New Opportunities to Defeat the Bush Administration and Reaction

 
June 29, 2002

NEW OPPORTUNITES TO DEFEAT THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION AND REACTION

Click to hear the streaming audio of the Opening Report by CPUSA National Chair, Sam Webb.

NEW OPPORTUNITES TO DEFEAT THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION AND REACTION

Report to National Committee / Conference on Clubs, CPUSA June 30, 2002 by Sam Webb, National Chair, Communist Party, USA

INTRODUCTION

I want to welcome all of you to our National Center. You are sitting in Winston Auditorium, named, for those of you who don’t know, after Henry Winston, our national chairman for most of the Cold War years. Winnie, as we called him, was an African-American Communist leader of great courage, conviction, and political insight. He will inspire us for years to come.

One of his principal concerns was the functioning of the Party organization, and especially the clubs. In his view, active, grassroots-connected and growing clubs were the bread and butter of our Party and a necessary staple of a labor-led, broad-based people’s movement.

Therefore, he, as well as Gus and other Party veterans, would be pleased that we taking time out of our very busy schedules to zero in on the clubs and their role in present political and economic circumstances.

Needless to say, we would like to transform our clubs overnight into political sparkplugs in their community or workplace. But here in New York, miracles happen on 34th Street – not 23rd Street, although we should not rule out the possibility entirely.

More seriously, we do hope that this conference will initiate a process that will empower our clubs to meet present day challenges and, at the same time, to grow. Our future, it is fair to say, depends on how well we do this.

Admittedly, the clubs have not been on the top of the chart of our National Committee and National Center, but this conference, we hope, will correct that shortcoming. In fact, our decision to hold the conference reflects a changing attitude on the part of the national and district leadership with respect to the clubs.

Of course, the skeptics in the audience are probably thinking, ‘We’ll see,’ which is perfectly understandable. As a former Catholic, I am mindful of how easy it was on one day to resolve to do better to the priest on the other side of a confessional booth screen and the next day to return to my wicked ways. But, all analogies, they say, suffer and I certainly hope that this one does, too.

At any rate, I’m sure that this conference will inspire us to take the ‘bull by the horns’ and impart a new level of energy and purpose to our clubs.

POLITICAL CONTEXT OF 2002 ELECTIONS

Were Shakespeare still gracing this world with his presence he would almost certainly exclaim, ‘There’s something rotten in the system of capitalism.’

And no wonder! Each day millions are learning that insider trading, sleazy accounting, profit inflation, phony off-book transactions, stock option rip-offs and political payoffs are standard operating procedures of the modern corporation. And they’re angry with Wall Street, thieving corporations, and increasingly the Bush administration.

How do we explain this cesspool of corporate corruption and meltdowns? Are there simply more bad apples and less transparency than there were a few decades ago? Perhaps, but to leave matters here sheds little light on present day corporate wrongdoing – not to mention contemporary economic developments.

A more useful way to understand this phenomenon is to situate it in a new phase of capitalist development that commenced with the petering out of the long post war boom in the 1970s and the onset of a protracted economic slowdown. Stagnation continues to this day in a global environment dominated by transnational corporations and burdened by commodity overproduction. In this new phase, many corporations shifted their focus from the production of goods and services to speculation, merger mania and hostile takeovers, and the manipulation of new financial instruments as a means to accumulate capital.

This shift began on the periphery of the capitalist economy in the mid-1970s. It quickly gathered steam during the Reagan years – thanks to a high interest rate, deregulatory, corporate tax friendly, anti-labor regime. And by the closing years of the 1990s, it had turned into the main engine of economic growth and capital accumulation. In fact, hyper-inflated prices on equity markets, which in turn made corporate and individual investors feel wealthier and more willing to borrow and spend were virtually the only factor that imparted momentum to the economy during those years.

But speculative bubbles are not sustainable for very long. At some point underlying realities in the real economy spoil the party and the bubble bursts. And this is precisely what occurred about a year ago and is still playing itself out.

