Oppose Obama/Romney, Break with Democrats and RepublicansNo Choice for Workers in
Capitalist Election Shell Game
Build a Revolutionary Workers Party!
NOVEMBER 5 –The world’s attention is focused on the American presidential election pitting Republican Mitt Romney against Democratic president Barack Obama. The reason is obvious: people around the globe are well aware that a shift in policies of the United States can have a major impact on them. The U.S. population can’t escape the election hype, with the airwaves saturated with campaign ads and the ubiquitous message that “your vote counts.” But the idea that millions of poor, working-class and middle-class voters can determine the fate of the country is an illusion, a cynical hoax. In deciding who should be commander in chief and what the policies of U.S. imperialism should be, it is the capitalist ruling class that sets the terms and the political leaders do their bidding, getting the best elections their money can buy.
The most basic fact about the 2012 U.S. elections is that they are taking place in Year Five of a worldwide economic depression that is not going away any time soon. To be sure, the titans of Wall Street high finance and owners of giant corporations are raking in record profits ($1.8 trillion dollars in 2011). But for the workers who produce all the goods and services – and the wealth appropriated by the owners of capital – there has been no recovery. Real wages (adjusted for inflation) fell by 2% last year. Meanwhile, mass unemployment persists: more than 23 million people who want to work can’t find a job. The Obama campaign made much of a supposed drop of the unemployment rate in September, but the entire decrease was made up of workers who had been out of work so long that statisticians eliminated them from the workforce. The actual jobless rate, according to official stats, is over 15%, double the reported rate.
Profits up, wages down and persistent mass unemployment: that is the state of the American economy today. Yet the campaign debate consists of phony dueling over who is tougher on “terrorism,” or about the health insurance plan dubbed “Obamacare,” whose pro-business provisions both support. Then in the last week before the election, Hurricane Sandy pummeled a giant swath of the Northeast, producing over 100 deaths and leaving at its height some 20 million people without electricity. More than a million homes still lack heat and light as the temperatures drop. Such a destructive storm had long been predicted due to climate change, and measures proposed to deal with it. But the profit-hungry capitalists and their government did nothing, and now tens of thousands are homeless as a result. A socialist planned economy is needed to adequately prepare for and cope with such events.
Internationally, the imperialists go from one war to the next, at a monstrous cost in human lives. Over a decade in Afghanistan, by far the longest war in U.S. history; then invasion and eight-year occupation of Iraq; in 2011, laying waste to Libya; tomorrow it will be Syria. And after that Iran and a thermonuclear conflagration? Meanwhile, throughout the capitalist world, workers and their trade unions are under attack. In the United States, teachers and public sector workers have been targeted, not only by conservative Republicans but also by liberal Democrats. They are required to pay more for health insurance, job security is out the window, the retirement age is raised while pensions are converted into stocks and wiped out when the market crashes. With workers’ wages stagnant for the last 40 years, new hires have seen their pay cut in half and millions of young people can’t find any work at all. But none of this is an election issue.
There has been plenty of protest. In Europe there have been waves of workers mobilizations against “austerity”: millions striking and marching in the streets of France in 2010 against attacks on pensions; general strikes in Greece throughout 2011 and 2012 against huge wage cuts and layoffs dictated by the eurobankers; in Spain, Portugal and Italy, repeated mass protests against similar “labor reforms” to benefit the capitalists who set off the economic crisis. In the U.S. there was an unprecedented explosion of working-class protest in Wisconsin last year with over 100,000 unionists marching again and again against the elimination of bargaining rights and tens of thousands occupying the state capitol for weeks. West Coast longshore workers took militant action against a scab employer, and Chicago teachers struck against President Obama’s former top aide, now mayor Rahm Emanuel. Not a word about this in the election campaigns.
