Normally elections in the US, presidential or congressional, are pretty mundane and boring affairs as contending parties, the Republicans and Democrats who dominate US electoral politics, are in total agreement with each other on all the major issues of domestic and external policy of the United States. What made the November 2000 presidential election of considerable interest was the closeness of the result, which led to such a lot of washing of dirty linen in public by the two contenders and, into the bargain, laid bare the racist and undemocratic nature of this charade which goes by the name of American democracy. George W Bush, who finally emerged victorious, thanks to the Republican-dominated Supreme Court, while losing the popular vote won the electoral college tally, while Al Gore, who secured more popular votes, lost the electoral college vote.
Such was the closeness of the result that, in the aftermath of the 7 November poll, it degenerated into a fight to the finish between two cut-throats from two piratical gangs over the juiciest political prize in the world – the US presidency, together with control of a budget of nearly $2 billion and the right to make thousands of high-ranking appointments. Unlike the normal run of elections, matters came to light which are normally kept away from public attention. Since winning the election hinged on either of the candidates winning the Florida electoral college, each contender did his worst to achieve that outcome, while accusing his opponent of resorting to dirty tricks. Bush’s campaign accused Gore of being anti-military and Democratic officials threw out a batch of absentee ballots emanating from military bases as they did not bear a proper postmark. Democrats, for their part, accused the Republicans of excluding thousands of African Americans, who had been turned away from the polls or whose votes had been thrown out.
Racist felony laws
As a matter of fact, three-quarters of a million Floridians, many of them black, are excluded from voting under the notorious felony laws, under which ‘convicted felons’ are deprived of the franchise for life. Under these shameful laws, in the presidential election just held, 4.2 million Americans were denied the right to vote. Of these 4.2 million, 1.8 million are black. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are prepared to confront this question – i.e., that of the exclusion of 4.2 million Americans from their democratic right to vote – with any degree of honesty. The felony laws, designed as they were to preserve white supremacy without the need directly to challenge the US constitution, affect black Americans disproportionately. It is reliably estimated that a third of all black males in 13 southern states, where slavery and segregation have bequeathed their lasting legacy, are disenfranchised – Alabama and Florida being particularly bad examples.
Just as black Americans are disproportionately apprehended, convicted and sentenced to prison, they are disproportionately deprived of the right to vote. The racism of the US judicial system may be gauged from the fact that while black Americans account for 14% of all drug users in the US, they account for 35% of drug-related arrests, 55% of drug-related convictions, and 75% of those sent to jail on drugs charges.
Clinton-Gore criminal justice policy
Al Gore, who won 90% of the black American vote, could easily have won the presidential contest had the Clinton-Gore administration not pursued for eight long years, on the pretext of a ‘war on drugs’, a criminal justice policy which dispatched, inter alia, hundreds of thousands of black Americans to prison. The
of 14 November correctly remarked that:
“Al Gore may have lost America’s presidential election not because of a badly designed ballot, dubious counting practices in Florida or the defection of Ralph Nader, but because of the criminal justice policy he and Bill Clinton have pursued for eight years.”
“The Clinton-Gore administration has been heavily criticised by penal experts for its ‘war on drugs’, which has led to more than 400,000 people being jailed, a disproportionate number of them being Black and Latino.”
gives a citation from Cedric Muhammed, editor of the Blackelectorate.com website, who expressed himself thus:
and his supporters are honest, they may have to blame
[for Gore’s defeat]
the Clinton-Gore administration and a criminal justice system that locked up Blacks wholesale over the last eight years for non-violent offences.”
But instead of confronting the racist felony laws, being the servile lackeys of an exploitative, imperialist and racist ruling class, the Democrats are no more prepared than are the Republicans to redress the crying injustice of the denial of the democratic right to vote to poor people, a disproportionate number of whom are black. They would rather give up their claim to the White House than question the validity of the built-in racism of the felony laws.
In addition to the millions denied the right to vote under the felony legislation, there are millions of others – immigrants – who make an economic contribution but are not allowed to be registered to vote. For example, only 6.6 million Latin American workers, representing only 35.7% of their total number in the US, were registered to vote. This compares with the registration of 74.4% among people of voting age in the population as a whole.
