Election roundup - Democratic party expands the game beyond white men, but remains imperialist in the end
At the mid-point in the presidential primary race, with just over half of the delegates awarded, the Republicans have a clear nominee in John McCain, while the democrats are evenly split over Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The battle for leadership of the most powerful imperialist country in the world is a three person race, and the election campaign in 2008 is a series of firsts in Amerikan politics. This is the first election where a woman has a serious chance of winning the nomination of a major party for president. It is also the first election where a Black man has this same chance. In addition, it is a rare race in that no incumbent president or vice president is on the ticket. Meanwhile, support for President Bush is at record lows, so low in fact that Republican candidates are barely mentioning his name in their campaign, much less being seen with him.
While this election provides for many interesting twists and turns in imperialist politics, it is still an imperialist election. There is no chance that an anti-imperialist will win the presidency, and so MIM(Prisons) still stands firm in the MIM political line "Don't Vote, Organize":
MIM's elections slogan can best be summed up as "Don't Vote, Organize." Oppressed people everywhere and the revolutionaries who work in their interest are not distracted by the billion-dollar smoke-and-mirrors campaigns of imperialism.
The majority of white Amerikans support or participate in the electoral system. The system overall represents their interests, though it favors the rich among them. Still, their choices are limited and they are constantly grumbling and protesting by not voting.
If some candidate throws Amerikans a bone—a tough crime bill with lots of new prisons, some protectionism against foreigners, a war or two—then they may get temporarily excited and go pull some levers. But their elections are not what changes the direction of the country. They rubberstamp the decisions made by international patriarchal capital, and they get paid to do it.
Revolutionaries act on the belief that people are bigger than individual votes, and that improvements within the Amerikan system are made at the cost of increased exploitation of the oppressed. Every day wasted on these elections means millions more death sentences for the oppressed. (reprinted from www.etext.org/Politics/MIM/elections)
Clearly this 2008 election represents an expansion of a historically white male political field to include both wimmin and Blacks. MIM(Prisons) has heard an alarming number of people who consider themselves anti-imperialists pulling for Barak Obama as Democratic nominee for President of the United States. Particularly, oppressed nation youth are getting excited about the first Black president. At the same time, many people consider it a "feminist" position to support Hillary Clinton for president because she would be the first biological womyn candidate. For this reason, we are going to address the specifics of the positions of these two candidates in this article.
Before jumping in to the details MIM(Prisons) reminds our readers of Condoleezza Rice. As U.$. Secretary of State under George Bush (and formerly National Security Advisor), Rice is arguably the most powerful womyn and Black person in Amerika. Clearly neither her identity as a female or as a Black persyn has led her to initiate any progressive (much less anti-imperialist) policies. Identity politics lead to the reactionaries winning as they put the right face on the wrong political line. This lesson is also clear for us to learn from half a century of history in the neo-colonial Third World, where both native and female faces have continued to carry out the economic policies of the imperialists.
White wimmin actually enjoy gender privilege relative to Third World men and wimmin (see MIM Theory 2/3), and so the introduction of a white biological female into the Amerikan presidential race was just a matter of time. The addition of a Black man (and a man of direct Kenyan descent at that) as a serious candidate is more of a surprise in a country where national oppression is quite alive and well, and where imperialist power rests on the oppression of Third World peoples. Even worse than the many imperialist puppets of oppressed nationalities in Third World countries, Obama is as Amerikkkan as Abu Ghraib. He is vying to become leader of the oppressors, not just a middle man strong-arming the oppressed. It is not nation that is decisive in the case of these individuals, because they have committed national suicide to partake in the exploitation of their nation of origin.
If Obama wins it could signify a shift in Amerikan politics where internal oppressed nations gain more oppressor nation benefits. These nations already enjoy enough of the economic benefits of imperialism to put all Amerikan citizens among the ranks of the labor aristocracy, benefiting materially from and having a direct financial interest in perpetuating imperialism. But the disparities between oppressed nations and the white nation demonstrate that national oppression is still alive and well within Amerika's borders. It is important to recognize that this situation could change and some or all of Amerika's internal colonies could join the ranks of the oppressor nation without fundamentally altering the nature of Amerikan imperialism globally. However, at this point there is no indication that national oppression in Amerika is going away, and Obama's weak rhetoric aside, it is unlikely the presidency of a Black man will alter this situation.
Regardless of the relative representation of wimmin and Blacks in the administration, if either a womyn or a Black man wins the Amerikan presidency, it will not lead to any significant shift in Amerikan imperialist politics. The leader of imperialist Amerika is still just that, the leader of imperialist Amerika. Neither candidate has come out against imperialism, and no candidate who takes that stand can win in an imperialist election.
