is a right-wing populist. His policies favor the capitalist class, erode democracy and incite the extra-legal right-wing organizations. He also makes a sharp criticism of some of the worst aspects of modern capitalism directed at winning support from white working class people. Hev mixes open racism towards immigrants of color and shows hostility to other countries.
As this is written, there have been many demonstrations across the United States every day since the election against Trump with people shouting, “not my president!”
The Green Party nominated Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka with the support of hundreds of former Sanders supporters. The GP doubled its the vote from 2012. The Greens along with many others are calling for resistance to the Trump and his policies even before he takes office. Actions are already planned including “Occupy the Inauguration” for Trump’s inauguration next January.
To stop the neo-fascist catastrophe of Trump, we need powerful social movements and candidates who want to create a Green New Deal and stop the endless wars.
June 29, 2013
June 29, 2013
D-REM at June 22
September 19, 2009
September 7, 2009
The Obama administration has governed with the support of the majority of the people and the backing of the ruling class since January. Having won a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, the Obama administration has secured a $780 billion stimulus package and more money for the trillion dollar bailout of the banks.
But things are changing. Obama’s popularity is falling. President Obama declared that he wanted Congress to pass a health-care reform before it went on summer recess. He did not come close to that goal. One committee passed a bill on the last day and the debate on healthcare unfolded this summer with raucous town-hall type meetings dominated by the right wing. Supporters are making criticisms of his policies public.
To win a serious change of the healthcare system beneficial to the majority, with costs estimated in the trillions of dollars, means a significant transfer of wealth from the rich to the middle and working classes. This will only come about with a much larger, broader and deeper movement of working people. This is the reality behind the healthcare crisis.
Proposed bill passes House committee
On July 31 the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a healthcare reform bill. The bill represents a pro-corporate attempt to respond to the enormous healthcare crisis in the United States. It is likely that even this bill will be modified in favor of the corporations before it passes.
According to a published summary, the bill would prevent health insurers from refusing to provide coverage to someone because of a “pre-existing condition.” It would also provide, within narrow guidelines, a government sponsored public health insurance available as an option to private plans.
Much of the debate in the U.S. is framed around cost. The United States spent $2.8 trillion on health care in 2008. It represents 20 percent of the gross domestic product. That is $7500 per capita, nearly twice that of the next highest country.
The United States ranks 24th in both male and female life expectancy in 2006. It ranks 20th in child well-being. Nearly 50 million Americans do not have health care of any kind, not including 12 million undocumented workers. Over 60% of bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to medical bills and 70% of the people filing for it have health insurance.
One of the points of agreement across the U.S. left is support for a single-payer health care system, if not as a final goal, as a serious step forward for working people in the United States. [Note: Single-payer means that there is a “single-payer” for all healthcare, the federal government. A popular slogan to express this demand is “Medicare for all,” after the government paid for insurance for everyone over 65 years old.]
Attacks on healthcare reform in town hall meetings held by Congress people dominated the early summer news. The right wing made up lies about healthcare, like government “death panels” that are authorized to “pull the plug on grandma.” Many angry “citizens” at these meetings were paid for by the healthcare and health insurance industry. The corporate media, biased against healthcare for all, covered these meetings extensively. In an effort to respond, Obama will address the Congress and the nation next week [September 9].
Many Americans are overwhelmed by the economic crisis and think that healthcare problems are not as important. According to a Gallup poll of July 24-25, less than 20% say the healthcare system is in crisis, a number that has not changed over 15 years. Almost 7 out of 10 Americans say economic-related issues are the nation’s top problem; only 16% say healthcare is the top problem.
In the same poll, while 44% thought that healthcare reform would benefit the nation only 26% thought their own healthcare would benefit; 34% thought their own healthcare would worsen; another sign of the failure of the Obama administration to offer a vision of healthcare reform in the majority’s interest.
The economy remains by far the most important thing on people’s minds. Most people are satisfied with their healthcare, no matter how bad it is. They prefer to keep the health care that they know, however poor it is, for some other, unknown system.
There are conflicts within the ruling classes over the profits being made by the healthcare and health insurance industries. Health care costs continue to rise at three times the rate of inflation. Costs are paid for by other capitalists because 60% of all people have health insurance through their employer. That means that employers, other capitalists, are the biggest purchasers of health insurance. Nationally, family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance increased 119 percent between 1999 and 2008. Health care reform is partly a question of a conflict among capitalists over profits and their distribution.
