On Tuesday, Vote Anti-War — Whatever the Party (Even the GOP)
Some of you who follow me, especially on Facebook, know of my progressive credentials. For those who do not, a synopsis:
- I was the organizer for the Philadelphia chapter of the Young Communist League (YCL) during the 1990s. In 1993, the YCL secured the vote of Councilwoman Happy Fernandez for a city-wide Police Advisory Board. Fernandez’ vote had a cascade effect in City Council, and resulted in passage of one of the first civilian police oversight boards in the US.
- I was an organizer for SEIU, in New Orleans; Boston; the Shenandoah Valley and Pittsburg.
- In 2008, I wrote a once-a-week column in my neighborhood newspaper in support of Barack Obama against the Democratic Party’s annointed candidate, Hillary Clinton. In those essays, I argued that Obama should be supported because he was the candidate of a resurgent Labor/Black Alliance a la WEB DuBois.
- As head of the Philadelphia YCL, I co-chaired a city-wide antiwar youth coalition, ACT for Peace, during the First Iraq War.
- During the Second Iraq War, I co-chaired the antiwar committee at California College of the Arts, in the Bay Area, where I was studying at the time. And yes, you better believe that in 2001, Congresswoman Barbara Lee ‘spoke for me’ — alone, among the 435 members of the House of Representatives, she voted against the authorization for the so-called ‘war on terror’.
- I supported Senator Bernie Sanders’ bids for President from the beginning. The analysis pieces I wrote in favor of his 2012 bid eventually got me banned from Daily KOS, which supported Clinton (you can read some of those pieces on my blog, myke-simonian.medium.com).
- I campaigned for that very same HRC after she and Bernie signed their 2012 electoral accord, as a canvasser for Working America. Because I am white and workingclass, they sent me to every white, workingclass neighborhood in and around the city. I am still convinced that had the Democrats emphasized (Bernie’s) program in their literature rather than HRC’s personality, they would have won that election.
So, yes: I am a progressive. For most of my adult life, I have supported, campaigned for, argued for, and defended the candidates of the Democratic Party over those of the GOP.
So it is with this background in mind, dear friends, that today I invite you — where you have them — to vote for antiwar candidates, even if they are GOP, and to vote for them irregardless of their positions on domestic issues.
Stunned? Shocked? Outraged? ‘Don’t you know what’s at stake?????????????????’
I know perfectly well what is at stake, and I invite you — I plead with you — to read this through to the end.
I. The Rights of the Oppressed
I understand that the GOP is a devoted enemy to the rights of women, to the rights of workers, to the rights of people of color, to the LGBTQ+ community and more: I’ve been arguing the same thing for four decades, at this point. The GOP is a danger to our communities.
But there is another danger, today, to our communities, an imminent, catastrophic danger that comes not from the GOP but from the Democratic-controlled White House and Congress. That is the danger of world war, and of thermonuclear war.
I know: President Joe Biden has assured us all that there will be no nuclear war, and I wish I could believe him. But it is a fact that President Biden’s aim in Ukraine is not to ‘defend Ukrainian democracy’ but, as the New York Times stated back in April, to destroy Russia.
NATO’s borders with Russia are clogged with US and NATO troops. We have more troops on Russia’s borders now than at any other time in history, and more continue to arrive. Even in the worst moments of the Cold War, we did not have this many US troops, and US weapons, this far east.
There are already US ‘boots on the ground’ in Ukraine. Thousands more are in neighboring Poland, in Lithuania, Lativa, Estonia, in Romania. The US is pouring arms into Ukraine — we supply 3/4 of the armaments that reach that country. Our close ally, Great Britain, supplies most of the rest.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, our man in Europe, has been explicit on his desire to widen the war.
Today, the US Department of Defense, on its website, published the following statement by the head of US Strategic Command, Admiral Charles Richard:
“This Ukraine crisis that we’re in right now, this is just the warmup,” …The big one is coming. And it isn’t going to be very long…”
Meanwhile, the White House has pushed tensions with China to an unprecedented level. Where every US Administration since Nixon has agreed to a one-China policy on Taiwan, Biden, following Trump, has become the paladin of Taiwanese independence. Showdowns of warplanes and warships in the East China Sea have become a near day-to-day occurance.
President Biden assures us there will be no nuclear conflict — and in the same sentence, he tells us that Russia is ‘desperate’. Is it not true that desperate people, and desperate countries, do desperate things? Yes, Biden has warned Putin that if Russia does use a tactical nuclear weapon, we will ‘wipe Russia’s nuclear forces off the earth.’ But can we believe that? Our parents, and our grandparents, certainly did not believe it. They knew that it would take seconds to launch a nuclear strike, particularly with an arsenal that is dispersed across a vast territory, in hardened bunkers, and in submarines at sea.
