The Anti-War Movement and the 2004 Election
November 11, 2003
The following article is reprinted from "The Worker" newspaper.
During the last several weeks, Michael Thorburn, editor of "The Worker," participated in a number of discussions with anti-war activists about some of the issues raised in relation to the 2004 elections.
Below we summarize several of the main points brought out in these discussions.
1) The most important thing to grasp about the present period is that the people of the U.S. are creating something new - a mass, nationwide anti-war movement. Over the last 2 years, literally tens of millions of people have started to come into active political life to oppose the war in Afghanistan, in Iraq and the so-called "war against terrorism."
2) The urgent question is to assist the consciousness and independent organization of this movement and give political expression to the people's desire for peace.
3) As the anti-war movement has grown, the political establishment has been forced to finally acknowledge its existence and, in the process, develop new political tactics for undermining and marginalizing the movement.
Today, the Republicans and Democrats are using the elections to put tremendous pressure against the anti-war movement, demanding that it give up its principled demands and independent organizations in order to campaign for one or another capitalist politicians.
4) The elections are not simply, or even primarily, a question of picking one or another candidate or choosing not to vote. The elections are a broad ideological, organizational and political campaign waged by the capitalist parties and mass media against the anti-war movement. For example, right now a sharp struggle is going on in nearly every anti-war organization, rally, conference, etc. over whether to persist on the path of independent, anti-war activity or liquidate this practical work in order to "get out the vote."
This political struggle cannot be ignored; only by isolating the politics of war and the politics of compromise with war can we consolidate our movement and advance.
The "Lesser Evil"
Several points were made exposing the arguments in favor of electioneering:
1) Those who try to stampede people into the arms of the Democrats by creating a hysteria about Bush ("anything is better than Bush") are really liquidating the struggle against Bush and underrating the present dangers. Bush's war program - the so-called "war on terrorism" - is the bipartisan program of both Republicans and Democrats because it arises from the capitalist-imperialist system itself. Anti-war activists must not only provide an answer to what social forces and political parties are behind the war program, we must build a force capable of countering the parties of war and imperialism.
2) The claim that the Democrats are a so-called "lesser evil" must be exposed by reminding ourselves that the Democrats consistently support the war program - voting for the war in Afghanistan, calling for the U.N. and other multilateral armed forces to strengthen the U.S-led occupation of Iraq, etc. The history and class interests of the Democrats show that they have always carried out the wars of U.S. imperialism.
We must reject the "slippery slope" logic of pragmatism which ends up supporting the most reactionary candidates on the basis that only such candidates are "electable" or the "only choice."
It was emphasized that the Democrats, in addition to liquidating the immediate demands of the anti-war movements, work to import the chauvinist aims and ideology of the capitalists into the popular movement. A continuous and uncompromising struggle must be waged against this chauvinism.
There is an Alternative!
The biggest distortion of all, is the claim that we must be " realistic" and accept the so-called "lesser evil" because there is " no alternative." The alternative already exists in the millions and tens of millions of Americans who are opposing the wars and who have no stake in them. The task is to give an independent political expression to this already existing movement.
In conclusion it can be said that the way forward for anti-war activists is to persist in:
1) speaking out against war and standing up for their own principles;
2) telling the truth about the political forces which support war and militarism;
3) uniting with others to strengthen the independent anti-war movement and further organize it.