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Masses face more war, poverty, racism

Bush win sets stage for wide fightback

By Fred Goldstein

The electoral victory of George W. Bush, the Republican Party, and the right-wing and conservative forces fueling their campaign must serve as a wake-up call for the working class, the oppressed and all progressive and revolutionary forces to mobilize for struggle in the days ahead.

Tens of thousands of activists mobilized to defeat Bush at the polls, not because they were necessarily enamored of Sen. John Kerry, but because they wanted to put a stop to the Bush reaction. In the end their efforts were insufficient to overcome the vast campaign of reactionary politics and ideology promoted, not just by the Bush campaign, but by the capitalist media for months on end.

The media aided the Bush campaign in its effort to mobilize the fundamentalist right by dwelling on the opposition to same-sex marriage, and by giving equal time to so-called "right to life" advocates. Bush was thus greatly assisted in his effort to confuse and divide sections of the masses by anti-gay, anti-woman agitation. The networks and the print media conveniently legitimized and sanitized this as a debate over "social issues," instead of calling it the bigotry and sexism that it really is.

The vote showed the power of a highly funded, reactionary incumbent administration to organize armies of electioneers, and to dredge up and set in motion all the backward forces in society to turn out on election day. There was a record turnout of voters in this election--some estimates say it will reach 120 million--and they were turned out not only by the Kerry forces but also by the Bush machine.

Kerry himself did little to inspire the masses. He offered them little or next to nothing. His great electoral strength, as all the polls affirm, was the fear and hatred of Bush. In a word, his program was of little weight. His two concrete strong points were a woman's right to choose and the permission to bring in cheap prescription drugs from Canada. All the rest of his program was vague. It sounded like a list of tax breaks to the bosses to maybe create some jobs in the U.S. and achieve universal health care by giving people a tax credit. It did not really compute.

Beyond that he tried to outdo Bush on the phony "war against terrorism." By dwelling upon it excessively, instead of exposing it as a pretext for aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, he helped Bush. By vowing to "win the war in Iraq" and to "stay the course" after he said it was the wrong war, Kerry not only confused the masses and demoralized the anti-war forces but he also reinforced the militarist mood promoted by and exploited by Bush.

Bush won the election by triumphing in areas in the South where racism, political reaction and the legacy of slavery are strongest and the unions and the working class are weakest and most poorly represented. He won the states in the Southwest and Great Plains area dominated by mine owners, millionaire land owners, agribusiness, cattle barons and oil magnates.

But in the large and middle-sized cities, in urban areas where tens of millions of workers and the oppressed people are concentrated--in the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast--Bush's reactionary agenda was rejected across the board, mostly by significant margins.

A great deal is being made of Bush having won the popular vote by 59 million to 55.4 million for Kerry--as of Nov. 3. This is definitely a negative development in politics and gives the Bush forces a position of strength from which to advance their program of war and domestic reaction. But both Bush and the capitalist press are making far too much out of it.

It is said that Bush now has a "mandate." But it is clear from this election that he has no mandate whatsoever from the workers, from the unions, from Black people--who voted against him 9 or 10 to 1, depending on which polls one uses. He has no mandate from Latinos, who voted against him by 60 percent. In fact, he has no mandate from 54 million people, plus the millions of immigrant workers who cannot even vote at all.

If you detach the 54 million number from the electoral process and think of those same numbers in the context of organized resistance and struggle opposing the Bush program, then the prospect for pushing back Bush can be seen in an entirely different light.

The forces that resisted Bush electorally have their greatest strength among the workers, and particularly among the organized workers in the urban centers--from Baltimore to New York, San Fran cisco, Los Angeles, Detroit, Cleve land, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and so on.

If one tenth of the people who voted for Kerry were now to be mobilized for struggle, if one hundredth of the close to a billion dollars spent to finance Kerry's campaign were now used to open up a counteroffensive against the war in Iraq and the assault on labor, the entire politics of the country could be turned around, Bush's electoral victory notwithstanding.

The Bush victory is nothing like the Reagan victory of 1980. At that time, Reagan won the industrial states away from the Democrats and took the working class all the way to the right. He won Michigan, Wisconsin, California, Illinois and Pennsylvania. These workers had traditionally been Democrats. From that elec tion came the phrase "Reagan Democrats," meaning workers who had been suckered by the Reagan program. That's where Reagan's political strength derived from.

Bush was unable to turn the workers around in this election, even though some sections may have fallen prey to his "social issues" here and there. This election has something in common with the Nixon victory in 1968 in that, after he won, Nixon had to continue the Vietnam War. Declaring he was going to bring "peace with honor," he proceeded to bomb the cities of North Vietnam. What followed was a firestorm of anti-war struggle which eventually led to the end of the draft and the so-called "Vietnamization" of the war, a prelude to U.S. withdrawal.

Bush has won his election but he is now embarking on a bloody course to subdue the resistance in Iraq. But unlike during the Nixon era--when the labor movement and the working class was removed from the anti-war struggle and largely apathetic--Bush is moving toward an escalation at a time when wages are declining, jobs are being lost, budgets and social services are being cut in the states because federal tax cuts to the rich have left no money for any form of assistance, and the workers are showing a renewed anti-war sentiment.

In truth, Kerry would have had to confront the same crisis in Iraq and enforce the same economic hardships on the workers that Bush will try to do. It is capitalist imperialism and the big corporations running it that determine the course in war and peace, that impose exploitation and plunder.

Now that the elections are past, it is high time to pay attention to moving forward by mobilization and struggle. It is time to expand the conception of the Million Worker March, of workers marching and speaking in their own name, as the MWM did so gloriously even before the election.

This is the way to steal back Bush's political victory from him and his reactionary administration. They have won the election, but they are far from winning the struggles that are sure to follow.

Reprinted from the Nov. 11, 2004, issue of Workers World newspaper

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