November 2008   

No to Capitalist “Third Parties” – For a Revolutionary Workers Party

Socialists in Bourgeois Electionland

Marxists have long exposed the charade of bourgeois elections. “To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament – this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism, not only in parliamentary-constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics,” wrote Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin in his 1917 work The State and Revolution, laying out the theoretical framework for the Russian October Revolution only a few months later. The division of powers between parliamentary talk-shops and all-powerful executives only creates the illusion of “democracy,” or government by the people (demos in Greek), while in fact it is capital that rules. Communists seek instead to build a state like the 1870-71 Paris Commune, which was, as Karl Marx described it, “a working, not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time,” whose members were recallable at any time. This was the model for the soviets (councils), on which the Russian Revolution was based until political power was usurped by a conservative bureaucracy with Stalin at the helm.

Under normal conditions there is enormous cynicism in the U.S. population about elections, so that in recent years barely half the potential voters bother to vote (55 percent in 2004, 50 percent in 2000). Since the winners usually have around half the vote in the divided electorate, this means that barely over one-quarter of the adult population can elect a president. This gives considerable clout to well-organized minorities, like right-wing evangelical Christians who organize political machines out of their churches. But this is only if the real rulers, the owners of capital, permit it. They may negate the popular vote, as in 2000, when the Republican party nullified hundreds of thousands of votes, then got the conservative U.S. Supreme Court to “elect” George W. Bush president by a vote of 5 to 4. Otherwise, the outcome is heavily influenced if not determined by the power of money (see our article, “The Buying of the Presidency 2008: U.S. Imperialism Seeks New Face on System of War and Racism,” The Internationalist No. 27, May-June 2008). In the current election, Barack Obama raised over $660 million dollars, more than all the candidates combined in the 2004 elections.

This year in contrast to most, enormous expectations have been aroused by the candidacy of Barack Obama, who is leading in the opinion polls and is the first African American to be the candidate of one of the two major capitalist parties, Democrats or Republicans. Many youths, blacks, opponents of the Iraq war, unionists and millions fed up with the deeply unpopular Bush regime have deposited in Obama their hopes for “change,” however they define it. Many will see in the election of Obama a breaking of a color bar that has excluded blacks from the highest elected office. As we have repeatedly stated, these hopes are in fact illusory, for Obama is very much a bourgeois politician, who will wage imperialist war and rescue Wall Street banks while governing against the interests of poor and working people. But such massive illusions place tremendous pressure on socialists to capitulate to the popular bourgeois candidate. Reflecting these pressures, in 2008 most of the left is trying in different ways to navigate in the slipstream of the Obama campaign, at a time when it is more vital than ever for revolutionaries to swim against the stream and oppose all the capitalist candidates and parties.

Anti-Communist Immigrant Basher Nader and His Socialist Hangers-On

“Obamamania” has not blinded everyone to the reality of the Democratic Party, however. In New York City, many unions are urging their members to vote for Obama on the line of the “Working Families Party,” which is not a workers party at all but simply a vehicle to vote Democratic while holding your nose. On the other hand, some liberals and reformists have been attracted to “third party” or “independent” bourgeois candidates. First up is the perennial populist Ralph Nader, who is running for president once again, this time without party backing (the Greens dumped him in 2004 after being embarrassed over siphoning votes away from Al Gore in 2000, leading many Democrats to blame them for the election of Bush).

This millionaire lawyer is no socialist for sure, as he would be the first to insist. Nader has taken advantage of the popular outrage at the bailout of the biggest Wall Street firms to promote a program for tinkering with the stock market. He is not against the bank bailout, but only wants to attach a few conditions. His miracle cure is a small tax on stock transactions, the so-called “Tobin tax,” named after the Yale University economist who devised it. This would dampen speculation and finance a variety of public works projects and social programs, according to Nader. Nader staged an October 15 rally in New York City against the payout to Wall Street on under the slogan “Socialism Saves Capitalism” – as if the rescue of the biggest capitalist banks and investment firms had anything to do with an economy planned to meet the needs of working people.

