The U.S. election campaign is showing the deepening conflicts among the rulers and their inability to find a way out of their crises, and that U.S.-style democracy is in tatters at home and abroad. They hide their failures behind the slogan Make America Great Again – which only applies to the very, very few who benefit from its striving for world domination | TML Weekly
The U.S. presidential elections continue to reveal a ruling class with no solutions to key problems, especially those connected to the economy and questions of war and peace. Voters are broadly speaking angry with an electoral set-up that produces two candidates, Clinton and Trump, that the majority do not like or want as president. At an NBC Commander-in-Chief forum, the general issues of illegal U.S. aggression, drone warfare and torture – and ending them so as to contribute to peace – were not even addressed. Instead the focus was on the past, like Clinton’s emails and Trump’s regrets.
People are bombarded by media disinformation about this or that comment by either Clinton or Trump or their supporters or detractors and continuous prattle about the constantly changing polls as to who is ahead where. None of the substantial issues are addressed, let alone permitting discussion on solutions. This will likely be the case in the upcoming debate to be held on September 26 at Hofstra University in New York City. The aim of the campaign is not to inform the public and seriously discuss problems, but to divide the American people while the ruling elite try to arrive at some sort of consensus so as to stop a Civil War scenario from unfolding further.
In this vein, the U.S. election campaign is showing the deepening conflicts among the rulers and their inability to find a way out of their crises, and that U.S.-style democracy is in tatters at home and abroad. They hide their failures behind the slogan Make America Great Again – which only applies to the very, very few who benefit from its striving for world domination.
A Clinton presidency will complete the program for change brought in since the presidency of Bill Clinton in 1993. This refers to arrangements where all powers are concentrated in the presidency. All public authority and prior federal/state division of powers are now concentrated in the police powers under the command of the Commander-in-Chief. The definition of government with social responsibility to the people, or at least the pretence of it, is effectively eliminated while only the arbitrary police powers above the government of laws and use of force to resolve problems remain.
Trump also strives for empire-building. He presents war as negotiation, with no political aim and where the main objective is to smash everything, as he has indicated in his “plans” to eliminate ISIS “everywhere.” Nowhere in the campaign is discussion permitted on the demand of the people to end U.S. wars and bring the troops home so as to contribute to peace worldwide. This is a direction the American people have been demanding for years which the current campaign for the presidency serves to block.
Nowhere is the institutional racism of the U.S. state – expressed in the current police killings of African-Americans and attacks on Native Americans and Puerto Ricans, in mass incarceration, inequality in jobs and education and more – on the agenda for solution. Along with poverty and the environment, these problems demand answers. In a situation where the large majority think the country is headed in the wrong direction and do not think the elections will change that, it is worth examining more generally the role of the presidential elections and their impact on the movements against war and for rights.
For the information of its readers, in this issue TML Weekly is publishing below extracts from the presentation delivered by Kathleen Chandler of the U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization (USMLO) at a seminar on the national and international situation held by CPC(M-L) on August 14 in Ottawa which dealt with some of the salient features of the U.S. presidential campaign.
Presentation by USMLO
“The presidential elections in the U.S. have two main aims,” Kathleen Chandler said when she addressed the Seminar on behalf of the USMLO. “One is to divert and smash the movements of the people against war and for rights, so as to keep the people out of power. A second is to resolve conflicts among the rulers so as to preserve the union and prevent a hot civil war, including conflicts between the presidency and military and other contending authorities.”
She continued: “On this latter issue, conflicts continue to intensify, as various military generals openly back one or the other candidate. Trump, at the NBC Commander-in-Chief forum, spoke of 88 generals and admirals he says are backing him. This raises the problem of where their loyalties will lie after the election, if he loses. The same holds true for those military and intelligence forces backing Clinton.”
In terms of how the elections are used to attack the anti-war movement and those fighting for rights, Kathleen said, “This was done mainly using both the Bernie Sanders campaign and that of Trump. The entire presidential campaign as a whole – despite the failure of U.S-style democracy at home and abroad, despite the massive amounts, estimated at $15 billion now for all the campaigns, despite a billionaire able to run simply because he is a billionaire, despite exposure of the undemocratic character of the whole process – pushed the illusion that change can be brought about through the elections.
“Sanders, from the beginning, had the role of activating the youth and attracting those from the anti-war movement and the struggle for rights into the presidential campaign. This included various demands around lowering student debt, providing free education through university, while also speaking generally about opposing the ‘billionaire class’ and having a government that “serves all of us, not just the 1 per cent.” Though he, like Trump and Clinton, generally remained silent on issues of war and peace, he sought to divert the anti-war forces from their fight against war and into backing him as a source for change.
