TO PROGRESSIVES AND THE BROAD LEFT: SOME THOUGHTS ON WHAT CAN BE DONE FOR
RESISTANCE AND CHANGE HERE IN BABYLON.
October 2003 Dave Silver
In his brilliant piece “What’s Left” Stephen Gowans asks the all important
question; will the defeat of Bush, as Chomsky, Cagan and others believe put
an end to “the inseparable connection between the deepening economic and
social crisis at home and the drive to dominate the world through military
force.” Why is Chomsky and company wrong? The drive to extend U.S.
hegemony over the world did not start with GW Bush. It has been part and
parcel of U.S. foreign policy for about a century, albeit taking somewhat
different forms; coups, puppet governments, destabilization, mercenaries and
aircraft carriers off shore.
What evidence is there that a different (Democratic) occupant of the White
House would behave in a way strategically different from Bush and not merely
tactically? What makes one think that a different occupant would pursue
different goals as opposed to pursuing the same goals differently or in the
same manner as Bush? As Gowans points out Chomsky’s “small differences” may
yield larger results but only in the way the policy is sold, not the policy
The question of achieving significant reforms is and should be an important
political concern in the broad struggles for justice and peace.
Notwithstanding Lenin’s correct observation to reformers that the state “is
connected in a thousand ways to the capitalist class,” reforms of a
substantial nature were achieved by socialist Parties in Scandanavia and
western Europe in the decades immediately following World War2. Of course
at the time Communists enjoyed considerable prestige (who, in many cases led
the Resistance against German fascism) and the Soviet Union offered a
counter model. However we should emphasize that socialist Parties that
offered reforms within the capitalist system were welcomed by conservative
forces as an alternative to communists that advocated radical change.
This is the liberal view that under girds the Chomsky analysis. Such a view
is on vivid display by the would be reformer President Lula da Silva of
Brazil. Lula has become a darling of foreign investors, the IMF and
Monsanto Chemical. His Workers Party has in short order slashed public
service spending, increased interest rates, reduced retirement benefits and
is allowing farmers to grow genetically modified soybeans. Thus reformist
Parties in western capitalist societies by and large have abandoned their
reformist inclinations accepting global capitalism and its demands as a
reality to be submitted to. The choice is clear; either you accept
capitalism and do the best you can with all its failures for people or
replace it with something rational, planned and subservient to human needs.
As Gowans points out there’s no middle way where you can have all the good
things of capitalism and avoid all of the many bad things.
Chomsky et al think that beating Bush is the same as beating the drive to
dominate the world and its flip side of oppression and exploitation at home.
Tony Blair who is to the Left of Bush and most of the Democratic candidates
for President ran interference for the US imperialists. We also have to
demythologize the Clinton record as someone who respects international law
and never by passed the U.N. There is Clinton and his conquest of the
Balkans and the quest for a client state which dismembered Yugoslavia,
including the crimes against humanity authorized by his Commander Wesley
Clark and the genocide committed by invading troops in Kosovo which led
portions of the Left to demonize Milosevic. His crime? Saying NO to the
imperialists to station troops on his soil and use it for a pipeline to the
riches of the Caspian. Those of us that agree with Gowans that personnel
changes in the capitalist state can lead to no fundamental change in
direction, are accused of being a “recipe for quiescence”
that will insure four more years of Bush. But so will voting for Clark or
whoever else bears the Democratic standard for 2004. (one might reasonably
argue that a possible exception is Kucinich who is not even on the radar
screen.) It’s not that different personnel can’t make a difference;
different personnel committed to eradicating the root causes of systemic
problems can. However those that Cagan, Chomsky and Pete Seeger want you to
vote for are not among them.
One important lesson from California is that the Democratic Party richly
deserved this debacle. As Gowans observes the “ultimate Clintonians
California’s Democratic leadership, bought into the neo-liberal idea of
deregulation, endorsed right wing approaches to crime, made the state the
leader in prison construction and limited property taxes that favor the rich
amongst other totally reactionary measures.” With the sad facts that at
least 20% of registered Democrats voted for the Hitler “admirer” and that
the only progressive voice, the Green Party received a meager 3% of the vote
what can we do now to begin the long and difficult struggle to thwart the
most egregious effects of U.S. imperialism?
First we must learn from the failed earlier independent movements form
Peace and Freedom to the People’s Parties and the National Committee for
Independent Political Action among others. We must appreciate the fact
that Class and Race are dialectically intertwined. The question of
Black(and other minorities) Liberation is NOT a special question but rather
CENTRAL to the class struggle. Secondly any organized movement is as
effective as the consciousness that informs it. Therefore any new
organization/Party must be a political vehicle capable not only of broad
outreach and Coalition but one that has as a crucial part of its Mission
Statement a recognition of the common corporate enemy, which alone unites
all of the basic issues of oppression, exploitation and Peace.
The Unity of the Cagan led United for Peace and Justice and Workers World’s ANSWER for the massive demo October 25th is a good starting point.