Public Enemy No. 1 in Nader’s populist-nationalist demonology is the “communist dictatorship” in China. Nader fulminates at the danger of imported Chinese apple juice: “Apple juice from China is pouring into the United States. Is there anything left that cannot be imported into what was once the greatest food exporter the world has ever seen?” (Counterpunch, 10 July 2007). China has long been a bugbear for Nader. Recently he has been accusing China of committing “genocide” in Tibet, a favorite cause of Democrats like House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi. Nader hails Tibetan “spiritual leader” Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama, for his “noble attempt to resist the attempt to wipe out Tibetan culture.” The would-be “God King” Gyatso is a CIA “asset” whose feudalist lieutenants staged a failed revolt in 1959 with the aid and instigation of the American spy agency. Earlier this year, Tibetan nationalists tried to take advantage of the Beijing Olympic to stage another revolt, but it too failed ignominiously.

What’s going on here is that U.S. imperialism is trying to use the banner of “free Tibet” in order to build international repudiation of the Chinese deformed workers state, a propaganda campaign using Hollywood movie stars and liberal Democrats to prepare “public opinion” for war. The Beijing regime has certainly engaged in Han Chinese chauvinist policies toward Tibetans, as it has to other national minorities. But it isn’t even remotely like genocide, or even the massive slaughter the U.S. carried out in Korea (2 million killed), Vietnam (3 million dead) and now Iraq (600,000+ killed and counting). After it defeated the 1959 revolt and Gyatso fled to Indian exile, the Chinese Stalinists revised their policy of coexistence with the Tibetan monarchy, and abolished the feudal peonage of the Tibetan peasants. Today, unlike under the rule of the Lamas, Tibetans have schools, health care facilities and are no longer born to be slaves of the idle monk class. Victory for the “Free Tibet” crusaders would be as apocalyptic as the victory of the U.S. sponsored “holy warriors” was in Afghanistan in 1989, and would set the stage for counterrevolution throughout China.

Nader is also notorious for teaming up with Hitler apologist Patrick Buchanan to bash “illegal immigrants.” Nader’s campaign platform (www.votenader.org/issues/immigration/) blames “illegal” immigration for “driving down wages” and the “expansion of poverty.” Nader calls for more “enforcement” which he claims is “nearly non-existent.” In 2004, he railed against “amnesty,” writing: “We have to control our immigration and our borders. We have to limit the number of people who come into this country illegally” (see our article, “Capitalist Nader’s “Socialist” Foot Soldiers,” Revolution No. 2, October 2004). Although Nader claims to be for enforcement against corporations as opposed to individual immigrants, such law-and-order measures always lead to mass firings, Gestapo-style immigration police raids and deportations. As opposed to Nader’s xenophobic fear mongering, revolutionaries demand full citizenship rights for all immigrants.

Socialists should protest against this enemy of the international working class, yet Nader has the support of Socialist Alternative (SAlt), U.S. supporters of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI), who call Nader’s anti-China, immigrant-bashing campaign an “insurgent campaign for President as an independent to challenge the corporate stranglehold over U.S. society” (“Break with the Two Parties of War and Big Business: Vote Nader!” Justice September-October 2008). Still, it must be conceded that Nader is a natural choice for the CWI, which supports cop “unions” and hailed the CIA-inspired anti-Chinese riots in Tibet last March, grotesquely comparing the monastery-organized mobs that burned ethnic Han Chinese homes and shops to the Palestinian intifada (“Tibet Erupts!” 28 March). When supposed leftists and union bureaucrats clamor for Congress to impose sanctions on Chinese imports and protections for “American” jobs, they are pledging their loyalty to the imperialist drive to throw China back to its pre-1949 status as an impoverished semicolony.