Even by the standards of bourgeois electoral systems, that of the US electoral college system is most undemocratic. This system was devised and instituted in 1789 by big business, the landed aristocracy and the slave masters for the sole purpose of denying the masses any say in national elections. Consequent upon the American War of Liberation from British colonialism, the people who drafted the American constitution, being themselves rich merchants such as John Adams, or owners of large slave plantations, such as George Washington, or lawyers representing the interests of these classes, wanted to prevent the American revolution from embracing the cause and interests of the small farmers, let alone those of the labourers and slaves. Among those who wrote the Constitution there was not a single representative of the labouring poor. The fathers of the American Constitution were, to a man, rich merchants, slave masters with large landed estates, bankers, shippers and their faithful lawyers – representing no more than 10% of the American population. Although the electoral college system has been democratised considerably since those early days, it continues to be undemocratic even in the narrow bourgeois sense. For if a candidate wins a big state like Florida or California even by a single vote, he secures thereby all the electoral college votes allotted to that particular state. It is only on rare occasions, such as the November 2000 presidential election, with its narrow margin between the two candidates and the resultant bare-knuckle fight between them, that the grossly undemocratic nature of the electoral system of this ‘great democracy’ comes to light.
Even so, this carefully devised system, meant to exclude the masses and keep them totally in total darkness, could not deliver the result desired by the ruling class without exposing the iniquities, the racism and the undemocratic nature of the entire exercise. Both the parties resorted to the courts – the most reactionary and conservative arm of the American system of government, where each side indulged in hair-splitting arguments: deadline (Dec 12, as legislated in 1876) versus inclusion; authority of the Florida Secretary of State against that of the Attorney General; statutory right to a manual recount as against the equally statutory one-week post-election deadline for the certification of the votes; recounts in just three counties as against recounting in the entire state of Florida. While the public, at great cost of time and money, were regaled, with an air of solemnity, about all this trivia, neither side made even the slightest reference either to the racist and class bias, which denies 4.2 millon people (of these 1.8 million being black) the franchise, or to the essentially undemocratic nature of the entire electoral system. In the end the deadline argument won the day and George Bush was practically awarded the Presidency by the Supreme Court.
It was an election in which one half of the electorate did not vote. The other half, which did vote, did not decide the question of the presidency. No wonder, then, that as early as 20 November, Business Week felt compelled to observe that “whatever happens now, nearly half the country will believe this presidential election was stolen”. From the point of view of the working class, the poor, the destitute, the blacks, Latinos and native Americans, every election is stolen. After every election, as prior to it, capital reins supreme, with exploitation at home and imperialist plunder abroad being the normal state of affairs. It just so happens that, because of the infight between representatives of two sections of the monopoly capitalist class, each side is accusing the other of stealing the result. Had this scenario occurred, for instance, in Yugoslavia, and Milosevic won by a decision of the Yugoslav Federal Supreme Court, the warmongering NATO would have embarked upon a bombing campaign – in order, of course, to produce a result in accord with ‘democracy’. As it is, no country has the right to send its armed forces into the US to restore democracy and stop the denial of the franchise to millions of people. While the magistrates may burn entire villages, the peasants may not even light their lamps – this Chinese saying is an apt portrayal of the brigandage which goes in the name of the New World Order since the demise of the old Soviet Union.
Business as usual
Now that George W Bush has become, or more correctly, been appointed the president-elect, and will assume office in January, there is nothing for the working class in the US, or the oppressed people of the vast continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America, to look forward to except more of the same as during all previous administrations. They can expect more racist police brutality and more tax cuts for the rich while reducing welfare payments to the victims of capitalism, in the name of ending ‘big government’ (a reactionary ruling-class euphemism for showering wealth on the rich and denying even the bare necessities to the poor). Far from the 43 million Americans presently without health care cover getting such cover, their numbers are likely to grow further still. The 20% child-poverty rate can only register an upward movement. The 2 million people in American prisons (the highest rate of incarceration in the world) will continue to rot in the vast prison-industrial complex. Every type of dissent and expression of protest will continue to be met by the iron fist of the law (witness the treatment by the US police of the WTO protesters in Seattle last year and in the April 2000 Washington protests against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund). Abroad, the looting of the so-called third world and imperialist plunder and brigandage, war and aggression, the violation and denial of human rights in the name of defending human rights will continue unabated. In other words, the US will continue to be run, as it has been hitherto, by the billionaires, and in the interests of the billionaires, by the kings of finance and the industrial magnates for, in the words of Engels, in a democratic republic
“wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely”
by means of the
“direct corruption of officials”
“an alliance between the government and the Stock Exchange.”
Since Engels’ day, with the transformation of free competition capitalism into monopoly capitalism, the omnipotence of wealth has developed to unprecedented levels, for
“imperialism and the domination of banks have ‘developed’ both these methods of upholding and giving effect to the omnipotence of wealth in democratic republics of all descriptions into an unusually fine art.”
“democratic republic is the best possible shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained control over this very best shell …, it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that NO change, of either persons, of institutions, or of parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic, can shake it”
State and Revolution,
FLPH Peking 1965, pp.15-16).