For Hillary Clinton we have to start with the question of gender because many men and wimmin in Amerika are citing Clinton's gender as a reason to vote for her, claiming that this is a feminist stand. It is interesting that the first serious (aka imperialist) female presidential candidate is the wife of a former president. The strength of political power within families in Amerika looks an awful lot like oligarchies in other countries, but yet Amerika calls it democracy. The Bush legacy of father and sons is certainly not the story of some genetically superior line of men who make great political leaders - they have money and power and connections that got them all into political office. The same is true for Bill and Hillary Clinton and all of the previous family legacies of political power in Amerika. Having someone in the family in office helps the next person get into a position of power. And Bill Clinton's name and legacy has helped further Hillary's career.
Already, many people who are of voting age have only seen 2 families in the White House in their lifetime. With Hillary Clinton as president, this will be true for a significant block of young people. That Amerikans are willing to overlook this is a testimony to the complacency of the labor aristocracy who really don't care about democracy as long as they have candidates representing their economic interests.
It is not hard to demonstrate Clinton's imperialist credentials. Anyone voting for Clinton because she is a womyn, is really just playing imperialist identity politics without regard for actual political positions. Or more likely, is fine with Clinton's political positions as they represent imperialist Amerika - a country that most Amerikan citizens are decidedly in favor of perpetuating. Rather than restate the facts, here we print from the MIM website, an excerpt from an article from September 2007 (Why George Bush prefers Hillary Clinton, http://www.etext.org/Politics/MIM/elections/elections091207.html):
First it was the conservative intellectual publication "National Review" that said it wanted Hillary Clinton as the most conservative of the Democrats. Then Cheney made an overture to Clinton by saying he wanted to leave the office in the condition he found it. Next Karl Rove helped Hillary Clinton consolidate a lead in the polls by attacking her alone.
These events are all linked together. It has nothing to do with who the Republicans feel they can beat or which Democrat they want if the situation for Republicans is hopeless in 2008.
Backing Hillary Clinton shores up the Bush regime, plain and simple. The reason for this is that Hillary Clinton shares Bush's positions, especially on those questions most often raised for potential impeachment proceedings.
• On the Iraq War, Clinton voted for it. Obama, Kucinich, Gravel and others would not share that with Bush.
• On the weapons of mass destruction justification for the Iraq War, it was Rumsfeld who sold biological weapons to Saddam Hussein under President Reagan, but it was Bill Clinton who turned the question into a lying basis for armed strikes on Iraq and subversion of the weapons inspection process. Only Clinton and Bill Richardson would have to defend the stands of the Clinton administration.
• On the attorney firings question, Hillary Clinton has already stated publicly that she agrees with Bush on the right of the president to fire the attorneys, and she did not specify how many times.
Further on the question of freedoms in Amerika we have this from MIM (September 2, 2007:
Hillary Clinton is for the evisceration of the Bill of Rights. She separates questions of credit and medical information from other information concerning "terrorists," which she is so sure are "terrorists" that they have no fourth amendment rights:
"So much of what we know about terrorists, and the successes we have had in preventing and thwarting attacks and tracking would-be perpetrators, has been through information technology. We track terrorists across continents through their cell phones. We monitor terrorists and their supporters through Internet chat rooms. We had phone intercepts that should have given us advance notice of 9-11 if we had been paying attention.
"Now although our Founders couldn't imagine data mining or terror cells, they did anticipate differences of opinion between the executive and legislative branches, and even within them."
It's completely idiotic, because of course the British considered the American Revolutionaries terrorists. So she soft-pedals the question of security versus liberty the way the founders did not. She follows up this bit of her speech with how executive power needs a bipartisan basis. It's not what Washington or Lincoln said: those were oppressor Americans. Hillary Clinton is an Amerikan, because for her even what the founders said was too much.
In many ways Barak Obama presents a much more interesting candidate for president than Hillary Clinton. Clinton may be biologically a female, but the gender privilege she enjoys makes this irrelevant, and her existence as part of a family of presidential power, and as a part of the white nation, as well as the entirety of her political history, make her a clearly mainstream candidate for president. Obama, on the other hand, is the son of a Kenyan man and a white Amerikan womyn. He grew up on the fringes of the Black power movement (according to his own account in his book Dreams of my Father), and spent years organizing among the projects in Chicago. Obama is not a typical Amerikan presidential candidate.
Obama is the candidate that many people considering themselves progressive and even anti-imperialist are supporting. He can say that he has stood against the Iraq war from the start, unlike other candidates. On issues like prisons Obama has some progressive sounding positions. For instance, on his web site we find: "Obama believes the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated." Despite the ridiculous claim by some that Bill Clinton was the "first Black president," he brought us the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, huge increases in police and a continuation of the prison boom throughout the nineties. If the united $tates still imprisons more Black men than apartheid South Africa at the end of an Obama presidency, the smashed hopes of oppressed youth politicized by the idea of a Black president should strengthen the anti-imperialist camp.