Obama has negotiated some price controls with the drug industry that guarantee profits at a little lower level. A similar deal was struck with one of the most notorious organizations for opposing national healthcare, the powerful association of U.S. doctors, the American Medical Association.
If Obama really wants to fight for health care, he would fight for single-payer health care. Without controlling costs through governmental control, “reforming” healthcare is another way for to pilfer public funds through insurance companies and healthcare monopolies.
The new reality of the capitalist crisis – huge and permanent job losses and wage reductions, loss of a large share of the collective private pension savings of a generation, loss of trillions of dollars of home value – is beginning to sink in with U.S. workers and middle class people. State and local governments are reeling from the drop in property tax revenues and are cutting services and laying off workers, and forcing state workers to take days off without pay. Economists predict a turnaround in employment for next year, but even if that proves true there is no immediate relief. There is deep anxiety and fear, a new, more serious focus on the future of the country and a rising political awareness, first expressed in the election of Obama.
It is also true that the bailout of the bankers and the enormous stimulus package appear to have slowed the slide into depression. The situation appears more stable; people are beginning to demand more justice and equality in the bailouts and the sacrifices.
The problems of the war in Afghanistan — disputed elections, mounting combat deaths and costs – have caused support for the war to fall 10% in 3 months.
Most of the Obama administration’s problems, including the economic crisis, were inherited from the Bush regime. But the Obama team has had nearly 10 months to develop a different policy. On so many key issues, from Afghanistan to Guantanamo, it has supported the Bush administration’s policies.
After its efforts to reach agreement with Republicans on healthcare bore no fruit, its commitment to change is being challenged. Obama supporters Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman and African-American liberal journalist Bob Herbert, question his strategy for winning healthcare. Supporters more connected to the workers’ and radical movements, like Bill Fletcher and Ron Daniels, are publicly questioning his tactics. They raise important questions about his ability to stand up to the capitalists on any issue after his extensive compromises with the healthcare and drug industries, especially ruling out a government paid for health insurance for all from the beginning. The comparisons of Obama to former presidents Kennedy and Roosevelt are being replaced with comparisons to Johnson and Hoover.
There are other reasons for opposition that go beyond professional hecklers. The economic crisis has shaken the very foundations of the country. President Obama was supported by the majority, in part, as a savior. Like the proverbial knight on a white horse, he could charge in and save the country all by himself. Many working people thought voting for him was a sufficient political act to change U.S. politics. But it is not. There is a struggle between the working classes and the rich. Obama is first and foremost a politician of the rich, although under very exceptional circumstances.
Working class people in the U.S. need to act and think independently of the rich and their political parties. They need to make their needs and voices heard and demand jobs, food and shelter. Aging infrastructure, including the abandoned factories, should be redesigned and rebuilt. U.S. workers need universal healthcare and an end to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
The rightwing have used the failure of the administration to meet the needs of workers to attempt to mobilize the frightened people of the lower middle classes and the wealthier sections of workers, those whose monetary losses have been the greatest, against lower paid workers and poor people. They are also using racist fear of Obama.
There is growing discontent among the radical wing of Obama supporters which adds to the criticisms that have come consistently from the socialist organizations since the beginning. It is a challenge to build bridges between the traditional organizations and the new movements but one good effort so far is the support for a single payer system, universal healthcare, over the past few weeks. Another may be some anti-war actions scheduled for the fall.
For the 50 or so million people who are uninsured to become insured, for the other 100 million people to have good health insurance that they can afford, means millions of workers in the U.S. in political motion. It hasn’t happened yet, but the temperature is rising.
Published in Spanish in Sin Muro (http://www.netpor.org/esp/).
January 21, 2009
It gives every forward-thinking person in the United States some pleasure at the inauguration today of Barack Hussein Obama, Aretha Franklin of my own Detroit sang in the best part of the program, the part before Obama. The mall was full of millions of people, many really hoping that a new day had dawned and that the future would be better for all people in the U.S.
In a way, it has, although not because of Barack Obama or the Barack Obama campaign. History always manifests itself through people, but the force that impelled Barack Obama into office is not one of his making only. The force is reawakened U.S. workers, although the reawakening in its very early hours. A reawakening which will lead ultimately to their historic role — to make a socialist revolution in the United States.
Obama also had support in the election from large sections of the middle classes, deeply frightened by the failure of what appeared to them to be an almighty ruling class that, whatever it other faults, could be counted on to make money.