McKinney and Her Socialist Backers Pressure Obama

The Green Party presidential campaign of Cynthia McKinney, a former Democratic Congresswoman from Georgia, is also attracting support on the left, and among left liberals. McKinney has the endorsement of the Workers World Party (WWP); of the San Francisco-based Socialist Organizer (S.O.) group, supporters of the international current of the late Pierre Lambert; and of the Workers International League (WIL), supporters of the International Marxist Tendency led by Allan Woods, who seeks to be a tutor on (pseudo-)Trotskyism for bourgeois nationalist colonel Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

McKinney calls for freedom for death row radical political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and denounces the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2001, however, this latter-day “peace candidate” did her duty as a Democratic Representative of the war-making capitalist class and voted for the Congressional authorization of the war on Afghanistan. Today, McKinney calls for an “orderly withdrawal” from Iraq, calling in a June 11 press release for a federal “Department of Peace” charged with “overseeing the orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from the more than 100 countries around the world where they are stationed” and for “slashing [i.e., not eliminating] the budget for the Pentagon.” In contrast, the Internationalist Group calls for “Not One Person, Not One Cent for the Imperialist War Machine!” (Internationalist No. 26, July 2007) and in an article for the 2008 May Day West Coast longshore workers strike against the war, we wrote:

“In order to defeat the imperialist war abroad and the bosses’ war ‘at home,’ class-conscious workers must oppose all the capitalist parties and politicians, and build a class-struggle workers party. Revolutionaries fight to drive the U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan – which will be anything but orderly, as the U.S.’ exit from Vietnam showed – by workers action. We would like to see the “diplomats” (spies) and “contractors” (mercenaries) clambering onto the roof of the U.S. embassy desperately trying to helicopter out of the “Green Zone” in Baghdad. A defeat there would put a damper on U.S. imperial adventures around the world, and would aid the struggle of working people, immigrants and oppressed minorities in the United States itself.”

“All Out on May Day,” The Internationalist special issue, 27 April 2008

When McKinney switched to the Greens, she remarked: “I had a place to go when the Democratic Party left me.” As we commented in the above article: “Exactly. The red, white and blue Greens are nothing but a home for homeless Democrats.” Now the time may not be right yet for her to go home again, but she is using her campaign to pressure Obama. In her June 11 press McKinney effusively congratulated Obama clinching the Democratic Party nomination for commander-in-chief of U.S. imperialism, while drawing his attention to her issues:

“Coming from Barack Obama, the word ‘change’ did not appear as just another empty campaign slogan. It galvanized millions of people.... Sen. Obama called for healing the wounds inflicted on working people and the poor in our country after eight years of a corrupt and criminal Bush-Cheney Administration.... Across a broad swath of the people of this country, and from those who are impacted by U.S. foreign policy, there is a real expectation, a real desire, for change.... While congratulating Sen. Obama for a feat well done, I would also like to bring home the very real need for change and a few of the issues that must be addressed for the change needed in this country to be real....”

WWP, ISO: Holding Obama “Accountable”

Thus the McKinney campaign is a perfect vehicle for the pseudo-socialist opportunists who are seeking to ride the coattails of a popular bourgeois war candidate, Obama, while maintaining a fig-leaf of formal “independence.” Her liberal politics are in line with Workers World’s history of opportunist support for bourgeois candidates whose brief affairs with “independence” lead their unfortunate supporters straight back into the death trap of the Democratic Party. WWP campaigned for Democrat Jesse Jackson and supported McKinney when she ran as a Democrat for Congress. Today Workers World (6 November 2008) counsels Obama supporters, “As president, Obama will not be able to effect change without the cooperation of the people and without demands on him for accountability.” So there is WWP’s real politics – “cooperation” plus “accountability” – which add up to a backhanded virtual endorsement of Obama.

