Tuesday, August 31, 2010

USA's 2010 Election: Reject the Capitalist Two-Party System

Working people (especially youth and oppressed nationalities) turned out in record numbers to give the Democrats control of the White House (and continued control of Congress) in 2008. The Democrats responded by continuing virtually all of Bush’s hated policies and implementing Mitt Romney’s reactionary, monopoly-empowering, individually-mandated “health insurance” scheme nationwide. Progressive forces must organize a counterattack in several ways this year, by showing voters how the Democrats have betrayed them, campaigning for minor party candidates, advocating advanced positions, and critiquing the existing opposition (which reveals a path out of the crisis).

The Democratic Party has once again had control of the US federal government (like the period between January 1993 until January 1995) and the results have again proved that Wall Street owns them, just like the GOP. Even the most progressive Democrat in Congress, Dennis Kucinich, abandoned working class voters. He lied and said that he would only vote for a health insurance bill that included a token “public option.” Instead, he voted for the individual mandate law without any “public option.” Previously, for the 2008 election, this blog suggested that progressives should vote to reelect Kucinich. Due to his betrayal, we can no longer offer that endorsement.

In the midst of capitalism’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, Democrats in Washington have done nothing to help the unemployed, the underemployed and those languishing at low-wage jobs. The Democratic government has only bailed out the super-rich (i.e. thrown taxpayers’ dollars at big banks and entrenched the power of “health insurance” monopolies) and scheme to steal our Social Security by increasing the retirement age and cutting benefits. Meanwhile, the White House’s laissez faire approach has allowed for the worst ecological disaster in recent history, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Only the blindest party-hacks would seriously deny that Obama’s (extreme neo-liberal) economic policies are any different than Bush’s.

On foreign policy, the Democrats have continued the Iraq War, expanded the Afghan War into Pakistan, secretly bomb Yemen, established a brutal military dictatorship in Honduras, placed seven US military bases in Colombia, and provided massive support for the genocidal (and piratical) Zionist apartheid regime. White House Neocons, like Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emanuel, also plot war against Iran, Syria, the DPRK, Venezuela, and Cuba. Clearly, Obama’s presidency represents a continuation of Bush’s administration. The left must break free from, and consistently expose/oppose, the regime’s reactionary influences.

Achieving political independence from the capitalist Democratic Party’s machine requires running progressive candidates for office (at every level) as either independents or members of minor parties. This blog is proud to have endorsed both Cynthia McKinney (Green) and Gloria La Riva (PSL) for president in 2008. The 2010 election also provides an opportunity to promote this in practice by supporting Green, Working Families, Labor (South Carolina), Vermont Progressive, and California Peace & Freedom party candidates. In addition, ideologically advanced Party for Socialism & Liberation candidates are running for office with the P&FP. Read the voter guide at the end of this article for further details.

Interrelated is supporting the struggle to end anti-democratic ballot access restrictions. The capitalist two-party system has enacted numerous, restrictive ballot-access laws that often prevent progressive forces from even appearing on the ballot. Such laws require smaller parties to collect vast amounts of signatures during limited timeframes. Then, if a party “fails” to pass a certain “test” (such as getting an arbitrary percentage of the vote for a random office or offices) they are required to collect signatures all over again for the next election. Such barriers, which vary in severity from state to state, must be eliminated, and the best way to permanently end them is by winning control of state legislatures where they are created.

Progressive candidates must also put forward advanced demands and not simply mimic the weaker positions of “mass organizations” or protest movements’ leaderships. Regarding foreign policy, dissolving aggressive NATO, closing all US military bases outside of US territory, nationalizing the arms industry, cutting off government funding for coup-plotting “democracy promotion” organizations, and reigning in the spy bureaucracies should be top priority. Ending military funding for and placing sanctions on Israel will help eliminate their anti-Palestinian apartheid system and end their illegal occupation of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Shebaa Farms. We also must campaign for international recognition of Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence, which is a historic reality as a result of Mikheil Saakashvili’s (a brutal, CIA-installed puppet) aggressive 2008 war. Finally, reparations should be paid to Iraq and an international war crimes tribunal must be called for to hold US/British civilian political leaders (including Neocon ideologues) and wealthy war-profiteers accountable for launching, funding and profiting from the war.

For domestic economic policies, public ownership is the key advanced position to advocate. The entire medical industry should be nationalized (i.e. true socialized medicine), meaning every hospital, clinic, and drug producing factory. Energy, including resource extraction companies and power production facilities, must also be nationalized to stop private, for-profit monopolies from endlessly jacking up prices. Smashing the financial oligarchy requires nationalizing big banks and establishing regional, publicly owned banks in every state. Re-industrializing the country with publicly owned industries (that can not be sent overseas), managed by each factory’s unionized workers, can create millions of new jobs and end the current depression.