Of course, a critical section of the bourgeoisie supports Obama. Otherwise he would not be president. Only a battle engaged between the lower classes and the ruling class can produce a president in the White House that is truly on the side of the people.
But the way in which the force expresses itself is shaped by people too. Barack Obama has much going for him. He is a self-confident, professional African-American politician. He has committed no terrible political crimes in his lifetime, which every US president has done for generations. Even though he is a powerful politician, he has never tasted the true meaning of holding an important political position working for the most powerful and most dangerous ruling class in the world, the American bourgeoisie. He words and his face tell that story as well.
In that sense, he is much more like everyone else in American society in his age group. I think a lot of people have a lot of hope that Obama can really change things. But, his program and his administration are filled with the ideas and the people from the Clinton administration, serving the same ruling class. It is the class that is bankrupt on ideas on resolving the crises because their existence is its root cause. It will not be possible to make any serious progress in the US on the basis of his program. In fact his administration may play a role similar to that of the Clinton’s in forcing through key reductions in social services like the elimination of welfare or NAFTA, both ruling class victories of the Clinton administration.
In his speech he made the following references:
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.
His cabinet, his advisers and his program are all from the “worn-out dogmas” and “stale political arguments” of the past.
The larger drama is the unfolding conflict between the working classes in and the ruling classes. I say classes because I think there are so many gradations in a society so far advanced along the road of capitalism the class structure within the two most populous classes — the working class and the middle class — is filled with many gradations and a social pecking order that is remiscent of feudal times.
I hope that Obama, under the pressure of millions and the precipitous fall in their standard of living, does many things for the people — everything from extending unemployment benefits, increasing federal aid program for the poor and closing Guantanamo all the way to universal healthcare, a huge public works program and bringing all US troops home from Iraq, Afghanistan and ending all aid to Israel.
I just don’t think any of it will happen without a conflict with the Obama administration. In that sense, he is, writ very large, another African-American Democratic Party politician.
When he gave his inaugural he spoke of “our collective failure to make hard choices,” and “putting off unpleasant decisions” and a “new era of responsibility — a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.”
I am concerned that the message of sacrifice is directed to the people who have sacrificed enough and who are already “giving their all to a difficult task” raising their families, taking care of themselves and their loved ones, trying to stay alive in the streets of Detroit.
Here are the lines from his speech on sacrifice (bolding is mine):
Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.
What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
December 21, 2008
Workers and citizens punished for executives’ and bankers’ decisions
I oppose the $17.4 billion bailout for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.
The agreement by the Bush administration to use a small part of the $700 billion already promised to Wall Street bankers is no victory for working people, including union members, in Michigan. Not a single job was saved, not a single community was protected.
The loans support the failed policies of the current corporate leaderships. Not only have they systematically pressured the union to dismantle the higher living standards won by a whole generation of working class people, but they have undermined the construction of mass transportation, fought laws to reduce pollution, and refused to build ecologically friendly automobiles.
GM, Chrysler and Ford are not democratic institutions. Product choices and policy were and are made by the board of directors and the top executives. Why are the workers and communities punished for decisions which weren’t theirs?
The good that comes from the UAW membership – some measure of racial equality in the factories, production workers with political strength and clout, a high standard of living for production workers who provided the foundations for all workers, including salaried professionals, to have higher wages throughout the North – is gravely threatened.
The bailout now puts the full weight of the central government behind the wealthy owners and bankers, who, as exhibited by the bloodthirsty howls of the southern senators, want to reverse the gains of the UAW, to turn back into profits a large part of the workers’ wages and benefits and, in that process, tear apart families, crush hopes, terrorize communities.
GM, Chrysler and Ford facilities should be nationalized with their assets controlled locally and democratically by workers and communities. Workers and affected communities need decisive control over what happens to jobs, to work at the factories, and the factory equipment.
Michigan needs a real safety net for its residents. Michigan has been in this recession longer than most states. We need to guarantee all residents a livable income. We need a moratorium on all foreclosures and utility cutoffs; unemployment benefits paid as long as there is a recession. Food stamps and food kitchens must be opened and supported in all needy neighborhoods.
We need quality education available without charge for all residents from kindergarten through college. We need to develop training programs for all types of skilled, environmentally friendly green jobs and work.