Perhaps the most blatant in playing this cynical game is the International Socialist Organization (ISO). These past masters in opportunism have a front-page cover on the current issue of their magazine International Socialist Review (September-October 2008) with a big, flattering photo of Barack Obama and the headline, “Politics of change or Politics as usual.” The uninitiated reader would get the impression that the ISO is supporting Obama, which is what exactly they are supposed to think. Turning to the inside, the first paragraphs of the article by Lance Selfa keep up the impression, talking about the hundreds of thousands who came out in Berlin to hear the senator, quoting people saying “Our president is Barack Obama,” talking about his “historic” candidacy. Only when you get well into the article do the critical remarks appear. It’s a con game, sucker bait to lure in Obama supporters rather than confronting their illusions up front. And then at the end of the article it appeals to the authority of Martin Luther King to push the “accountability” line. It quotes Obama responding to a question from CNN about King:

“Well, I don’t think Dr. King would endorse any of us. I think what he would call upon the American people to do is to hold us accountable….. I believe change does not happen from the top down. It happens from the bottom up. Dr. King understood that…. Arguing, mobilizing, agitating and ultimately forcing elected officials to be accountable – I think that’s the key.”

The article concludes: “For candidate Obama, these may have been just good debating points. But for the rest of us, acting on the spirit of these words will be crucial in the next period….” So there you have it, despite its talk of “socialism” and whatever its pretensions of “independence,” the ISO takes its marching orders from Obama.

The WWP and ISO posture of “holding Obama accountable” is simple bourgeois pressure politics. Indeed, it is the same as the policy of a bevy of bourgeois “progressives” and social democrats who signed an “Open Letter to Barack Obama” that appeared in The Nation (18 August). The signers include such liberal luminaries, writers and academics as Phil Donahue, Barbara Ehrenreich, Eric Foner, Tom Hayden, Walter Mosley, Frances Piven, Gore Vidal, Howard Zinn and Nation editor/publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel. Taking up Obama’s campaign slogan, “Change We Can Believe In,” the signers wax enthusiastic about the enthusiasm his candidacy has awakened, call on him to “listen to the voices of the people who can lift you to the presidency and beyond,” and list a series of issues on which they beseech him not to “retreat.” These include “withdrawal from Iraq on a fixed timetable” (not “immediate”? what a surprise!), “a response to the current economic crisis that reduces the gap between the rich and the rest of us” (i.e., not the gap between rich and poor, a nice touch, since a number of the signers are pretty well-off), an end to torture and abuse of civil liberties, an immigration system with a “path to citizenship” (i.e., not full citizenship rights now), and so on. The “progressives” then offer:

“If you win in November, we will work to support your stands when we agree with you and to challenge them when we don't. We look forward to an ongoing and constructive dialogue with you when you are elected President.”

The fondest hope of the WWP and ISO is to be part of that “constructive dialogue.”

PSL: Working Class Mobilization, or a Click of the Computer Mouse

The task of Marxists in bourgeois elections is to combat the illusions that working people hold in capitalist “democracy.” When working people still believe the lie that their votes count for anything but an endorsement of the capitalist rulers, a revolutionary party might run candidates to expose the bankruptcy of the capitalist system and its “democratic” façade. Revolutionaries can also offer critical support to candidates representing centrist or reformist working-class parties or organizations, if such candidacies run independently of all capitalist parties and represent a sharp break with the bourgeoisie on fundamental issues. Critical support does not imply approval of their politics, and the Marxists would point to the contradiction with their overall opportunist politics. As Marxists we always draw a class line, to mobilize the exploited and oppressed against the exploiters and oppressors.  In the 2008 elections, however, we find no candidates warranting such support. Just voting for any ostensibly socialist candidate with a run-of-the mill reformist platform does nothing to advance the class struggle.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), a split from WWP, is running Gloria La Riva for president and Eugene Puryear for vice president. The PSL controls the ANSWER anti-war group, which organizes popular-front “peace” marches tying leftists to bourgeois politicians like Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich under the slogan “Fund People’s Needs, Not Militarism & Bank Bailouts!” There is no qualitative difference between the PSL’s endless variations on the “jobs not war, bring the troops home now” theme and the utopian prescriptions of the Green Party or Ralph Nader platforms: this is a bourgeois and not a socialist program. In a rehash of classic social-democratic minimum and maximum programs, PSL spokesmen talk “socialism” in a general sense (when they are not wearing their ANSWER hats and posing as simple “peace and justice” folks), but their program on the issues consists of calls for shaking up the budget, “prosecuting” bankers for malfeasance, providing health care through “publicly owned entities,” “elimination of the racist criminal ‘justice’ system,” etc.

