Presidential Campaign: An electoral circus to mystify the workers

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They want us to buy into the electoral swindle – the phony myth that the people decide their own political fate. Of course all this is just a capitalist propaganda ploy -- the last thing that capitalism could tolerate is for everyday working people to make any of the decisions about how society is run. The campaign hoopla is all part of how the ruling class manipulates society for its own political and economic ends, how it obscures the real power relationships in society, how it assures the desired outcome, and makes sure that the correct ruling team is in power. Despite the horse race metaphor that the media is so fond of, the election campaign more resembles a World Wrestling Federation wrestling match – where all the action is scripted in advance.

For much of the past decade in the vast majority of the western industrial powers, the bourgeoisie has relied upon a strategy of the left in power. This strategy was first dpower. This strategy was first developed by the bourgeoisie in the U.S. in 1992, with the realignment of the Democratic Party towards the center-right and the election of Bill Clinton, and was then emulated in Britain with a similar revamping of the Laborites under Tony Blair (the Bill Clinton of Great Britain), and subsequently adopted throughout the major European capitalist nations. This strategic division of labor, which places the left in power, and the right in opposition, has been successful for the bourgeoisie on both the imperialist and domestic levels, in that it has permitted the bourgeoisies of the respective countries to unleash military interventions overseas under the guise of humanitarianism without engendering serious opposition, which would have been unimagineable for the right, and has allowed it to continue to implement austerity measures without provoking serious resistance. As the Resolution on the International Situation adopted by the ICC’s International Bureau last spring puts it,

"Bringing the left of the bourgeoisie into government has proved to be the ideal means of making the most of the proletarian disarray. No longer speaking the language of struggle as it did in opposition in the eighties, the left parties in government are well-equipped to give a snt are well-equipped to give a softer edge to the attacks on working class living standards. They are better able to obscure the militarist barbarism with a humanitarian rhetoric. And they are more suited to correcting the failures of neo-liberal economic policies." (Point 10)

At home the left has successfully managed the deepening of the economic crisis, and while it unleashes attacks which are just as vicious and far-reaching as the right’s, it does so in a manner and style clouded in democratic and reformist rhetoric. The left’s austerity attacks are disguised as "reforms," not as cutbacks. Everywhere this strategy is successful. In Germany the left government is positioned to remain in power for at least the next three years, until the expiration of its elected term. At the level of the class struggle, the balance of forces favors the bourgeoisie, as the combativeness which exists in some sectors of the working class is completely heterogenous and confronts serious obstacles in developing.

The German trade unions function in open solidarity with the regime; the oppositional role is played by the right. In France, there are strikes and protests in various sectors, but these struggles are very atomized. Though a simulre very atomized. Though a simultaneity of struggles exists, this phenomenon poses no particular problem for the French bourgeoisie, and the unions and the leftists are not required to play a strong oppositional role. In Britain, the story is much the same. There are signs of class combativeness but a serious difficulty for struggles to develop and the left government has the situation in hand. In Italy, the same situation prevails. Despite being the most heavily politicized in Europe, the Italian working class has launched no major struggles since the left government came to power.

Here in the U.S., there have been rising levels of combativeness, including particularly the Detroit teachers struggle last autumn, the transit struggle in New York in November-December, and more recently the Boeing strike on the West Coast, but these struggles experienced difficulty in developing and remained largely isolated. Despite an oppositional posturing on international trade issues by some unions, as illustrated by their participation in the anti-WTO and anti-World Bank protests in the past few months, the unions remain staunch allies of the Clinton administration, and were early supporters of the Gore candidacy. Thus, the Clinton-Gore team has successfully pursued a right-wing economic and social agenda, including the reinforal agenda, including the reinforcement of the state’s repressive apparatus (adding 100,000 cops to the nation’s police forces, increasing the death penalty, making the severest inroads on civil liberties) and dismantling the welfare state put in place by the Roosevelt administration’s New Deal program 65 years ago, without hardly a murmur of resistance.

As in other countries, the bourgeoisie can be expected to continue to play the left in power card at the political level in the period to come. Unlike 1992, imperialist policy disputes will have little impact on the 2000 election campaign. In 1992, the dominant factions of the bourgeoisie were dissatisfied with President Bush’s failures to take offensive action in the Balkans and to consolidate American imperialism’s successes in the 1991 Gulf War. Today the dominant factions of the bourgeoisie are in agreement on imperialist policy. This in no way implies that serious divergences within the ruling class on imperialist policy regarding the Far East have ceased to exist. The disagreements that have marked the internal disputes within the ruling class over China are very real and continue to exist, as certain elements on the right, but also including some in the Democratic party, contend that China is too potentially unstable and unreliable toially unstable and unreliable to serve as America’s central partner in Asia, preferring instead to play a Japanese card in the region.

These disagreements were the underlying factor involved in the scandals and campaigns against Clinton, including the impeachment attempt in 1999. However, the faction opposing Clinton’s China policy was badly routed in their abortive attempt to drive Clinton from office and are in no position to impact the presidential election – most were excluded from any role in the Republic Party convention, for example. However, this does not mean that disagreements on China policy have disappeared, or that this issue will not be revisited in the future. Meanwhile, John McCain, the only major candidate in the presidential primaries to represent the anti-China faction, was badly defeated and driven from the race. In the Democratic primary contests, the Bradley candidacy was more designed to counter a lagging interest in and rekindled enthusiasm for the electoral circus (fewer than 50% of Americans bother to vote) than it was to pose a serious challenge to a Gore candidacy. Indeed bourgeois commentators observed that Bradley didn’t seem to want to win!

Both the Republican candidate, George W. Bush, and Vice President Al Gore adhVice President Al Gore adhere to the foreign policy currently in place, and are truly mirror images of each other on domestic policy. Bush’s "compassionate conservatism" emulates Gore’s attempts to firmly occupy the center ground, and even if Bush were to win the White House through some political mistake, there would be political continuity with the Clinton presidency. However, Gore’s left credentials, exemplified by his reputation as an environmentalist and his strong support from the unions, most strongly corresponds with the successful left in power strategy.

Bush's move towards the center following his wrap up of the nomination in the primaries, alienates the base of the Christian right wing of the party and seems designed to undermine the Bush's chances to win in the election. The electoral circus will surely heighten the drama with strident discourse on such secondary non-issues for the bourgeoisie as abortion and gun control, which are designed to stir up passionate debate on issues that pose no challenge to capitalism but provide a safety valve for political steam, and an orchestrated close race, designed to beat the drums for the "every vote counts" electoral mystification. In a now familiar pattern, a probable Pat Buchanan candidacy on the Reform Party ticket, will siphReform Party ticket, will siphon off religious right support from Bush and help assure the continuance of the left in power.

In the end, whether Gore wins, or whether Bush pulls off an accidental upset, the working class will continue to bear the brunt of the economic crisis. No matter who wins, despite the propaganda campaign about "unprecedented economic boom" the global economic crisis will continue unabated. At home, the working class’s real wages will continue to decline, job security will continue to be eroded, social and company benefits will be scaled back. Abroad, American imperialism will continue to exercise its military might in a never-ending effort to assert its super power hegemony in a world in which international discipline has broken down with the collapse of the two-bloc Cold War confrontation.

The election offers nothing for the working class but the opportunity to be suckered into believing that we do not live in a capitalist class dictatorship. For the working class the only way to assert its interests is not at the ballot box, but the class struggle, a struggle that will one day lead to a revolutionary confrontation with capitalism, and pose the possibility of creating a genuine human community in which capitalist exploitationin which capitalist exploitation is banished from human experience. – JG 9/6/00

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