AS THE battle for the American Presidency approaches, it seems likely that we will again see a very close race to the finish between the two main candidates. As "Anybody But Bush" syndrome runs rife through whole sections of American society, many are rubbing their hands at the thought of removing the current corporate warmonger from office. But does Kerry provide a genuine alternative to the policies of the last four years?
Bush has earned himself a place among the most reviled figures of recent history. In living memory, few international political figures have engendered such out-spoken hatred across the globe. If you keep your eyes peeled as you walk down the street, it usually won’t be long until you spot someone wearing a "No More Bush-Shit" t-shirt, or displaying other anti-Bush slogans. Of course, this is hardly surprising when the bumbling Republican makes statements such as, "If this was a dictatorship, things would be much easier, just so long as I’m the dictator." And that’s just a mild example!
However, the global outrage against Bush has not been caused by his blatant stupidity, but by the policies and decisions that he has implemented since coming to office in 2000, especially the imperialist wars he waged against Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush used the horrific attacks on the World Trade Centre on September 11th 2001 as the pretext for these bloody conflicts. This campaign is cynically known by the right-wing establishment and media as the "war on terror", a slogan which is wrought with sickening hypocrisy. Previous American Presidents, including leaders of the Republican Party, funded and armed both the Taliban, during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and Saddam Hussein’s regime, while he was in conflict with the anti-American Iranian government in the 80s.
These wars had nothing to do with ending global terrorism. In fact, as we explained at the time, they have been excellent recruiting tools for Al-Qa’eda and other forces of Islamic fundamentalism. The conflicts represented a campaign by Western imperialism to strengthen its influence and grip across the globe by removing regimes that didn’t fit in with its plans. Far from bringing democracy and freedom to these countries, Afghanistan and Iraq are now ravaged by terror, economic destruction and oppression. There are no accountable, democratic governments that genuinely represent the people, and they will not materialise in the foreseeable future due to the US occupation.
The assault on Iraq sparked a huge anti-war movement that saw millions of people take to the streets across the world in opposition. Much anger was directed in a personalised way towards Bush and his sidekick Blair. This anger is a large part of the driving force behind the popular campaign to get Bush out of the Oval Office.
However, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are not the only reason why people can’t wait to see the back of Bush. Since coming to power, he has implemented attacks on the living standards of the working class and poor and has attacked civil liberties with a series of reactionary measures.
At a time when social services and public facilities in the USA are grossly under-funded, Bush brought in huge tax cuts amounting to $1.7 trillion. It has been shown that these cuts massively favoured the richest 1% in American society. Bush has also further eroded the power of the already faltering American trade union movement, damaging the ability of workers to defend their pay and conditions and struggle for a better standard of living.
Bush is a Christian fundamentalist, and has attempted to force his own bigoted views upon the American people, attacking the rights of gay and lesbian people. He wants to write discrimination into the American constitution in order to ban same-sex marriages. Bush has also damaged women’s right to choose to have an abortion through the "No Child Left Behind" programme and his deceptively named Partial Birth Abortion Ban.
The Patriot Act is widely recognised as being the greatest single assault on personal freedoms in the history of the United States. It has given cops and other state forces vastly extended powers if they suspect someone to be involved in terrorism. This includes being able to search people’s homes without a warrant and spy on them. These powers will not be used only against genuine suspected terrorists, but against any political activist that the state deems to be a threat to capitalist interests, and are already being used in a discriminatory, racist way against innocent Muslim Americans.
With all this, it’s hardly surprising that millions are desperate to get rid of Bush and his policies. However, Kerry in reality does not offer anything fundamentally different to the current administration. In the Democratic Party primaries, Kerry was pushed further to the left than he would have liked by the semi-radical rhetoric of one of his opponents, Howard Dean. However, since then we have seen Kerry readopt his "Republican Lite" politics, which are barely distinguishable from Bush’s.
Kerry has criticised the way Bush handled the invasion of Iraq, and says that he would not have went to war under the conditions that Bush did, in an attempt to generate some electoral gains from the anti-war sentiment among traditional Democratic voters. However, he actually voted for the proposed occupation! Kerry also supported putting multi-billions of dollars into the war effort.
Kerry supports the continued occupation of Iraq and has pledged that if he is elected, troops will remain in the country at least until the end of his first term - in 2009! He has called for the recruitment of 40,000 more active soldiers and an increase in the Pentagon’s budget. Much of this is to ensure American imperialism’s ability to continue to oppress the people of Iraq.
The Democratic candidate has stated that he believes the US has the right to remove and replace any regime that the government deems to threaten America’s interests, or more accurately the interests of the fat cats who fund both the main parties and their Presidential candidates. Kerry’s election will mean continuation of the so-called "war on terror".
Bush’s reactionary campaigns have had Kerry’s full backing. He supported the anti-freedom Patriot Act, and the anti-choice "No Child Left Behind" programme and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban. Kerry supports only civil unions for same-sex couples, rather that full marriage, denying them the same rights as straight couples. He has also stated that he believes states should have the right to veto these measures. While he doesn’t use his opponent’s fundamentalist rhe-toric, there is no reason to believe that the social content of Kerry’s policies will be any less reactionary or right-wing. Kerry has in fact boasted of his support for Clinton’s "Welfare Reform", which saw the greatest polarisation of wealth in American society since the Great Depression in the 1930s!
