A Critique of “There is No Alternative”
By Jay Arena, New Orleans WDN
(This is part of a discussion on-going among anti-war activists in New Orleans. You are probably having it in your own communities as well)
I want to briefly respond to the tired old argument put out by Brian Weber, and which is seconded by many other ‘progressives’, that we have to be ‘realistic”, get ready to ‘fight the right”, and support the candidate of the “left wing” of the two capitalist parties.
In a central argument given to support his position, that we need to support Dean or some other Democrat, Weber says :
“With the exception of Lieberman and Clark, all the other candidates might at the very least prevent the workings of government from becoming even more authoritarian.”
Its funny, but that same rationale was put out to get people to vote for Bill “I feel your pain” Clinton. Yet, under the Clinton reign we saw a massive expansion of the repressive power of the US state, both at home and abroad. For example on Clinton’s watch the notorious “Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996” was passed by the Republican congress and signed by the Democratic president. According to the Berkley copwatch, this bill:
gutted the writ of habeas corpus, by eliminating federal constitutional review of state death penalty cases.
•It allowed the INS to deport immigrants based on secret evidence
• It made it a crime to support the lawful activities of an organization labeled as a terrorist group by the state department.
• It allowed the FBI to investigate the crime of material support for terrorism based solely on activities protected under the 1st Amendment.
• It froze assets of any US citizen or domestic organization believed to be an agent of a terrorist group, but it did not specify how an “agent” would be identified as such.
In addition, the bill made it very difficult for death row prisoners to make appeals to federal courts. According to the New Abolitionist “The law makes it nearly impossible for the federal courts to overturn a state court's ruling -- even when a prisoner is presenting never-before-heard evidence of their innocence.” Thanks to this, the number of executions tripled under Clinton.
In fact this 1996 bill, passed By Clinton, and not the Patriotic Act, is what the Bush administration has mainly used to undertake the ‘Ashcroft raids”, that is the massive roundup of immigrants, Arabs, Muslims, and greater repression against all kinds of political dissidents since 9/11.
Clintons “success” on the repression front was not limited to the 1996 bill.. While Clinton was axing welfare, while he was demolishing public housing for the poor and enlarging public housing for the rich under the cynically entitled ‘hope 6” program, while he failed to provide universal health care coverage, he was at the same time increasing the powers of repression. As I mentioned, executions greatly expanded. To attack public housing residents, 50% who are African American, he instituted the ‘one strike’ clause which allowed whole families to be evicted if one person was CHARGED with a criminal offense. While social services were gutted, he committed more federal money to cities to hire more cops. The incarcerated population exploded to almost 2 million people—the highest number in the world.
At the international level, Clinton's record was even more grisly. Under Bill “I feel your pain” Clinton, there were more US military attacks on other countries than any other president in the post-WWII period. Somalia, Sudan—where a pharmaceutical plant was bombed in one of the poorest countries on earth, Afghanistan, Haiti, Yugoslavia, Iraq—did I miss any? UNICEF reported that over 1.5 million died in Iraq because of the murderous sanctions that Bush I started and Clinton continued with zeal. For Colombia Clinton passed the so-called ‘plan Colombia” which under cover of the drug war, expands US military intervention in order to crush the growing popular insurgency.
Again, the historical record does not provide support for Weber’s argument that the “fight the right” strategy of supporting the Democrats can stop the growing repression. Furthermore, other areas of concerns for progressives-- environmental degradation, workers rights, the fight against racism, sexism and homophobia—also cannot be pushed forward by supporting the democrats.
A step forward in the electoral arena is to build a real working class alternative to the two parties of capitalism. These two parties have no solutions to our concerns--the increasing inequality both in US and around the word, growing poverty, environmental degradation, ethnic cleansing, imperialist wars. and other barbarities, since these two parties are committed to the same system that produces these ills. The first step in making a movement that can break with these two parties is to break the ideological hold that the Democrats still hold on many working people, and even those that consider themselves radicals and socialists. This article was written as part of that effort.