No, I am not saying the world is the same today as it was in 1984 (or 2004, or 1964).
The same liberal and middle class left electoral rationalizations do persist. (I support the U.S. Socialist Workers Party campaign.)
Will vote for Mondale slow down U.S. war in Central America? 'Guardian' ignores lesson of Vietnam
BY GEOFF MIRELOWITZ
Should socialists, radical-minded workers, and opponents of the U.S. war in Central America and the Caribbean support Democrat Walter Mondale in the November elections to get rid of Ronald Reagan? Would this slow the war and austerity drive of the U.S. ruling class? In an August 8 front-page editorial the Guardian newspaper, a nationally circulated radical weekly, answers yes. "Reagan must go," proclaims the headline. Dumping Reagan "is crucial," argues the Guardian, "to prevent consolidation of power by the right. This includes voting against him - and for his Democratic Party opponent Walter Mondale."
This view is widespread throughout the U.S. left, including among many, like the editors of the Guardian, who consider themselves Marxists. The Daily World, newspaper of the Communist Party, for instance, promotes a "dump Reagan" perspective in page after page of its every issue. The Communist Workers Party, which four years ago campaigned to "crash the Democratic Party convention," seems to have found its way through the front door and today urges support for Mondale.
The Guardian's stand, its editors acknowledge, "represents a change from previous positions." It is the first time the Weekly has openly urged a vote for a candidate of one of the two big capitalist parties in a presidential election.
Those who have not caved in to the considerable pressure to back the "lesser evil" among the capitalist candidates and who support independent working class political action, including supporters of Socialist Workers presidential and vice-presidential candidates Mel Mason and Andrea Gonzalez, will find much to disagree with in the Guardian editorial. This includes the support it gave to the procapitalis Democratic Party election campaign waged by Jesse Jackson.
Chief argument of 'Guardian'
This article will not attempt to dispute the Guardian point by point. Rather it will consider the editorial's chief argument in favor of a vote for former vice-president Mandale·- that it is an effective means to slow the U.S. war in Central America. This mistaken view is shared by others beyond the Guardian, including many committed antiwar fighters and Central America solidarity activists.
"We should not expect the Democrats to be peaceful," the Guardian concedes, "either toward revolutionary peoples around the world or working people and minorities in the U.S." But, it continues, "the worst the Democrats are likely to do is continue what the Republicans are doing."
A Mondale victory however, opens another possibility, Guardian editors contend. "The best that could happen," they say, "is that the strangulation of the Nicaraguan revolution might ease up somewhat,. some pressure might be put on the fascist South African government, some human rights demands be made on the Salvadoran government and the assault on labor unions, women, and minorities at home might be eased."
At the heart of the Guardian's position is the opinion that "A defeat of the reactionaries in November can offer an important breathing space to the left and progressive forces in the U.S. and, perhaps more importantly ' to liberation movements and anti-imperialist countries around the world."
This is wishful thinking. Organizing to win workers to solidarize with the Central American revolutions and oppose the U. S. war there is a vital responsibility of all socialists today. A vote for Mondale, however, will not slow the war drive nor gain breathing room for Nicaraguan and Salvadoran working people fighting U.S. intervention. It does nothing to help advance the process of building a mass working-class antiwar movement. It is an obstacle to educating working people to rely on their own independent action to fight the war. The Guardian, however, has no confidence in independent working-class political action. It looks to a capitalist politician for relief instead.
The Guardian admits that "the current war buildup began in the Democratic Carter administration." (A designation the editors evidently find more convenient for their current purposes than the more accurate "Carter-Mondale administration.") But it also points out that the Reagan administration has been steadily escalating the war over the past four years. It fears that as soon as the elections are over, Reagan, "unrestrained by the considerations of having to face the electorate again," will send U.S. combat troops into. the region and a full scale, Vietnam-style war will develop. Thus its call for a vote for Mondale.
The Guardian is not wrong to point to the danger of a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua El Salvador. A sharp escalation of the U.S. war is sure to come - but it does not hinge on a Reagan victory in November. The employing class cannot tolerate the advance of the socialist revolution- especially in what they arrogantly consider their own backyard. They recognize that the Nicaraguan revolution, like the Cuban revolution, wrenched a section of the Americas out from under their political and economic domination. The Salvadoran revolution threatens to do the same. The U.S. rulers have decided they must put an end to these powerful examples. That is why they aim to overthrow Nicaragua's workers and farmers government and why they are fiercely resisting Salvadoran working people fighting to overturn imperialist domination. Both capitalist parties in the United States support these goals.
