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   Vol. 70/No. 46           December 4, 2006  
U.S. elections: no shift in rulers'
assaults on workers, farmers
(front page/news analysis)
The day the U.S. Congress reconvened after the November 7 elections, the House of Representatives defeated a bill that would have normalized U.S. trade relations with Vietnam. House Democrats, waving the banner of “protecting American jobs,” voted in their majority against the bill. This action maintains punitive trade legislation against Vietnam, the continuation of Washington’s decades-long effort to bludgeon that Asian country into submission.

The following day, incoming Senate majority leader Harry Reid said the newly elected Democratic majority would push for a $75 billion increase in the military budget to get the U.S. Army back into combat shape. He insisted that his party would not cut off funding for the war in Iraq, regardless of its tactical differences with the Bush administration over how best to prosecute it.

The initial actions and statements of the Democrats, along with those of their Republican counterparts, make clear there will be no fundamental change in the course of U.S. imperialism at home or abroad in the wake of the midterm elections. The twin parties converge on basic foreign and domestic policy as bourgeois politics continues to shift to the right.

Seeking to shore up declining profit rates, the U.S. capitalist rulers are driven toward wars such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as threats against Iran, north Korea, and other governments that don’t bow to their dictates. They also have no alternative but to keep grinding away at the living standards and rights of working people at home. What they do today builds on the last six years under the Bush administration and the record of the Clinton White House before it.

Democratic candidates made an issue over the U.S.-led war in Iraq. They gained from the fact that the Bush administration’s call to “stay the course” did not appeal to many people who are tired of an unresolved conflict in Iraq that has dragged on for more than three years. Many hoped that voting for the nonincumbent party might lead to an improvement. Popular sentiment, however, continues to accept the U.S. government’s argument that the “fight against terrorism” is necessary.

Democratic critics of the White House raised only tactical differences over how best to conduct the occupation of Iraq and advance U.S. imperialism's interests worldwide. Some argued that the Bush administration was not waging the “war on terror” effectively. They called for a more aggressive stance against Iran or north Korea, or, like former presidential candidate John Kerry, for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Democratic Senate hopeful Ned Lamont, a wealthy cable TV executive falsely dubbed an “antiwar candidate” in the capitalist media, called for a phased "redeployment" of frontline U.S. troops in Iraq while reinforcing the use of the National Guard for “homeland defense” in the United States.

Lamont lost the election in Connecticut to incumbent senator Joseph Lieberman, one of the most pro-war Democrats, who ran as an “independent” after failing to win the Democratic primary.

Now that Democrats have won a majority in both houses of Congress, their rhetoric about the conduct of the war in the Mideast has become more guarded. Asked during a November 12 interview on CBS's Face the Nation whether he would propose a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, Reid replied, "Absolutely not."

Eight days after the elections, the New York Times, which fervently campaigned against the Republicans with critiques of the Iraq war, ran a front-page “military analysis” titled “Get Out Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say.” It cited "a number of military officers, experts and former generals, including some who have been among the most vehement critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policies," who argue that "any substantial reduction of American forces over the next several months would be more likely to accelerate the slide to civil war [in Iraq] than stop it."  
Transformation of U.S. military
Throughout the election campaign, Democrats had made Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a target of their attacks on the administration. By announcing Rumsfeld’s resignation the day after the elections, the White House deprived its critics of ammunition. The likely confirmation of former CIA chief Robert Gates as Rumsfeld’s replacement only confirms there will be no basic shift in course.

Above all, what will not change is the historic shift that has been carried out over the last half decade in the global deployment of U.S. imperialism’s armed forces, its military strategy, and its order of battle. This transformation includes the restructuring of the U.S. armed forces into smaller, lighter, more mobile units better suited to fight the kinds of wars Washington will have to pursue around the world.

This shift began in the late 1990s as the U.S. rulers recognized they could no longer count on the aid of Stalin’s heirs in Moscow to help police the world’s workers and farmers, as they had done during the Cold War. U.S. imperialism had to prepare to fight more directly the resistance by working people to the effects of the world capitalist crisis and to confront sharper competition with its imperialist rivals.

No wing of the Democrats or Republicans has offered an alternative to this course. As the article “Their Transformation and Ours” explains in issue 12 of the Marxist magazine New International, “The rulers sense—even if they do not see clearly or understand—the uncontrollable forces carrying them toward a future of sharpening crises.” The frustration born of a vague but growing awareness of this vulnerability, it notes, “is the single greatest source of the deepening factionalism, demagogy, and degradation of political discourse” that mark bourgeois politics in the United States today, including within the officer corps of the U.S. military.  
Bipartisan assault on rights
In the 1990s the Clinton administration stepped up the U.S. rulers’ assault on the social gains and rights of working people. It dismantled “welfare as we know it,” significantly expanded the police, stepped up use of the death penalty, expanded authority for wiretaps, and curtailed the rights of immigrants. It accelerated “missile defense” and took initial steps toward the domestic use of the military, laying the basis for deeper steps under the Bush administration.

Building on this course, what the U.S. government has carried out over the last six years with broad bipartisan support, especially under the banner of “homeland defense,” is a good gauge of what working people can expect from the new Congress. These measures include the following:

• Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, Democrats and Republicans in Congress passed the Patriot Act, giving new powers to the FBI and other police agencies to conduct spying and disruption operations against organizations and individuals. The law, which authorizes arbitrary search and seizure operations in private homes and businesses, was built on several 1996 laws enacted by the Clinton administration.

In March of this year, with overwhelming bipartisan support, President George Bush signed legislation renewing 16 of the Patriot Act's original provisions.

• In October 2002 the U.S. government established the Northern Command, the groundwork for which was laid by the Clinton White House. NORTHCOM, a "war-fighting" command with responsibility for the continental United States and the rest of North America, makes "civil disorder" a military matter for the federal government, not solely a police matter for local and state governments, for the first time since the Civil War.

• As part of "Operation Liberty Shield," surveillance and inspections have been stepped up at ports, airports, land borders, trains, and public transportation. The operation allows for greater collaboration between the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Justice Department in "tracking" anyone U.S. officials accuse of being a "terrorist suspect."

• The 2006 Military Commissions Act approved military trials for individuals detained as "enemy combatants" in Washington's "war on terrorism." It permits the use of evidence obtained through coercion and hearsay and allows the indefinite imprisonment, with no charges, of individuals captured in combat or accused of giving "material support" to those branded "terrorists."

Combined with the assault on wages, working conditions, job safety, and benefits that the bosses have unleashed on the working class, these antidemocratic measures are preparatory moves for the class confrontations the ruling class in this country anticipates. The biggest obstacle to the U.S. rulers reversing the economic crisis of their system remains the working class in this country and its defensive organizations, the unions.

To reverse their declining rates of profit, the rulers need to take on the unions and workers’ social wage—including Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and other programs that guarantee a modicum of a social safety net. But a direct showdown with working people over these questions is a battle the U.S. capitalists are not yet ready to fight.

The 1,000 meatpackers at the Smithfield plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, who recently walked off the job to protest the firing of dozens of immigrant workers demonstrated in action the road forward for working people to counter these attacks.

When working people mobilize today to defend themselves from the bosses’ attacks and use their collective power, they are planting the seeds for the building of a powerful, fighting labor movement tomorrow.
Related articles:
British gov't steps up spying, plans more curbs on rights
Kidnappings highlight factional fight in Iraq gov't  
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