The following article originally appeared in Proletarian Revolution No. 71 (Summer 2004).
The presidential contest between Bush and Kerry is a cruel farce. The beleaguered masses across the world face the spectacle of two pompous bloody-handed multi-millionaires competing to decide their fate. It appears that Americans are uniquely privileged because they alone get to choose between them. But even that choice is a lie. American workers, especially Blacks, Latinos and immigrants, are also the targets of U.S. imperialism.
Their occasional rhetoric aside, no candidate in this election offers anything close to what working people need and want. That is because this society, its pseudo-democratic elections included, in no way serves the working class. It is a capitalist society, run by and for the capitalist ruling class. Millions of American workers want an end to the bloody war against the people of Iraq. They want jobs for all at human wages, affordable and decent health care, real skills training, good housing and a solid education for their kids. But the vote will get them none of this.
The facts are plain. The two major presidential candidates agree almost 100 percent on imperialist war abroad and attacks on the workers and oppressed at home. They both insist on “staying the course” in Iraq – that is, on extending the disaster for the Iraqi population and prolonging the unwanted stay of the occupying forces. (See our article “Kerry vs. Bush: Who Will Rule for Imperialism?” in Proletarian Revolution No. 71.) Both candidates envisage a U.S. and world economy that defends the interests of Wall Street above all and therefore requires austerity for the vast majority, at home as well as abroad. (See “Kerry’s Domestic Program Attacks Workers” in Proletarian Revolution No. 71.)
So what is the point of the vote? By means of the presidential campaign, the ruling class is demanding popular ratification of its imperialist, anti-human course. To support Bush or Kerry is to endorse that course: to continue and expand the murderous and torturous U.S. regime in Iraq, and to sacrifice all hopes of economic and social gains at home to the insatiable needs of war and profit.
Moreover, as our front-page article explains [“Imperialism Unmasked by Iraq Debacle” in Proletarian Revolution No. 71], U.S. imperialism is facing a catastrophe in Iraq. The central thrust of the Kerry campaign is that he alone can rescue the ruling class from the disaster that George W. Bush & Co. have led it to. To campaign for Kerry, as many anti-war and working-class activists will do, with the “practical” aim of getting rid of the hated Bush administration, means seeking to rescue U.S. imperialism from its self-imposed debacle. It means mobilizing the U.S. population for the sacrifices required to maintain the “white man’s burden” of colonial regimes in Iraq, Haiti and elsewhere. It means accommodating to policies that will lead to both cuts in social spending at home and increases in U.S. military manpower abroad.
What then is to be done? The problems American working people face will not be solved by elections, by the capitalists or within the capitalist system. The only alternative is socialist revolution; the way to get there is mass action, the living class struggle. No gains, no liberties, have ever been won by any course other than mass struggle that at least threatens the system. If there are few successful mass struggles in this country at the moment, the reality is that the miseries of capitalism will force working people to struggle. The point then is to work for the inevitable struggles to be able to win.
What is necessary now – the most practical and realistic thing that can be done – is to see that when the struggles break out again, they are not again sold down the river by leftish liberal leaders who support or adapt to the Democratic Party. That is, it is necessary to build the nucleus of a revolutionary workers’ party. Revolutionaries today must recruit, train and educate our fellow working-class militants, who have no interest in defending capitalist imperialism, in order to fight to win leadership of the future struggles. Revolutionaries must use elections as Lenin did, to convince working people of the need for the vanguard party and socialist revolution.
That task cannot be postponed because it is allegedly necessary to put off disaster by electing yet another “lesser” evil, an enemy who defends this system of worsening horrors. Those who advocate that path invariably caution against mass struggles; unrest may damage their candidates’ chances of winning middle-of-the-road support. Thus they betray the only course that offers a genuine solution, and they offer a future that will bring slaughter and misery to countless human beings. A vote in this election for any bourgeois candidate is a vote to validate mass murder and imperialism! Lending any effort to an imperialist campaign is not just a diversion from but a barrier to the liberation of our species.