We need a public works program to offer employment to everyone who wants to work at a livable wage, full health care benefits. This is an opportunity to create green spaces, urban farms, large living cooperatives in our cities. It is an opportunity to support and strengthen rural life through locally supported and approved projects.
We need to develop a green economy — local agriculture, local manufacturing, local work and life environments, extensive recycling and reuse facilities, new sources of energy — wind, thermal, wave.
None of this will happen without positive action from the majority of people. We have entered a new period. The election of Obama, the victory of the Republic Window workers, the powerful rebellion by Greek youth, all show the new period we are in.
Working class people need to fight against this bailout and for real alternatives to unemployment, poverty and slashed living conditions.
They need to support each other in all these struggles. People need to think and act independently of the auto executives, the bankers and their spokespersons, the Democratic and Republican Parties. They need to learn about socialism — the democratic ownership and control of all the resources of society, the end of private property in the social sphere.
The auto bailout, like the larger bailout scam it is part of, offers no real hope for millions of citizens. Like so many things from our government under Republican and Democratic Party leadership, it is an illusion of help, hiding continued steps down the wrong road.
A brighter future is up to us.
December 6, 2008
By Fred Vitale, a correspondent of La Aurora in the U.S.
June 11, 2008
Barack Obama is the candidate of the Democratic Party. As an African-American, has achieved an historic milestone. Even if he does not win the election, his nomination represents another step towards political equality for African-Americans. His selection as a candidate reveals much about the current political situation in the United States.
The poor and working classes may be able to push back against the capitalists – in the next period — for the first time in decades.
Another speculative bubble bursts
Economic relations are the environment of political developments. The economic crisis is deep, broad and profound.
The Federal Reserve, the quasi-public central bank of the U.S., rescued the 85-year old investment bank Bear Stearns, the 5th largest on Wall Street, arranging an unprecedented “takeover” by JP Morgan. It also established an emergency loan program to lend money to investment banks, as well as commercial banks, a first since the Great Depression. The program allows banks to use credit swaps and other recently invented securities, some based in real estate, as collateral for the loans. The securities have little or no value on the open market. In effect, hundreds of billions of dollars of worthless investments have been resuscitated by the taxpayers of the U.S.
For the moment, it appears the bailout plan is working. Whatever happens in the immediate future, the long-term prognosis for the U.S. economy is towards deeper crises.
There have been three speculative bubbles — the failure of thousands of savings and loans associations in the late 1980s, Enron and the high-tech stock bubble of 2000, the latest one in residential real estate. Each has been caused by unregulated financial speculation, which has redistributed the national income in favor of a tiny minority and hurt millions of working families.
The fall in housing values has not stopped; it has been deeply unsettling to Americans. Houses are the single greatest asset for the overwhelming majority of people. Housing values, from World War II to 2006 increased, more or less, across the country and usually greater than inflation. Houses represent $12.4 trillion in value (2005 figures).
Social Security, the government-guaranteed pension, is completely inadequate to support retirees. Selling one’s home and moving into a cheaper place, or paying the mortgage off so that one could live cheaply, were both used to provide comfort to retirees. Today, 1/3 of the homes do not have a mortgage. Using the value of their home as collateral, better off workers and middle class people borrowed money to pay for their children’s education, to pay medical bills, and finally to provide living expenses when they lost their jobs or suffered layoffs, reduced wages, etc. Some cities have already seen drops of 20% in housing value in the last year. The essential, personal safety net which a home represented is gone or greatly weakened.
Many people are losing their place to live. Houses were purchased with the same sub-prime mortgages by landlords to make money through renting. These are being foreclosed; millions of renters who have paid their rent are losing places to stay, as banks take over the properties and evict them. Homelessness is increasing.
The U.S. has lost over 3 million manufacturing jobs since 1995, most occurring between 2000 and 2003. 13.1% of men aged 25-54 are without work. This is higher than any previous recession since World War II, except that of 1981-82, when it climbed to nearly 15%.
The collapse in the value of real estate and, therefore, of some of the assets that give the U.S. dollar its value, has contributed to the soaring cost of fuel. Regular gasoline has gone from $1.51/gallon in September, 2001 to over $4.00/gallon today. Food costs are rising. Much fresh food in the U.S. is trucked over long distances.
Uncertainty about the future permeates the thinking of the middle and working classes. This uncertainty merges with steady and consistent opposition to the war in Iraq, as well anger and anxiety over increasing medical costs, increasing education costs, and now steeply rising fuel prices.