At the root of all this is not simply insatiable greed nor ‘irrational exuberance’ nor economic deregulation, nor for that matter simply the shift from goods production to financial manipulation.

Each of these had a hand in it to be sure. But all are also products of an economic system in which the interaction of competing capitals seeking to accumulate maximum profits not only results in fierce exploitation, permanent labor force reductions, periodic economic crisis, inequality and pressures toward war. It also generates corruption, criminality and parasitism in corporate suites and the corridors of political power.

In short, corporate parasitism is both systemic to capitalism as well as connected to the particular features of US capitalism’s present economic and political development.

Undoubtedly, more disclosures of fraudulent corporate practices and more bad news for the workers are in the pipeline. What is less clear is how this will play out.

Just a few weeks ago, it was said that this scandal would shine momentarily and then fade quickly, but how wrong that was. The near daily exposure of corporate wrongdoing is roiling millions and shaking the economy.

Bush, in his speech on Wall Street last week, tried to calm financial markets and alleviate concerns about the economy, but with little success. In fact, for the first time since September 11, the Bush administration is on the defensive and Bush’s moral authority has been tarnished with the resurfacing of his own past shady financial deals.

This is a change of enormous political consequence. In the wake of last year’s terrorist attack Bush acquired a new stature in the eyes of the American people. People looked past his elite background, connections, and policies. Overnight he was transformed from an illegitimate president to a popular one, whose administration skillfully utilized this to win support for their reactionary domestic and global plans.

That has become more difficult now. The American people are more skeptical about Bush and his administration. Millions are much less ready to accept market-based solutions to the crisis in health care, pensions and public education. Anger over corporate greed is merging with mounting doubts about the administration’s ‘war on terrorism,’ savage restrictions of democratic rights, and economic policies that unabashedly favor its corporate masters. Mass leaders are speaking out with new vigor. And even congressional Democrats, whose response to this crisis has been inadequate, are showing more life. In a few words, tucked into this moment is the possibility of a qualitative political change.

Labor, the racially oppressed, women and other progressive forces can move full steam into the 2002 election arena with well-grounded hopes of decisively defeating the extreme right in November.

A broadly based people’s movement can take the offensive against corporate greed, deregulation, and tax policies that favor the rich. Why not establish people’s commissions at the national, state, and local levels to initiate hearings on corporate wrongdoing, criminal action against those directly and indirectly involved, and legislative measures to fully compensate the victims of corporate piracy and to radically re-regulate the transnational corporations.

Actually, in every arena of struggle, including the struggle for peace, the prospects for turning back the right-wing offensive have improved — not to mention the possibility of winning people to a deeper understanding of the nature of capitalism and the advantages of socialism, and a democratically planned socialist economy that has no inherent tendency to overproduction and joblessness.

Of course, all this will take broad initiative and unity as well as a readiness to respond quickly to any ‘wag the dog’ diversionary provocation by the Bush administration.

UTTERLY REACTIONARY

The present gang in the White House is utterly imperialist, utterly menacing, utterly anti-working class, utterly racist, and utterly anti-people. This administration is not only the greater evil, but it is absolutely and thoroughly evil. Generally, I try to stay away from such morally charged terms, but in this case, they seem to fit. Extreme right-wing political fundamentalists with a decidedly adventuristic streak now occupy the White House.

And close by are others of like mind, in the Pentagon, Congress, US Supreme Court and other government agencies.

That such an administration would emerge at this moment may seem bewildering to some. After all, with the Cold War over, the Soviet Union a memory, and US transnationals sitting atop the world economy, why is the US ruling class, or at least sections of it, so intent on pursuing such aggressive and dangerous policies at home and abroad?

The short answer is that the most reactionary sections of transnational capital see this moment not as the end of history, but rather as a golden opportunity to consolidate the unrivaled political and economic supremacy of US imperialism for decades to come. At the core of their political vision is a world empire in which the US transnational corporations name the tune.

For the first nine months of the Bush presidency, a labor-led, loosely constructed movement did surface and was able for the most part to stymie the reactionary plans of the new administration.