Even if the election were to be the most fair, and every vote were counted properly, it would all the same be a fraud if one takes into account the fundamental question: whose interests, the interests of which class, will be served by the incumbent? One has only to look at a few simple facts to conclude that whether Bush or Gore won the presidency, the job of the incumbent of this high political office would be to serve loyally and in a servile manner US imperialism. Each of these candidates was supported by the giant US corporations and billionaires, who donated upwards of $250 million for each of the candidates and who expect to be rewarded by the occupant of the White House. Bush, following an unbroken tradition going back to the days of the founding of the American republic, has appointed to high posts in his administration people who are either the direct or indirect representatives of giant American corporations, or are multi-millionaires in their own right. Dick Cheney, the Vice President elect, and Andrew Card, designated the new Chief of Staff, both traded their government experience for lucrative jobs in the private sector during Clinton’s presidency. Cheney left the Pentagon for the oil industry to make a personal fortune as Chief Executive Officer of Halliburton, the oil services conglomerate. Card moved from being transportation secretary in the final year of the last Bush administration to assume the position of chief lobbyist for the car industry in Washington. In his position as the president of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association, Andrew Card fought environmental regulations with might and main. The Commerce Secretary designate, Don Evans, Chief Executive with an oil and gas company, helped George W Bush raise a record $100 million for his presidential campaign. The Treasury Secretary designate, Paul O’Neill, was, until his appointment, the Chairman of the largest aluminium company in the world, Alcoa. Most of the other names expected to join Mr O’Neill on the Treasury team, including Walter Shipley, former Chair of Chase Manhattan, John Hennessy, former Chair of CS First Boston, and Donald Marron of Paine Webber, are old Wall Street hands. Although Mr O’Neill is not considered to be as market savvy as his immediate predecessors (Larry Summers and Robert Rubin, the former head of Goldman Sachs), this deficiency is more than made up for by the members of his team who are all experienced bankers inextricably connected with American finance capital, and his close personal friendship with Alan Greenspan, Fed board chairman. In other words, Mr O’Neill is well and truly on message and US finance capital need have no worries on this score.
The Housing Secretary, Mel Martinez, is an incurable reactionary who fled Cuba in 1962. The Secretary of State to be, General Colin Powell, gained notoriety when, as chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff, he waged war against Iraq. Condoleeza Rice too is an incurable reactionary weed and a cold warrior who is well positioned to serve US imperialism well in her position as National Security Advisor in the new Bush administration.
The above-named appointees have impeccable credentials loyally to serve US finance capital and its military industrial complex. To believe that the incoming Bush administration will not govern in the interests of Wall Street, the oil and motor industry and the rest of corporate America, as was asserted with great humbug by George W Bush, is to take leave of one’s senses. The incoming Bush administration is, like its predecessors, stuffed full of members of the handful of bankers, industrialists, soldiers, bureaucrats and politicians who run the United States in the interests of US imperialism and who, with effortless ease, trade their government experience for lucrative jobs in the private sector, and return to the government there to represent the interests of the same private sector. This fraternity, motivated by the sole desire to serve monopoly capital, rotate their careers through the army high command (the General Powells of this world), the boardrooms of giant banks and industrial corporations and mnisterial departments (the Cheneys, O’Neills and Cards), and help to supplement the
between banks and industry by the
between both of them and the government, and “
who are able to do a great deal to facilitate relations with the authorities”
(Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, FLPH Peking, p.46). This is an apt description, not merely of the incoming US administration, but of all the governments in all the various imperialist countries.
“A monopoly,” as Lenin correctly observed,
“once it is formed and controls thousands of millions, inevitably penetrates into every sphere of public life, regardless of the form of government and all other ‘details'”
Only the naïve can believe that political corruption of the sort described above, that the
between banks and industry, on the one hand, and the government, on the other, can be done away with under the conditions of monopoly capitalism. No, it cannot, for
“finance capital has created the epoch of monopolies, and monopolies introduce everywhere monopolist principles: the utilisation of ‘connections’ for profitable transactions takes the place of competition in the open market”
Ralph Nader’s candidacy
This brings us to the candidacy of Ralph Nader. He stood as an ‘anti-monopoly’ candidate. During his campaign he attacked monopolist corporations for lowering wages, destroying the environment and commercialising all culture. He exposed the Republicans and the Democrats alike as being stooges and servants of giant corporations. Mr Nader’s courage is not in doubt. Unlike our ‘own’ Trotskyist and revisionist fraternity who, at the slightest sign that an anti-Labour vote might mean a Tory electoral victory, join the ‘Vote Labour to keep the Tories out’ brigade without the slightest qualms of conscience, Nader withstood all taunts to the effect that he was spoiling the chances of the Democratic candidate, Al Gore. But, besides courage, something more important is needed in the struggle against imperialism, namely, a scientific understanding of the system we live in and the way out of this hell. That means grappling with programmatic questions and bringing to the masses the understanding of the necessity for, and indeed the inevitability of, the overthrow of monopoly capitalism by the proletariat and the establishment of socialism – the dictatorship of the proletariat in place of the present day dictatorship of the bourgeoisie – in order that the working masses may be spared the degradation of unemployment, the torments of hunger, the carnage of imperialist wars and all other infamies consequent upon the present system. It is precisely on this point that Nader is weak in the extreme. Instead of realising the need to put an end to capitalism, his conception of the struggle against monopoly capital merely boils down to bringing back 19th century free competition capitalism. On 5 July, during the Talk Back Live programme on CNN, he was asked:
“Are you a Marxist?”