One has to ask, who exactly is supposed to carry out such demands? Trotskyists propose a transitional program of class mobilization: workers strikes against the war, labor-centered defense against police brutality and immigration raids, workers’ control of industries in response to threats of layoffs and capitalist economic sabotage. What is the PSL’s response to the economic crisis? Look behind the sloganeering about “socialism” in the abstract, what the PSL actually proposes (at votenobailout.org) to workers is that they send an email to Congress asking the representatives of the bankers to do right by the working people. Before that they had votenowar.org, votetoimpeach.org and similar gimmicks. They all worked equally well, in fostering democratic illusions. (For more on this question see, “Exchange on Transitional Demands” [26 September])

While the PSL doesn’t come as close as their former comrades in WWP to outright endorsing Obama, the La Riva/Puryear campaign manifesto states “For many Black people especially, the prospect of simply having a Black president – regardless of his politics – is enough to arouse excitement. This is perfectly justifiable. The fact that there have been so few Black elected officials in this country is a testament to the country’s deeply-rooted racism. Our campaign has absolutely no quarrel with those who have devoted their time to righting this historic wrong.” Yet the election of Barack Obama will not right the historic and present-day wrongs that make the United States home to some of the most ugly and violent racism on Earth. Like black Democratic mayors before him, an Obama presidency will preside over a system of racist mass imprisonment, legal lynching and imperialist war, which he has fulsomely supported throughout his political career. This is what revolutionary socialists would say to those who believe that “simply having a Black president – regardless of his politics” will bring longed-for “change.”

A “Socialist” Who Called for Racist Police Repression

Among the campaigns of various minor parties claiming to be socialist, the one that is on the most state ballots is the Socialist Party U.S.A. (SPUSA), which is running Brian Moore and Stewart Alexander for president and vice-president. In his campaign biography, Moore cites his role as an “advocate for small businesses and community’s civil rights in wake of riots; Wash. DC, 1991-92” (www.votebrianmoore.com/background.htm). It turns out that this “socialist” presidential candidate was the spokesperson for a businessmen’s “law and order” vigilante group!

In May 1991, the heavily Latin American-immigrant neighborhood of Mount Pleasant in Washington, D.C. was shaken by crowds protesting a wanton police shooting of a Hispanic man celebrating the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo. Thousands of youth held off the police for hours, torching more than a dozen police cars, in the course of which some local shops were damaged. The blame for these desperate outbursts of rage rests squarely on the racist capitalist police force that even some in the bourgeois media recognized as the cause of the youths’ anger.

At the time we Trotskyists called for all charges to be dropped against the arrested protesters. The response of “Socialist” Brian Moore, who had run for D.C. mayor, was quite different: he was the spokesman for a merchant’s association clamoring for more arrests! According to the Washington Post (12 July 1991):

“A group of merchants, dissatisfied by official efforts to arrest looters and vandals from the Mount Pleasant disturbances, has begun soliciting videotapes and photographs of the violence in order to pick out suspects and turn their names over to police....

“Aided in part by advertisements with the headline, ‘Wanted: Photos/Videos of Riots,’ which were placed in two neighborhood newspapers, the merchants have obtained several dozen photos and four videotapes of the unrest, said Brian Moore, the campaign’s coordinator and an independent candidate for D.C. mayor last year.

“Moore and others supporting the merchants’ ‘Accountability Project’ said that identifying and prosecuting those who burned buses and cars, broke windows and stole merchandise could help the District avoid a repetition of the disturbances in Mount Pleasant, Adams-Morgan and Columbia Heights on May 5 and 6.

“‘You can’t solve social injustices with other social injustices, and too many times people in the community are allowed to get away with murder,’ said Moore, who neither lives nor works in the Mount Pleasant area but said he got involved because his Southwest neighborhood – or any other – might be next.