But September 11 changed the relationship of political forces.

Yes, imperialism is still imperialism and capitalism is still capitalism, and the US ruling class is still a ruling class. But to leave the matter here misses a crucial point — the political atmosphere radically changed on September 11, thus enabling the Bush administration to grab the initiative and set in train a savage, many-sided offensive domestically and internationally under the cloak of ‘fighting international terrorism.’

Since then, the administration and its congressional supporters have taken sweeping steps that bring closer the danger of nuclear war, run roughshod over democratic and constitutional rights, greatly aggravate racial and gender inequality, turn immigrants into enemy agents, and foreclose any possibility of addressing the economic concerns of millions of people for years to come.

One would think that such measures would be taken only after a serious and sober national discussion. But not so with this administration! With dizzying speed and reckless abandon, it has instituted far-reaching changes in public policy with barely a debate in the Congress or elsewhere.

Why the rush? Is it dictated by the threat of terrorism? More than one commentator has mentioned that measures to enhance public safety and security from a terrorist attack could be taken without any of the new legislation and governmental orders, without any of the roundups, without any of the new weaponry and without a new department of security.

Thus, one can only surmise that the administration wants to get its ducks in place while the President’s public approval is still high and before any opposition crystallizes in the Congress and country.

PEACE AND DEMOCRACY

While we simply can’t dismiss the danger of terrorism as an invention of the White House (if we do, we will get little hearing from broad sections of the American people), the biggest threat to peace and our democratic way of life is located in the White House, in the aggressive aims and actions of US imperialism at this moment.

If we thought that talk about unending war was hyperbole, we now know we were wrong. Afghanistan, it appears, was a dress rehearsal for military aggression against other enemies of US imperialism.

Not only is the administration targeting Iraq, North Korea, China, Iran, Syria, Libya and Cuba, but it is refashioning both our military and military doctrine in keeping with its new aggressive posture on the global stage.

Everybody is aware that the US military machine is in the process of expansion and transformation. This year’s budget alone calls for an increase in military spending of $48 billion dollars, bringing the total to nearly $400 billion.

And, according to the Darth Vader of the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, this is only a down payment on an ongoing process to transform the military, which will claim a growing share of our tax dollars over the next decade and crowd out people’s programs. On this score, you’ll hear no complaints from the fascist-minded Tom Delay about ‘big’ government.

No less dangerous, the military doctrine guiding our military actions is changing in profound ways.

In his June 1 speech at West Point, Bush said: ‘America has no empire to extend or utopia to establish. We wish for others what we wish for ourselves — safety from violence, the rewards of liberty, and the hope of a better life.’

‘For much of the last century,’ Bush went on to say, ‘America’s defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. We cannot defend America by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in tyrants … If we wait for threats to materialize we have waited too long. Homeland defense and missile defense is part of stronger security… Yet the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge… our security will require all Americans to be forward looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.’

This speech constitutes a dangerous revision in military doctrine. And it takes on frightening dimensions when you combine it with the decision to walk away from the ABM treaty. Or when you combine it with the decision to build space based missiles. Or with the new military capabilities of US fighting forces. Or considering the Nuclear Posture Review, which lowers the permissible threshold on the use of nuclear weapons and envisions their use in a wide range of military theaters. Or when you combine it with targeting of countries for US military intervention and aggression.

To put it simply, US imperialism is moving humankind on a perilous course, the consequences of which could be catastrophic to our planet.

What exacerbates the war danger is that there is no obvious counterweight on the world scene. In some ways, we do live in a unipolar world. In a recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Stephen Brooks and William Woldforth wrote,

‘In the military arena, the United States is poised to spend more on defense in 2003 than the next 15-29 biggest spenders combined. The United States has overwhelming nuclear superiority, the world’s dominant air force, the only truly Blue-water navy, and a unique capability to project power around the globe. And its military advantage is even more apparent in quality than in quantity… No state in the modern history of international politics has come close to the military dominance these numbers suggest… Previously leading states in the modern era were either great commercial and naval powers or great military powers on land, never both… [But today] the United States has no rival in any critical dimension of power.’

