Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Historical Evidence that Voluntary Federation Can Quickly Replace the Status Quo in a Revolution

In Thinking about Revolution Dave Stratman and I propose that a key part of our vision for a better society, and one of the chief goals of democratic revolution, is to remove the present dictatorship of the rich from power and to create a genuine democracy based on the principle of voluntary federation.

This raises the question, “Is it realistic to think that voluntary federation can quickly replace the status quo after a revolution?” If it is not realistic, then revolutionaries would need to think about less-than-ideal transitional ways of achieving the social order that people will understandably want. And if such a less-than-ideal transitional form of government is necessary in the short term, it raises the question that perhaps it is necessary in the longer term as well, and where does this leave the idea of voluntary federation as a practical notion?

I believe that the experience of Europe in the 20th century, as discussed by Hannah Arendt in her book, On Revolution [online at http://www26.us.archive.org/stream/OnRevolution/ArendtOn-revolution_djvu.txt  ], provides strong evidence that voluntary federation can very quickly replace the status quo in a revolutionary situation.

To start with, let’s briefly say what is meant by ‘voluntary federation.” Voluntary federation, as we use the term in Thinking about Revolution, means that local assemblies are the only bodies that make laws. Local assemblies are meetings open to all adults in the community who support the principles of equality and mutual aid and democracy, and at which all have equal status in decision-making. Social order on a larger than local scale is achieved by local assemblies making voluntary agreements, facilitated by sending delegates to larger-region bodies (and these in turn sending delegates to even larger-region bodies) to craft proposals (not laws) for the local assemblies to accept or reject as they wish. Large-scale agreements are thus arrived at by negotiation among local assemblies.

What follows are excerpts from On Revolution that describe how voluntary federation, or at least something very similar to it, spread rapidly in Europe. A key sentence of Arendt’s is this one:

The most striking aspect of these spontaneous developments is
that in both instances it took these independent and highly dis-
parate organs no more than a few weeks, in the case of Russia,
or a few days, in the case of Hungary, to begin a process of
co-ordination and integration through the formation of higher
councils of a regional or provincial character, from which finally
the delegates to an assembly representing the whole country
could be chosen.

Please read the excerpted text below, and I think you will see that, based on the actual experiences of Europeans not that many years ago, it is perfectly reasonable to expect voluntary federation to replace the status quo after a revolution in a matter of weeks.

[full text from On Revolution starting at page 261 and continuing to page 267 begins here:]

Hence, no tradition, either revolutionary or pre-revolutionary,
can be called to account for the regular emergence and re-
emergence of the council system ever since the French Revo
lution. If we leave aside the February Revolution of 1848 in
Paris, where a commission pour les travailleurs, set up by the
government itself, was almost exclusively concerned with ques-
tions of social legislation, the main dates of appearance of these
organs of action and germs of a new state are the following:
the year 1870, when the French capital under siege by the Prus-
sian army 'spontaneously reorganized itself into a miniature
federal body', which then formed the nucleus for the Parisian
Commune government in the spring of 1871; 75 the year 1905,
when the wave of spontaneous strikes in Russia suddenly de-
veloped a political leadership of its own, outside all revolution-
ary parties and groups, and the workers in the factories organ-
ized themselves into councils, Soviets, for the purpose of repre-
sentative self-government; the February Revolution of 1917 in
Russia, when 'despite different political tendencies among the
Russian workers, the organization itself, that is the soviet, was
not even subject to discussion'; 76 the years 1918 and 1919 in
Germany, when, after the defeat of the army, soldiers and wor-
kers in open rebellion constituted themselves into Arbeiter- und
Soldatenrate, demanding, in Berlin, that this Ratesystem be-
come the foundation stone of the new German constitution,
and establishing, together with the Bohemians of the coffee
houses, in Munich in the spring of 1919, the short-lived Bavarian
Rdterepubli\'^ the last date, finally, is the autumn of 1956, when
the Hungarian Revolution from its very beginning produced the
council system anew in Budapest, from which it spread all over
the country 'with incredible rapidity'. 78

The mere enumeration of these dates suggests a continuity
that in fact never existed. It is precisely the absence of con-
tinuity, tradition, and organized influence that makes the same-
ness of the phenomenon so very striking. Outstanding among
the councils' common characteristics is, of course, the spontaneity
of their coming into being, because it clearly and flagrantly con-
tradicts the theoretical 'twentieth-century model of revolution -
planned, prepared, and executed almost to cold scientific exact-
ness by the professional revolutionaries'. 79 It is true that wher-
ever the revolution was not defeated and not followed by some
sort of restoration the one-party dictatorship, that is, the model
of the professional revolutionary, eventually prevailed, but it
prevailed only after a violent struggle with the organs and insti-
tutions of the revolution itself. The councils, moreover, were
always organs of order as much as organs of action, and it was
indeed their aspiration to lay down the new order that brought
them into conflict with the groups of professional revolution-
aries, who wished to degrade them to mere executive organs of
revolutionary activity. It is true enough that the members of
the councils were not content to discuss and 'enlighten them-
selves' about measures that were taken by parties or assemblies;
they consciously and explicitly desired the direct participation of
every citizen in the public affairs of the country, 80 and as long as
they lasted, there is no doubt that 'every individual found his
own sphere of action and could behold, as it were, with his own
eyes his own contribution to the eyents of the day'. 81 Witnesses
of their functioning were often agreed on the extent to which
the revolution had given birth to a 'direct regeneration of
democracy', whereby the implication was that all such regenera-
tions, alas, were foredoomed since, obviously, a direct handling
of public business through the people was impossible under
modern conditions. They looked upon the councils as though
they were a romantic dream, some sort of fantastic Utopia come
true for a fleeting moment to show, as it were, the hopelessly
romantic yearnings of the people, who apparently did not yet
know the true facts of life. These realists took their own bear-
ings from the party system, assuming as a matter of course that
there existed no other alternative for representative government
and forgetting conveniently that the downfall of the old regime
had been due, among other things, precisely to this system.

For the remarkable thing about the councils was of course
not only that they crossed all party lines, that members of the
various parties sat in them together, but that such party mem-
bership played no role whatsoever. They were in fact the only
political organs for people who belonged to no party. Hence,
they invariably came into conflict with all assemblies, with the
old parliaments as well as with the new 'constituent assemblies',
for the simple reason that the latter, even in their most ex-
treme wings, were still the children of the party system. At this
stage of events, that is, in the midst of revolution, it was the
party programmes more than anything else that separated the
councils from the parties; for these programmes, no matter how
revolutionary, were all 'ready-made formulas' which demanded
not action but execution - 'to be carried out energetically in
practice', as Rosa Luxemburg pointed out with such amazing
clearsightedness about the issues at stake. 82 Today we know
how quickly the theoretical formula disappeared in practical
execution, but if the formula had survived its execution, and
even if it had proved to be the panacea for all evil s, social and
political, the councils were bound to rebel against any such
policy since the very cleavage between the party experts who
'knew' and the mass of the people who were supposed to
apply this knowledge left out of account the average citizen's
capacity to act and to form his own opinion. The councils,
in other words, were bound to become superfluous if the spirit
of the revolutionary party prevailed. Wherever knowing and
doing have parted company, the space of freedom is lost.

