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Vol.64/No.3      January 24, 2000 
Buchanan: sanctions are weapons of war  
"Sanctions have become the feel-good but ineffectual foreign policy of the self-righteous," said Patrick Buchanan on December 16 of last year. He was speaking of Washington's frequent use of economic sanctions against governments and peoples the U.S. rulers oppose.

Buchanan's declaration paralleled his approach to other questions of U.S. international policy. "We are not isolationists," he said on another occasion. "We simply believe in America first, last, and always."

The rightist journalist and politician describes the world more bluntly than mainstream capitalist politicians dare to. Buchanan stares out at a world of crisis, disorder, anti-imperialist ferment in the Third World, and deepening rivalry among the imperialist powers, and formulates a policy to shepherd and employ the brute force of U.S. imperialism.

For more than 30 years, Buchanan was a prominent member of the Republican Party, one of the two parties that dominate capitalist politics in the United States. Last October, he formally broke with the party, launching a campaign to gain the nomination of the Reform Party for the U.S. presidential election later this year.

"In Mr. Clinton's first term, the U.S. imposed 61 unilateral sanctions on 35 countries," said Buchanan. He cried crocodile tears over the horrific impact of the sanctions imposed on Iraq, which lasted throughout the 1990s and remain in place. "More Iraq children have been lost in nine years to U.S. sanctions than all the American solders killed in combat in all the wars of the 20th century," he said.

These passages provided window dressing for his real objection: Buchanan opposes the sanctions because they don't work. "Sanctions have failed to remove him [Saddam Hussein] from power," he said. What is more, they have sparked protests against U.S. imperialism.

"Just last month," fumed Buchanan, "the U.S- imposed sanctions on Afghanistan, because the ruling Taleban [sic] refuses to deliver up Osama bin Laden. But rather than revolting against the regime, the Afghani people took to the streets of Kabul shouting 'Death to America!' They burned our flag.."

Sanctions provide U.S. competitors with an advantage, Buchanan complains. "Even as U.S. sanctions [against Libya] have remained in force," he claimed, "U.S.-made computers, fuel pumps, and drilling equipment pour in from our NATO allies."

"Sanctions have become a way for the United States to vent its anger on the cheap, said the rightist politician. Use them, but use them to deadlier effect, he advised. "If they are to be reapplied, I will understand what the world used to know: that embargoes and blockades are weapons of war."

"Buchanan, In a Change, Calls for End To Sanctions," read the headline of the December 17 New York Times. The big business media covered the speech widely. Buchanan expressed a position that, far from sharply breaking with the policy of the U.S. rulers, drew it out to its logical extreme.

In the course of the 1990s Washington has increasingly thrown its economic weight around against its imperialist rivals. At the same time, as their hopes have faded of a relatively smooth and bloodless reintroduction of capitalism and a consequent profit bonanza in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, the U.S. rulers have flexed their military muscle in Yugoslavia and elsewhere.

These interventions, and the extension of the NATO alliance to the borders of the old Soviet Union, carry a message to the governments of the workers states, especially Russia. Their meaning is not lost on the European allies and rivals either.

As Washington depends less on the indirect expression of its superiority through alliances and more on directly using its weight as the "one indispensable nation,"--in the words of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright— the bipartisan consensus on U.S. foreign policy that lasted throughout the post-World-War-II period is fraying and tearing. Buchanan's positions represent a bellwether of this growing divide.

Washington pursues an aggressive trade policy in the Third World and in relation to other developed capitalist powers. It calls for "free trade" while imposing protectionist tariffs and antidumping measures when big business interests here are threatened.

Buchanan states this approach bluntly. "I am not against trade," he wrote in "A Family Farm Bill of Rights" dated August of last year. "I believe we must take aggressive action to open overseas markets to U.S. farm products. But we must stop unilaterally throwing open our markets to Japan, China, the Pacific Rim, and the EU [European Union], when they deny us free and fair access to their markets."

In his "Farm Bill of Rights," Buchanan claims to speak for family farmers who "simply want their labor to be valued, their products to be competitive, and their own government to take their side in the global marketplace."

"I will abolish the IMF and end these taxpayer bailouts of foreign competitors," wrote Buchanan. White House spokespeople have begun calling for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to significantly scale back its lending, especially to Third World countries (see article on this page.)

But while his policies state in a more extreme form Washington's course today, Buchanan is more than just another conservative politician. He sets out to appeal to layers of the middle classes and better-off workers who see the brewing economic and social crisis of capitalism, and sense that instability will turn to catastrophe at some point. He directs many of his rhetorical barbs at the "Beltway elite"—Washington politicians—and at layers of the rich.

This marks Buchanan off from his rival for the Reform Party nomination, Donald Trump, for example. The real estate magnate advocates policies that are also right-wing; however, he is not only wealthy, but brags about the fact.

An article in the New York Times describing a Trump meeting says, "He struck a blow for rich people as national leaders, chiding candidates who express pride in their humble backgrounds.

"'They're losers,' Mr. Trump said. 'who the hell wants to have a person like this for president?'"

In contrast, Buchanan's reactionary politics are crowned by demagogy against the rich and their alleged conspiracies. In a speech delivered on January 6 he approvingly quoted from The Revolt of the Elitesby Christopher Lasch. "The old elite, Lasch wrote, had a sense of obligation to country and community. But this new ruling class, more merit based, brainy, and mobile, congregates on the coasts and puts patriotism far down the list in its hierarchy of values."

"For years they [major corporations] have been trying to sever their bonds to the country of their birth," he continued.

"Our Beltway parties have become identical twins," said Buchanan in "The New Patriotism," the speech announcing his break from "lifelong membership" in the Republican Party. "Both supported [the trade treaties] NAFTA and GATT and the surrender of our national sovereignty to the WTO [World Trade Organization]."

"Loyalty to the New World Order is disloyalty to the Republic," said Buchanan. His criticism of unpatriotic elites and "globalists" fits with his call for the erection of a wall between Mexico and the United States to discourage immigrants. All those who do not put "America First" are his targets. The intent and impact of his policy is to divide working people and thereby weaken their struggles.

Buchanan's brand of anti-corporatism has nothing to do with the historic fight of the working class to resist and replace the rule of the capitalists with a government of workers and farmers. It falls into the tradition of national socialist movements that lift their heads as capitalism enters a period of crisis, and shares with them a deep, though coded, anti-Semitism.

Since his break from the Republican party, Buchanan has increased his anticapitalist, national socialist rhetoric. He is freer to seek alliances with other middle class political forces who share his antipathy to the international labor movement.

Last November, Lenora Fulani announced she would serve as cochair of Buchanan's presidential bid. Fulani is a former leader of the New Alliance Party (NAP) a middle class group that over the years developed fascist-like politics.

Buchanan called Fulani "a socialist, an African-American woman." Fulani, who ran as the NAP's presidential candidate and gained nomination in 50 states —something no representative of the labor movement has ever achieved—has posed as a Marxist in the past. But she is no more a socialist than she is a leader of the struggle against the national oppression of the Black nationality. Her politics run parallel to Buchanan's. For example, she expressed her admiration for Buchanan's "great passion for America and ...disgust for the institutions that oppress ordinary Americans."

Buchanan's evolution helps expose the social, economic, and moral crisis of capitalist rule today. Buchanan is positioning himself for the sharpening conflicts between working people and the capitalist rulers that are being prepared today, even as an unprecedented economic boom is cresting above that crisis. The labor movement will need to counter politically and organizationally the national socialist rhetoric, and the anti-labor gangs that such figures will spearhead.  
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