The Militant (logo) 
Vol.63/No.37       October 25, 1999 
Why is Giuliani trying to censor Brooklyn Museum?  
{Discussion With Our Readers column) 
An editorial in last week's Militant rightly denounced the New York City administration's attack on the content of a special exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art as an assault both on freedom of expression and on government funding of the arts. But it failed to answer a key question: Why is New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani carrying out this attack?

Some think Giuliani is an exceptionally reactionary figure in New York and national politics. He is even labeled by some of his opponents as a "dictator," rising above the established government and imposing his will.

Signs carried by some protesters against censorship outside the museum October 1 read "Adolph Giuliani" and depicted the mayor with a Hitler mustache. Liberals, social democrats, and activists with an ultraleft bent sometimes denounce Giuliani as a "fascist" to explain his probes against democratic rights.

These and other opponents argue that his Republican Party politics make him qualitatively worse than Democratic politicians.

Giuliani is a liberal Republican politician, not a fascist or strongman-type politician. His positions on a range of social questions are comfortably within the framework of the liberal wing of the Republican Party today — from opposing a federal ban on late-term abortions to marching in the Gay Pride Parade and voicing opposition to some of the most draconian aspects of the anti-immigrant legislation signed by President William Clinton. And, like other liberals, he states that welfare is "necessary" while supporting the Clinton administration's sharp curtailment of welfare and pushing for the expansion of "workfare," which forces people to work for subminimum pay at what should be union jobs.

The Giuliani administration, like those in cities around the country, has put thousands of new cops in the streets. His government has campaigned for a number of policies that — in the name of fighting crime and increasing the "quality of life" — target democratic rights, from the right to assemble to freedom of speech. It has aggressively defended the police in face of public outrage over the vicious brutality routinely dished out by the cops against working people in New York. It has pushed to cut funds for public education, museums, and other public institutions.

It's important to note, however, that the relationship of class forces today places sharp limits on what the Giuliani administration has been able to accomplish, from its failure to bar the Million Youth March to the outrage over police brutality that forced the city authorities to prosecute the cops who tortured Abner Louima.

The problem cannot be reduced to a particularly "evil" politician. Giuliani, together with the City Council and the state and national governments, carries out the bipartisan policies of the ruling billionaires. Replacing him with a Democratic politician won't help working people one bit.

The New York mayor's attack on the Brooklyn Museum of Art is one piece of the overall offensive being carried out by capitalist politicians, both Democratic and Republican, to weaken and begin to dismantle the social conquests the working class has won over decades. They are driven to do this by the declining profit rates of the capitalist system as a whole. As the employers pursue their more than two-decade drive to lower real wages, extend working hours, and intensify those hours of labor, the guardians of the capitalist system in both parties seek to roll back the already inadequate social safeguards workers won through the labor battles of the 1930s and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s. They also seek to curtail freedom of speech and expression, which working people need to freely debate and chart a political road to defend our class interests.

On a national level, Democratic president William Clinton has spearheaded this effort. A hallmark of the Clinton administration was eliminating the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program — or "ending welfare as we know it" — abolishing for the first time a portion of the 1935 Social Security Act. That step has been followed by probes against universal entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security.

Clinton has also led the way on measures that encroach on democratic rights and civil liberties. The first Democrat to win the presidential endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police, Clinton brags about having hired tens of thousands of more cops. His administration has overseen the expanded use of the death penalty, passed brutal immigration laws and stepped up the deportation of workers, and pumped $1.1 billion into new "antiterrorist" measures. And Clinton, while giving lip service to the civil rights of homosexuals, signed the reactionary Defense of Marriage Act, banning recognition of same-sex marriages.

This bipartisan course has put wind in the sails of ultrarightist and incipient fascist forces in U.S. politics today, such as Buchanan. Demagogically feeding on middle-class insecurities bred by the capitalist social crisis, Buchanan plies the politics of resentment, both against the two-party "Establishment" — including politicians like Giuliani — and against layers of the population — immigrant workers, gays, women raising children by themselves who depend on welfare, and Jews — who are scapegoated for the ills of the capitalist system.

In contrast with traditional bourgeois politicians, Buchanan seeks to recruit cadres to build a radical street movement that can some day be used to smash trade unions and other workers organizations with physical force.

This is not what Giuliani is organizing or can organize. He is trying to defend the brutal status quo within the bounds of bourgeois democracy. To label him "fascist" apologizes for the savage nature of the capitalist system as it is. But the anti-working-class actions of the Giuliani administration as well as Democratic politicians do help open the door to ultrarightist forces.

To oppose the offensive being led by Giuliani in New York City — as well as any probes by ultrarightist forces — we must fight the anti–working-class and anti-farmer policies of the employers and all their parties.  
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