The councils, obviously, were spaces of freedom. As such,
they invariably refused to regard themselves as temporary or-
gans of revolution and, on the contrary, made all attempts at
establishing themselves as permanent organs of government.
Far from wishing to make the revolution permanent, their ex-
plicitly expressed goal was 'to lay the foundations of a republic
acclaimed in all its consequences, the only government which
will close forever the era of invasions and civil wars'; no para-
dise on earth, no classless society, no dream of socialist or com-
munist fraternity, but the establishment of 'the true Republic'
was the 'reward' hoped for as the end of the struggle. 83 And
what had been true in Paris in 1871 remained true for Russia
in 1905, when the 'not merely destructive but constructive' inten-
tions of the first Soviets were so manifest that contemporary wit-
nesses 'could sense the emergence and the formation of a force
which one day might be able to effect the transformation of the
State'. 8 *

It was nothing more or less than this hope for a transforma-
tion of the state, for a new form of government that would per-
mit every member of the modern egalitarian society to become
a 'participator* in public affairs, that was buried in the disasters
of twentieth-century revolutions. Their causes were manifold
and, of course, varied from country to country, but the forces
of what is commonly called reaction and counter-revolution are
not prominent among them. Recalling the record of revolution in
our century, it is the weakness rather than the strength of these
forces which is impressive, the frequency of their defeat, the
ease of revolution, and - last, not least - the extraordinary insta-
bility and lack of authority of most European governments res-
tored after the downfall of Hitler's Europe. At any rate, the role
played by the professional revolutionaries and the revolutionary
parties in these disasters was important enough, and in our
context it is the decisive one. Without Lenin's slogan, 'All power
to the soviets\ there would never have been an October Revolu-
tion in Russia, but whether or not Lenin was sincere in pro-
claiming the Soviet Republic, the fact of the matter was even
then that his slogan was in conspicuous contradiction to the
openly proclaimed revolutionary goals of the Bolshevik party
to 'seize power', that is, to replace the state machinery with the
party apparatus. Had Lenin really wanted to give all power to
the Soviets, he would have condemned the Bolshevik party to
the same impotence which now is the outstanding characteristic
of the Soviet parliament, whose party and non-party deputies
are nominated by the party and, in the absence of any rival
list, are not even chosen, but only acclaimed by the voters. But
while the conflict between party and councils was greatly
sharpened because of a conflicting claim to be the only 'true*
representative of the Revolution and the people, the issue at
stake is of a much more far-reaching significance.

What the councils challenged was the party system as such,
in all its forms, and this conflict was emphasized whenever the
councils, born of revolution, turned against the party or parties
whose sole aim had always been the revolution. Seen from the
vanguard point of a true Soviet Republic, the Bolshevik party
was merely more dangerous but no less reactionary than all the
other parties of the defunct regime. As far as the form of govern-
ment is concerned - and the councils everywhere, in contradis-
tinction to the revolutionary parties, were infinitely more interested in the political than in the social aspect of revolution 85 - the
one-party dictatorship is only the last stage in the development
of the nation-state in general and of the multi-party system in
particular. This may sound like a truism in the midst of the
twentieth century when the multi-party democracies in Europe
have declined to the point where in every French or Italian elec-
tion 'the very foundations of the state and the nature of the
regime' are at stake. 86 It is therefore enlightening to see that in
principle the same conflict existed even in 1871, during the
Parisian Commune, when Odysse Barrot formulated with rare
precision the chief difference in terms of French history between
the new form of government, aimed at by the Commune, and
the old regime which soon was to be restored in a different, non-
monarchical disguise : 'En tant que revolution sociale, 1871 pro-
cede directement de 1793, qu'il continue et qu'il doit achever.
... En tant que revolution politique, au contraire, 1871 est re-
action contre 1793 et un rct o u J" a 1789 • • • H a efface du pro-
gramme les mots "une et indivisible" et rejette l'idee autoritaire
qui est une idee toute monarchique . . . pour se rallier a l'idee
federative, qui est par excellence l'idee liberale et republicaine'* 1
(my italics [Arendt’s, not J.S.’s.]).

These words are surprising because they were written at a
time when there existed hardly any evidence - at any rate not for
people unacquainted with the course of the American Revolu-
tion - about the intimate connection between the spirit of
revolution and the principle of federation. In order to prove
what Odysse Barrot felt to be true, we must turn to the Febru-
ary Revolution of 1917 in Russia and to the Hungarian Revolu-
tion of 1956, both of which lasted just long enough to show in
bare outlines what a government would look like and how a
republic was likely to function if they were founded upon the
principles of the council system. In both instances councils or
Soviets had sprung up everywhere, completely independent of
one another, workers*, soldiers', and peasants' councils in the
case of Russia, the most disparate kinds of councils in the case
of Hungary : neighbourhood councils that emerged in all resi-
dential districts, so-called revolutionary councils that grew out
of fighting together in the streets, councils of writers and artists
born in the coffee houses of Budapest, students' and youths'
councils at the universities, workers' councils in the factories,
councils in the army, among the civil servants, and so on. The
formation of a council in each of these disparate groups turned
a more or less accidental proximity into a political institution.
The most striking aspect of these spontaneous developments is
that in both instances it took these independent and highly dis-
parate organs no more than a few weeks, in the case of Russia,
or a few days, in the case of Hungary, to begin a process of
co-ordination and integration through the formation of higher
councils of a regional or provincial character, from which finally
the delegates to an assembly representing the whole country
could be chosen. 88 As in the case of the early covenants, 'cosocia-
tions', and confederations in the colonial history of North
America, we see here how the federal principle, the principle of
league and alliance among separate units, arises out of the
elementary conditions of action itself, uninfluenced by any
theoretical speculations about the possibilities of republican
government in large territories and not even threatened into
coherence by a common enemy. The common object was the
foundation of a new body politic, a new type of republican
government which would rest on 'elementary republics' in such
a way that its own central power did not deprive the constituent
bodies of their original power to constitute. The councils, in
other words, jealous of their capacity to act and to form opinion,
were bound to discover the divisibility of power as well as its
most important consequence, the necessary separation of powers
in government.

[End of excerpted text here]

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What about the Green Party, U.S.A.?

Jill Stein is running for president of the United States on the Green Party ticket. The New York Times is writing about it here. It's a very friendly puff piece.

What should we make of the Green Party?