Unemployed youth and workers in North Africa in early 2011 sparked mass protests from Tunis to Cairo and toppled U.S.-backed regimes that had been in power for decades. This in turn inspired middle-class youth who formed the indignados (outraged) movement and occupied central squares in Spain and Portugal in May. In the fall, the Occupy Wall Street movement swept the United States, mushrooming to over 1,000 occupations. It was said that “OWS” had “changed the conversation” in the U.S., and for a few months pundits in the press and talking heads on television discussed the growing income disparity, corporate political power and bankers’ bonuses. But none of that protest, nothing of the workers’ struggles, not even the empty populist rhetoric of Occupy is reflected in the election campaigns. Forget about the “99%,” when Romney lambasted 47% of the population as moochers, Obama barely mentioned it.
The electoral battle is between two multi-millionaires who are proposing to manage the affairs of capital. Their issues are over how exactly to wage the capitalist war on the workers or which country to invade next – not something to be discussed openly before the population which has the vote and is under the illusion that it gets to decide. So instead the electoral “debate” is about personalities and trivia. Yet the labor bureaucracy ties the workers to the capitalist parties that are screwing us. The working class needs to oust the bureaucrats, break with the Democrats and build a workers party, not mainly to run in rigged bourgeois elections, but a revolutionary party to champion the cause of all the victims of capitalism and lead the class struggle forward to a fight for power. Our issues – racism, oppression of women, attacks on immigrants, poverty, economic depression, imperialist war – can only be solved by expropriating the capitalist class and launching the socialist revolution which is key to liberation for all.
Obama Governs for Wall Street and the Pentagon
The key to capitalist elections is money, always has been back to the dawn of the republic, and always will be until the arrogant bourgeois rulers are brought down. This year campaign expenditures will total over $6 billion – including a billion each for Obama and Romney, another billion by “Super-PAC” lobbies and $3 billion for Congressional and Senate races – making it the most expensive election in history. While the media concentrate on polls showing a neck-and-neck horse race, political professionals are tracking the cash-on-hand totals and multi-million-dollar TV ad buys. These require big bucks from giant corporations and wealthy donors, so that it is virtually guaranteed that the winner (and the loser) will be beholden to Wall Street. So long as capital rules, victory and its spoils will go to those who defend its interests – which in the U.S. includes both Democrats and Republicans, as well as minor “third parties” that come and go. Elections are a really good bet for the bosses: heads they win, tails we lose.
Barack Obama was elected in 2008 on a wave of enthusiasm after eight years of the widely despised George Bush II, outrage over racist treatment of the poor and black victims of Hurricane Katrina, and weariness of years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Youth and African American voters flocked to the polls on promises of “hope” and “change.” While many on the left caved in to his popularity, the Internationalist Group called for revolutionary opposition to Obama from the outset. We noted that the election of the first African American president in U.S. history “reflected a considerable social change in this country founded on chattel slavery,” but it “has not changed the system of imperialist capitalism one iota” (“Obama Presidency: U.S. Imperialism Tries a Makeover,” The Internationalist No. 28, March-April 2009). Politically, Obama did not represent the black poor but the filthy rich of Wall Street. In May 2007, long before a single person voted for him in a primary, Goldman Sachs hosted a private dinner to showcase Obama. Firm executives gave $1 million to his candidacy, more than any other donor.
Soon the hope turned to disappointment as Obama continued the policies of his predecessor. The obscene “bailout” of Wall Street continued and even escalated, pouring almost $30 trillion into the banks. In order to rescue bankrupt auto companies, auto workers’ wages, pensions and job security were slashed. The torture prison at Guantánamo remained open. While U.S. troops were eventually withdrawn from Iraq, the war in Afghanistan sharply escalated, with no end in sight. After being caught flat-footed by the 2011 uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Washington dropped its aging autocrats and allied with reactionary Islamists to topple the maverick Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. And following the elections Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton would like to do the same against the Assad regime in Syria.
In the U.S., racist repression and attacks continued unabated in the Obama administration. The vigilante murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida, coming a few months after the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia – a blatant legal lynching – touched off massive outrage. But as black Democrats sought to turn this into a campaign for gun control and support for Obama’s reelection, the protests petered out. “Stop and frisk” practices of police in New York City (where almost 700,000 are searched without cause every year), Philadelphia (over 250,000 stops a year) and elsewhere treat young black and Latino men as criminals. Yet in Philly, black Democratic mayor Michael Nutter has pushed the illegal searches, and in NYC Democratic city councilmen only call to modify the racial profiling policies, not ban them.
