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Writer, Professor, Revolutionary.

May First in the Belly of the Beast

Originally published on Cubanow [May 1, 2004]

The First of May has not been celebrated in the US since the beginning of the Cold War. The people don’t even know why it is celebrated in the rest of the world, in spite of the fact that it is held in honor of the eight Chicago Martyrs of 1886. But this 1st of May there will be protests because it is the first anniversary of the “victory” in the war against Iraq.

The people are fed-up with the wasting of money and lives in Iraq while social programs in health, housing and education are lacking funds. The organization Labor Against the War is growing and there are thousands of military families against the war. Each week more people reject the global Monroe Doctrine of “complete spectral domination.”

There is also growing economic dissatisfaction. In April, new unemployment insurance applications reached their highest level since December 2002. That unemployment, along with 25 years of neoliberalism and the precarious and flexible work, the defeats in several strikes, the weakening of the dollar, the budget and commercial deficits, the record foreign debt and the frequency of wars, has left many Americans with little hope.

Besides, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the millionaire presidential candidates. Senator John Kerry promises to reduce corporation taxes by 5% and to create 10 million new jobs. His victory might end the hegemony of the Bush gang but it wouldn’t change the policy of neoliberalism and more “endless” war.

The people realize that voting is not important, as was made evident when the Supreme Court chose the defeated candidate as president in 2000. According to an independent bi-partisan commission, many states have not corrected the flaws in the vote counting methods and many voters don’t know how to use the new electronic machines. The Diebold Elections Systems Company, which controls the new electronic voting software, has ties with the Republican Party. It has been discovered that it is easy to manipulate its software, allowing changes to be made without leaving any traces.

Normally, little more than a third of the Americans who can vote do so, mostly from the middle and upper classes. Almost half of the voters are mobilized by the ultra-right Christian fundamentalists, whose control of the “talk shows” on radio stations has stimulated a group of wealthy liberals to create their own “talk show”.

In the most recent surveys Kerry is in second place. Ralph Nader, the independent candidate, with 6 percent of the survey, is attracting those who usually don’t vote, or conservative Republicans opposed to FTAA, or some Democrats (in that order and not vice versa).

Kerry is unsuccessfully imitating Bush’s populism. Bush describes Kerry accurately as a millionaire remote from the working and middle classes with an alliance policy with the “Old Europe.”

In his two main speeches about US foreign policy (see this and this), Kerry has used practically the same words as in the famous September 2002 White House “National Security Strategy” document. In the “war on terrorism”, Kerry says Bush is not doing enough and promises to strengthen and centralize the intelligence agencies and the “law and order” forces. He refuses to discard “pre-emptive” wars, saying there are moments when the US should act unilaterally. He says he will order “direct military action when necessary to destroy terrorist groups and their leaders” or to “avoid terrorists from acquiring nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.” Like Bush, Kerry mentions terrorists “in 60 nations” and talks about “a confrontation between civilization and chaos.’

Kerry says “we should internationalize the effort” in Iraq and recommends sending 40,000 more troops –“the situation in Iraq is not Vietnam yet.” Like Bush, Kerry supports an expanded role of NATO military forces. Kerry is allied to the Zionist lobby, accusing Bush of “putting at risk the security of Israel.” Besides, he promises to increase the finances of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the federal agency behind many Third World coup de etats, including those attempted in Venezuela.

By attacking Bush on his weak position toward Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, Kerry criticizes the Venezuelan president for his “close ties” with Castro and the “Stalinist secret police government of Cuba.” Although his electronic website favors “limited food and medicine sales to Cuba,” Kerry backs the Helms-Burton Act and the embargo against Cuba. He supports the US intervention in Haiti (currently occupied by troops from Argentina, Brazil and Chile too) and says that now the government should “lead the efforts to preserve the fragile Venezuelan democracy.”

The American working class is very weak. Less than 90% of the workers in the private sector are members of trade unions. The director of Internal Security has the authority to suspend the civil service (public sector) regulations, including union rights. The intensified competition for jobs with decent salaries and health benefits and good houses is creating new waves of racism, anti-Semitism, and attacks against immigrants, gays and lesbians, and creating conditions for a new Fascism. Each ethnic group tries to defend what little is left of their social and economic position.

Today, as in the past, the only hope for progressive change is the growth and unification of the social movements, starting with the anti-war movement, the anti-neoliberal globalization movement, the minority movements (including women and youth), and the new social trade unionism, which unifies many immigrants and workers against FTAA, sexism and racism and includes many feminist leaders. Five months ago 20 thousand militants from these movements, including members of the “official” trade union federation AFL-CIO, were in the Miami streets protesting with Latin-American delegations against the FTAA Hemispheric Meeting. Perhaps, thousands more will be in Boston and New York streets during the political conventions of both parties in July and August. The struggle for a new, possible United States is present and vital in what Jose Marti called the “belly of the beast.”