The Green Party aims to be a party of the minority only. The Green Party's appeal seems at first to be to all Americans who want single-payer health care, an end to unprovoked U.S. invasions of foreign countries, more regulation of corporations, a living family wage, racial and gender equality, an end to repression of our civil rights, and environmentally sound policies--in other words the great majority of Americans. But this is not quite true. The Green Party actually only directs its appeal to Americans who support same-sex marriage and Affirmative Action as well as these other things.

In all 31 state referenda on same-sex marriage a majority voted against making it legal. Fifty-five percent of American voters say Affirmative Action should be abolished (versus 38 percent who support it). Though the Green Party folks do not admit it, there are very reasonable and positive reasons that many Americans have for opposing same-sex marriage and Affirmative Action. Richard Nixon initiated Affirmative Action and pressured Civil Rights leaders into abandoning the goal of ending racial discrimination and replacing it with the goal of government-sponsored discrimination. The result was what the ruling class intended: after decades of white workers and students hearing "I'm sorry we couldn't give you the job (or school admission) because we had to give it to a less qualified minority" the solidarity between whites and blacks against racial discrimination that developed in the 1960s has been replaced by white resentment of blacks getting unfair favored treatment. By making support for same-sex marriage and Affirmative Action a condition for supporting the Green Party, the Party makes it clear that it has no intention of being a party of the majority of Americans.

The role of the Green Party, whether intended by its leaders and followers or not, is to persuade working class Americans that the NPR-listening "progressive" people in the United States who talk about equality and environmentalism and ending unjust wars and controlling corporations etc. are really elitists who have contempt for ordinary Americans--so much contempt that they don't even think people should be allowed to vote on the same-sex marriage question. (The Massachusetts Green Party opposed letting voters in Massachusetts vote on this; their slogan was, "It's wrong to vote on rights.") This same contempt for ordinary people leads Green Party folks to label people who object to "affirmative" racial discrimination in hiring and school admissions as "racists"!

The Green Party this way stigmatizes, as merely the phony rhetoric of elitists, values and aims (like racial and gender equality, ending unjust wars, environmental concerns, single payer health care, etc.) that would otherwise unite a majority of Americans. It is similar to how Communists have stigmatized the idea of revolution for an equal and democratic society: by creating Marxist regimes whose dictatorial nature they justifify with the elitist idea that ordinary people are not yet sufficiently class conscious to have the real say in society, Communists have persuaded millions of people that anybody talking about equality and ending exploitation is just using that rhetoric to manipulate people--that their real aim is to impose a Communist Party dictatorship.

The Green Party and the Democratic Party both link "making things better for working people" with elitist contempt for ordinary people. In doing so they drive working class Americans into the waiting arms of the Republican party who feign respect for the values of working class Americans and link that to an explicitly pro-capitalist ideology. This is how all of the political parties work in tandem to strengthen the dictatorship of the rich.

The Green Party will be used by the ruling class not only to stigmatize ideas that challenge the wealth and privilege and warmongering of the ruling class, but also to thoroughly demoralize those who embrace those ideas and who don't understand why most Americans don't vote for the Green Party's Jill Stein for president. The minuscule vote for the Green Party will do the job. It will tell people opposed to the ruling class, "Abandon hope, you are just a tiny minority and the majority of Americans reject you." This is why the New York Times is giving the Green Party publicity.

Instead of the Green Party's liberal and elitist program, we need to build a revolutionary movement that tells the truth--that we live under a dictatorship of the rich. We need a movement that says ordinary people are the source of the positive values in society and, no matter what they think about same-sex marriage and Affirmative Action, they are the ones who should rule. We need a movement that proposes an inspiring vision of society, not one that, like the Green Party, takes capitalism for granted. (For further discussion of this please see Thinking about Revolution.)

The Green Party is a pro-capitalist party. This is evident from the fact that its platform has not a single word critical of capitalism per se. While the Party criticizes "vast concentrations of wealth and power," it proposes merely that corporations be better regulated. Instead of declaring that all of the means of production belong to the public and not to individuals, the Party merely states that the public owns "public lands, pension funds and the public airwaves," implying that there is nothing wrong with all of the rest of the wealth that has been produced by working people and all of the rest of the earth's resources being claimed as the private property of wealthy people.

The Green Party is opposed to revolution. The Party does not say we need a revolution. It does not say that we have a dictatorship of the rich that controls the outcome of elections and will continue to do so as long as they are in power no matter how many reforms we make to the election system. Instead, the Party says that we merely need to reform the election process to make it work "better." The Greens focus on reforms such as campaign finance reform, Instant Runoff Voting and direct election of the president, as if the dictatorship of the rich did not exist, and the only reason the government doesn't do what most Americans want is because our electoral system isn't quite perfect yet.

This article may be copied and posted on other websites. Please include all hyperlinks.

Listen, Right Wing Talk Radio Host!

Listen, right wing talk radio host! I'm going to tell you why your pro-capitalist views are wrong. I am not a liberal. You can rant and rave against liberals and their elitist attitude all you want, but it has nothing to do with where I am coming from. Go ahead: bad mouth Obama if you want; I'm not defending him.

And don't think that I am advocating more government spending. All of your talking points about the inefficiency and wastefulness of government have nothing to do with what I advocate.

You love it when liberal callers to your show object to something that capitalists do and propose fettering capitalism, because then you can make all of your polished arguments about how fettering capitalism only makes things worse. But I'm not talking about fettering capitalism; I'm for abolishing it.

Now don't get all excited thinking that you can clobber me with your old and reliable anti-Communist arguments. I am not a Communist, not even a Marxist; I don't believe in a centrally planned economy or even a central government, never mind a Communist Party dictatorship.

I'm afraid that if you're going to try to refute my point of view you're going to have to do some original thinking, because the script you guys use, the one that works so well against liberals and Marxists, will be like water off a duck's back if you try to use it against me.

 So, What Do I Believe? 

I think society should be based on a genuine application of the Golden Rule principle. Do you disagree with that? This means shaping society on the basis of equality and mutual aid and democracy. If you disagree with this, then be my guest and reveal to the world that you are an anti-social nut. I think the economy should be a "sharing economy" based on the following principles: 1) People, up until some reasonable age of retirement, ought to contribute to the economy a reasonable amount, given their ability. 2) Among these people economic products and services should be freely shared (not bought and sold) according to need when sufficiently plentiful, and otherwise rationed in an equitable manner taking into account need. Everybody should have the same status economically: nobody is rich and nobody is poor. The decisions required to do this (i.e. deciding what is a reasonable contribution to the economy, a reasonable retirement age, etc.) should be made democratically, as discussed below.

We should make social decisions about the economy and other things democratically. This does NOT mean having a central government that makes laws everybody must follow. (You and the Marxists can join together to argue the need for a central government that we all must obey, if you wish.) It means having social order be based on voluntary federation. "Voluntary" is one of your favorite words. You always praise capitalism because it is based on workers voluntarily agreeing to work for a boss, right? So you should be right on board with basing all of society on voluntary agreements, no?