Despite his promises of immigration reform, Barack Obama dramatically increased the number of deportations of undocumented immigrants to a quota of 400,000 a year. Many deportees are housed in huge concentration camps, separated from their U.S.-born children, who are often stolen from them by the government. Obama made a play for the Latino vote with his program for deferred action on deportation of some undocumented immigrant youth, granting a two-year waiver allowing them to go to school and work. Almost 180,000 applied within two months after the program opened. This will certainly win Obama Latino votes, but it won’t help immigrants get legal status. It is not a path to citizenship or even residency, it only lasts two years, a Republican president could repeal it, and in most cases it gives ICE immigration cops information they didn’t have about the whereabouts and status of the youths and their parents.
Things are so bad that Republican Romney has made as one of his main campaign pitches that he can produce the “change” that Obama couldn’t. The Democrats, meanwhile, are basically trying to arm-twist voters into pulling the lever or pushing the touch screen for Obama on the grounds that a Romney win would be a lot worse. An ugly racist backlash against a black man in the White House has fueled much of the anti-Obama virulence, particularly in the South. But the hatred against is more intense than the support for him from liberal Democrats and even many blacks, given Obama’s record over the past four years. For this reason, pundits have raised that Obama could even lose the popular vote but win in the Electoral College, or that a tie vote in that anti-democratic body could throw the election to the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, or once again to the Supreme Court. The election aftermath could be even dirtier and more contested than in 2000.
Needed: a Revolutionary Workers Party to Wage Class War
Whoever wins, what will happen following the election is already in the works. Under last year’s bipartisan “deficit-reduction” deal, across-the-board cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over nine years will take effect after December 31, with social programs slashed by 8% to 9% on average. While the Democrats say they’re for ending the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthy, Obama declared during the debates that he was in favor of lowering the corporate tax rate. There will also likely be an escalation of U.S. intervention in Syria. Hillary Clinton has called a conclave this week in the Arabian/Persian Gulf oil sheikdom of Qatar to put together a “democratic” coalition of imperialist flunkeys that Washington can control. Once they have that, the Pentagon could start sending in heavy weapons. This would transform what has been a communal civil war, in which proletarian revolutionaries are for the defeat of both sides, into a direct imperialist attack, in which communists defend Assad’s Syria against the U.S., NATO and their puppets.
While there are differences between the Democratic and Republican partner parties of American capitalism, such as over the scope of government intervention in the economy, they are from a common class standpoint of the bourgeoisie against the working class. When the Obama government intervenes to “rescue” an industry it is to prop up the bosses by intensifying the exploitation of the workers. When the Democrats funnel money to education, through their “Race to the Top” program, it is on the condition of introducing union-busting “reforms” such as “merit pay,” teacher evaluations based on student test scores, gutting teachers’ job tenure, and advancing the privatization of public education through “charter schools.” If the Republicans regain the White House, they could appoint Supreme Court justices who would undo Roe v. Wade which established women’s right to abortion. Yet instead of openly defending this right, the Democratic liberals have repeatedly ceded to right-wing bigots seeking to undermine it piecemeal.
Liberals, labor bureaucrats and “mainstream” civil rights leaders are, as usual, calling to support Democrat Obama with the standard appeal that Republican Romney is worse. But no bourgeois party or politician is a “lesser evil” from the standpoint of the working class: they all are part and parcel of the capitalist war on the exploited and oppressed. In fact, precisely because of the support of the labor fakers and black misleaders, Obama has often been more effective in pushing through anti-labor policies. We must fight against the attacks on working people and on the rights of women, gays, African Americans and immigrants, as well as on semi-colonial countries. But this struggle cannot be carried out by supporting the parties and candidates representing the interests of capital. These attacks must be fought through class struggle. Barack Obama is no defender of the black poor, nor is Hillary Clinton a champion of oppressed women: they are representatives of the imperialist bourgeoisie, warmongers and mass murderers.