Furthermore, it is necessary to campaign for withdrawing from “free trade agreements” that sent most decent paying jobs overseas (e.g. NAFTA). The fascist Taft-Hartley Act must finally be revoked. A nationwide living wage law must be passed, along with establishing paid vacations, holidays, and sick days as a right for all workers (full and part-time). Social Security must be safeguarded and expanded by lowering the retirement age to 60 and increasing benefits, which should be financed by making the rich pay in for all income earned (including from investments). Workers’ taxes must be cut, which can easily be accomplished by cutting wasteful military and spy bureaucracy spending and also by taxing the super-rich oligarchs hard.

Regarding “the issues”, many US leftists make a dangerous error by having a “protest fetish,” where organizing and attending street protests is considered the top priority. Protesting should only be considered one tactic in the fight for a more fair and just US, not an end in itself. In fact, limiting opposition work to protesting has a key weakness: its primary goal is to change some of the policy positions of those already in power. Progressive forces must begin competing for political power with the two capitalist parties and that requires running minor party and independent candidates for office at every level.

Some on the left have also recently made moves toward creating electoral alliances with independent-minded right-wing people. On the one hand, we should be glad that some on the right (e.g. Paleoconservatives and some Libertarians) oppose the Patriot Act, the Iraq War, and Neocon ideology (and there is nothing wrong with going to anti-war protests together with them). However, due to the rightists’ neo-liberal economic views it is impossible for the left to form electoral coalitions with them. Furthermore, most independent-minded right-wingers already realize this as well, so the left should not bother with it either.

Note that the so-called “Tea Party” protest movement is not primarily composed of independent-minded rightists, but rather fanatical zealots supporting one component of the capitalist two-party system: the GOP. Hypocritically, they claim to be for “small government” while cheerleading for the planet’s largest and most corrupt military and spy bureaucracies. Furthermore, most want to force their medieval theological views on the rest of the country. Racist elements are also abundant.

The capitalist media exaggerates the “Tea Party” movement’s significance but it is also a threat that can not be ignored. However, the key to defeating it is not by becoming zombie-like hacks of the capitalist Democratic Party’s political machine, but rather firm, consistent left-opposition to the Democrats. The “Tea Party” movement’s power comes from being the loudest opposition voice against the current regime. Therefore, ending their monopoly on being ‘the voice of the opposition’ with mass left-opposition will undermine them.

Union leaders wasted millions of dollars to elect and influence Democrats in 2008, which accomplished nothing (i.e. no Employee Free Choice Act, no universal healthcare, no living wage, and no jobs programs). Evidence from OpenSecrets.org shows that unions do not have the resources to compete with the super-rich (who control most of the country’s wealth) in buying influence within the Democratic Party. If that money had been spent on an all-out effort to build a nationwide labor party, thousands of candidates could have been elected across the country at every level, which also would have pressured the Democrats to make concessions.

The working class is the only force in US capitalist society with the resources and necessity to launch a new major party. The decline of US imperialism also opens up an important opportunity to do so. The last time an imperialist country had similar amounts of power was the 19th century British Empire, which had the monetary resources to ideologically corrupt a section of its working class (mentioned in Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism). The result was electoral domination by the bourgeois Liberal and Conservative parties. However, when that global capitalist power began to decline in the early 20th century, working class parties arose in Britain: Labour and Communist. Class conscious workers must prepare to take advantage of a similar opportunity unfolding in the US.

Workers must break with the Democrats, build a mass labor party, and contest the bourgeois elections against both capitalist parties. The most ideologically advanced workers should also simultaneously build a Marxist-Leninist communist party, which forms the proletariat’s vanguard. Only proletarian political power can end the super-rich oligarchy’s rule over our country and build a truly socialist USA, where the means of production and distribution will be nationalized and organized via central planning.

2010 Voter Guide:

Check out the latest edition of Ballot Access News to see where opposition parties’ candidates will appear on the ballot. Also visit the following party websites for candidate information:

Party for Socialism and Liberation
The following PSL candidates are running for office in California on the Peace & Freedom line:
Carlos Alvarez, for governor
Marylou Cabral, for secretary of state
Gloria La Riva, for US House (Congressional District 8)

Green Party

Vermont Progressive Party (12 candidates)

Labor Party (one candidate in South Carolina)

Working Families Party: CT, DE, NY, OR, SC, VT
Note that many candidates listed on the ballot as “Working Families” are actually just Democrats (and even some Republicans) being given an extra ballot line (in the few states that allow the use of “fusion”, where multiple parties can endorse the same candidate). We should support the real WFP candidates and encourage more to be run for office. Due to the WFP lacking a national leadership and organization, links to individual state chapters are provided above.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Mandate of Wall Street

The Democratic Party’s right-wing leadership claims that the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” is “genuine health care reform,” while their Republican opponents say that it is “socialized medicine.” Both are wrong, because the bill does not improve the US medical system and it is certainly not “socialized medicine.” Looking at the bill’s actual provisions and examples of other countries’ universal healthcare systems reveals both the true nature of the USA’s terrible private medical system and also the best way to reform it.