Specifically this means that laws are made only by local community and workplace assemblies that every adult who supports equality and mutual aid can attend and have an equal say at. No "higher" authority can tell these local assemblies what they must do. People are free. You're not against freedom, are you?

Of course if people in some local assembly or assemblies decide to do something that is so wrong that others think it must be stopped (like enslaving people or institutionalizing child abuse) then people in other regions have every right to stop it, violently if necesssary. You never seemed to have a problem with sending U.S. troops into other nations to stop Communists from enslaving people, so I assume you have no objection to this principle, right?

Whatever a local workplace assembly needs in the way of resources (raw materials, machinery, land, as well as the economic needs of the workers) is made freely (no buying and selling, remember?) available to them if the local community assembly agrees. An entrepreneur with an idea about how to build a better mouse trap, or a more exciting video game, only needs to persuade his or her fellow citizens to let him produce it, and he's off and running. No federal red tape, no onerous taxes. You don't object to entrepreneurship do you?

Everything that requires coordination by many local assemblies is handled this way. Local assemblies send delegates to "higher level" assemblies representing assemblies from a larger region than one locality. And these assemblies in turn send delegates to yet higher level assemblies representing an even larger region. Higher level assemblies do not make laws; they craft proposals that the local assemblies carry out or not as they see fit. Negotiations take place to develop proposals that are agreed upon by a sufficient number of assemblies to carry out the proposal. Different kinds of higher level assemblies can be created for different kinds of purposes, ranging from organizing a sports event to a complex economic enterprise or university system.

Local assemblies, by this system of voluntary federation, can adopt proposals encompassing millions or even billions of people. They can, for example, agree to enter into a single "sharing economy" based on the principles described above, producing for each other and sharing among each other without buying and selling and without some people being rich and others poor. Each local assembly decides questions such as what is a reasonable retirement age or a reasonable contribution to the economy given all relevant circumstances. If a local assembly's decisions seem reasonable to the other assemblies then all of the people in that assembly will be accepted into the large sharing economy.

For people to be in this sharing economy they must contribute to it reasonably. Anybody willing to do so will be able to. They only have to go to a workplace and say, "Can I help?" They will either be told yes, or directed to get some prior required training or education, which will also count as making a reasonable contribution. If a lot of people are looking for a place to work, then the number of hours of work considered reasonable can be reduced so as to get the desired amount of work done with less work required per worker. This is easy when production is for use rather than for profit. This way there is no involuntary unemployment, unlike in the capitalist sytem you love so much. You always say that everybody who can work should work. Well this is how to make it so. Do you have a problem with that?

Before you shout, "This will never work!" I should tell you that it already has worked. In fact it worked very well. Indeed when it was implemented, economic production actually increased compared to the former capitalist system. I'm referring to Spain, in the provinces where a social revolution involving more than three million people along just these lines took place from 1937 to 1939. It ended, not because it didn't work, but because the fascist General Franco, with lots of help from the Communist Joeseph Stalin and the pro-capitalist Franklin D. Roosevelt, violently attacked and eventually defeated this revolution.

What Would You Do Without Liberals to Make You Look Smart? 

So, Mr. or Ms. right wing radio talk show host, what are you going to do without liberals to make you look smart? Are you going to let callers with my revolutionary view speak their mind on your show? I dare you.

I bet you'll limit your critical callers to liberals who say things like, "Outsourcing jobs is bad and should be made illegal"? You love those kinds of callers, don't you? You can then give them the standard argument that outsourcing jobs is actually a good thing because it is the way that products are made most efficiently, which is good for everybody. As my local talk show host put it, "being against outsourcing is like being against progress, like being against railroads because they "put people out of work" compared to having people haul freight on their backs.

Your arguments always assume--without ever allowing this assumption, itself, to be questioned--that the only way people can be economically efficiently productive is if they work in a capitalist society, based on greed instead of mutual aid, based on buying and selling instead of sharing, based on inequality with some people rich and others poor instead of based on equality. Your whole right wing shtick is simply to argue that if our society is going to be a capitalist one, then the conservative way to do it is better than the liberal way. But who cares? The problem with our world today is capitalism. In order to maintain the inequality it is based on, the rulers of a capitalist society have to do terrible things to make people controllable, because most people want a more equal and democratic world.

Capitalist rulers subject children in public schools to high stakes standardized testing that is designed to make working class children feel undeserving of a decent job. They foment Orwellian wars based on lies. They pit people against each other by causing one group to appear nasty or fearful to others. So they use racial discrimination to make blacks look like criminals. They give economic, military and diplomatic support to Israel to enable it to ethnically cleanse non-Jews from their homeland of Palestine. They do this in order to make Americans fear Muslims and Arabs. The U.S. mass media accomplish this by never explaining the real reasons for Muslim and Arab anger, and telling Americans it's because they are anti-semitic terrorists who "hate our freedom."

The liberals are "useful idiots" employed by the rulers of our capitalist society to make it easy for you right wing talk radio hosts to come off appearing like you, with your pro-capitalist mantra, represent the average Joe who has decent values and common sense. Liberals enact Affirmative Action and tell whites, "We're sorry we couldn't give you the job (or school admission); we had to give it to a less qualified minority," in order to make whites resentful of blacks. And they tell blacks that the reason whites don't like Affirmative Action's government-approved racial discrimination is--get this!---because whites who aren't liberals are "racists."

What would you do without these liberals? The liberals not only preach that your white working class followers are racists for being against racial discrimination. They also lie about and insult your followers who oppose same-sex marriage because of their perfectly reasonable concerns for the children produced by such marriages with third party sperm or egg donation. The liberals say people who oppose same-sex marriage shouldn't really be allowed to have a say in society because their opinion on this question proves they are ignorant bigots who believe everything in the Bible no matter what, and who hate gays.

And the list goes on. Sure, you can make mince meat of the liberals. As long as the only criticism of your pro-capitalist ideology comes from liberals, you'll win a big following. That's precisely why the Big Money people promote liberalism; it's why they fund liberal magazines (such as The Nation) and liberal organizations such as the Democratic Party.

Listen, right wing radio talk show host! The days are numbered when the only critics you have to deal with are liberals, whose views might as well have been designed to make it easy for you to ridicule them. Your job as a cheerleader for capitalism won't be quite so easy when revolutionaries dial in.

Mr. or Ms. right wing radio talk show host, I'll do you a little favor. I'll show you where you can read what a revolutionary thinks, in more detail than I've spelled out here, so you can bone up on this view and prepare your rebuttal. The thirty page version is Thinking about Revolution.


 This article may be copied and posted on other websites. Please include all hyperlinks.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

ACLU Defends KKK Free Speech: Right or Wrong?