Barak Obama is fundamentally an Amerikan imperialist candidate. He may be willing to shift around the spoils of imperialism a bit if he becomes president, but he will not tolerate a threat to Amerika as the premier power of the world. Obama's web site features a quote on his views about the Amerikan economy: “I believe that America's free market has been the engine of America's great progress. It's created a prosperity that is the envy of the world. It's led to a standard of living unmatched in history. And it has provided great rewards to the innovators and risk-takers who have made America a beacon for science, and technology, and discovery…We are all in this together. From CEOs to shareholders, from financiers to factory workers, we all have a stake in each other's success because the more Americans prosper, the more America prospers.” So Obama recognizes the common economic interests of Amerikan citizens, and clearly takes up the imperialist position of defending these interests.
Just because he wants to pull troops out of Iraq doesn't mean Obama is anti-militarist. Obama is clear that he will use the Amerikan military to defend the Amerikan economy. Again from his web site: "The excellence of our military is unmatched. But as a result of a misguided war in Iraq, our forces are under pressure as never before. Obama will make the investments we need so that the finest military in the world is best-prepared to meet 21st-century threats." And he wants to expand the imperialist military: "We have learned from Iraq that our military needs more men and women in uniform to reduce the strain on our active force. Obama will increase the size of ground forces, adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines."
While warning against expansion of the occupation of Iraq to an invasion of Iran, Obama has called for u$ troop redeployment to Afghanistan and into Pakistan. Meanwhile, one of Obama's high-profile foreign policy advisors is Zbigniew Brzezinski, who's book detailing plans for continued amerikan hegemony foreshadows the current occupation of Afghanistan to secure access to the Caspian Sea. Brzezinski was a strong backer of the Shah in Iran, and later supported military occupation of the country to maintain stability after the Shah's fall. The amerikan imperialists will disagree on where to invade and who to befriend, but they never disagree on whether to be imperialists or to promote amerikan domination over the rest of the world.
Obama also stands firm on supporting Amerika's imperialist allies such as Israel (from Obama's web site): "Barack Obama has consistently supported foreign assistance to Israel. He defends and supports the annual foreign aid package that involves both military and economic assistance to Israel and has advocated increased foreign aid budgets to ensure that these funding priorities are met. He has called for continuing U.S. cooperation with Israel in the development of missile defense systems."
And finally Obama will defend Amerika's borders to keep the spoils of imperialism for the Amerikan citizens first and foremost (from Obama's web site): "Obama wants to preserve the integrity of our borders. He supports additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry." As long as Amerika exploits the people of the Third World and brings those profits home to benefit Amerikan citizens, Amerika will need to protect its borders to keep the exploited masses from seeking out a better life and better financial opportunities. Obama will keep those people away from the benefits of profits taken from their labor and the resources in their countries. This is part of Obama's defense of Amerikan workers. The labor aristocracy might get a pay raise from Obama, but that's nothing more than a different way of splitting up the imperialist pie.
Lenin on Elections (from State and Revolution):
"To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people in parliament — such is the real essence of bourgeois parlimentarism, not only in parliamentary-constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics." (chapter 3, sec 3)
"People think they have taken quite an extraordinarily bold step forward when they have rid themselves of belief in hereditary monarchy and swear by the democratic republic. In reality, however, the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another, and indeed in the democratic republic no less than in the monarchy." (chapter 4, sec 5)
Don't vote, Organize!
Reprinted from [url=http://www.etext.org/Politics/MIM/elections
We say to everyone who agrees with us that there is something very wrong with this system: don't vote, organize!
All our lives Amerika teaches us that we live in a democracy. Part of this so-called democracy includes everyone having the right to vote so that we can decide who will have the power to make decisions about local, state, Federal, and international issues. We have been taught that this is the greatest and most democratic country on earth.
Some of us learn that this democracy does not work for kids growing up in the projects where basic education is not a right that everyone has. And in neighborhoods where people are shot at by the cops for being Black or Latino, democracy starts looking like it is only for some people. We also need only look at the criminal injustice system and see the disproportionate conviction of Blacks and Latinos to know that this so-called democracy is not for everyone.
When we look around the world at all the countries that Amerika invades, or countries in which Amerika installs puppet dictators, murdering or overthrowing popularly elected leaders, this democracy doesn't work. And when we look at countries where Amerikan corporations use the cheap labor of the starving people and steal the natural resources because puppet dictators have enacted laws saying this is OK, we know that's not democracy for the oppressed.