Nader’s reply was:
“No… I believe in democracy. I believe in competition. I think big corporations are destroying capitalism. Ask a lot of small businesses around the country how they’re pressed and exploited and deprived by their big business predators” (quoted by Fred Goldstein in an article in the
16 November 2000).
Nader’s solution, as Fred Goldstein justly remarks in his article, is like that of someone
“trying to break up a giant ocean liner into small boats”
– which can hardly be a solution. Even if it were to be a practical proposition (which it is not) to break up monopolies, they would very soon reconstitute themselves through the normal workings of free competition capitalism, which produced them in the first place. This indeed is the chasm dividing Marxism-Leninism, which wants to go forward to the complete elimination of competition by the abolition, the overthrow, of capitalism, from the fantasies of the likes of Ralph Nader, who, in typical petty-bourgeois reactionary manner, want to go back to private property based on the labour of the small proprietor, free competition, and democracy, characteristic of the dawn of the capitalist era, i.e., to all those conditions which prepared the ground for, and led to, the concentration of production and monopoly. From Proudhon onwards, all the ideologists of the petty-bourgeoisie have occupied themselves with the fruitless task of abolishing
“… the abuses which have arisen out of the development of commodity production into capitalist production, precisely the law to whose operation these abuses are due”
Marxism-Leninism – the only road to working class liberation
Marxism does not merely confine itself to exposing the misery heaped on the working class by the development of capitalism (although it does that too – better than anyone else); nor does it grumble over the passing away of the system of petty industry which prevailed in the Middle Ages. On the contrary, it recognises the historically revolutionary role of capitalism in this regard, for to concentrate the
“scattered, limited means of production, to enlarge them, to turn them into powerful levers of production of the present day – this was precisely the historic role of capitalist production and its upholder, the bourgeoisie”
And, in its imperialist stage, as Lenin often had occasion to emphasise, capitalism
“leads directly to the most comprehensive socialisation of production; it, so to speak, drags the capitalists, against their will and consciousness, into some sort of new social order, a transitional one from complete free competition to complete socialisation”
Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism
We want to build on the historically progressive achievements of the capitalist era. This can be done, as has been amply shown by the epoch-making achievements of the erstwhile Soviet Union, and will be done again all over the world through proletarian revolutions, which, by putting an end to private appropriation, will put an end to the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production. The ending of capitalist production, the expropriation of the expropriators,
“does not re-establish private property for the producer, but gives him individual property based on the acquisitions of the capitalist era: i.e., on cooperation and the possession in common of the land and the other means of production”
Vol I, p.763).
This, and this alone, is the vision that must be presented to the working class. This, and this alone, is the vision that must permeate those engaged in the work of mobilising the working class against monopoly capitalism. Those 2.6 million who voted for Ralph Nader did well, but only insofar as they defied capitalist blandishments to vote for one of the two candidates representing US monopoly capitalism. They are, however, very far from understanding the true cause of their misery or the way out of it. The only key to that understanding, and hence the salvation of the working class, lies through the relentless pursuit of the science of Marxism-Leninism – theoretically and in the sphere of practical politics. Only when the masses are imbued with a spirit of irreconcilability to bourgeois parliamentarism, the purpose of which is to decide
“once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to represent and repress the people in Parliament”
Civil War in France
), only when they learn to recognise the superiority of the Road of October over bourgeois elections – the superiority of 7 November 1917 over 7 November 2000 (the date of the last presidential election in the US) – will they be in a position to liberate themselves from the horrors of capitalist imperialism. The brilliant victories of the Soviet workers’ state during its existence for seven decades shall continue to beckon and inspire the working class everywhere to heroic exploits.
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