What are the consequences of all this? According to the authors, the major practical consequence is that ‘the sources of American strength are so varied and so durable that US foreign policy today operates in the realm of choice rather than necessity to a greater degree than any other power in modern history. Whether the participants realize it or not, this new freedom has transformed the debate over what the US role in the world should be.’

A similar analysis informs the view of the principal foreign policy makers in the Bush White House. They share the view that the correlation of forces on a world scale gives US imperialism much, much wider latitude to project its power and transform the world to fit the needs of US transnationals in a way never before possible.

Thus the administration’s proclivity for recklessness and unilateralism is not simply an instinctive urge of policy makers in the White House and Pentagon, but rather comes from its estimate of the overwhelming preponderance of power of US imperialism vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

While we are mindful of this, we do not subscribe to the view that the rule of US imperialism is essentially uncontested, that it can project its power without any concern about external constraints or oppositions.

It is true that the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago altered in a qualitative way the world balance of class forces. The main opponent of US imperialism’s drive for the last half century was removed from the equation of world politics. A bipolar world became unipolar, but only in the sense that US imperialism had no comparable state rival on the world stage anymore, thus shifting the political terrain on a global level to its advantage.

Contending forces to imperialism’s hegemonic aims, however, remained. In fact, diverse class and social movements opposing imperialism are to be found on every continent and in every country.

The going is tougher to be sure, but the chain of opposition stretches literally to all corners of the planet.

At some point, we need to make an exact estimate of the world balance of forces. But for now suffice it to say the objective basis for the formation of a broad global front against the policies of the Bush administration is necessary and possible. From Latin America to Europe to the Middle East to Africa to Asia and South Asia and to the North American continent, multi-class and social forces are finding new ways to link arms against US imperialism.

RIGHT DANGER WORLDWIDE

The Bush’s administration’s ‘war on terrorism’ has strengthened right-wing forces in nearly every country, turning the world into a powder keg.

Reactionary governments everywhere are pursuing policies that they could not have pursued a year ago. Like the Bush administration, they say that their adversaries are terrorists that negotiations are impermissible and the use of force is the only way to deal with them.

Even the use of nuclear weapons in a preemptive strike is not ruled out.

At first glance, for example, it might seem that the possibility of nuclear war swirling around disputed claims of Kashmir is a strictly internal matter between India and Pakistan. But on closer inspection, one can’t separate it from the atmosphere created by the Bush administration’s war against terrorism. It’s of the same cloth.

Not since the Cuban missile crisis has the world teetered so close to a nuclear exchange. According to some estimates, 12 million people could die instantaneously. And who knows how many more millions more slowly.

What a tragedy! What a horror! This would be a 21st century holocaust. The possible death count defies human comprehension.

Although the dangerous confrontation in South Asia seems to be easing for now, the same can’t be said about the Middle East crisis.

There, the conflict continues to escalate with Israeli troops permanently encamped and occupying the West Bank. Bush’s speech earlier this week gave the Sharon government the green light to pursue its relentless policy of crushing Palestinian national aspirations and of permanently absorbing the West Bank and Gaza into a ‘Greater Israel.’

It true that Bush mentioned statehood rights and a return to the 1967 borders, but there was no timetable, no demand for immediate Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, and no plans for immediate negotiations.

Even the New York Times, after trying to tease a silver lining from Bush’s speech, had to admit:

‘The speech left much to be desired. Mr. Bush does not seem to expect anything immediately from the Israelis, and he appeared to rule out much improvement in the lives of the Palestinians until Yasir Arafat is ousted… Mr. Bush may have a vision of a Palestinian state being declared in three years, but without steps by both sides, a different message could be received by the Palestinians – hopelessness.’

I don’t agree with the Times’ conclusion about hopelessness, but I do agree that this speech put no demands on the Sharon government, while placing outrageous demands on the Palestinian people and their leaders.