ACLU Defends KKK Free Speech: Right or Wrong? 
 by John Spritzler 
 June 27, 2012 

The American Civil Liberties Union announced recently that it would defend the free speech rights of the notoriously racist Ku Klux Klan. Specifically, the ACLU will defend the right of the KKK to "adopt" a section of public highway (i.e. agree to have its volunteers clean up trash on the road) in return for public signage giving the KKK credit for a public service, in a state program that encourages civic groups to adopt highways this way.

Is the ACLU defending a violent organization?

I don't believe there is a single KKK organization today. There are numerous organizations that call themselves KKK. The particular organization that the ACLU is defending is the "International Keystone Knights" chapter (or whatever) of the KKK, with its website at www.ikkkkk.org/. This website declares the organization opposed to violence. It only advertises aims on its website that can also be found on the websites of non-KKK right wing Republicans or talk-radio hosts: things like "close the borders," and "Language: English only," "Mandatory drug screening before welfare," etc. Its stated aims are not explicitly racist.

But the website also embraces the Ku Klux Klan identity by devoting most of the site to a proud description of the history of the Ku Klux Klan and by listing nine contact persons with titles in the KKK tradition, such as "Imperial Wizard" and "Alabama Grand Dragon." Here's a sentence from the site's proud history section:

"The negroids were brought under control, and the State governments returned to control by White Southern men, the carpetbaggers were sent packing, and White Supremacy once again dominated Southern Culture and Government. Once this was an accomplished fact, the KKK in actual fact and in almost total unison did actually disband, only to be revived once the need arose again."

The KKK has a notoriously violent and racist history of cross-burnings and lynchings of blacks and, in the 1960s, of murders of both blacks and whites who participated in Civil Rights actions, all intended to terrorize blacks and enforce the racist Jim Crow laws of the American South. Given this violent and racist history, any organization that proudly identifies itself as KKK is an organization that at least implicitly threatens violence against those who want equality and solidarity among people of all races. This is true even if its website disavows violence and avoids using explicitly racist language in stating its current aims.

The ACLU is thus defending the free speech rights of an organization that implicitly threatens racist violence to prevent equality and solidarity between black and white people. Is the ACLU right or wrong?

I think it is wrong. But I know a lot of good people would say it is right. The question is important for us to discuss carefully because in the course of building a revolutionary movement, for a more equal and democratic society based on mutual aid, we will have to decide how to relate to those who disagree with us.

The Principle of Free Speech 

The principle of free speech that we are so familiar with, that we are taught in school and told to honor by newspaper editors and media talking heads, is often expressed with the famous quotation attributed to Voltaire: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

The problem with this principle, which so many people embrace, is that there is no sharp line separating it, in practice, from a principle that virtually nobody embraces: "I do not agree with what you are doing, but I'll defend to the death your right to do it."

When free speech should be denied 

The fact is that "saying" is a kind of "doing." The most famous illustration of this fact is the one cited by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes, who wrote for a unanimous Court: "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger..."

The context of this statement was the Court's defense of the government's right to prevent the distribution of flyers opposing the military draft for World War I. Holmes supported the United States military actions in that war and understood that flyers opposed to the draft were not merely saying something; they were also doing something--impeding the war effort. Holmes may have been wrong about the rightness of the U.S. entry into World War I, but he was right in seeing that in this context saying is a kind of doing.

Whenever there is a conflict between people with fundamentally opposing goals and values, then one side will prevail over the other because it brings to bear greater force or the threat of greater force against the other side. But how do people bring to bear force against a foe? They do it by organizing themselves for that purpose. And how do they organize themselves? They do it by communicating with each other, expressing ideas and arguments to persuade others to act in a certain way. In other words they do it by saying things. The most violent application of force requires first that certain things be said.

If you are confronted by a hostile group of people who are organizing themselves so as to be able to commit violence against you, your self-defense against violence would legitimately include doing anything you could to prevent your enemy from communicating with each other, in other words denying them free speech.

Imagine you're in a dangerous part of the city. A woman is being raped and the rapist has a friend with him and other friends within shouting distance. Some good people come to the aid of the woman, and struggle with the rapist. The rapist's friend yells out for others to come help the rapist. A good person puts his hand over the mouth of the rapist's friend to prevent him from calling for help. In so doing he denies the rapist's friend freedom of speech. Right or wrong? Right, obviously. Saying is a kind of doing, and some doings should not be done.

It is not always right to defend somebody's right to say something. Sometimes it is right to deny somebody free speech, and sometimes it is wrong. The decision to allow or deny free speech can only be made by considering the consequences in the particular case at hand.

When free speech should be defended 

Let's consider what are some good reasons for defending free speech of those with whom one disagrees. When somebody is using speech to achieve a goal that one thinks is fundamentally wrong, then one has no moral obligation to defend that person's free speech. There may, however, be a good reason to defend such speech. In some--not all--circumstances one can be more effective in opposing a bad goal by allowing its advocates free speech than by denying them free speech.

For example, during the early years of the Vietnam War the U.S. government had a lot of public support for the war based on government lies that the public did not know were lies. People opposed to the war held teach-ins and went out of their way to invite the government to send a pro-war person to present the government's case, knowing that the pro-war arguments could be persuasively refuted. Allowing the government people to speak made the anti-war position more persuasive than not allowing them to speak, because the audiences saw how the government people were unable to refute the challenges to their lies.

A very different case is when people share fundamental values and goals. Among such people there are often, nonetheless, disagreements about secondary matters. This is when the principle of free speech makes the most sense. Everybody should be allowed to express their opinions so that there can be a full and genuine discussion that will have the best chance of leading to a sensible consensus, or at least a majority view that will be minimally distasteful to the minority. Such an open free-speech environment will also maximize the chance that better ideas will eventually win out over poorer ones.

Will We Lose Our Own Free Speech If We Don't Defend Everyone's Free Speech?

No. The notion that in order to protect free speech for good purposes one must also protect it for bad purposes is false. What makes this false notion seem true is the equally false idea that, as we are taught in our schools and corporate-controlled mass media and other institutions, the rulers of our class riven society make and enforce laws that are impartial to one side or another in the conflict between the working class and the elite Big Money ruling class. This is a fairy tale. According to this fairy tale, the laws about free speech will either be "free speech for everybody" or "free speech for nobody."

The reality is quite different. In the United States, the very concept of free speech for working class people to challenge the upper class did not exist until the radical working class organization, the Industrial Workers of the World ("the Wobblies") fought for the right. Wobblies in the early 1900s gave speeches in public, got arrested, and were replaced by more Wobblies giving speeches, filling up the jails, until finally the government stopped arresting people for giving speeches in public that the government did not approve of. Prior to this there was all the free speech in the world, however, for the wealthy class with their newspapers to preach the views of Big Money.