“He said many merchants believe the police have failed to pursue aggressively those involved in the May disturbances, much as they complained bitterly then that some officers had stood by and watched looting and vandalism occur. About 230 people were arrested during the disturbances, many of them for violating curfews imposed by Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon.

“‘There were a large number of participants,’ Moore said, but the community has no indication from the police that many of those involved have been arrested.”

As a candidate for DC city council, Moore called for a 9 p.m. curfew for youth and for warrants to be issued against violators’ parents!

We have to assume that the SPUSA is aware of these facts. That the Socialist Party USA would list this crime against the people, without comment, as a qualification for their candidate means that these “socialists” take the side of the enemies of the workers and oppressed, and their candidate should be roundly denounced.

SWP and SEP: An Odd Reformist Sect and Some “Socialist” Scabs

Among the other groups running candidates, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is presenting Róger Calero and Alyson Kennedy for president and vice president this year, along with several local candidates. The SWP, which almost half a century ago (up to the early 1960s) was the revolutionary voice of Trotskyism in the United States, has degenerated over the decades into a weird, reformist sect that insists that Russia and the eastern part of Germany are still “workers states” and seeks to be the representatives of the Stalinist Cuban bureaucracy in the United States (on which count it has a good deal of competition). When the SWP had a significant following in the 1960s and ’70s, it was as the right-wing of the Vietnam anti-war movement that in order to court Democratic “doves” and labor bureaucrats for its “single-issue” (“Out Now”) popular front excluded thousands of youth who solidarized with the NLF from its “peace parades” (in addition to sometimes violently expelling communists from its confabs). When the U.S. did pull the troops out, the movement built by the SWP, which had sought nothing else, soon collapsed, U.S. imperialism rearmed and the SWP fell apart, expelling thousands of members in a series of bureaucratic purges and ossifying as an irrelevant sect.

Today, in response to the economic crisis, “Calero and Kennedy demand that the federal government launch a public works program to build schools, hospitals, and affordable housing and to rebuild deteriorating infrastructure” (The Militant, 10 November). Responding to the Great Depression, Leon Trotsky called for “a broad and bold organization of public works” in the Transitional Program. But in the very next sentence he emphasizes that such a program can only have “a progressive significance for society” as part of a national plan under workers control: “The working out of even the most elementary economic plan – from the point of view of the exploited, not the exploiters – is impossible without workers’ control...” Without this crucial element the SWP platform is nothing more than liberal wish lists dressed up as “socialism.”

Last and very much least among the “socialist” contenders for the presidency is the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), which emerges from its cyberspace haunt at the World Socialist Web Site every election year to run candidates. A fair number of leftists follow news on the WSWS site without knowing much about the politics of the SEP led by David North. This is not surprising since in large part the articles rewrite the bourgeois press with only the most rudimentary “class-angling.” This year the SEP is not on any ballot but is calling for a write-in vote. In its election statement it presents social-democratic nostrums such as calling for “the transformation of the giant banks and corporations into democratically controlled utilities,” “vastly expanded resources for social programs, jobs, health care, housing and education,” “repeal of all anti-democratic legislation,” and the like, always clad in bourgeois-democratic garb, plus a ritual reference that capitalism “must be overthrown.”

But the SEP is not its ostensible reformist “socialist” program. More significantly, North & Co. use the sellouts of the labor bureaucracy to write off the unions entirely as supposedly no longer workers organizations in any sense. When workers are given the chance to vote for union representation, the SEP campaigns for an anti-union vote, thereby joining with the bosses (see our article, SEP/WSWS: Scab ‘Socialists’” [22 December 2007]). And that is no accident, for David North is the same person as David Green, who is the CEO of a non-union (i.e., scab) print shop, Grand River Printing & Imaging, near Detroit which according to its website rakes in $25 million a year. These scab socialists, whose long and sordid political history includes supporting a New York City police “strike” in 1971 and supplying photographs of Iraqi communists to the murderous, U.S.-supported regime of Saddam Hussein a few years later, shouldn’t get a single worker’s vote.