Bush, I’m sure, missed the double irony of an illegitimate US President calling for ‘free’ elections while, at the same time, demanding the removal of the elected leader of the Palestinian people. Irony, or should I say stupidity, aside, Bush’s speech was pure class and racist arrogance. He sounded like a colonial administrator of another era.

The Palestinian movement is not going to allow US imperialism to dictate who speaks on their behalf. It’s not going to allow Bush to dictate what political reforms it should or shouldn’t make.

Bush and his advisors, I’m sure, didn’t think that Arafat would step down either. So why did he make such a demand? Some will argue that it is an election gambit calculated to win Jewish voters and they are probably right.

But it may also be a hardening of opposition to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, which I think is a shift on the part of the Bush foreign policy team.

In any event, the failure of Bush to make a constructive set of proposals will almost inevitably escalate the conflict. More bloodshed, more arrests, more deaths of innocent people are likely. Tensions will also rise across the rest of the Arab and Muslim world. And world reactions will be unfavorable, too.

In all likelihood, it will also elevate the terrorist danger. Sooner or later, bullying like this brings with it blowback in one form or another.

IRAQ

What would bring tensions to a breaking point is a US invasion of Iraq. Yet the Bush administration appears to have made that decision. The only issue is the timing of it — should it be before or after the election?

What’s the evidence against Iraq? Interestingly there is none. Condoleeza Rice said as much in a recent interview. So what then are the grounds for the invasion? ‘It is,’ Rice says, ‘because Iraq is one of those places that is both hostile to us and, frankly, irresponsible and cruel enough to make this [nuclear weapons] available.’

Flimsy, to say the least, and from an administration that is ready to use nuclear weapons as a weapon of first resort. Here again, the chauvinism and arrogance is palpable and nauseating.

A just peace depends on not only the resistance of the Palestinian people, but also a growing peace movement worldwide, especially in the US and Israel.

Thus the role of the peace movement is to not simply to hail the heroism of the Palestinian people. It is to win broad popular support among the American people, including a special approach to the Jewish and Arab communities. The opportunities to do precisely that are considerable.

Millions now support a two-state solution and an end to the violence on both sides. They may not like Arafat — why would they? Bush and the mass media have demonized him — but I don’t think they believe that the peace process should be put on hold for that reason.

Without delay, the peace forces have to find appropriate forms, slogans and demands that are attuned to the mass thought patterns of people in the US. Obviously the conflict has to find its way into the elections. What an opportunity to reach millions as well as to influence the outcome of the elections. The peace movement can’t yield this arena of struggle to the right.

Nor can the peace movement be silent or equivocal about terrorism, either state-sponsored or individual. We oppose it in all of its forms. We see nothing positive about attacks against innocent civilians and children. This is the position of the Communist movement worldwide. It’s also a position of growing sections of humanity.

Silence on these matters doesn’t strengthen the peace movement; it weakens it. It closes the door on the possibility of reaching millions of American people who support a two-state solution, including labor and the racially oppressed. To think anything else suggests isolation from the American people. Our eye is singularly on mass forms of struggle. That’s the only way to stay the hands of war makers and bring a peaceful world.

With regard to the wider struggle for peace, we have to do some more thinking about the next steps in this struggle, something that we haven’t done enough of since the April 20 action. Some obvious arenas of struggle are the 2002 elections, the budget appropriations process, nuclear disarmament, hands off Colombia and Venezuela, and lifting the embargo on socialist Cuba, which, by the way, is looking much more promising despite Bush’s Cuba policy.

In each of these struggles, new and diverse forces can be brought into motion. But again we have to help find the appropriate forms, slogans and demands that fit with the times.

It goes without saying that the Party has to be a bigger factor in the peace and solidarity struggle. We should be known among wide circles of people as a party of peace. Lenin once wrote, ‘An end to wars, peace among nations, the cessation of pillaging and violence – such is our ideal.’ And it is our ideal as well.

REACTION AT HOME

Foreign policy cannot be neatly separated from domestic policy. The two are organically connected. Imperialist aggression on a global scale has its counterpart in political repression, reaction and austerity at home.

