No "Buts" About It

August 19, 2003

by Bill Foster

I. Facts Are Stubborn Things

Most people know that the "big lie" is one of the mainstays of capitalist propaganda. The capitalists hope that if they just keep asserting the same lie over and over again - a million or a billion times - some people will believe it.

Today, the capitalists are using the big lie technique to try to divert the anti-war movement into electioneering for the Democratic Party. Turn on the TV and see Howard Dean portrayed as an "anti-war candidate." Read it in the New York Times. Watch the Republicans denounce Dean for his "anti-war stance" and the Democratic Leadership Council warn that Dean is from "the far left."

But what are the facts? Dean supported the war in Afghanistan and insists that U.S. troops must stay in Iraq for years. He chides Bush for being "soft" on North Korea and for not moving quickly enough to send U.S. troops to Liberia.

And the facts tell a similar story about all the other so-called "anti-war" candidates of the Democratic Party.

Anti-war activists cannot let themselves be silenced or intimidated by empty assertions. Kucinich's support for U.S. aggression in Afghanistan makes him a pro-war politician not an "anti-war candidate." Sharpton's endorsement of the U.S. and multinational occupation of Iraq makes him a supporter of American chauvinism and aggression, not an "anti-war candidate." Etc., etc., etc.

II. Yes, but....

Not only the big monopoly-controlled media, but also many self-proclaimed "anti-war leaders" and "socialists" are advertising the "peace credentials" of the Democrats and pressuring anti-war activists to convert their activity into electioneering for this or that Democratic candidate.

When activists reply by bringing out some of the facts cited above, the Democratic party campaigners suddenly change their tune and say:

"Of course, I know that (don't forget I'm a real Marxist and in theory, in the long-run, I am also against the "whole system,") BUT...."Bush is so bad...."

In my opinion, this BUT logic is politically dishonest from beginning to end.

For one thing, the BUT logic tries to create a real hysteria and by a sleight-of-hand substitute the issue of "Bush" for the need to oppose the government's war program. Instead of further politicizing and organizing the anti-war movement, the BUT reduces anti-war politics to an empty phrase because in practical political life we are told the movement must be confined to Democratic Party electioneering.

Secondly, the Democratic party campaigners are not honestly going amongst the people reminding them of all the crimes of the Democrats and then saying "vote for these criminals, anyway." They only acknowledge the crimes after genuine activists bring them up.

Finally, the BUT logic tries to divert the issue and marginalize the activists who expose the Democrats by implying that they are too extreme or utopian.

Just answer the question: "Do you oppose the U.S. government's war program and hold the Democrats accountable for their part in it?" Please answer yes or no or else BUT out.

The BUT logic is, in fact, a typical example of the corrupt political culture which the capitalist class tries to impose on the people - it represents a politics of unbounded pragmatism and opportunism, the avoidance of ever taking a principled stand. Today, especially when the anti-war movement has brought millions of Americans into active political life, the crucial thing is to further the politicalization process, to encourage the new thinking and independent activities which are springing up, not to shut this down with the same old empty electioneering.

We must stick to principles and give the widest possible expression to a politics which genuinely holds high and defends the aspirations and demands of the people by opposing the capitalist warmakers, not uniting with them.

Is this "too extreme?"

I don't think so. On the contrary. Only such a politics of principle can inspire and mobilize the tens of millions of Americans who are locked out and excluded from capitalist politics but who are the only force capable of winning the peace.