“The Emancipation of the Working Class Must Be the Act of the Workers Themselves”

Under capitalism, elections are a mechanism of bourgeois class dictatorship. Every step of the process, from the grooming of the politician caste, to the primaries, to the general election is rigged to give absolute advantage to the owners of capital. The bourgeois media machine generates “public opinion.” Even when it gets past the elaborate requirements to register a candidate, requiring thousands of signatures, no workers party, much less a revolutionary party, could possibly come up with the oodles of dollars needed to buy television time. When the year-long electoral circus reaches its grand finale with November’s ritual act of “democracy,” the voters (those not entirely disenfranchised by the racist “justice” system and immigration laws) are left to choose among representatives of the ruling capitalist class. And the real decisions are seldom decided by elections, or even Congressional votes.

A perfect example was the recent bailout. Both Obama and McCain endorsed the rescue of the banks, which has already cost hundreds of billions of dollars more than the entire cost of the Iraq war: no choice there. When Congress responded to the popular uproar against the bailout and voted it down, the bankers (through President Bush and the Democratic Congressional leadership) simply told the Congressmen to go back and vote again, this time the “right” way. Then when it was all over, it turned out that the Wall Street banker who runs the Treasury Department had decided to use the hundreds of billions of dollars in an entirely different manner, and on no account to aid struggling homeowners facing eviction. This is how bourgeois “democracy” works. The capitalist state rests not on popular sovereignty but on police departments, prison cells and military power. It is the institution through which the capitalists exercise their class rule over the workers and oppressed.

Today as several “third party” and “socialist” candidates seek the votes of those rightly disgusted with the twin parties of imperialist war and racist, anti-labor attacks, none of these campaigns represents a significant section of the working class moving toward class independence. The alternative candidates offer, at best, a utopian wish list for the capitalist government, not a program to fight for a workers government. The task of the workers revolutionary vanguard is not to organize the biggest “protest vote” for a bourgeois or reformist petty-bourgeois candidate. We seek to intervene in the elections spectacle to bring revolutionary communist consciousness to the working class. For as Marx and Engels insisted, “the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the workers themselves.”

A Note on Cindy Sheehan

Antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan is running for Congress against Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco, and her campaign has attracted some national attention as well as support from various leftist groups, including Socialist Alternative (SAlt), Socialist Organizer (S.O.) and the Workers International League (WIL). Sheehan is a courageous and sympathetic figure whose son was a soldier killed in Iraq. Her politics are actually to the left of some of her “socialist” supporters: she has a more humanitarian position on immigrants rights than the sinister ravings of SAlt’s standard-bearer, Ralph Nader, for instance.

Despite what the assorted social democrats would like to see in her, Sheehan is simply a petty-bourgeois candidate with a program to reform capitalism. She calls for “slashing” (not eliminating) the Pentagon budget, and for various forms of governmental regulation of the economy. But imperialist wars are not created or ended by Congressional budget votes. Sheehan on the other hand pledges allegiance to the imperialist military in her statement against the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” anti-gay discrimination: “Our brave brothers and sisters who are risking their lives to protect our country should not have to hide who they are,” says her campaign website. Soldiers, whether gay, lesbian or straight, are risking their lives (not to mention participating in criminal mass murder) to protect U.S. imperialism. The international working class, which has no country, must smash imperialism through socialist revolution.

Also, Marxists oppose capitalist state regulation of the press. In the “Labor for Cindy” platform (published on cindyforcongress.org), Sheehan calls for state censorship of the media: “I will require that all license holders of commercial television and radio stations carry and promote local programming, with stiff penalties, including loss of licenses, if they violate these rules.” (What’s so great about local programming anyway? Have the weather report and the crime blotter become tribunes of the people?) Such pseudo-democratic “community content” regulation, if enacted, would establish a precedent of government control of media content that would sooner or later be used against the left.

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com