While free speech for the upper class is guaranteed as long as that class holds power, free speech for working people to challenge the upper class waxes and wanes according to how hard it is fought for. In the 1960s a radical movement in the U.S. won the right for students to pass out leaflets against racism and the Vietnam War and other ruling class policies on college campuses, without having to ask anybody for prior permission. Today Harvard University and other so-called "bastions of free speech" do not let students or faculty or any other employees pass out leaflets on college property unless the administration gives prior approval, and I know from personal experience at Harvard that this approval is typically not given if the content of the leaflet challenges a key ruling class lie.

Harvard told me I could not pass out a leaflet against Zionism on the campus because, "We do not allow distribution of materials not directly related to school business within the School property. The public spaces are so small, and the traffic so high in them, that we simply don't have the room to accommodate this sort of activity." This was, of course, a patent lie, as evidenced by the fact that when I threatened to pass out the leaflet on public property with a note explaining that Harvard had refused to let it be distributed on campus, the University's dean of academic affairs did a 180 degree turn-around and emailed me saying, "John, I agree that the School should provide opportunities for discussion of important public health and human rights issues. We have been thinking about how you can air the issues you have raised without disrupting the other business of the School. To that end, we would like to offer you the opportunity to 'table' on the first floor of the Kresge Building, distribute your leaflets, and talk with other members of the community about these issues."

What history teaches is that the way to win freedom of speech for good purposes is to fight for freedom of speech for good purposes, period. Whenever the ruling class claims to be restricting freedom of speech across the board no matter what the content for some supposedly "neutral" reason ("the public spaces are so small"), we should expose that claim as the lie that it is, point out that the ruling class is not restricting its own freedom of speech in any meaningful way, and fight for freedom of speech for good purposes.

Free Speech for the Ku Klux Klan? 

The fact that the KKK organization being defended by the ACLU does not condemn the racist violence of the KKK in the past, and proudly identifies as a KKK organization, means that it is an organization whose actual, though unstated, purpose is to provide self-confidence (strength in numbers) to the kind of people who are likely to carry out racist violence. Allowing such an organization to gain legitimacy and to recruit more effectively by having public signs on a highway praising them for their civic mindedness serves no good purpose, only a bad one. There is no reason to provide this KKK organization this free speech, and every reason to deny it.

 This article may be copied and posted on other websites. Please include all hyperlinks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Voting for President in America: History is Trying to Tell Us Something

Voting for President in America:  History is Trying to Tell Us Something

by John Spritzler

History is trying to tell us something about the role of elections in the United States. Let’s recall the highlights of how our last twelve elected presidents campaigned and then subsequently acted in office. After refreshing our memory about these events we will see why the arguments often cited for why we should vote for president don’t hold water if history has anything to say about them.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, when running for president in 1940 for his third term in office, promised the American public he had no plans to involve the United States in a world war. At the same time, it is now well known, FDR was doing everything he could (including placing an embargo on U.S. oil to Japan) to deliberately cause Japan to launch a first strike against the U.S. He knew that only a Japanese first strike could neutralize the huge isolationist movement (that was supported by both the left and the right) and get the U.S. into the war, which was his intention from the beginning.

Harry S Truman, upon taking over as President on FDR’s death in 1945, concluded WWII by telling Americans one of the biggest lies in history: that the purpose of dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was to save American lives. It is now known that Truman was well informed that the Japanese had offered to surrender on just one condition—that the emperor remain on the throne. Truman in fact did allow the emperor to remain on the throne, which proves that his purpose in dropping those nuclear bombs had nothing to do with saving American lives. He lied because he knew that Americans would have been appalled at the use of nuclear bombs for any other reason.

Truman launched the Cold War against Communism immediately at the close of WWII. The Cold War’s actual purpose was to use the pretext of defending people against Stalinist type dictatorships to justify U.S. support for equally anti-democratic and anti-working class regimes in Europe and Asia. The “Truman Doctrine” was based on the thinking of George Kennan, who wrote the following in U.S. State Department Policy Planning, Study #23 February 24, 1948:
"[W]e have about 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population....In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity....To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives....We should cease to talk about vague and...unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.
    ... We should recognize that our influence in the Far Eastern area in the coming period is going to be primarily military and economic. We should make a careful study to see what parts of the Pacific and Far Eastern world are absolutely vital to our security, and we should concentrate our policy on seeing to it that those areas remain in hands which we can control or rely on."
These are the reasons why Truman sent military and economic aid to the Greek monarchy to help it suppress the organizations fighting for democracy and equality, in particular the EAM, which in 1944 had been the largest anti-fascist resistance organization in Europe with 1.8 million members (when the total Greek population was only 7.5 million.) Truman did not share these actual reasons with the American public any more than his actual reasons for using nuclear weapons. He knew Americans would be appalled.

Dwight D. Eisenhower ran for president in 1952 as a Republican harshly critical of Truman's Democratic Party on the question of how (not whether) to wage the Cold War against Communism. Arguing about which candidate would wage the "war against Communism" better is the kind of debate Americans were offered in election campaigns at this time. Neither candidate would say what the actual purpose of the Cold War was. There was no real substantive difference between Eisenhower and the Democratic Party as far as using the Cold War as a pretext for attacking pro-working class struggles throughout the world and hiding this truth from the public. In 1953 Eisenhower had the CIA overthrow the democratically elected president Mossadegh of Iran. In 1954 Eisenhower provided military aid to the Guatemalan Army to overthrow its elected president because he was making reforms favoring farm laborers who were in debt slavery to companies like United Fruit Company. Truman and Eisenhower were so similar in their anti-working class aims that when Eisenhower had not yet decided to run for president as a Republican, Truman tried to persuade him to run as a Democrat and even offered to serve as his vice presidential candidate if he did.

Eisenhower initiated the U.S. Vietnam War by telling Americans the Cold War lie that the U.S. government fought Communism out of concern for the welfare of ordinary people. Vietnamese people, led by the Communist Ho Chi Minh, defeated the French colonial military forces in 1954 and negotiated a settlement in Geneva that called for national elections to take place in 1956. Eisenhower admitted that Ho Chi Minh would easily win such an election, and he refused to let it happen. Instead he set up the dictator, Ngo Dinh Diem, to rule the south of Vietnam and suppress the peasant organizations that were aiming to improve the lives of peasants. The subsequent U.S. invasion of Vietnam was all about protecting pro-American dictators in South Vietnam. Now that the Communists rule all of Vietnam, American corporations like Nike are all too happy to set up their sweat shops there, and they have the blessing of both the U.S. and Vietnamese governments to exploit their workers horribly. This illustrates that the Cold War was never motivated by a concern for ordinary working people.