The consequence of a nuclear conflagration have been well-understood since the 1970s: millions would die in the first strike, tens of millions more in the months to follow, from radiation poisoning and the collapse of national food chains. Nuclear winter would set in, and populations far from the fighting would suffer equal ravages, from drifting radiation and radically-altered climatic conditions.
But let’s suppose that Biden is right, and that nuclear war is averted. What if, instead, it is only a conventional conflict we are talking about?
Our sons’ and our daughters’ rights — as women, as workers, as persons of color — will become irrelevant if they are killed in action. Our own struggle for those rights will become nationally irrelevent: as Robert Reich has said, social movements have always been the first victims of war.
But our own childrens’ issues are not the only ones we have an obligation to consider. The United Nations has been warning, from the start of this conflict, that disaster looms for the world’s most exposed populations. Take, for example, the following statement by Qu Dongyu, head of the UN Food And Agricultural Organization:
“Russia is the world’s largest exporter of wheat, and Ukraine is the fifth largest. Together, they provide 19% of the world’s barley supply, 14% of wheat, and 4% of maize, making up more than one-third of global cereal exports. They are also lead suppliers of rapeseed and account for 52% of the world’s sunflower oil export market. The global fertilizer supply is also highly concentrated, with Russia as the lead producer.”
Where do most of these exports go? To:
“…some fifty countries that depend on Russia and Ukraine for 30% or more of their wheat supply. Many of them are least developed countries or low-income, food-deficit countries in Northern Africa, Asia and the Near East.”
Are these not also peoples of color? Working class populations? Do not they, and their children, have the same rights to dignity as people in the US do? Yet their lives are immediately threatened by the Western embargoes against Russian fertilizers and grain. Are we saying, then, that racism, poverty and violence against US citizens are unacceptable, but ok where Africans and Asians are concerned? Because, to my ears, that’s exactly how it sounds.
Up until now, I have held hope that progressive voices in the Democratic Party — voices like those of Bernie Sanders or Pramila Jayapal, who have historically opposed militarism and war as foreign policy — would stand up and refuse to go along with this madness. That, in exchange for arms’ shipment authorizations, they would demand negotiations: among the US, Ukraine and Russia if possible, between the US and Russia if necessary.
And, after eight months of war, our progressive leaders indeed took such a position: thirty of them, for 24 hours, and then they tucked their tails between their legs and ran for the dog house.
Not Senator Sanders, of course: he instead defiantly declaimed that he, unlike the others, had refused to sign such a treacherous document.
So I ask: what is left? To march blindly into war? To condemn millions of people, already victims of colonial and neo-colonial oppression, to death by starvation?
And so my answer: lessen the danger. Take away the President’s pro-war Congressional majority. Vote those candidates, of whatever party, who have a chance to win and have declared their intent to end this insanity. Even if they are Republicans.
II. The Fascist Danger
Like all of you, I have received dozens of text messages, phone calls and emails warning me — screaming at me — that the Fascist Danger is nigh!!!.
Again, I have no desire to debate the issue of whether the GOP is replete with racists and Christian extremists. We know it is. We’ve known it for decades.
This is a midterm election. Even if the GOP were to win every race where, according to Nate Silver at 538, they are favored or where the race is a toss-up, the GOP majority in the House would stop at 230: nowhere near the majority they would need to pass legislation over a Presidential veto. In other words: no national ban on abortion, no undoing gay marraige, no opening the much-feared anti-liberal concentration camps.
On the other hand, President Biden would no longer be able to rubberstamp his military aid packages to Ukraine through a cowed Congress. Maybe we would even get some substantive debate on an issue — the Ukraine war — that ever-larger majorities of US voters see as a forever war with no exit strategy.
Taking a wider, a more historical view, one sees that the ‘fascist danger’ has been with us for decades now. My erstwhile political home, the Communist Party, USA, has been warning of the ‘far right danger’ for fifty years, since the era of Nixon and Goldwater. On the basis of this analysis, the CPUSA has invited its members and allies to vote for the lesser danger — that is, the Democrats — in election after election. And, year by year, the national scenario has gotten more and more extreme: Reagan, Bush Senior, Bush Junior, Trump. Clinton, whom many of us saw not as a ‘lesser evil’ but as a big improvement over Bush, bombed Serbia, cut welfare and passed one of the most racist, draconian crime bills in history. Obama, whom I campaigned for twice, targeted US citizens in drone strikes and oversaw the greatest expansion of illegal intelligence gathering against civilians in this country’s history.
At the heart of the worsening political scene is a basic crisis of US Corporate Capitalism. Real profit margins by Corporate America have declined steadily since the Vietnam war, and in 1980 the decline touched off the ‘Reagan Revolution’. Reagan radically restructured the US economy, breaking up the Holy Trinity of the Savings and Loans, the small-construction sector and Union pension funds that had sustained the New Deal economy. But these ‘reforms’; the wars for control of world oil resources; the counteroffensives against the anticolonial movements; massive de-localization of production; and huge Corporate tax breaks have not reversed the trend. Just before the pandemic took off, US Corporate real profit margins hit their lowest point ever.