“Sanders attempted to play on the growing sense among the people that the existing set-up is dysfunctional and not legitimate and to promote instead what he termed a ‘political revolution.’ He presented himself as someone against class privilege, while also putting forward that there can be a ‘government for all of us,’ that deals with inequality, poverty, etc. In this manner he appears as a force for change while in reality drawing people into the existing set-up that necessarily upholds class privilege and class rule by the monopoly owners. As a reflection of this and as expected, he endorsed Clinton despite broad opposition by his supporters, including at the convention, both inside and outside. Many youth and activists demonstrated with ‘Never Clinton’ signs and are refusing to support her.
“To in part contend with such opposition, like Obama before him, who formed an organization called ‘Organizing for Action’ based on his campaigns and which exists as a force to follow him as a ‘leader,’ Sanders is launching what he calls ‘Our Revolution,’ in an effort to also maintain an organized force for his agenda. Both are striving to especially mobilize youth into these organizations.
“In a letter to supporters shortly after the convention, Sanders put forward his basic plan:
On the very first day of our campaign, I wrote to my supporters and said, “This campaign is not about Bernie Sanders. It’s about a grassroots movement of Americans standing up and saying: ‘Enough is enough.’ This country and our government belong to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.”
That is as true today as it was then. That is why Our Revolution will focus on three distinct areas of work:
Revitalizing American democracy by bringing millions of working people and young people into the political system.
Empowering the next generation of progressive leaders by inspiring, recruiting and supporting progressive candidates across the entire spectrum of government – from school board to the U.S. Senate.
Doing what the corporate media does not do: elevating political consciousness by educating the public about the most pressing issues confronting our nation and the bold solutions needed to address them.
Together we can revitalize our democracy, empower new progressive leaders, and educate the public about the critical issues facing our country.
“What is evident here are the new arrangements of the rulers, where the presidency is supreme and Congress and the political parties are dysfunctional. There is an effort to further eliminate political parties and legitimize individuals running for the presidency and a ‘public life’ centered on supporting the presidency. Sanders is organizing to keep people in a system that is actually eliminating politics and depoliticizing the people, not transforming politics in a manner that favours the people. U.S.-style democracy cannot be revitalized as it never served the interests of the people. A democracy of our own making that empowers the people and a public life that is human-centred, where public right is recognized and upheld, is the order of the day. Sanders specifically diverted from this issue of who decides and people’s empowerment as the way forward.”
Speaking to how to contend with these attacks, Kathleen spoke of how USMLO intervened at both conventions to bring the issue of war and the fight for an anti-war government to the fore. “We promoted the necessity of opposing the U.S. imperialist striving for world domination and war preparations abroad and escalation of a police state at home. This included our banner, present at many events, demanding Unite and Fight for an Anti-War Government and slogans such as Killer Drones, Killer Cops = Government Genocide and Defend Rights Abroad and at Home. The tremendous pressures and diversions of the campaigns meant there was an absence of more anti-war content in the demonstrations, compared to the past – and in a situation where U.S. wars and war preparations are escalating. At the same time through our broad discussions and distribution of Voice of Revolution, it was evident that people are conscious of the silence imposed about war and peace and the need to counter it. Many stopped to discuss and take pictures of the banner, for example.” Continuing efforts to counter these pressures and advance the fight for an anti-war government and people’s empowerment are critical during the rest of the elections and beyond.
Addressing the Trump campaign, Kathleen brought out that it was also used to divert and disinform those fighting for rights, particularly those fighting to defend the rights of immigrants and those fighting against government racism and police killings. The media, Sanders, Clinton and Obama have all made a big effort to paint Trump as the most dangerous and racist candidate and continue to focus attention on him as unfit to be president. The media promoted every racist comment and claim against immigrants and Muslims made by Trump. This was in part an effort to divide the people and promote American chauvinism, something supported by all the rulers. Clinton, at the Democratic convention, promoted a Muslim family whose son was in the military and killed in Iraq, who Trump then attacked. In this manner, support for the military and Muslims who serve is widely promoted, while the broad opposition to U.S. wars among Muslims and the peoples in general, abroad and at home, is silenced.