That's why the U.S. invasion of Grenada last October won virtually unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats. Today neither Mondale, Ferraro, Jackson, nor other leading Democratic Party figures criticize that invasion or oppose the continuing U.S. military occupation of the island. What if the Carter-Mondale team had won the 1980 presidential contest? In. April1980 they did not hesitate to launch a U.S. commando raid on Iran. Do the Guardian's editors seriously believe that Carter and Mondale, presented with the same opportunity for imperialism offered by the counterrevolutionary overthrow of the Maurice Bishop-led government in Grenada, would not have ordered an invasion? And a Mondale-Ferraro administration? Wouldn't it have done the same? What evidence indicates the contrary? The decision to invade Grenada did not represent the views of just one section, a right wing, of the U.S. ruling class represented by Reagan. The overwhelming support of capitalist politicians for the invasion was further proof of the fundamental agreement on U.S. foreign policy goals that has existed in ruling-class circles for many years.
What differences do exist on U.S. government policy in Central America are tactical. They concern pace, timing, and how to minimize the political price the U.S. government will have to pay for an invasion.
But this does not change the fundamental agreement on the purpose of U.S. intervention. This is spelled out in a recent article titled "Mondale's G.O.P. Latin Policy," authored by Alan Tonelson, associate editor of Foreign Policy, a magazine published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a liberal "think tank." "The Democrats' ….decision to accept Ronald Reagan's bottom line in Central America," Tonelson explains, "could make deeper United States military involvement inevitable no matter who wins in November.
"[T]he Democrats," Tonelson observes correctly, "essentially accept Mr. Reagan's estimation of the stakes for the United States in the Central American conflict." He quotes the Democratic platform which states, "the strategic importance of Central America is not in doubt, nor is the fact that the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Nicaragua have all encouraged instability and supported revolution in the region." "The result," says Tonelson of the policy Mondale could be expected to implement in Central America, "would be Reaganism without Ronald Reagan."
It is not "Reaganism," however, that is out to stop the Central American revolution, it is imperialism. Reagan is simply the current "commander-in-chief' of U.S. foreign policy. Mondale is campaigning to take over both the title and the job that comes with it, as Tonelson admits.
Lessons of 1964
The Guardian acknowledges that this may be the case - but it outlines a political course based on the hope that it is not. A similar error was made by many on the U.S. left in 1964.
In that year's presidential election many argued that Republican candidate Barry Goldwater represented the extreme rightwing in U.S. politics as the Guardian says of Reagan. Goldwater, said most radicals then, had to be defeated at all costs, even if that meant voting for the Texas Dixiecrat Lyndon Johnson. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) tried to show that it recognized some of Johnson's "weaknesses" - as the Guardian claims to recognize Mondale's today - by putting out a button that read, "Part of the way with LBJ."
It was certainly true that Goldwater, like Reagan today, openly voiced many reactionary and right-wing ideas which, while shared by most in the ruling class, are not always publicly advanced. But voting for Johnson proved to be worse than useless as a strategy to either prevent prowar policies from being implemented, or "offer important breathing space" to Vietnamese liberation fighters. After winning the election by a gigantic landslide, Johnson quickly tossed aside his vote-getting promises, and within weeks of his inauguration, ordered a major escalation of the U.S. war in Vietnam. And het ook this course without regard for whether it jeopardized his chances in the 1968 presidential race (as it turned out that it did). Antiwar forces were left unprepared and disarmed by the "vote LBJ" stand (both the "part of the way" and "all the way" varieties). Many felt betrayed and cried that Johnson was implementing Goldwater's foreign policy. In this they were mistaken.
With the campaign rhetoric successfully behind him, Johnson simply set out to do the job the U.S. ruling class selected him to do - implement imperialist foreign policy. The Guardian editors ignore the lessons of 1964 and argue that antiwar forces can pressure Mondale by voting for him. This they suggest, can slow the escalation of the war and thus give the workers and peasants of Central America more time to prepare. Buying time for the Nicaraguan and Salvadoran revolutions is a worthy goal. Our difference with the Guardian is over how to do this. But behind that difference is a much deeper one over what strategy can effectively oppose imperialist war.
