Moribund US imperialism

It has been said that in the moribund patient, deepening stupor and coma are the preludes to death. If we go by these signs, US imperialism is certainly preparing itself for the grave. What are missing are the gravediggers. While the rest of the world was being horrified by the release of more pictures of US torture at Abu Ghraib, the US media spent days debating whether a Vice-President had shot up one of his buddies by accident, incompetence or because he was drunk.

This preoccupation with microscopic marginalia while anything substantial is ignored has eaten to the heart of bourgeois politics. While approval of Bush and the Republicans has declined to an all-time low, approval of the Democrats has fallen even further. Week after week, the administration offers fat juicy targets that the Democrats insist on ignoring or missing. Easy opportunities to cut deep into the jugular present themselves every few days. Yet if any individual Democrat is aggressive enough to so much as stick their head over the parapet and fire a few squirts at the administration from a water pistol, their colleagues recoil in horror and their condemnation rivals that of the Republicans.

When congressman Murtha calls for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq – just to neighbouring countries – ‘left-wing’ Democratic leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi immediately distanced the rest of the party from the congressman. When Senator Russ Feingold tabled a motion censuring Bush – just censuring him, slapping him on the wrist – fellow Democrats roundly condemned the senator.

The only way the Democrats can unite is when they find a way of attacking the Bush administration – from the right. Thus we had the pitiful spectre of the furore over the takeover of port management contracts by a Dubai based firm. Although the emirate of Dubai is a staunch ally of US imperialism and US warships are berthed and maintained there, the Democrats conjured up the image of this company – many of whose managers are US and European ex-patriates – smuggling dirty bombs, biological warfare agents and who-knows-what into the US. Never mind that port security is the responsibility of the Coast Guard, not the private companies. The logic goes like this: some of the 9/11 terrorists were from Dubai, the company is from Dubai, so it must have some involvement in terrorism. When this safely racist bandwagon came trundling by, the Democrats couldn’t resist hopping on board.

Throughout there is one constant pattern: the Bush administration pushes ahead, shredding the constitution, breaking the law, tyrannising at home and abroad, spreading brutality and torture – only to be savaged by the Democrats with all the ferocity of a flock of dead sheep. It is difficult to think of a time or place where a self-styled opposition has been so timid, supine or cowardly. This naturally encourages the administration to be more audacious and aggressive.

Abortion rights under attack
The state of South Dakota has enacted legislation which makes abortion a criminal offence in almost all cases and does not protect a woman when her health is in danger or even in cases of rape or incest. Doctors who violate the ban could face up to five years in prison. The law is clearly designed to push the issue of abortion rights up to the Supreme Court, which now has an extreme right-wing majority, with a view to overturning the historic Roe vs Wade ruling which legalised abortion in the US. Already, although abortion is legal in theory, in most states it has been so hedged around with restrictions that, although legally accessible under some circumstances, it is practically unobtainable to the women who need it. Waiting periods, parental notification requirements, gag rules, unparalleled requirements for patient ‘safety’ and so on are imposed. In only five states is abortion available free of most restrictions. The victims of all this are, of course, poor working class women.

Anti-immigrant legislation
Currently immigration violations are civil offenses. The Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 is now before the US Senate. It will make all 11 million undocumented immigrants (about 5% of the work force and a much higher proportion of the working class) aggravated felons – criminals, subjecting them to imprisonment and deportation, and depriving them of any access to a hearing prior to deportation. Anyone who helps undocumented immigrants, including employers, social service agencies, spouses, colleagues, teachers and medical workers, will be liable to criminal prosecution as smugglers. Two thousand ‘K-9’ dog units will be deployed for additional ‘border protection’, along with special radar and unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. 700 additional miles of border fence will be built.

If this law is enacted and any serious attempt made to enforce it, blood is guaranteed to flow in the streets of this country: immigrant workers will not be going down without a fight – they have nothing to lose but their chains. On 10 March 100,000 workers marched through Chicago to shouts of ‘Si, se puede!’ – Yes We Can! Dozens of businesses had to shut down and schools emptied as students joined the march.

Even the capitalists are worried by this vicious zealotry – lest they lose vital cheap labour. They’re proposing ‘guest-worker’ schemes that will provide a steady supply of docile and easily-controlled super-exploited workers, lest they turn into the real gravediggers of US imperialism.

Steve Palmer

FRFI 190 April / May 2006