Restoring profitability requires taking on — and destroying — world competition: from China, from Russia, from Europe. This, in turn, requires a long-term war economy at home: mass poverty, suppression of civil and democratic rights, breaking the strength of mass organizations capable of opposing resistance. And because Corporate America dominates both political parties, this thrust comes from both directions, albeit with differences: Reaganism/Trumpism from the right, “kinder and gentler” Clintonism from the ‘left’.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Labor and Black America began to evolve political forms independent of the two Corporate parties. The Obama candidacy — if not his Presidency — was an echo of that organizing. In turn, the election of a Black man backed by Black America and progressive Labor shook both the Republicans and the Democrats to the core. The Tea Party was born. ‘Citizens United’ was overturned. The Voting Rights Act was gutted. The Clintonites leaned on Obama to push him right — and he gave.
Sanders represented a response to the betrayal of people’s needs of both parties, a sea change in US popular attitudes toward Corporate control in the country.
Some people equate ‘fascism’ to ‘Trumpism’. Others see fascism as an expression of a racist, white workingclass.
For those in control of the Democratic Party, ‘fascism’ appears to mean any attitude that smacks of bigotry: racism, religious bigotry, misogyny, anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry and more. Yet these have always had a virulent presence in US society — even Trumpism, which has roots in such historical figures as Father Conklin.
These ‘definitions’ tell us nothing about the crisis we are living through now, which is why I prefer the definition of fascism given by Gyorgi Dmitrov, who defined fascism as:
“the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinisitc and most imperialist elements of finance capital.”
Fascism, Dmitrov continues, is:
“a substitution of one state form of class domination of the bourgeoisie — bourgeois democracy — by another form — open terrorist dictatorsip.”
This definition is important for a couple reasons. First and foremost, it puts the locus of fascism, not in the white workingclass or in the middle classes, but in the Corporate Capitalist class. Further, it suggests that the main path to opposing fascism is to mobilize those sectors of society most hostile to Corporate rule: the working classes.
Dr. WEB DuBois almost one hundred years ago demonstrated, in his monumental Black Reconstruction, that the heart of the antifascist struggle in the United States must be an alliance of Black Americans and Labor, the very alliance which touched off our current crisis when it pushed Obama over Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary.
But here we come to an intrinsic weakness in our society’s ability to resist fascism: for where is the political party that represents, mobilizes and promotes workers and African-Americans to fight on their own agenda, for their own needs and rights? The Democratic Party?
If the Democratic Party were serious about workers’ rights, it would have passed the Employee Free Choice Act during Obama’s first administration, to make it easier for US workers to organize. Instead, that law died an un-natural death, and has not been revived since. Labor organizing in this country takes place under the most atrocious conditions, with blatant labor law violations, including physical violence, from employers such as Amazon. Fewer workers, today, belong to a labor union than at any time since the 1950s — a decline that began under Democrat John F Kennedy. Surprisingly, statistics from the Bureau of Labor do not show an accelerated decline post-1980 — that is, following the election of Reagan. Instead, workers have been losing ground, at a steady rate, under Democrat and Republican Presidents alike.
Labor and the Black community have always been junior members of the Democratic Party. As of 2020, only 152 African Americans have ever been elected to Congress, out of 12,348 total members: 1.2%, although African Americans make up 14% of the US population. In that same period, no blue-collar worker has ever been elected to the US Congress. Even Democratic Socialists of America members Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez — both from lower class families — have professional, rather than blue- or white-collar backgrounds.
The Democratic party is, without exaggeration, an element of a system which is “a form of class domination of the bourgeoisie,” however democratic.
Under these conditions, any real fight against fascism must involve empowering the working classes and the racially-oppressed to fight for their own needs and their own agenda, even if that means fighting for needs that cannot be met under the current system, even if it means a fundamental change in the system itself, even if it means pushing the Corporate elements — the Joe Bidens — out of the leadership of the Democratic Party.
Fascism means that significant sectors of the ruling class know that the system itself can no longer work. One way or another, an evolution is necessary. We will either lurch towards a system under which the people will have no rights, and Corporate America will reign supreme — or create a new system, in which the people will have all the rights, and Corporate America will no longer be.
Nothing — nothing — can be more anti-worker, more antithetical to the needs of the racially-oppressed, than war. Workers and people of color, not rich people. fight wars, die in wars, are maimed, physically and emotionally, by war. Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were not fought in the interests of the people who died and were maimed there, but in the interests of the Corporations whose global interests were at stake. This war — whether fomented by Democrats or Republicans, whatever the glorious rhetoric — is no different. For fascism to be defeated, this war must be stopped.
A Republican victory at the midterms will not automaically bring on fascism. If, however, it forces the Democratic Party into a rethinking, if it slows the drive to all-out war, if it opens a political space for progressive peace forces with a minimum of chuspa, it may prevent fascism in the long run.
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