John F. Kennedy, elected president in 1960, came to the conclusion, after narrowly averting thermonuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, that the Cold War with the Soviet Union had to be ended. He discovered that the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, felt the same way. The two men determined to end the Cold War. Kennedy enlisted public support to pass the nuclear test ban treaty against intense opposition from powerful people in the military-industrial complex, and he ordered the military to make plans to leave Vietnam. The people with real power in the United States did not want the Cold War to end because it was useful to them in so many ways, from enriching them with profits from weapons contracts with the government to providing a pretext to overthrow governments that were not to their liking in places like Iran. They viewed Kennedy as, literally, a traitor to their class. The CIA, acting on behalf of these people, assassinated Kennedy, and the Cold War continued. (This is extremely persuasively documented by James Douglass in his book,Kennedy and the Unspeakable.)

B. Johnson, when running for president against Barry Goldwater in 1964, accused Goldwater of being a warmonger who would "send American boys to fight an Asian war." LBJ promised he would not do that. After the election, LBJ did exactly that. The stand-up comic version goes like this: “Back in 1964 they said if I voted for Goldwater, American boys would be sent to fight an Asian war, and they were right. I did vote for Goldwater and American boys were indeed sent to fight an Asian war.”

Richard M. Nixon ran for president in 1968 with a promise that he had a “secret plan” to end the, by then, extremely unpopular Vietnam War. In 1969, after winning the election, Nixon—a Quaker, don’t forget—launched secret bombing raids of Cambodia that escalated the war even further, provoking outrage by Americans opposed to the war and a student demonstration in Ohio at which the National Guard killed four Kent State University students.

Nixon was famous for being an anti-Communist, a conservative and, among those who were in the know, an anti-Semite. But as president he surprised the world by going to China and ending the cold war between the U.S. and China. He also was arguably the most liberal president of that century: he initiated Affirmative Action, strongly supported Head Start and similar “war on poverty” programs, and even considered having the government provide a guaranteed minimum wage. And Nixon was as staunch a supporter of Israel as any other American president.

Jimmy Carter was famous for being a liberal and a humanitarian. He campaigned on a pledge to make government “competent and compassionate.” But what did he do after being elected president in 1977? Carter increased military aid to Indonesia’s President Suharto who used it to occupy East Timor and to kill 200,000 East Timorese. Carter also backed Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and the Shah of Iran, both notoriously anti-democratic and brutal rulers. Carter similarly backed the murderous Somoza regime in Nicaragua and had the U.S. Army School of the Americas train 250 Salvadoran officers and non-coms for El Salvador's brutal and violently repressive military that blew up every union meeting place and opposition newspaper as it killed opposition leaders.

Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1980 with a campaign brochure that said, “What about inflation? It's a disaster, because the government continues to spend billions of dollars more than it takes in.” What did Reagan do as president? Federal spending grew by an average of 2.5 percent a year, adjusted for inflation, while Reagan was president. The national debt exploded, increasing from about $700 billion to nearly $3 trillion.

Reagan campaigned that he would lower taxes. Most of those who voted for him no doubt hoped that he would lower their own taxes. In fact, while wealthy Americans benefited from Reagan's tax policies, blue-collar Americans paid a higher percentage of their income in taxes when Reagan left office than when he came in.

George H. W. Bush ran for president in 1988. He promised “a kinder and gentler nation” and he promised, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” What happened? The Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 did raise taxes and George H.W. Bush signed it into law. As for a kinder and gentler nation, President Bush made it much less kinder and gentler for American workers by signing the North American Free Trade Agreement treaty in December, 1992. This treaty (that Clinton would soon sign into law) was a frontal attack on American workers’ job security. Nor was President Bush kind and gentle towards the men drafted into Saddam Hussein’s military forces, whom Saddam ordered into Kuwait after Bush’s ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, gave him a green light to do so, as documented athttp://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/ARTICLE5/april.html . In “The Massacre of Withdrawing Soldiers on ‘the Highway of Death’” Joyce Chediac writes:

    “I want to give testimony on what are called the "highways of death." These are the two Kuwaiti roadways, littered with remains of 2,000 mangled Iraqi military vehicles, and the charred and dismembered bodies of tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, who were withdrawing from Kuwait on February 26th and 27th 1991 in compliance with UN resolutions. U.S. planes trapped the long convoys by disabling vehicles in the front, and at the rear, and then pounded the resulting traffic jams for hours. "It was like shooting fish in a barrel," said one U.S. pilot. The horror is still there to see.” [http://deoxy.org/wc/wc-death.htm]

Bill Clinton was famous for being a liberal who could “feel our pain.” Clinton’s 1992 campaign for president focused on the theme: “It’s the economy, stupid.” People voted for Clinton hoping that he would make their lives more economically secure. Black leaders endorsed him and Toni Morrison after his election even called him “the first black president.” Before the election Clinton promised that if elected, he would not sign a bill implementing NAFTA unless it included additional agreements that protected labor. But the bill he signed gave us a NAFTA that has enabled countless employers to threaten workers that their jobs would be sent to Mexico unless they accepted deep cuts in pay and benefits. President Clinton also, to the dismay of his liberal supporters, “abolished welfare as we know it” to rip apart the social safety net in the U.S. Furthermore, Clinton launched a bombing and sanctions attack on Iraq that caused more than a million Iraqi deaths, half of them children under five years old whose deaths his Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, famously said “were worth it.” And he bombed civilians Serbs. But he was a liberal, so the anti-war movement leaders gave him a free pass.

George W. Bush campaigned in 2000 against "nation building" and then, when elected, made re-building Iraq the cornerstone of his administration (with the philosophy that to make an omelet one must first break eggs). He never campaigned on the theme that he would tell a whopping lie (WMD) to hoodwink Americans into supporting an invasion of Iraq--but he did just that.

Barack Obama, before running for president in 2008, said in 2003 that [video] single payer was the only rational approach to health care but it would not be obtainable until a single-payer advocate was in the Oval Office, and then when he moved into that Oval Office he did not even let single payer be considered.
When he was a community organizer in Chicago Obama attended meetings of Palestinian-Americans and endorsed their demands for equal rights against Israeli denial of them. But as president Obama acts as if he didn't even know that the Palestinians had any just grievances about denial of their rights. This is because the ruling class strategy entails keeping Americans in the dark about the true reasons Palestinians are angry at Israel, and telling them the lie that it is just because of their anti-Semitism, which leads them (and Muslims in general) to be fanatical anti-American/anti-Jewish murderous terrorists, against whom to safeguard ourselves we must obey our rulers so that we will win the war against terrorism.

As a candidate Obama was a harsh critic of G.W. Bush’s violation of civil liberties. As President, Obama makes those concerned about civil liberties long for the good old days of G.W. Bush: Obama doesn’t just torture Americans as Bush did, he now kills Americans (and non-Americans) with drones with no judicial oversight whatsoever. Bush tapped our phones without a warrant, but Obama eliminated habeas corpus and authorized the law that allows the military to imprison Americans with no trial--indefinitely.

While G.W. Bush invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama—the Nobel Peace laureate—has launched military attacks not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but also Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Should One Vote for the Lesser Evil?