The Democratic Party’s nomination of Barack Obama is a very significant event.
The U.S. ruling classes have a very strong racist character that goes back to the founding of the country. The original peoples were almost completely slaughtered to make way for European immigrants. Slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person for purposes of representation by white bourgeois politicians in the founding constitution. Jim Crow, a deeply racially segregated society throughout the South, was supported by all parties and the ruling classes for almost 100 years after the Civil War. The nomination of Barack Obama is a product of the struggles of African-Americans and their supporters for 400 years, especially from the 1930s through today, a struggle for an equal place in the society.
In spite of the deeply ingrained racism, initially a few members of the ruling class supported Obama, a relative newcomer, first elected to federal office in 2004. As he gained support, including thousands of small contributions from ordinary people, he began to get support and develop the ties with the rest of the capitalist interests and the Democratic Party political machine dominated by the Clintons. Though he continues to get support from ordinary people, he is firmly rooted in the imperialist camp.
The living conditions for African-Americans have been deteriorating for 40 years. The Kerner Commission first issued a report in 1968 with the famous warning, “Our nation is moving towards two societies — one white, one black — separate and unequal.” It reconvened this year and found that little had changed in the disparities between the living conditions of Black and white people over the past 40 years.
There has been an increase in police killings of African-Americans. The poverty rates among African-Americans are double and triple that of other sections of the population. Only 12.5% of the population, African-Americans make up nearly 50% of the people in prison.
In this context, the nomination of a Black man by the Democratic Party fuels enormous hope in the African-American population. But it also fuels hope in broad sections of the working and middle classes. Most Americans know that if a Black man is president, he will be more sensitive to basic problems of Black people which are now spreading to the rest of the population: insecurity about your life in all its aspects, poverty, the loss of good paying job or your home, suffering among extended family members, the need for more government help, the deterioration of communities and their tax bases.
The Obama campaign, and to some extent the Clinton campaign, tapped into the fears and insecurities of Americans. They both offered vague promises of change. The rallies for Clinton and Obama, especially Obama, have been huge by any recent standard. Tens of thousands of people came, some paying $10 to attend. These numbers rival those of sporting events. And in the longest political campaign in history, Americans continue to attend rallies and vote in numbers which, although they are low by other countries’ standards, break from the past trends of decreasing political involvement. The corporate media have purposely fueled this interest, with relatively favorable coverage of the candidates, their campaigns, but with virtually no serious investigation on program, where the money comes from, etc. But still, there is no question that millions of Americans became more politically interested in this campaign than in decades.
Hillary Clinton was the all but inevitable nominee of the Democrats before the primaries began. But the continued war in Iraq and, above all, the growing economic crisis, impelled people toward the more radical, less tarnished candidate, Barack Obama.
Support for Obama by tens of millions who identify as white is significant. At the same time, outside of young people and African-Americans, his support is likely fragile.
Obama’s program is no different, even in much of its details, from Clinton’s. His chief advisers are key people from the Bill Clinton presidency. Both Obama and Clinton, along with the Republican nominee John McCain, support the “war on terror” and much of what Bush did with it. All three candidates are solid supporters of Israel. In a troubling but all too inevitable sign, the first place that Obama spoke after winning the nomination was the Israeli lobbyist group, AIPAC [American Israeli Public Affairs Committee), declaring he spoke as a “true friend of Israel.”
Both Obama and McCain support revisions to health care policy which leave intact control by, and big profits for, the insurance industry. They all rely on capitalists and “market forces” to provide high paying jobs and to resolve important social issues of food, water and affordable housing.
In the early election primaries, which are organized on the state not the federal level, there was a more programmatically left-wing candidate, Democrat Dennis Kucinich, from the U.S. House of Representatives. He really does oppose the war and support single, payer health insurance. On the Republican side there was Ron Paul, a former House member, who previously ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket (the largest third party in the U.S.). He ran a surprisingly successful campaign that was very sharply anti-war (although he supports many right-wing anti-social policies). He regularly polled 5% or more, raised millions of dollars and drew support from overwhelmingly white, discontented working and middle class people who oppose the war, oppose the attacks on civil liberties, but also fear immigrants, the poor, and “terrorists,” etc.
