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Surrender of the ABB left

October 22, 2004 | Page 3

IT'S JUST a few minutes of our time, the argument goes.

Just a few minutes to vote to send George W. Bush back to Texas--and give us breathing room to fight for real change with an administration that can be pressured by progressives, unions and the left.

This "Anybody But Bush" logic is presented as common sense by many well-known progressives in the U.S.--people with proud records of standing up against war and for social justice. Yet the ABB tide has led to the systematic demobilization and disorganization of the left and those it seeks to influence.

That's because the "anybody" has a name--John Kerry--and he's the most conservative Democratic presidential candidate in decades.

The occupation of Iraq? Kerry is for it, only he'll run it better than Bush. Tax cuts? Kerry wants to roll back tax breaks for the wealthy, but hand them out again in a different form--to business.

This conservatism has at least some liberal commentators pulling their hair out--as they watch Kerry turning off workers, African Americans and other traditional Democratic constituencies. You would expect those who stand further to the left to make much sharper attacks on Kerry--demanding a real increase in social programs and an immediate pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq, condemning Kerry's saber-rattling on Iran and North Korea.

Yet the ABB left has concentrated its fire on Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo's independent campaign--for daring to challenge the political status quo. For example, columnist Norman Solomon--who angered liberals with his book False Hope: The Politics of Illusion, which documented the broken promises of the Clinton administration--today is in the business of sowing illusions in the party of Bill Clinton, while regularly hurling abuse at Nader and his supporters.

Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, who ran for the U.S. Senate from California in 2000 as a Green Party candidate, now says that a vote for Nader was a mistake, and that we should get behind Kerry. Even the young left-wing actors who formed the satirical Billionaires for Bush (or Gore) in the 2000 campaign are today known simply as Billionaires for Bush--even though Kerry is a real billionaire, and Bush is not.

All this has given a left-wing veneer to the well-funded political hatchet job carried out by the Democratic Party and their lawyers to slander Nader and Camejo, and to keep the ticket off as many state ballots as possible.

What's tragic is that many of the loudest voices on the ABB left come from those who became radicals in the 1960s because of a Democratic war in Vietnam. Now they're turning into what they once rebelled against--the liberal face of "the Establishment" that slaughtered an estimated 2 million Southeast Asians in the 1960s.

It's never been clearer that the Democrats would prefer to fight elections--and even lose them--by appealing to conservative "swing" voters and corporate donors, rather than risk destabilizing U.S. politics by appealing to workers and the poor. Yet the further to the right Kerry goes--and the closer the Bush-Kerry race becomes--the more the left feels obliged to apologize for him.

Consider this pronouncement from Steven Rosenfeld and Jan Frel, in a glowing review of Kerry's debate performances on the AlterNet Web site. "It was Kerry, not the president," they wrote, "who spoke of raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, and who slammed tax cuts that came at the expense of after-school programs."

Yet Kerry's proposal to boost the minimum wage to $7 by 2007 would still leave the minimum wage lower than it was 40 years ago, once inflation is taken into account. As for slamming tax cuts, Kerry backed the corporate giveaways in the latest tax bill--and wants to give even more to corporations in the hope that they'll create jobs. What about those after-school programs cut by Bush? Kerry's commitment to "fiscal responsibility" means putting many more social programs on the chopping block in order to please Wall Street bankers.

The left's cover-up for Kerry is the worst on foreign policy, with the antiwar movement coming to a standstill during the campaign--even as the number of U.S. war crimes multiplies daily. Many antiwar activists are working hard to elect Kerry--a man who's trying to outflank Bush on the right by threatening Iran and North Korea.

The ABB crowd presents themselves as saviors of the left--but they're inflicting enormous damage on it instead. Kerry, a corporate-backed billionaire and committed imperialist politician, gets a free pass from the ABB left. Nader, the career anti-corporate crusader who's opposed to the Iraq war, is deluged with abuse.

Whatever the outcome of the election on November 2, it's already clear that there's an urgent need to rebuild the left--one that's prepared to stand up for its principles.

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