Lenin made the astute observation long ago, and current developments bear him out, that ‘politically, imperialism is … a striving towards violence and reaction.’ It’s ‘reaction all down the line.’

Moreover, he argued, political reaction is not simply a policy choice, but the pressures in this direction are structural and systemic. In other words, they are located in the deepest foundations of global capitalism.

In the present situation, Bush’s policy of imperialist aggression and militarism combines with and grows out of the longer-term tendencies of capitalist globalization and constitute a serious threat to democratic rights.

In fall of last year, vigilantes attacked people of color and mosques were burned. Elementary constitutional rights were weakened. Military courts were established. Dissent was decried as un-American and unpatriotic. And immigrants, especially of Arab nationalities, were rounded up, denied legal representation and held in indefinite detention without any formal charge against them.

There were expressions of protest in many cities around the country, but many people were silent, most because of the fear of terrorism, but some because of chauvinist influences and still others because they naively thought that the abridged rights would be restored as the immediate threat of terrorism lifted.

But so far no rights have been restored. To the contrary, new restrictions have been enacted, in some cases legislatively, in other cases by executive order. These restrictions will be indiscriminately applied to a broad range of people. Particularly targeted will be social forces and organizations that challenge one or another aspect of the reactionary policies of the Bush administration and the transnational corporations.

Not since the early days of the Cold War have we witnessed such a sweeping assault on our democracy. At that time, the US ruling elite manufactured the ‘red scare’ for the purpose of crushing not only our party, but also labor and any other possible opposition movement. And to a large extent, it was successful.

The democratic movement in our country would do well to digest this lesson from our nation’s history. For among the most reactionary sections of the ruling class, there is a growing concern about the emerging labor-led all-people’s movement in our country. It isn’t yet a coherent movement organizationally and politically, to be sure, but what concerns the powers that be is its potential and direction. Thus the growing restrictions on democratic rights supposedly to curtail terrorism could just as easily be employed against every opposition force at home.

The Port Security Act, for example, hangs like a guillotine above the heads of longshore workers in their negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association. And what is to prevent these new surveillance powers of the police and intelligence agencies from assisting employer attempts to bust organizing drives? Or to infiltrate mass organizations? Or to round up and imprison immigrants of all nationalities?

Will Ashcroft apply these new powers judiciously? Only if hell freezes over and we know that won’t happen, especially in this era of global warming.

Obviously, we should raise the alarm more than we have, but without being alarmist. What is needed is not panic, but a sober assessment of the danger and practical steps to organize broad mass opposition to these anti-democratic measures. Bush says that the terrorists are contemptuous of our democratic way of life; the same charge could be easily made against the Bush administration.

These measures have met opposition among some lawmakers, as well as in the wider public. Still, much more needs to be done, and the breadth of such a movement is nearly unlimited. Sections of the ruling class will oppose the present tendencies to lock down democracy. Much like the struggle for peace or against environmental degradation such a coalition should be diverse and multi-class.

As menacing as all this is, it would be a fatal error to conclude that fascism is around the corner. The abridgement of our democratic rights are cause for great alarm to be sure, but I don’t think that fascism – which I understand as the substitution of one form of class domination, bourgeois democracy, by another form, open terrorist dictatorship – is imminent. Nor do I believe that there is some iron logic that makes it inevitable at some point in the present circumstances.

At the same, we can’t afford to ignore or minimize in the slightest the curtailment of rights or the assumption of new powers by police-state structures and the direction of this process. Indeed, we as well as all democratic minded Americans have to vigorously protest.

THE ECONOMIC CRISIS

The new disclosures of corporate corruption and the instability in the stock market are having an economic impact on the overall economy. The question is: will it trigger a major decline across the full length of the economy?

At the present moment, despite all the talk about an economic recovery, unemployment is near 6 percent and, according to one study, will climb to 6.5 percent by November. Wage growth this year is less than inflation and income inequality, after a brief turn

Leave a Comment

Related Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer