Democratic Convention: An orgy of patriotism

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For four days in July the Democratic Convention occupied the center ring in this year?s electoral circus. Political conventions for the ruling class in America are media events par excellence, as was demonstrated by the fact that media personnel outnumbered delegates 15,000 to 3,000. It was all part and parcel of the bourgeoisie?s efforts to revive the electoral mystification that was so badly tarnished in the debacle of 2000.

Media pundits made it clear that they agreed with Democratic candidate John Kerry that ?this is the most important election of our lifetime. The stakes are high,? as he put it in his acceptance speech. The incessant propaganda message is that this election offers voters a stark choice about the future of America, and humanity, and it would be irresponsible to sit this one out. However when you push aside all the hype and empty rhetoric, it?s quite clear that this election, like all capitalist elections, is an ideological swindle, a charade designed to make the working class falsely believe that democracy works and that government is controlled by the will of the people. Quite the contrary is true: no matter who wins the election in November, the policies of the American government will be substantially the same: the bourgeoisie will still send young workers to fight and die for the interests of American imperialism around the world, especially in Iraq, and the economic crisis will continue to erode the standard of living. Republican and Democratic Foreign Policy Is Essentially the Same

Despite the fury of the criticisms heaped against Bush, the differences between Kerry and Bush on foreign policy are largely secondary, confined to questions of style in the implementation of the same imperialist strategy. All major factions of the American ruling class share the same strategic imperialist goal ? assure that the US maintains its imperialist hegemony as the only remaining superpower by preventing the emergence of any rival power or rival bloc. Kerry?s criticism of Bush focuses on three main points: the botched ideological and propaganda campaign to justify the war; the failure to pressure the major European powers to acquiesce in the war; and the failure to plan an effective occupation of Iraq.

The Bush administration?s ideological and propaganda justifications for the war (WMD, Iraq?s alleged ties to al Qaeda and implied links to 9/11) have all been thoroughly discredited. This seriously undermines the ability of the US to mobilize the population for more wars and military interventions, which is a weakness for American imperialism since the continuing challenges to its dominance require ever more military interventions. It?s not that Kerry rejects Bush?s ideological justifications; his criticism is that Bush?s mistakes have squandered the gains made after 9/11 in whipping up patriotism and war fever. Despite the fact that all of Bush?s rationalizations for the invasion have proven to be outright lies, Kerry still supports the invasion and defends his vote in favor of authorizing the war. Under pressure from barbs from Pres. Bush, Kerry stated that even knowing what he knows today about the situation in Iraq, he would still have voted in favor of the war authorization, but if he were president he would have used the authorization differently, to take the time to secure international support for the war and reconstruction. Since all the arguments used by Bush were lies, presumably Kerry would have told the same lies more effectively or would have conjured up a different batch of more plausible lies.

The capitalist media portrays the foreign policy debate as a clash between Bush?s unilateralism and Kerry?s multilateralism, but this is a gross distortion. Ever since World War II, US imperialism has always acted unilaterally in the defense of its imperialist interests as a superpower. Even during the cold war, when the western bloc was intact, the US always acted on its own initiative and in its own interests, whether it was in intervening in Korea, or in chastising Britain and France for supporting Israel in the invasion of the Sinai in 1956, or the Cuban Missile Crisis , or in Vietnam, or in the decision taken by Carter in the late 1970s, and implemented by Reagan in the early 1980s, to deploy intermediate range nuclear weapons in Europe. As the head of the bloc, the US was easily able to oblige its subordinates in the bloc to go along with its decisions (with the occasional exception of the French bourgeoisie which sometimes acted out its own delusions of independence in resisting American policies).

With the collapse of the bloc system at the end of the 1980s, the cement that held the western bloc together dissolved, the tendency for each nation to try to play its own imperialist card emerged, and the discipline that obliged each member of the bloc to accept American diktats evaporated. It became more difficult for American imperialism to force its will on the other states. The first Gulf War against Iraq in 1991 was more designed to remind its former allies that the US was the only superpower in the world and that it was necessary to follow its leadership, than it was to contain Iraqi imperialist appetites. (After all the American ambassador had purposely misled Saddam Hussein into believing that the US had given Iraq the green light to invade Kuwait in their border dispute when he was told that the US ?would not take sides? in a dispute between Arab brothers.) Throughout the 1990s, even during the Clinton years, American imperialism acted increasingly alone in the international arena when it exercised military force, as it became more and more difficult to pressure the European powers to accept American diktats. So, the extreme unilateralism of the Bush administration in the Iraq invasion, is consistent with the evolution of American policy over the past 15 years and not an abrupt break in policy, even if it is a bit heavy handed and clumsily implemented..

Kerry?s promise that he will bring other nations back into the fold is simply a proposal to be more patient and more effective in the efforts to get them to accept American policy, not a promise to abandon unilateralism. In his acceptance speech, Kerry said, ?I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security.? So, like Bush, he wouldn?t let the United Nations Security Council block the US from waging a war, when the US government decides it is necessary to do so. In the final analysis no matter who is president, American imperialism will continue to act unilaterally. Kerry and the Democrats Are Just as Much a War Party as the GOP

Anyone who thinks this election is a clash between hawks and doves needs to have his/her head examined. Kerry may have been briefly involved in the anti-Vietnam war movement in the early 1970s after his two tours of duty in Vietnam, but he and the Democrats made it abundantly clear at the convention that they are just as blood thirsty and dedicated to waging imperialist war as their Republican counterparts. It was no accident that the Democrats paraded 12 retired generals and admirals on the stage at the convention, and produced a special film in which these military giants explained how the strategic and diplomatic errors of the Bush administration in implementing American strategic goals were weakening America in the world. Kerry and his generals made a bid to show that it is the Democrats who are better able to mobilize the population for war, challenging the right?s claim to a monopoly on patriotism. Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark said, ?This flag is ours! And nobody will take it from us.? Kerry said, ?For us, that flag is the most powerful symbol of who we are and what we believe in. Our strength. Our diversity. Our love of country. All that makes America both great and good.

?That flag doesn?t belong to any president. It doesn?t belong to any ideology and it doesn?t belong to any political party. It belongs to all the American people.? Kerry criticized Bush for squandering all the unity and patriotic fervor that gripped the population in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. He promises to regain that unity in support of American imperialism by making patriotism palatable again for workers and all those disenchanted with the war in Iraq and putting forth believable arguments for war. Kerry also promises to ?build a stronger American military,? by increasing the armed forces by 40,000, doubling ?our special forces to conduct antiterrorist operations,? and developing new weapons and technology. Not exactly a peace candidate.

In the final analysis, the ?most important election of our lifetime? boils down to a choice between two candidates who offer differ styles in mobilizing the population for and unleashing imperialist war. This surely is the hallmark of freedom in capitalist democracy, a system that offers death, destruction, terror, and repression, no matter who wins the election.

J. Grevin, Aug. 16, 2004

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