People in these countries did not vote for Amerikan imperialism to invade their country. They did not vote for Amerikan imperialism to install a puppet dictator. They did not vote to allow the CIA in to kill off the revolutionaries and keep the dictators in line. And they certainly did not vote to starve to death, to die from preventable diseases, to die in labor because the medical facilities are only open to people who can pay, or to die fighting a war against the imperialists over whether wealthy Amerikans get to exploit their country or whether they themselves can take control. When we see all of this we know that democracy is only for the few.
We live under an imperialist government. This government receives donations from multinational corporations as well as political lobbying groups that have lots of money. The corporations, the CIA, and the military industrial complex are all very powerful parts of the government that don't answer to anyone and they force the "elected" officials to answer to them. As long as these institutions of imperialism exist, an individual elected to president, senator, representative or governor is not going to make a difference.
In fact, as long as we live under this imperialist system the only people who can even run for office are the people who already have the support of these wealthy, powerful organizations. It takes a lot of money to run an electoral campaign. So even if you had wonderful ideas and a brilliant plan that you thought all of the people of this country would support, it would not matter because you couldn't get elected unless you were independently wealthy (like Ross Perot), and if you were independently wealthy it came at the expense of the international proletariat and you probably have no interest in the oppressed (like Ross Perot).
PROGRESSIVE PEOPLE VOTING?
Many progressives organize around elections because they believe that this is the way to make change. These people genuinely want change, both inside and outside of this country. But they are convinced that there is no alternative for action and they believe that democracy works.
Living in this country it is tempting to believe in voting. It is easy to ignore the plight of the rest of the world and just focus on problems at "home." And if you really think narrowly and you are a part of the very large white middle class, you might vote for the president/senator/representative who does not want to cut Medicare so that when you retire you will be better off than if the other guy wins.
The fact is that there are differences between candidates, but these differences are very minor and generally come down to tactical tweaks in domestic policy issues that benefit one section of the middle class or the other. For all the people who believed that Clinton would be better for gays, this should be obvious. For all the people who thought that Clinton would be better for the poor, the imprisoned, the victims of police brutality, a quick look at the increase in numbers of cops and prisons under Clinton should also make it clear that the Democrats are not really different from the Republicans.
WHAT ABOUT LOCAL ELECTIONS?
A lot of people who agree with us that voting for a president, representative or senator does not mean anything, still organize around state level elections. They believe that by working on a more local scale, they will be able to exert slow steady pressure for change. A recent conversation with a woman who is very active in local electoral work makes this clear. She kept pointing out the great work done by a woman in the state senate. When it was pointed out that this state Senator has never taken a stand on imperialism and the gross things that Amerika does around the world the woman responded that "of course she hasn't because that would cause her to lose her legitimacy". But we don't even have to look so far away at international policy, we can see that these same officials don't take progressive stands on prisons and instead vote to build more prisons and put more cops on the streets to put more Blacks and Latinos in prison.
It is possible that in elections to city hall, some small battles can be won locally that won't mislead people into believing that electoralism works within the non-democracy of Amerika. For instance, if there were several candidates running for city hall who supported putting up public bulletin boards all over town and making public space available for revolutionaries to hold educational events, it might be worth supporting them. But we should never confuse these potentially winnable battles with support for candidates who operate at the state or continental level and who support imperialism both in words and in practice.
WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?
Many people believe that the advances made in the past century for women, national minorities, and others in our society were the result of the electoral power of these groups. But in fact, most of the progressive reforms won in this country in the past century were the result of organizing and agitation outside of the electoral arena. Just think back to the Black civil rights movement and remember the role the Black Panther Party played, outside of the ballot box, in forcing the government to make concessions out of fear of this armed revolutionary organization.
Unfortunately there is no tidy little alternative to the bourgeoisie's vote. The vote is so appealing because it only takes a few minutes in a ballot box once a year (or once every 4 years). But real change does not come easy. MIM and RAIL are working to educate people about the effects of imperialism and to organize people for the only way in which progressive change is possible: revolutionary struggle. This means that we fight winnable battles against things like prison repression, police brutality and other reactionary policies. But at the same time we organize for a larger movement against imperialism.
Even before winning the revolution there is a lot that this movement can achieve. MIM(Prisons) is struggling against censorship across the country on a daily basis. Every battle we win is getting educational materials to those who need them most to build a strong revolutionary movement. Even as the battles continue to pile up, our work on this front creates the breathing room for us to build as a movement on other fronts. This is just one example of the ongoing struggles we can take up and win right now that are vital for actually creating the possibilities for real change in the future.
Don't vote for the imperialists! Organize against the imperialists!