In a spectacle worthy of rock stars, with 84,000 screaming fans and July 4th-style fireworks, the Democratic Party named Barack Obama and Joe Biden to its party’s ticket for the November elections. As we go to press, the Republican Convention has begun and will name John McCain and Sarah Palin (another “fresh face”) as their candidates. Despite being bombarded by frenzied and non-stop media coverage of the campaigns, workers should understand that neither ticket offers anything to us except capitalist exploitation marked by endless wars, attacks on our living standards, and divide-and-rule racism against African Americans and Latinos. The Obama campaign, with its mass outreach to youth, black and Latin, and labor, dangerously misleads millions into supporting the ruling class.
Obama has captured the imagination of millions who want to believe that he will bring change that would help them in these tough times. But Obama has the same backers as President Bush and Dick Cheney! (See PLP Elections Pamphlet). He will serve the same interests! The rulers believe that Obama’s appeal will make the working class more enthusiastic about following U.S. rulers into continuing and expanding wars and inevitable cutbacks in wages, services, and social programs. Like Kennedy, Carter and Clinton before him, Obama represents false hope for change and is simply a front man for the ruling class, “fresh face” notwithstanding.
The Context: War for Control over Energy Resources
U.S. imperialists lead a declining empire that defines the limits of any president’s initiatives. U.S. power, while strong and doing great damage worldwide, is weakening relative to other rising powers including the European Union, Russia, China, and even some secondary capitalist powers like Iran and Venezuela that gain leverage by allying with the rising powers competing with the U.S. At the core of these disputes is control over the world’s energy resources, centered in the Middle East.
The Acceptance Speech and the Issues
Obama’s speech was standard liberal fare. His rhetoric was indistinguishable from his Democratic Party predecessors including John Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, John Kerry, or Bill Clinton. Like them, he promised improvements in all aspects of life (see box). Yet his predecessors have never achieved these goals and cannot because they interfere with the needs of the capitalists for profits. In fact, Bill Clinton dismantled the welfare program so that now the poverty rate has increased dramatically while welfare rolls have fallen drastically!
Obama is tied to the ruling class by a hundred strings, as demonstrated by his selection of long-term Washington insider Joe Biden for Vice-President and his coterie of advisors who all belong to ruling-class think-tanks and policy institutes like the Council on Foreign Relations that ensure the continuity of U.S. imperialism regardless of who is president.
Dissent and Protest
At the convention, thousands rallied to attack the Democratic Party for its failure to champion working-class interests to end the wars and achieve social justice. However, it’s an illusion to think the Democrats, a ruling-class party, would ever truly represent workers’ interest.
The Iraq Veterans Against the War demanded to address the convention around the need to incorporate their goals — an immediate end to the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, better care for returning veterans and reparations for the Iraqi people. Obama turned a deaf ear to these demands and others, relying on thousands of police armed with pepper spray, rubber bullets, and truncheons to threaten the demonstrators and move them far away from the convention, arresting over 130 and beating many. The cops did the same to protestors at the Republican Convention.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The Democratic and Republican conventions are clown shows to entertain and distract us while the country’s actual rulers, the rich capitalists, make sure that their every need is met by their faithful political servants in both parties. They use the political process, including the conventions, to deceive us into thinking that voting can significantly affect our interests. The ruling class wants to recruit millions of us into supporting U.S. imperialism by blunting our class-consciousness about our exploitation by the rich capitalists, bankers, developers and government officials. The working class should instead attack these elections for the shell game they represent, and build a militant, internationalist, anti-racist, anti-imperialist opposition to capitalism. This approach is not “on the ballot” in this election — revolution for workers’ power and communism can never be won through a ballot, but only through revolution and armed struggle.
What does Obama stand for?
• JOBS — Obama promises “more jobs,” ending outsourcing of jobs overseas. But Obama cannot defy the laws of capitalism. They dictate that capitalists must drive for higher profits to survive and therefore seek out the lowest wage markets, whether they be in China, Mexico or Latin America, as the Japanese and European automakers do in seeking lower wages in the U.S.
• WAGES — Obama promises help for “hard-working Americans.” But again, capitalism dictates that U.S. bosses must drive down wages to be able to compete with rival bosses worldwide. So they “outsource” jobs to subcontractor shops from across the southern U.S. to California, jobs which pay $10 an hour, less than half of what workers in unionized factories like Boeing earn, leading to mass layoffs and mass unemployment.
• UNEMPLOYMENT — Because of the above two factors, capitalism must create a “reserve army of unemployed.” No president in history has ever ended unemployment because it’s built into capitalism’s drive for maximum profits which leads to “bubble-bursting” recessions and depressions.
• RACISM — Obama promises to “bring people together” while blaming victims, not racism, for their misery. But Obama won’t withdraw the 100,000 cops that Clinton put on the streets, cops who daily attack and murder black and Latino workers and youth. Again, Obama’s capitalism cannot function, and has never functioned, without the hundreds of billions in super-profits that the racist super-exploitation of black and Latino workers rakes in for the bosses.
• THE ENVIRONMENT — Obama promises to “be free of foreign oil in ten years.” (!) But U.S. capitalism needs to control that foreign oil as a lever in its battle with imperialist rivals in Europe, Russia, China and Japan. Obama promises to put money into non-polluting energy sources, but he doesn’t tell us that no modern army or industry can exist without oil. You can’t drive a tank or fly a jet fighter on wind power.
• A DRAFT — Obama promises to “rebuild our military to meet future conflicts.” How? With the current depleted and exhausted U.S. Army? It can only be done by drafting millions, which Obama aims to accomplish through the back door of “National Service.” This would supposedly give youth a “choice” of “public service” or military service, and promise undocumented immigrant youth citizenship in exchange for becoming cannon fodder in his endless “future conflicts.” Where else will he get the troops he wants to put into Afghanistan?
• FASCISM — Obama complains about the Bush assault on civil liberties, but meanwhile votes for the latest Bush bill to tap an untold number of phone calls in the name of “national security.” And he hasn’t uttered a word about repealing the fascist Patriot Act. The rulers need such laws to put down potential rebellions by workers and youth fed up with all the attacks on their lives.
• WAR — Obama promises to gradually withdraw most (not all) troops from Iraq, but wants to enlarge the army by at least 92,000, sending more soldiers into Afghanistan to continue the killing of thousands of civilians in order to protect proposed oil pipelines in that area of Asia. And Obama’s pledge to handle “future conflicts” by definition must maintain and expand the hundreds of U.S. military bases throughout the world upon which U.S. capitalism depends to control the flow of oil. In defending his ability to be “commander-in-chief,” Obama proudly cites all the past U.S. wars that have seen Democrats in charge.
And Obama’s opponent, John McCain, is just as much a loyal servant of capitalism on every one of the above issues.