Voting for the lesser evil is impossible if there is no lesser evil to vote for. This was the case, historically. Anti-war candidates such as FDR, LBJ and Nixon (with his secret plan to end the Vietnam war) turned out to be pro-war candidates. If there were really a pro-war candidate running against an anti-war candidate, then a person who was opposed to the war at question and felt this single issue was more important than any other issue could vote for the anti-war candidate as a lesser evil. But when even the “anti-war” candidate is really pro-war, it is impossible to vote for the lesser evil—there is no lesser evil to vote for.

Voting for the lesser evil is also impossible if one has no clue from campaign promises what a candidate will actually do if elected. How, then, can one possibly know which candidate is the lesser evil?

Those who voted for Truman and Eisenhower did not know they were voting for a man who would commit mass murder with nuclear weapons for a purpose he refused to divulge, or for a man who would use rhetoric about defending freedom against Communism to support dictators as brutal as any Communist but more conducive to U.S. corporations' profits.

Liberals who voted for what they believed was a liberal Clinton got cuts in the social safety net, and the NAFTA attack on workers. Conservatives who voted for what they believed was a conservative staunch anti-Communist Nixon got an end to the cold war against Communist China and one of our most liberal presidents domestically.

Jimmy Carter no doubt seemed like a lesser evil candidate because he was such a humanitarian guy. How could voters have known that he would execute a foreign policy of backing the most brutal and murderous dictators in the world and help them to kill hundreds of thousands of people?

Ronald Reagan persuaded many blue collar former Democratic Party voters to vote for him because he would lower their taxes. Instead he raised them.

Voters opposed to raising taxes thought George H.W. "Read my lips: No new taxes" Bush was their lesser evil man. They were wrong.

Those who voted for Obama because he was for single-payer health care, or because he supported Palestinian human rights, or because he was better on civil liberties than the Republican or because he was less of a warmonger found out later that they really hadn’t had a clue when they were in the voting booth what they were actually voting for.

The voters in American presidential elections have never been able to vote for an actual lesser evil, only for a candidate they wrongly thought was a lesser evil. In truth they voted for complete unknowns.

Voting for the candidate one believes to be the lesser evil is a bad idea because that candidate might very well be the one not only willing (they're all willing!) but best able to implement evil. “Only Nixon could go to China” is an important historical lesson. It means that the politician who has a reputation for opposing some policy is precisely the one best able to implement that policy. This is because the leading figures in society who oppose that policy are loath to attack “their own guy” even when he implements the hated policy. Thus only Clinton could “end welfare as we know it” or bomb Serbian civilians without liberal leaders so much as saying Boo; only Nixon could initiate Affirmative Action; only Obama the Constitutional law professor could destroy the last vestiges of American Constitutional rights. And while Republican G.W. Bush failed to privatize (and hence undermine) Social Security, Democrat Obama may very well succeed.

Be afraid of the "lesser evil"; be very afraid!

Should One Vote According to the Candidate's Religion or Personality?

Nixon was a Quaker, one of the most pacifist religions, and yet he carried out one of the most murderous wars ever in Vietnam and Cambodia. He was also an anti-Semite and yet a strong supporter of Israel. Anybody who voted for him because of his Quaker religion or his personal anti-Semitism would have been a very disappointed voter.

What Explains the Disconnect Between Candidates' Campaign Promises or Personality, and their Actual Deeds Once Elected?

Politicians, even presidents, do not determine government policies. These policies are determined by the ruling class--the very wealthiest people in society, and the top corporate managers and lawyers and intellectuals to whom they pay very high salaries for loyal service and advice. The ruling class crafts policies in exclusive think tanks open only to them, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institute, and the Committee on Economic Development, supplemented by elite gatherings such as the one at Davos, Switzerland and others that are not reported on by the press.

Any candidate serious about becoming president of the United States knows that the only way to succeed is by persuading the ruling class that, when elected, he or she will be willing and able to implement these government policies and ensure that the public will go along with them. The amount of money donated by the upper class to their election campaign fund and the amount of favorable corporate-controlled media coverage a candidate gets is a measure of how well they have persuaded the ruling class that they are willing and able to do the job expected of them: get the public to go along with policies determined by the ruling class.

The policies that the ruling class decides to implement have nothing to do with the personal beliefs of the candidates, or the lies and promises they tell to get votes. The policies are determined by what the ruling class believes will best protect or strengthen their power over society, given the prevailing circumstances. If in the near future the ruling class is confronted with a huge and growing revolutionary movement (as was the case in the 1930s when FDR was in office), and if it thinks that a New Deal type response would weaken the revolutionary movement more than, say, violent repression, then a President Romney or Obama would likely implement the former response; and if the ruling class thinks the opposite then the president would likely implement the latter response. It will matter not a bit whether the president is Romney or Obama.

Politicians dare not tell the public the real reasons for what they do because they know the public would be appalled to find out. This is why FDR denied his real intention to get the U.S. into the European war (his real motive is explained in The People as Enemy: The Leaders' Hidden Agenda in World War II by this author), why Truman lied about why he dropped nuclear bombs on Japanese cities, why Truman lied about the real purpose of the Cold War and why Eisenhower lied about why he extended the Cold War to Vietnam. Voting for a candidate because of what he or she says in the campaign is like deciding what used car to buy based on the claims made by the salesman in the car lot.

But What if a President Goes Against the Ruling Class and Does What He Thinks is Right Instead?

John F. Kennedy changed his views dramatically after the Cuban Missile Crisis and went against the ruling class in trying to end the Cold War. The ruling class used the CIA to assassinate Kennedy for his betrayal of their class. Presidents are just not allowed to go against the ruling class for long, and it is exceedingly rare for one to even try.

If the President Doesn’t Determine Policy then Why Do We Have Elections?

The electoral process is a method by which the ruling elite persuade people not to make a revolution. It does this in two main ways. First, like the farmer who dangles a carrot in front of a donkey, it dangles in front of us every four years the alluring prospect of obtaining a real say in government policy by merely voting. Second, it tells people who know a revolution is necessary to give up hope about ever being able to make one, because the elected leaders, we are told, "have the support of a majority of Americans, as proven by the fact that they won a majority of the votes."

Should We Vote for President?

No. There is no good reason to vote for president. The electoral process is not a way for voters to have a say in government at all. Voting for president only enables the ruling class to claim undeserved legitimacy for a government that serves it, on the grounds that the politicians, who in fact obey the ruling class, are following the will of the people expressed in a democratic election. Even in the rare case when a president, after getting elected, decides to go against the ruling class, he or she will be assassinated, as happened to John F. Kennedy. When millions of Americans see the elections for the fraud they really are and start to organize a revolutionary movement for genuine democracy, then and only then will we be on the road to having a real say in our society.

For discussion of how to build a revolutionary movement, and why it is possible, please see Thinking about Revolution.

This article may be copied and posted on other websites. Please include all hyperlinks.