Elections in the U.S. & Latin America

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Once again, the mid-term elections are upon us.  And once again, the “anyone but the Republicans” mantra is being repeated ad nauseam by many on the “left”.  In practice, this means getting the vote out for the Democrats. Millions of Americans are frustrated with Bush and his policies, and rightly so.  But can the Democrats be trusted to defend the interests of working people in this country?

Although they may differ with the Republicans on this or that secondary issue, on all fundamental questions, the Democrats consistently defend the interests of big business against the interests of working people. How could it be any other way?  They are directly funded by the employing class and most of them are extraordinarily wealthy themselves. Whether it’s the war in Iraq or the all-out attack on workers’ wages and conditions, they invariably side with Bush, or meekly stand aside and let him and his cronies get away with whatever they want.

Instead of offering a positive program that could really improve the lives of working people, they pin their hopes for mid-term victory on the scandals that have wracked the Republican Party in recent weeks. If they fail to regain control of Congress it will be entirely their own fault and a complete confirmation of their political bankruptcy.

But if they do win, will they work to repeal the anti-worker Taft-Hartley Act?  Will they repeal the Patriot Act and legislation allowing domestic spying and the suspension of civil rights? Will they immediately withdraw the troops from Iraq?  Will they slash the bloated military budget and fully fund our crumbling education system? Will they break the profit-driven stranglehold of the HMOs and pharmaceutical giants and provide high-quality, universal health care for all?  Will they nationalize the auto and airline industries to be run safely and democratically by the workers themselves in the interests of all?  Will they nationalize the oil and energy giants that make billions off of working people? Will they fund a massive program of public works to repair and improve our roads and infrastructure, and provide quality jobs and housing for all? The entire experience of the 20th Century suggests otherwise.

And still, organized labor persists in subordinating the interests of working people to the interests of the bosses’ parties. Over the decades, billions of dollars and countless volunteer hours have been given to this allegedly “worker-friendly” party. But what have working people received in return?  The $40 million being spent by the AFL-CIO in “get out the vote” drives this election year would be much better spent building a party by and for working people.  The Change To Win coalition is no better on this question.  They also promote this partnership with the bosses’ parties, which in practice is like the “partnership” of a horse and its rider!

Nonetheless, the rejection of Bush’s policies reflects a healthy disgust with the economic and political system of profit and exploitation we live under. The corruption and lack of principle by politicians whose major appeal to many voters has long been their alleged “moral” superiority has turned off even die-hard Republicans.

The illusion that politicians actually set their own policies is also fading fast.  Lobbyists, above all those representing corporate interests, now play an unprecedented role in government.  In 1968, there were just 63 lobbyists in Washington.  Today there are an incredible 34,000 – double the number of the elected representatives and their staff. $6 million is spent each day to influence these “public” officials. According to the Center for Public Integrity, between 1998 and 2004, lobbyists spent nearly $12 billion not only influencing legislation, but in many cases even drafting the laws and regulations.

No wonder confidence in the institutions of government is at record lows. A recent USA Today/Gallup poll put Bush’s public approval rating at just 37 percent;  the approval rating for Congress was a mere 24 percent. American workers are clearly looking for an alternative.

They are deeply concerned with the state of the economy, health care, education, and in particular the war in Iraq, which everyday claims dozens of U.S. and Iraqi lives.  It is estimated that an astonishing one in 40 Iraqis have been killed since the invasion – that’s one person killed every 3 minutes.  With just 37 percent now supporting the war, there is talk of a possible “change of course” in the conduct of the war.  But this sudden election-year change of heart doesn’t alter the fact that both parties have overwhelmingly endorsed and supported this costly and deadly adventure.

Come election day, most people will likely stay away from the polls, leaving the decision to a small percentage of eligible voters.  This is what passes for “democracy” in the most powerful country on earth. Enough is enough!  We need a genuine political alternative that can truly address the needs of working people. A party by and for the vast majority of us isn’t too much to ask for.  But we need to start building it now.

The fact is, most Americans feel that politics has nothing to do with them, that it makes no real difference which party is in power. When faced with more of the same, it’s not surprising that so many vote “against” instead of “for” politicians, or don’t bother to vote at all. Despite the widespread belief that both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections were fraudulent, hardly a peep was heard.

What a difference with recent and upcoming elections in Latin America, where the developing revolutionary process is shaking society from top to bottom. Millions of mostly poor people feel that the elections and their candidates really mean something, that they are worth fighting for.  Millions have come out on the streets of Mexico to stop the electoral fraud against AMLO, and in Venezuela, millions are organizing to re-elect Hugo Chavez.

But more than mobilizing against electoral fraud or in favor of politicians they feel offer a real alternative, Latin American workers are taking things into own hands. They don’t simply wait around for the politicians. They are organizing in their neighborhoods and workplaces, and are even occupying factories and running them under democratic workers’ control.  This is not something abstract, not ancient history. This is happening right here and now, just on the other side of the Rio Grande.

As we have explained before, these processes will not halt politely at the border.  Already we have seen the magnificent movement of immigrant workers that erupted across the U.S. last spring. The growing attacks on these workers is preparing the conditions for another massive wave of mobilizations in the future. United in struggle, the workers of North, South, and Central America will fundamentally transform society.  The socialist revolution of the Americas is on the agenda.

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