Who’s the Lesser Evil in 2012? / by Wayne Deluca
This is a response to the following article by Bill Fletcher Jr. and Carl Davidson:
Every four years, the two parties of capitalist imperialism trot out candidates for the President of the United States. This is the person, elected through an arcane method devised as a compromise between free states and slave states, who will prosecute wars, deport immigrants, harass activists, sign off on illegal drone attacks and assassinations, who will be the commander-in-chief of the largest imperial military ever devised by man, and hold the trigger of a deadly nuclear arsenal. Yet every four years, voices come out of the woodwork shouting that workers and progressive activists must vote for the candidate who stands on the “left boot.”
Carl Davidson and Bill Fletcher – a pair of former Maoists from different lineages – have come together to put forward a long position paper arguing that Barack Obama’s atrocious record doesn’t matter, so they are voting for him. Their argument can be summed up as follows: Obama is a corporate liberal, but his 2008 election constituted a grassroots rebellion in its rank and file. Since 2008 the far-right has consolidated as an irrationalist, insane, misogynist, racist and possibly fascist movement. In order for progressives to gain some room for maneuver, build a base, and deal a blow to the right, they must support Obama over Romney.
Every part of this argument is false. First, we must be clear on what Obama’s role is. He is not a corporate liberal. Obama’s main role is as the commander-in-chief of imperialism. He is a warmaker, the first president to openly have a list of people who he targets for murder in other countries. His promise to close the torture center in Guantánamo Bay quickly turned hollow. Lenin’s policy was to oppose all imperialist wars, and we must be clear that in this case a vote for Obama is a vote for more wars. Indeed, considering that the antiwar movement has died out since Obama’s election, he puts us more at risk as his “base” will become disoriented with a new war rather than opposing it on the streets as when Bush started his war in Iraq.
Second, it tortures the term “liberal.” Yes, Obama is slightly to the left of the narrow American mainstream on issues like gay marriage and abortion. But there is nothing of American liberalism to his platform; his actual economic content is quite conservative, with budget-cutting, pushing charter schools and privatization, and the monstrous gift to private insurance that is called Obamacare.
Obama’s 2008 election was not a grassroots rebellion. Quite the opposite! Leon Trotsky discussed the relationship of the energy of the masses to revolutionary organizations as being like steam in a piston-box. The 2008 electoral campaign was a safety valve, temporarily exciting the discontent that had grown up under eight years of Bush and releasing it harmlessly through electoral activism. That whole wave of activism dissipated into the aether. That was the essence of Obama’s first campaign.
The argument was made in 2008 that an Obama presidency would be a much more fertile ground for struggle than the Bush presidency had been. But this turned out to be a bitter lie. Progressive organizations that had pushed for universal health care in the form of H.R. 676, a “Medicare for All” law, were told to be quiet or marginalized during the debate over what became the Affordable Care Act. The Employee Free Choice Act was quietly sidelined, without a peep from the unions – despite majorities in the House and Senate that could well have passed it. Objectively, the terrain for struggle under Obama is awful. Until Occupy there simply was no critical mass for protests on the ground outside of the right-wing “Tea Party”; even with Occupy there is not a mass coherent revolutionary politics in this country.
Which leaves Davidson and Fletcher with the bogeyman of the ultra-right wing. These people are no doubt unhinged and dangerous, and should be fought. But the question is, has voting for the Democrats ever been a realistic way to fight them? Mitt Romney is one of the most patrician men ever to run for President, born to wealth and running essentially on a platform of lower taxes for the wealthy at any cost. His base certainly includes far-right and proto-fascist elements. But is an Obama victory even a substantial defeat for them?
Defeat of the far right must be a question of mass mobilization, and ultimately of socialist revolution. When the ruling class chooses the weapon of fascism it is because industry feels there is no way out of a crisis without the violent liquidation of the workers’ movement. If there were actually a danger of this, voting for Obama as the lesser evil would do nothing. Workers cannot entrust their security to a state that represents their class enemy to the core; it will fold like a cheap house of cards if the bourgeoisie wants it to. Only workers’ power can put a final stop to the threat of fascist barbarism.
The important decisions about elections are made by corporations with more money than any single human being could ever bring to bear. The recent Citizens United ruling in the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for unlimited donation to so-called SuperPACs. These corporations which have been determined to be “persons” for legal reasons have a voice thousands of times bigger than the little “Progressives for Obama” group set up by Fletcher and Davidson and pro-Democratic groups like it. Trying to build a left movement in this bourgeois arena is a hopeless cause. The Democratic Party is where movements go to die, not where they are built.
But still, every four years we are told that it is a special circumstance, the most important election of our times, and we must vote for the lesser evil one more time. We need to reject this logic, and instead build a party that fights for workers and the oppressed. We need a Labor Party based in the unions!