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U.S. Elections, 2004

August 11, 2004
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BY JAAN LAAMAN

4strugglemag, a voice of U.S. political prisoners, has a firmly anti-imperialist outlook, as we continue our work for justice, equality, human rights and a socialist future of freedom. With the U.S. elections looming let me offer some thoughts and recommendations.

Let’s begin very clearly, elections have not and likely will not, bring about fundamental changes in the U.S. They will not usher in the real economic, social and political freedom and justice that so many of us need and hope for. Elections are not inherently good or bad, but certainly everyone should have the right to vote and have their vote be counted.

In America today elections are primarily not a vehicle of real change. In fact they are part of the institutional system that maintains the bourgeoisie, big money elite, corporate control of the political and military/police apparatus of the U.S.A. state. This is done through sharing and alternating control of the state by the Democrat and Republican parties. These two parties closely share fundamental corporate and capitalist principles, especially at the top party levels. In essence they are two sides of one capitalist party. These two parties and the elections they hold are integrally tied into the corporate media, laws and courts, government and electoral officials, and nothing is left to chance. Third parties, particularly if they are not corporate capitalist sponsored, or even maverick candidates of one of the capitalist (Democrat/Republican) parties, are never allowed to seriously campaign or compete. Rather than being a vehicle of change, elections in the U.S. are periodic rituals to legitimatize and strengthen corporate control of the entire U.S.A. state.

This does not mean that all U.S. elections are meaningless or that people looking for real change should automatically boycott or disregard them. We should look at each election and seek ways to advance social and economic justice or perhaps create some space for popular movements and campaigns. Sometimes elections become an expression of popular opposition to war or specific government abuses. Sometimes there are even specific candidates (especially on a more local level) that are actually trying to affect some real issue that is important to the public (for example curbing killer cops, opposing a police state advance, protecting the environment or a neighborhood from corporate greed, etc.). Elections may serve a tactical need and sometimes provide a platform to talk to the people (especially true for leftist 3rd party candidates).

What we as revolutionaries and freedom fighters should not do, is advance any election, even a local one, as “the” way to bring about real change—real freedom and justice. We should never mislead the public into thinking elections will set them free. When we engage in elections and campaigns we must always be honest about the limited or tactical objective. Some elections may give the freedom struggle added space to organize and grow and we should not be afraid to seize such an opportunity. But when we support or work on elections, we should not merge ourselves into one of the two capitalist parties. We should always be honest with the people about why we are involved in the elections and we should mainly work in our own communities to do this.

Turning to the Presidential election, let me identify the most pressing dangers of the Bush government; the war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and the unending war on terror. These invasions, occupations and ongoing wars are the direct outcome of the Bush government’s explicit policy of pre-emption. The imperialist U.S.A. state has a long history of attacking and invading small countries (Vietnam, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Lebanon, Mexico, etc.). In the past the government has mainly used some phoney incident or excuse to justify and invasion/war (for example the Gulf of Tonkin incident to begin the Vietnam War). Today the cabal of extreme conservatives at the core of the Bush government have declared a new right to pre-emptively attack any country they choose. This flies in the face of the past 100 years of international law and diplomacy.

U.S. imperialism, as spearheaded by the Bush government, has embarked on an active warlike policy to establish itself as the undisputed sole world empire. Hand in hand with military invasions abroad, is the creation and consolidation of an integrated but federally directed nationwide police state. Manipulating the public’s fear and uncertainty after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush government has successfully laid down the core of a police state in the U.S. They are now in the process of consolidating and expanding it. This is happening via executive mandates, even more reactionary laws, secret detentions, trials including prosecuting aggressive attorneys, the militarization of air travel and now trains and buses, and the continuing attempts to build fear among the public so they will accept all this.

There is a lot of complicity in this drive from local and state officials, both Democrats and Republicans. But clearly the impetus and direction is coming directly from the Bush White House.

There is nothing positive about Bush or his government. I have heard some discussion of the old line that we should let the reactionary policies continue so more people will become alienated. But this is dangerous, since an actual fascist-style police state is growing on top of us. Plus there are already millions of people in the U.S. that are opposed to Bush, that do see and worry about the empire/police state realities in America now.

War and police state reaction are the major issues of 2004.

Democrats are both pro- and anti-war. John Kerry supports the war in Afghanistan, in Iraq and the more nebulous war on terror. We should have no illusions about his pro-war and pro-imperialist stance. It is quite likely that if Kerry does not alter this pro-war position, so he can draw a clear line between himself and Bush’s imperial war policy, he will not win this election.

There are also powerful Democrats who are anti-war and less intent on pushing the police state. Dean, Kucinich, Kennedy and even Al Gore have come out forcefully against at least some of Bush’s war and police state policies. In the Democratic Party’s more grassroots level there appears to be solid opposition to the war in Iraq. There is also worry and opposition to excessive government and police power. More importantly this seems to be a growing trend among the U.S. public overall.

A Democrat/Kerry White House would have some important differences. Again let me preface, I don’t mean this in a revolutionary or fundamental sense. A Kerry or continuing Bush White House would still be the center of imperialism, with a powerful police state domestic apparatus.

Let’s look at some of the Kerry differences:

  • a non-Ashcroft “Justice” Department;
  • less reactionary federal court judicial nominees, including perhaps three Supreme Court Justices;
  • an environmental policy not completely dominated by oil barons and other corporate polluters;
  • more room for the anti-war movement to function and grow, and hopefully to be able to speak or even exert some pressure on official policy.

On a smaller but dear to my heart issue, with a Democrat White House the amnesty campaign for U.S. political prisoners will be initiated again. All efforts for Presidential amnesty were curtailed during the Bush years.

Let’s look at third parties in 2004. Nader’s independent effort is of course not winnable. His campaign this year is not building towards a new more viable progressive third party. Personally, from what I’ve heard, I’d rather have Nader than Bush or Kerry, but this is not happening, so supporting Nader does, or at least could help Bush.

The Green Party, Workers World Party and other left third parties, I’m sorry to say, will not have any influence on this election.

I recently heard that the Peace and Freedom Party in California may nominate Leonard Peltier for President. If I was a Cali resident, with a warm heart and a raised fist I would vote for my brother and fellow political prisoner Leonard Peltier. And I would hope this would help his decades-long effort at justice and freedom.

I am not a California voter, so here are my recommendations for the 2004 elections. Vote for John Kerry. But vote for him not as a “loyal Democrat,” vote for him from the street. Make it clear to the public, your friends and family that we don’t see this election as our solution to end the war or bring about necessary major social changes.

We do see a Democrat White House as opening up more space and maybe even some influence for the anti-war and social justice movement. We need this space to push to end the war, push to roll back the police state, and push to continue building the popular revolutionary movement we need to bring true justice, freedom and change to America.

July 2004

Jaan Laaman #W41514
P.O. Box 100
South Walpole MA
02071 USA

[note – Jaan’s address has since changed]

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