Letter from the US: Democrats 'no progressive alternative'
The election rallies of the mis-named “conventions” of the twin parties of Wall Street are over.
The Tea Party-dominated Republicans have gone sharply to the right. Is supporting the Democrats the way to fight the rightward shift in US capitalist politics?
Many who consider themselves leftists or even socialists reply “yes”. Let us look at the record.
On foreign policy, there is no difference except some rhetoric. Both parties supported the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Both seek to crush Iran and return that country to its subservient status Washington enjoyed when Iran was under the Shah.
Both seek to return Cuba to a United States-controlled semi-colony. Both want to roll back the anti-imperialist gains in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, and push against the growing steps toward more independence in the rest of Latin America.
Both want to preserve as much control over the Arab world as possible in the face of the Arab Spring, and are working around the clock toward that end. Both supported the NATO assault on Libya.
Barack Obama, as well as Mitt Romney, supports giving Israel a free hand in its oppression of Palestinians.
In this regard, there was only one point of contention at the Democratic “convention”. That came as a result of a change in the party’s platform from 2008.
The earlier platform affirmed that Jerusalem was the undivided capital of Israel. The proposed 2012 platform dropped that reference.
Under Obama’s insistence, it was re-inserted, by a voice vote which sounded to me, watching on TV, like it didn’t carry the day.
This reassertion of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel underscores the reality that US support to a “two-state” solution is a subterfuge. Obama has done nothing in that direction.
For both parties, Israel is and will be the “single state” from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, with a single border, army, currency and government.
It is, has been for over four decades, and will be an apartheid state, ruling over millions of Arabs who are not citizens of the single state.
Both parties of Wall Street insist on maintaining Washington’s overwhelming military superiority and its nuclear threat to the rest of the world.
On domestic policy there are some differences. The Republican-Tea Party platform calls for Constitutional amendments to ban all abortions even in cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother; and to ban same-sex marriage.
The Democrats say they support a woman’s right to chose abortion, although they have been less than enthusiastic in countering moves at the federal and state levels to restrict that right. Their new platform supports same-sex marriage.
The Republican budget plan would lead to privatisation of Medicare and social security. The Democrats only want to cut back on funding for them.
The “Republicrats” are united in continuing the “war on drugs,” with its devastation in the Black and Latino communities, and one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world.
On immigration, both parties have carried out huge deportations of undocumented workers under a law passed in 1996 and signed by Bill Clinton. George W. Bush continued Clinton’s policy and Obama has accelerated it, deporting about one million since he took office.
Obama did issue an executive order to allow people without papers who came to the US as children to apply for temporary relief from the threat of deportation. The huge response to try to take advantage of this offer may make it difficult for whoever is elected to reverse it.
Of course, the biggest issue in this election is the economic depression, begun by the financial collapse of 2007, and the anemic recovery.
For working people, the Great Recession never ended. For the rich, their profits are up. The gap between the capitalists and the workers, already greatly widened in the decades since 1970, not only grew in the Great Recession but in the subsequent “recovery”.
In the face of the depression that looks to last for the foreseeable future, the ruling class is forcing the workers and oppressed to pay the price. This is the policy of the ruling heights of capital in most of the imperialist countries.
Obama’s economic policy has been a seamless transition from Bush’s, often with the same people in charge. The big financial firms got bailed out with outright gifts and huge low-interest loans from the government. The workers have got a pittance.
As the chant made popular by the Occupy movement expressed it, “Banks Got Bailed Out, We Got Shut Out!”
Jeffrey Sachs, the economist whose claim to fame was as the architect of the privatisation of the Soviet economy and the creation of gangster capitalism on the ruins, is no leftist.
But in a recent issue of the Financial Times, which is not read by many workers, so the big shots are more honest, Sachs showed that Obama's projected budget through 2020 was essentially the same as Ryan's in macro-economic terrms.
Ryan’s budget was adopted by the House, and has now been embraced by Romney.
In fact, Sachs wrote, “Mr. Obama's discretionary targets are essentially the same as Mr. Ryan”.
Whether Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney wins, the “Non security [read non-military] discretionary budget ― the education, job skills, infrastructure, science and technology, space, environmental protection, alternative energy and climate change adaptation ― is on the chopping block.
“Mr. Obama's budget would shrink non-security discretionary programmes from an already insufficient 3.1 percent of GDP in 2011 to 1.8 percent in 2020. That is the 'liberal' alternative.
“In bemoaning Mr. Obama's budget, I do not mean to equate it with Mr. Ryan's. Mr. Ryan's budget is nothing short of heartless in the face of the dire crisis facing America's poor.
“It is also reckless, guaranteed to leave millions of children without quality education and skills they will need as adults.
“Yet the sad truth is that the Democrats offer no progressive alternative. Both parties are accomplices to the premeditated asphyxiation of the state [by which he means the social wage].”
Neither party will admit that the current depression is the result of the operation of the capitalist system itself, in its moribund stage of monopolistic and financial capitalism.
As the twin parties of Wall Street, they cannot. That is why both “conventions” fell over each other in praise of the “free-market system.”
Neither has any policy to get us out of the catastrophe that system has wrought, from unending war to depression. Their policies are dictated to them by the 0.1% that make all the major decisions.
[Barry Sheppard was a long-time leader of the US Socialist Workers Party and the Fourth International. He recounts his experience in the SWP in a two-volume book, The Party — the Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, available from Resistance Books. Read more of Sheppard's articles.]