Strategy to fight war
The Socialist Workers campaign puts forward a perspective of educating and organizing the working class to lead the fight to end the U.S. war in Central America and the Caribbean. That is because the working class is the only force in U.S. society with the power to do so - other than the ruling class which is waging the war.
The Guardian however is speaking in a completely different tongue. It does not aim to map a strategy of opposition to the war based on the working class. It is not even speaking to workers. Instead it has opted for the most unrealistic course of all- hoping the leader of an imperialist party will slow down an imperialist war.
Supporters of the SWP election campaign begin with telling the truth about what is coming in Central America and the Caribbean. It means following the example set by revolutionary fighters in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Cuba who are working for peace by preparing for war.
This approach was captured by Sandinista Commander Tomas Borge a year ago when he told a group of Canadian unionists visiting Nicaragua, "I am not optimistic in regards to peace. But I am absolutely optimistic in terms of victory. "Like the Sandinista leaders, antiwar forces here, especially those who consider themselves socialists, should tell the truth to working people: an invasion of Central America is being prepared. We cannot predict the timing or the exact circumstances, but U.S. combat troops will be sent. We cannot stop this any more than we could stop the invasion of Vietnam, but we can be confident that sending the GIs will generate widespread opposition and lay the basis for a much bigger struggle against the imperialist warmakers.
Along with the struggle of working people in Central America and the Caribbean, the fight by U.S. workers against Washington's intervention can make imperialism pay a high price for its actions. This can lead, over time, to a defeat for the U.S. government as it did in Vietnam. The firm determination of the Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Salvadoran fighters in the face of U.S. threats, and the organized mobilization and expression of antiwar sentiment among U.S. working people has already given the rulers pause in their war drive.
But it has not ended it. Nor can it. Imperialism will not give up in Central America without a much bigger fight than it has put up so far. That is why a further escalation of the war is inevitable. Today opponents of the war should do everything possible to educate U.S. workers about the real situation in Central America and the Caribbean, including the aims and accomplishments of the revolutions there, and the anti-workingclass goals of the U.S . government's war.
Important opportunities exist to do this, a fact the Guardian seems to ignore. Its editorial refers to "the masses of alienated and apathetic citizens." Nowhere is there any mention of the noteworthy accomplishments made by opponents of the war in the unions or the important differences in this respect from the early years of the fight against the Vietnam war.
Today, even before U.S. combat troops are on the battlefields in large numbers, several U.S. trade unions have taken an antiwar stand. Scores of local unions have heard antiwar presentations by visiting Salvadoran and Nicaraguan unionists and revolutionary leaders. Thousands of U.S. workers have travelled to Nicaragua to see the revolution firsthand.
Supporters of the SWP campaign who are active in the U.S. labor movement seek to build on these accomplishments. These socialist workers are organizing other trips by unionists to Central America and the Caribbean as an aid to the fight against the U.S. war.
At the same time, supporters of the SWP campaign have joined in other efforts to mobilize opposition to the war that originate outside the labor movement, such as the June 9 demonstration of 5,000 held in New York City. SWP campaign supporters participate in such efforts with the goal of orienting them to the unions and other organizations of U.S. working people and the oppressed nationalities, drawing them into the fight against the war.
Socialist campaign supporters use the SWP campaign as a tool to take the fight against imperialist war into the working class. While SWP candidates educate about the war, they also tell the truth about the . elections themselves. Unlike the editors of the Guardian, SWP candidates do not tell working people that voting on election day can stop, or slow, the U.S. war.
Instead they explain why workers must rely on their own independent action to fight the war, as they must rely on independent class action to oppose union-busting and other ruling-class attacks. They point to the necessary task of building a mass working-class party that can fight to overtum the imperialist warrnakers once and for all.
The Guardian editorial denigrates this modest example of independent working-class political action as "symbolic" but "unrealistic."
But what is really unrealistic in advancing the fight against war is urging a course based on the hope that the Democratic Party is not as completely committed to imperialist foreign policy as the Republicans, and on the idea that elections actually decide how that policy is implemented .