The experience of Wisconsin should drive home the urgent need to fight for working-class independence. During February and March 2011, union-centered mobilizations kept up for three weeks, with tens of thousands of workers marching around the Capitol in Madison and thousands occupying it. They were determined to defeat the union-busting bill of Republican governor Scott Walker to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees. There was serious discussion of a general strike by workers for the first time in the U.S. in 65 years; the local union federation voiced support, how-to guides were distributed. Yet in the end, the bureaucrats buckled and instead called to support a recall effort against Walker and Republican senators – in effect, calling to vote for Democrats. But the Democrats and bureaucrats had agreed to all the cutbacks the Republicans demanded, and in the end, after a year-long effort the recall effort failed. Obama didn’t intervene, fearful that he could be tagged a partisan of “class war.”
Lesson of Wisconsin: allying with Democrats spells defeat. Republicans accuse Democrats of waging class war whenever they even hint at policies that might cost the filthy rich a few dollars of their ill-gotten gains. In fact, as multi-billionaire Warren Buffet famously remarked, “there’s class warfare, all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Back in the 1970s, the populist writer Gore Vidal, who died last summer, wrote: “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat.” To wage and win the class war against the bipartisan capitalist assault, we must first fight for the political independence of the working class from all wings of the bourgeoisie. This is as true in the United States as in South Africa, where black workers are being murdered by the African National Congress government they saw as their own. That means, first of all, driving out the labor bureaucracy that serves as a transmission belt for the capitalist ruling class. So long as the exploited vote for the parties and politicians of the exploiters, we cannot win.
What’s required to replace the pro-capitalist bureaucrats is a leadership that fights to build a workers party, not some kind of electoral labor party but one based on a program of revolutionary class struggle. We need a party that fights for democratic rights including free abortion on demand, free high-quality socialized medicine, free public education for all at every level, and full citizenship rights for all immigrants. But that is not enough. The working class needs a party that has a real answer to mass unemployment, raising transitional demands such as a sliding scale of working hours to provide jobs for all; a party that is prepared to organize workers defense guards and labor/black mobilizations against racist attacks; a party that fights to defeat the military adventures of “its own” rulers through workers strikes against imperialist war. In short, we need a party that has the program and determination to bring down the capitalist system of racism, poverty and war, fighting for international socialist revolution.
Always pushing a
“lesser evil” on an ever more right-wing
basis, the respectable labor and civil
rights leaders, tailed by the reformist
left, have helped shift the mainstream of
U.S. politics further and further to the
right over the past decades. They are
impervious to the lessons of experience,
no matter how much the Democratic Party
attacks labor and the oppressed, because
their very job is to help the capitalist
class subjugate the working people.
Building the nucleus of a revolutionary
workers party, as the Internationalist
Group seeks to do, is the most crucial
step towards breaking this cycle where
capital always comes out on top, no matter
which of its spokesmen gets the nod this
time around. ■
 Contrary to the belief in the Occupy movement that the corrupt influence of private money on public policy began when the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) that corporations have the rights of persons when it comes to campaign donations, American politics has been beset by bribery, graft, extortion, patronage, nepotism, cronyism, kickbacks and robbery since the “Founding Fathers” wrote “We the People” at the head of the U.S. Constitution. Check out the Hayes-Tilden election and rotten Compromise of 1877, which put an end to the only democratic interlude in U.S. history (albeit a regionally limited one), the period of Radical Reconstruction following the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. When Northern plutocracy and Southern plantocracy combined, democracy and black rights were sacrificed. However, the capitalist government serves capital not just because particular politicians are bought, but because that is the function and purpose of the state power in bourgeois society.
 See “The Empty Election Promises of ‘Mr. Deportations’ Obama,” The Internationalist supplement, Summer 2012; and “Deportation Elections 2012: For a Revolutionary Workers Party!” The Internationalist supplement, May 2012.
To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org