In addition, every effort was and is being made to divert the immigrant rights movement from its rejection of Obama as Deporter-in-Chief – deporting more than two million, more than any other administration – and the Democrats generally as those who have conducted massive raids, detention of families for long periods in what are basically concentration camps, and continued deportations. Nothing is said about the hunger strike by women refugees, opposing their indefinite detention. Instead, Trump and defeating Trump by voting for Clinton is to be the main pre-occupation and the movements for rights contained and diverted.
Kathleen emphasized that what Trump has proposed in words is actually already being done. Syrians already face special vetting and UN recognized refugees commonly wait two years for approval and then are brought in on a limited basis. Muslims have long been a target of the state, including spying on mosques, targeting Muslim student organizations, FBI stings and trumped up terrorism charges and the repeated branding of Muslims in general as terrorists. Clinton was a major force behind the invasion of Libya, plans to invade Syria and possibly Iran. She supports Obama’s drone warfare and billions of dollars in U.S. weaponry for the bombing of Palestine, Yemen, Pakistan and more. She is closely tied to the military and is the war president the rulers are rallying around at this time. Yet she is presented as the liberal and Trump as the “most dangerous” fascist. The campaigns have been designed to undermine the resistance of the people and their anti-war, pro-social demands and replace them with support for Clinton.
Similarly, the fight against police killings and government impunity is also supposed to be diverted into targeting Trump. The various battles in Ferguson, Cleveland, Baltimore, Chicago, Baton Rouge and elsewhere, which had increasingly been directed against the racist U.S. state and demanding accountability are now being pressured into a more reactive posture, responding to Trump and his various racist comments. There is an effort, including sending paid non-governmental organization (NGO) organizers into the movement, to reconcile with the police, promote “community policing,” civilian advisory boards of various types, etc. That is, the movement is to capitulate to the police and leave aside the demands against the racist U.S. state and its impunity, abroad and at home.
Connected with this were the decisions at both conventions, in Cleveland for the Republicans and Philadelphia for the Democrats, for the police to have a more restrained role. This included no use of tear gas or pepper spray and no mass arrests, as has been common at previous conventions and many other demonstrations. In general police were not in their combat and riot squad uniforms with vests and batons and automatic weapons, but rather in their regular dress. In some cases, they were not obviously present in large numbers.
It is important to note that both Cleveland and Philadelphia even more so are notorious for their racist and brutal police forces. Philadelphia is where they bombed the African American MOVE collective, killing 11 including children and unleashing fires that basically obliterated six city blocks back in 1985. They are cities where police repression is expected. Yet for these conventions this largely did not occur.
At the same time, what did take place was the arbitrariness of police agencies. In Cleveland, a long list of things demonstrators could not carry was promoted. This included backpacks, lengths of string more than six feet long, tennis balls and wooden, metal or plastic poles of any kind. As well, gas masks or any other item to “protect from chemical irritants,” as the list stated, were also not permitted. However, for the most part, none of this was actually enforced. It was just used to frighten people and make conditions for demonstrators more difficult. The same is true of the promotion of Ohio as an open carry state for guns, meaning if you have a permit you can openly carry guns on the street and in public areas. This mainly served to frighten local people and prevent them from being present where demonstrations occurred.
In Philadelphia, they arbitrarily decided that “refusal to disburse” and “disorderly conduct” would not be considered crimes and instead people would just be given tickets. In general, police did not even attempt to disperse the demonstrations. Instead, in both cities, the actions were used to test new training by the federal Department of Homeland Security, of what are called “Emergency Response Teams” or ERTs for local, county and state police. These teams are specifically trained to control demonstrations and conduct mass arrests. So they, along with other police, were used for that purpose, using bike brigades and fencing and huge cement blocks to control and direct the various actions.
Additionally, while police in public were more restrained, both conventions included significant military agencies, including NorthCom, the military command for all of North America and NORAD, the missile defence for North America, as well as the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol, Secret Service and about 50 agencies in total. Thus just as is occurring with the massive U.S. war games, where the U.S. is striving to gain greater command and control over foreign militaries, the military is also doing the same internally, using events like these conventions. This is consistent with the current direction, where U.S. rulers have no solutions to social problems and all that remains of the public authority is police powers.
Kathleen concluded by emphasizing the need to intervene in struggles, keeping the racist U.S. state as the target. This includes connecting the criminal killer drones abroad and police killings at home as government genocide and denouncing the impunity of the government. What is needed is an anti-war government and a political process that empowers the people and their anti-war, pro-social agenda. This includes fighting to Bring All Troops Home Now! and Defending the Rights of All, Abroad and at Home as part of blocking U.S. empire and efforts to smash the movements of the people.