The bill’s worst provision, the individual mandate, forces nearly everyone to buy “health” insurance from private, for-profit companies. The IRS will annually fine almost anyone who refuses (or is unable) to buy insurance, with only a few exemptions (such as for prisoners). Starting in 2014, the fine will be (whichever is higher) $95 or 1% of taxable income, then increased to $325 or 2% of taxable income in 2015. By 2016 the fine will be $695 per year up to a maximum of three times that amount ($2,085) per family or 2.5% of household income (whichever is higher). After 2016 the fine will be increased annually by a cost-of-living adjustment. The mandate, combined with the bill’s lacking of any effective cost controls, will result in skyrocketing premiums.

US insurance monopolies’ major goal over the past decade has been to pass laws that force people to buy their products, to increase super-profits. Their first victory came in 2006 when Massachusetts’ Republican governor, Mitt Romney, together with the Democratic legislature (and then Republican legislator Scott Brown) imposed the mandate. Barack Obama claimed to oppose mandating insurance during the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential primary. Recently, Dennis Kucinich also claimed that he would not vote for a bill that lacked a token “public option” (the “public option” itself was simply an attempt to keep single-payer out of the “debate”). Both Obama and Kucinich lied, showing the capitalist Democratic Party’s ideological and moral bankruptcy.

While the individual mandate makes the bill bad enough, it also contains an unprecedented attack on abortion rights. NOW president Terry O’Neill warns that, “the bill passed today ultimately achieves the same outcome as the infamous Stupak-Pitts Amendment, namely the likely elimination of all private as well as public insurance coverage for abortion. It imposes a bizarre requirement on insurance plan enrollees who buy coverage through the health insurance exchanges to write two monthly checks (one for an abortion care rider and one for all other health care). Even employers will have to write two separate checks for each of their employees requesting the abortion rider.” No progressive person can support such attacks on women’s reproductive health.

Physicians for a National Health Program explain that numerous loopholes in the bill’s so-called “insurance regulations” (which allegedly will end denials due to pre-existing conditions) exist, because insurance companies played a central role in crafting the legislation. In addition, they warn that the bill will, “drain about $40 billion from Medicare payments to safety-net hospitals, threatening the care of the tens of millions who will remain uninsured.” And even worse, “People with employer-based coverage will be locked into their plan's limited network of providers, face ever-rising costs and erosion of their health benefits. Many, even most, will eventually face steep taxes on their benefits as the cost of insurance grows.” Progressive physicians recognize that this bill is a dangerous step backwards and away from real healthcare reform.

Finally, the bill does nothing to stop the 1974 ERISA law from preventing individual states from implementing single-payer systems, which is a violation of the US Constitution’s 10th Amendment (i.e. it violates states’ rights). Obviously, insurance magnates demanded this, because they fear single-payer winning out in individual US states, like it was initially created in North America in Saskatchewan, a Canadian province. Knowing that private insurance is inferior to single-payer, insurance monopolies try to make the implementation of that progressive alternative illegal.

Clearly, this bill is not a first step towards universal healthcare, which can be achieved in at least two ways (by either “single-payer” or by truly “socialized medicine”). Single-payer systems (like Canada’s) eliminate the “health” insurance middlemen (therefore, cutting costs), while leaving some or most hospitals, clinics, and pharmaceutical companies privately owned. True socialized medicine (the USSR had the world’s first such system) has an entirely nationalized medical industry (i.e. all hospitals, clinics, and drug manufacturing factories), therefore vastly cutting costs because the system is purely non-profit.

Only true socialized medicine can provide both universal coverage and reasonable rates, by completely cutting profits out of medicine. Obviously, the capitalist Democratic Party’s political machine will never back such an idea, considering they even rejected a token “public option.” In order to truly reform healthcare, workers must break with the Democrats, create a mass labor party (while simultaneously building an ideologically solid Marxist-Leninist Communist Party) and win political power. We also must campaign against Wall Street’s reactionary, monopoly-empowering, individual mandate.

Further Reading:

Health Insurance Industry Bailout and Profit Maximization Act of 2010, by Alan Maki.

Fact Sheet: The Truth about the Health Care Bill, by Jane Hamsher.

The Scalpel, the Sword: The Story of Doctor Norman Bethune, by Ted Allan and Sydney Gordon.

Constitution of the USSR, Chapter X, Article 120: “Citizens of the U.S.S.R. have the right to maintenance in old age and also in case of sickness or loss of capacity to work. This right is ensured by the extensive development of social insurance of workers and employees at state expense, free medical service for the working people and the provision of a wide network of health resorts for the use of the working people.”