What is the real attitude of the U.S. ruling class toward elections?
Events in Ukraine — and elsewhere — show that the ruling billionaire establishment respects only those elections that are in sync with its drive to bring more and more areas of the world into its political orbit and under its economic sphere of influence.
Ukraine’s last presidential election was held in 2010. Viktor Yanukovych was the winner with almost 49 percent of the popular vote. When he recently decided to sign an economic agreement with Russia instead of the European Union, however, there were increasingly violent demonstrations and occupations of government buildings in Kiev, the capital. After Yanukovych fled Kiev on Feb. 22, a political bloc that included the far-right Svoboda Party and the neo-Nazi Right Sector set up an “interim” government.
According to a March 6 CNN report, “Svoboda holds key posts in the interim government in Kiev, including that of deputy prime minister. Andriy Parubiy, the commander of the ‘Maidan self-defense,’ has been appointed the head of the National Security and Defense Council, and the leader of the Right Sector ultras, Dmitro Yarosh, is expected to become his deputy chairman. Svoboda controls the prosecutor general office and the ministries of ecology and agriculture.”
But Washington hails this development as a “democratic” victory.
While no one has been elected to replace Yanukovych, the U.S. was quick to invite the new “prime minister,” Arseniy Yatsenyuk, to the White House, where he was treated as though he were Ukraine’s head of state, even though his deputy represents the anti-Semitic, far-right Svoboda Party.
How did Yatsenyuk get the job? He had at least one vote — from U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. In a leaked telephone call to Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Nuland said that “Yats,” as she called him, should be Ukraine’s next prime minister because he was “the guy who’s got the economic experience.” In other words, he passed Wall Street’s litmus test.
What about that other election — in the area called Crimea? Enraged by the Western-supported coup that had just taken place in Kiev, the people of Crimea in a special referendum on March 16 voted by 97 percent to secede from Ukraine. They want to join Russia, not the European Union.
The referendum results are not being denied by anyone except the far, far right. Nevertheless, Washington is calling the Crimean people’s vote an “annexation” by Russia. The U.S. has already imposed sanctions on various Crimean and Russian public figures.
The corporate media, which waxes eloquent over elections when they produce the results that Washington and Wall Street want, is going along with all this.
Venezuela, Chile, Haiti and Honduras
No one should be surprised. It’s not the first time the U.S. ruling class has sneered at the results of a popular election.
Just look at Venezuela. After Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999, the Bolivarian government held at least 16 elections — for president, for parliament, for municipal and regional posts and to adopt a new constitution. In all of them, the masses supported the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, which has reduced poverty and the income gap to the lowest in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Yet the U.S. has thrown millions of dollars behind what it calls the “democratic opposition” — the privileged elite who in 2002 supported a decidedly anti-democratic coup against Chávez, which collapsed when hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans surrounded the Presidential Palace demanding their leader’s release.
There was also the coup in Chile in 1973. Washington, especially the CIA and then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, gave behind-the-scenes support to fascist dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet in his coup against elected President Salvador Allende. At least 3,000 who resisted the coup were killed, including the president. According to official Chilean sources, another 37,000 supporters of the Popular Unity government were tortured by the coup regime.
The U.S. also kidnapped the popularly elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, flying him and his spouse to the Central African Republic. He was replaced by a politician approved by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
And Washington also supported the 2009 military coup in Honduras against President Manuel Zelaya, who had raised the minimum wage by 80 percent and provided free education for all children.
Many people look to elections to change society in a progressive direction. Elections, if they are allowed to happen, can reveal a welcome shift in public opinion — as in the election of the first African-American president in the U.S. But there is abundant precedent to show that to win real rights for the 99% against the 1%, the people must be prepared to do much more than pull down a lever on election day.
The working class and all the oppressed must become organized as an independent political force that can circumvent the corrupt political institutions controlled by the capitalist rulers and begin to exercise people’s power, on matters large and small. n