Revolution #92, June 17, 2007
The Double-Dealing of the Democrats. . . and the Urgent Need for Mass Independent Action
On May 25 Congress voted to meet Bush’s demand for 100 billion dollars to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. After all the rhetoric about pullouts and timetables, the Democrats settled for the same “benchmarks” proposed by the Bush cabinet --along with a clause allowing Bush to waive Iraqi compliance on those benchmarks! And after the fix was in--after they were sure of the votes to pass this bill--the Democratic leadership allowed certain of their political leaders (like Clinton, Obama, Pelosi, and others) to vote against it, to posture as if they were antiwar. Other, less prominent Democrats--some who do favor pullout and others who feel compelled to look that way to their constituents--also voted against the measure.
The point is this: the Democrats could have stopped funding for the war if they chose to. They chose not to. They say that they did not have the votes to overcome a veto by Bush, and if they did not pass his bill, then there would be no funding for the troops.
Well, so what?!? The constitution requires that Congress approve war spending. If the Democrats had refused to send a bill--or had just let Bush continue to veto their original bill week after week--this would have brought things to a standstill on the war, even without enough votes to overcome a veto.
Again--the Democrats chose not to.
Disgusted and Disillusioned
This choice had a huge effect on millions of people. Cindy Sheehan responded this way, in a letter addressed to the Democratic Congress:
“Ms. Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said after George signed the new weak as a newborn baby funding authorization bill: ‘Now, I think the president's policy will begin to unravel.’ Begin to unravel? How many more of our children will have to be killed and how much more of Iraq will have to be demolished before you all think enough unraveling has occurred? How many more crimes will Bush & Co. be allowed to commit while their poll numbers are crumbling before you all gain the political ‘courage’ to hold them accountable. If Iraq hasn't unraveled in Ms. Pelosi's mind, what will it take? With almost 700,000 Iraqis dead and four million refugees (which the U.S. refuses to admit) how could it get worse? Well, it is getting worse and it can get much worse thanks to your complicity.
“Being cynically pessimistic, it seems to me that this new vote to extend the war until the end of September, (and let's face it, on October 1st, you will give him more money after some more theatrics, which you think are fooling the anti-war faction of your party) will feed right into the presidential primary season and you believe that if you just hang on until then, the Democrats will be able to re-take the White House. Didn't you see how ‘well’ that worked for John Kerry in 2004 when he played the politics of careful fence sitting and pandering?”
Very distant in many ways from Cindy Sheehan is Andrew Bacevich, a former military commander and prominent writer on military affairs. His son died May 13 in a suicide explosion in Salah al-Din province in Iraq. But Bacevich, like Sheehan, took to print in the wake of the Democrats’ vote:
“The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight...
“To be fair, responsibility for the war’s continuation now rests no less with the Democrats who control Congress than with the president and his party. After my son’s death, my state's senators, Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, telephoned to express their condolences. Stephen F. Lynch, our congressman, attended my son’s wake. Kerry was present for the funeral Mass. My family and I greatly appreciated such gestures. But when I suggested to each of them the necessity of ending the war, I got the brushoff…
"To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove -- namely, wealthy individuals and institutions.
"Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought....
"Money maintains the Republican/Democratic duopoly of trivialized politics. It confines the debate over U.S. policy to well-hewn channels...
"This is not some great conspiracy. It's the way our system works."
Both these pieces reflect a deep shift and shock in the sentiments of millions. And the depth of this must not be ignored or underestimated.
Their Interests--and Ours
Last summer, in the Talk “Why We’re In the Situation We’re In Today…And What To Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution,” Bob Avakian made the point that even if the Democrats win the November 2006 elections, the people will lose. It is well worth thinking about that point--and digging into the analysis that underlies it--in the wake of the May 25 vote.
The calculations of the top Republicans and Democrats come down to this: what will work best to defend, maintain, and expand the American empire. Those are the fundamental interests that determine everything--their real “benchmarks.” That is what drove the May 25 vote.
But the millions who believed these Democrats, or who suspended disbelief long enough to vote for them, and in many cases to donate to and work for them, do NOT share those interests. Those millions do not make calculations based on what kind of regimes in the Middle East will best enforce continued U.S. control of oil; nor do they “factor in” how to best maintain a U.S. “military presence” (i.e., U.S. military domination) in the Middle East. The perceived concerns of these millions focus over-ridingly on how to stop the slaughter, the torture, the mass humiliation, the whole ugly and horrific dynamic that this war has unleashed and fostered, both internationally and within the U.S. And their fundamental interests do NOT lie in finding their place within an empire that involves untold horror for literally billions--let alone in further fortifying and expanding that empire--but in building a whole different world.
Fundamentally there is no solution to that antagonism other than revolution--a revolution that would and must involve millions acting consciously and able to withstand everything the ruling class would bring down on them. No solution other than a revolution aimed at bringing in a socialist state that would be a transition to a classless communist world. And everyone who lies awake at night, over both this war and the whole direction of society, has to seriously and deeply and urgently consider and check out that solution.
But there are also concrete and urgent objectives that must be achieved now even as millions agonize and talk about and struggle over what kind of change is ultimately needed.
There is a war to stop and a whole direction of society that must be reversed.
There is a regime that must be driven out.
The Urgent Need for Action
The people can not impact the direction of things within the political confines and terms set by the imperialist ruling class; that is one lesson of the May 25 vote.
But this does NOT mean that the people can not have a profound impact on politics. In fact, it is only by acting outside those terms that real change can come about. Mass disaffection transformed into mass political action from below can become contagious. It can go beyond something that the imperialists can easily control or turn to their own narrow electoral advantage--it can, instead, become a social force that they must weigh, that they must take into account and deal with, one way or another. As that social movement gains momentum, the differences and disputes within the ruling class that were more or less easily handled yesterday become yawning fissures today, through which even greater mass discontent can burst tomorrow. This dynamic has driven forward every significant change for the better in this society. Now--when there are in fact real differences among the rulers, when none among them has a viable program to “deal with” Iraq and when indeed still worse is on the horizon, when the people are increasingly disillusioned and angry--now such a dynamic can be brought into being.
There is a moment now when the millions disaffected by this betrayal will either step forward into action that does NOT rely on these Democrats, or will retire to the sidelines. A moment when the demands and program of action being put forward by World Can’t Wait/Drive Out The Bush Regime should be and must be taken up much more broadly. When those efforts must be built in such a way to speak to and draw in the millions who ran so hard up against the reality that brought forth the anguished, awakened words from Cindy Sheehan and Andrew Bacevich.
It would be criminal, at a time when the carnage continues and the plans for worse--including attacks on Iran--are in the works, to give up now. And it would be foolish as well, at a time when the rulers have no answer to the anger and disillusion of millions, to fail to seize what could be a moment, an opening, that--in a very real and positive way--could change everything.
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