Much of the increased political attention should have gone, and should go, to left-wing organizations, parties, and independent candidates. It has been our anti-war, anti-corporate program which people support in public opinion polls. But because the corporate media refuses to give any coverage to our organizations, parties and candidates, the only choices available to the broad masses of people have been Obama, Clinton, and McCain. Even when a few people learn about progressive alternatives, the American political system of winner-take-all often drives people to vote for the “lesser of two evils.” Small parties have a great deal of difficulty winning any political seats of importance. The Libertarian and the Green Party do not have any members in Congress, in state legislatures and hold very few local offices.
Antiwar actions have been blacked out by the corporate media for years. Local protests of all types are ignored. The May 1 anti-war action by dockworkers which shutdown all the West Coast docks, including 5 of the busiest ports in the US, was not mentioned at all in major newspapers or any national TV news.
In the absence of our campaigns, people invest the Democratic and Republican campaigns, especially Obama’s, with their own content. People say he is anti-war and will bring the troops home. People say he wants to substantially change the healthcare system in the people’s favor. And so on. Studying his website and reading his detailed position papers carefully show that Obama will not end the war or change health care to really help people. By using some of the slogans of progressives and lots of inspirational talk, Obama contributes to this purposeful deception.
The unions have sat out much of the primaries. Support was split between Obama and Clinton. Now they will all back Obama. More importantly though, the recent strike by 3,500 workers at American Axle, the longest strike among auto workers since the 1970 strike at GM, resulted in a very bad contract. The strike was initiated when the union leadership’s offer to cut wages by 1/3 and allow two plant to close were not accepted. The final approved contract has workers’ pay cut in 1/2; medical insurance payments increased; three plants closed. The workers, members of the strongest manufacturing union, the UAW, were unable to stop this unprecedented attack on high seniority, unionized workers.
Without a significant change in union leadership and direction, strikes which are led controlled by the top union leadership, will not be effective. This contract means that unionized workers will look even more for political solutions to their problems, placing hope in Obama and the Democrats.
What to do
There is no substitute, in the long run, for a robust, independent working class movement of strikes, demonstrations, direct actions. But, given the inability of the antiwar movement to mobilize significant sectors for public demonstrations, and given the inability of the unions to stave off attacks, an anti-corporate electoral campaign may help create more political space, attract new forces and lay the basis for a more successful offensive against the capitalists in the future.
An anti-corporate program today means: end the war in Iraq, bring the troops home now, spend the money here; universal, government paid (single payer) healthcare; a living wage of at least $15/hr; repeal of NAFTA and other “free” trade agreements; an immediate moratorium on home foreclosures and utility shutoffs.
The Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader campaigns have very similar anti-corporate programs. A measure of success for an anti-corporate program will be the efforts of both these campaigns in raising money, forcing media coverage, recruiting new people, and finally votes.
Just as there is no real solution inside the capitalist system to stop the cycle of speculation in finance capital, there is no real solution to the political crisis inside the framework of elections and inside the Democratic Party. Independent candidates with independent programs linked to struggles in the streets of workers, poor people and immigrants have arrived and there will be more.
Cynthia McKinney, a six-term African-American Congressperson, is the likely nominee of the Green Party. To unseat her in an overwhelmingly Democratic district in 2006, the Democrats and Republicans worked together in the primary elections to deprive her of the nomination. She was solidly against the war and raised profound questions about support to Israel. She has a strong anti-corporate program in this election (see www.runcynthiarun.org). Also, her campaign offers possibilities of linking communities and constituencies who support an anti-corporate program and who stand to gain the most by inroads into the corporate power – African-Americans and poor people. She appeared at an Al-Nakba commemoration rally; she demonstrated with striking dock workers on May 1. Ralph Nader (www.votenader.org) puts forward a strong anti-corporate message and specifically attacks the programs of Obama and McCain. He now polls 6%.
In an election campaign that has already been unprecedented in length and in results, and in a year which has already seen unprecedented economic problems and responses by the bourgeoisie, almost anything is possible. But the goals of both these progressive campaigns – getting on the ballot in all 50 states and getting 5% of the popular vote – are realizable, if unlikely. In any case, a broader fight for a real anti-corporate alternative may turn out to be the best surprise event of this election campaign.
The era of the dollar empire has ended. We are seeing a new period of instability, with wild and uncontrolled convulsions in economic and political life. New movements are emerging. Revolutionary socialists, who have remained true to the cause, will find new hope and draw energy from the furor.
Fred Vitale is also the state chairman of the Green Party of Michigan and the Michigan coordinator of the Cynthia McKinney Campaign for President.