Just like Bush, in power Kerry will represent the interests of big business. He is the richest Senator in what is effectively a millionaires club, with a personal fortune of around $550 million, which means he would be the third richest President in American history! Kerry’s campaign has been funded by capitalist bosses, from the oil industry to the arms industry, from drugs companies to insurance companies. This means that Kerry will undoubtedly continue policies of oppressing workers’ struggle, eroding social welfare, allowing environmental destruction for profit and promoting militarism.
Kerry has posed as an enemy of "special interests", but in his years as a Senator, he has taken more money from lobbyists than anyone else on Capitol Hill! These lobbyists pay politicians huge amounts of money for favours. Big business runs government in America, as across the globe, through a system of "I scratch your back, you scratch mine", and Kerry has played a very active role in this system.
A victory for Kerry will in reality just mean a new face in the White House, but the same old policies. He does not provide a voice for the millions who want to see an end to war and militarism, an end to discrimination and the development of a decent social welfare system.
Therefore, our American sister party, Socialist Alternative (CWI section in the USA) is calling for a rejection of both Bush and Kerry, and advocating a vote for the independent candidate, Ralph Nader, who is running on an anti-corporate, anti-war ticket.
Nader consistently opposed the war on Iraq, and stands for the immediate withdrawal of all US troops from the country. He calls for universal healthcare for all, free at the point of use, which is supported by around 80% of the American population. He also supports a large expansion of the welfare system, which would make a real difference to the lives of millions of people in the US.
His programme also includes full support for same-sex marriages, concrete measures to protect the environment and the abolition of the racist death penalty. He campaigns against corporate crime, which scandals such as that at Enron show costs multi-millions of dollars every year. Nader opposes the ineffective War on Drugs and calls for an end to US support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.
When Nader announced his intention to stand, he was immediately attacked by a wave of criticism from the big business media, afraid that he will put genuine, radical politics onto the table. Many Democrats and liberal journalists said that he would help Bush get re-elected by drawing votes away from Kerry. But what does this matter when essentially they represent the same policies and ideology?
A sizeable vote for Nader will fire a warning shot across the bow of whichever corporate candidate is elected, and help to limit their room for manoeuvre. Either way, a Kerry administration would without a doubt continue the Democrats’ traditions of broken promises and openly anti-worker government.
However, Nader’s campaign is limited. While aiming to reign in corporate power, Nader does not challenge the framework of the capitalist system, which is the underlying cause of poverty, discrimination, war and terrorism. A large vote for Nader can help break the two-party system, but the working class needs to develop a new mass working class party that can genuinely represent their interests, and struggle to create a socialist society run for the benefit of the masses, not profit for the few.
John Kerry - "Bush-Lite"
WITH SUCH a popular mood of hatred for George Bush and his administration, you might expect that his Democratic opponent, John Kerry, would have no problem in trouncing him in the upcoming elections. However, his conservative, militaristic image is barely distinguishable from that of Bush, so voters haven’t got much to whip up their enthusiasm.
Polls are showing that the candidates are neck-and-neck in the run up to the election. Events over the next weeks are likely to have a considerable impact on the outcome of the election.
The situation in Iraq is likely to be a deciding factor in the race for the Presidency. Over 1,000 American soldiers have already been killed in Iraq. This has caused concern among large layers of the American population, and now many relatives of the dead are openly calling for an immediate end to the occupation. This mood has hit Bush hard in the approval ratings, despite the fact that the corporate media has actively tried to keep body-bags out of the public eye. This is likely to create support for Kerry, who carefully criticised Bush’s approach to the invasion, even though he supported it!
If the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate and the American public sees an ongoing flow of casualties being brought home, this could have dire consequences for Bush. In the next period, we are likely to see an upsurge in terror attacks in the country, as the Iraqi resistance gathers momentum. Bush realises that Iraq will be central to the election, and that is why he is so desperate to create the illusion of real democracy and change in the country.
The state of the American economy is also likely to be a decisive factor for Bush and Kerry. After Bush’s election in 2000, America went into a recessionary period, which saw the economy contract, with the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs as big business switched production to semi-colonial countries like Mexico, in order to decrease production costs and increase profits. Bush stood idly by while this happened, which caused huge discontent and a slump in his already wavering popularity.
Recently, we have seen a mild recovery and a slow growth in the economy. However, it has created few jobs and brought little confidence to the working and middle classes. In Michigan and Ohio, key "battleground" states, there have been particularly heavy job losses, and polls there currently put Kerry ahead by 7%.
However, Kerry’s strategy in the campaign could backfire. He has attempted to outflank Bush on national security, which could turn large numbers of people away from supporting the Democratic candidate, essentially handing the election to Bush. This would then open the way for Bush to accelerate his attacks on personal freedoms in a second term.
Also, Kerry has said that he aims to restore "fiscal responsibility" by decreasing the huge national debt that Bush has built up during his four years in office. However, it is obvious that Kerry will try to achieve this by cutting social welfare and public services. This may cause a swing against Kerry as people fear that his Presidency could mean even greater erosion of real living standards than another term with Bush.
Whether it’s Bush or Kerry that emerges victorious from the November elections, one thing is sure, it will still be the interests of big business that are represented in the White House for the next four years, and not the interests of the American working class.
Two articles from Socialist Voice, paper of the Socialist Party, the cwi in Ireland