The War at Home




W

hile
the world focuses on U.S. moves against Iraq, it is necessary to
take a closer look at the government’s agenda at home to get
a more comprehensive view of the current crisis. This agenda is
not just a Republican one, large parts of it were integral to former
President Clinton’s administration, but one of a broad reversal
of the gains won and granted as part of the struggles and conflicts
following World War II. Commonly referred to as neo-liberalism,
this process has run up against increasing resistance and, consequently,
its implementation has become more forceful and at times more nuanced


What
is remarkable about this agenda is that, at its root, it differs
little from most of the governments now opposed to U.S. policy on
Iraq. French solidarity has not stopped Chirac from employing a
racist assault on immigrants and refugees to France. Schroeder’s
consensus does not extend to the German working class where he is
presiding over deep attacks on welfare and security. Putin has exercised
war as the first and only option in Russia’s campaign against
Chechen self-determination. 


Any
review of the domestic policies of Bush show that civil rights and
liberties have been and will continue to be eroded in the United
States under the auspices of the War on Terrorism. Recourse to the
law has been denied to Arab, South Asian, and Muslim men and women,
hundreds of whom have disappeared into the dark hole of Federal
detention. Habeas Corpus has ceased to exist as a principle. 


The
myriad of new laws allowing for government snooping has been taken
up by corporate America with some companies now requiring new employees
to undergo “security checks” whose purpose knows no objectivity,
but is entirely the prerogative of the employer. 


The
massive tax cuts given to businesses and wealthy individuals go
beyond the “trickle down” economic notions of Reagan and
Thatcher too, as one writer put it, a “mist down” economy
where the poor must fend for themselves and the working class must
pay for their own and increasingly meager social protections. 


Enron
did not pay one dime in income taxes between 1996-99 (the height,
we remind readers, of the roaring 1990s under Clinton). Now instead
of creative bookkeeping to protect their money from the public coffers
and spurious social spending the rich have the law on their side—no
taxes on inheritance or profits made from stock dividends. 


Anti-union
language has been written into nearly all the new legislation concerning
the restructuring of Federal Government departments since September
11. When taking federal control over airline security they denied
any collective bargaining protection to the government’s new
employees. The government also stipulated that employees be American
citizens, firing hundreds of perfectly legal workers mainly from
Latin America. The Administration’s huge bailout to the airline
industry was based on the airlines squeezing givebacks out of the
various unions representing tens of thousands of workers. 


When
the Longshore workers were locked out on the West Coast, Homeland
Security head Tom Ridge equated the workers with terrorists and
threatened to use Federal troops to run the docks. Bush invoked
the reactionary Taft Hartley act (last used by Jimmy Carter against
the coal miners in the late 1970s) to force the dock-workers to
accept government arbitration and therefore the parameters of an
imposed settlement. 


Arthur
Scargill, the British mineworkers leader, said during the great
Miners Strike of the 1980s that he wished the Labour Party were
as loyal to its class as Thatcher and the Conservative Party were
to theirs. The same can be said today of nearly all the leadership
of U.S. unions who have in many cases collaborated with the government
in the dismantling of their rights. In the name of national security
they have virtually implemented a no-strike pledge as their part
in the War on Terrorism. Whatever opposition they do voice is well
within the confines of Democratic Party politics and therefore inadequate
and ineffective.


There
are, however, welcome signs that the anti-war movement has become
big enough that the political space needed for the union bureaucracy
to break from the government on some of these issues is opening.
Still the labor movement faces an uphill battle, weighed down by
its own bureaucracy and confronting a ruling class far more combative
than they. 


Long
before September 11, Bush and his people had been eying the oil
beneath the Alaskan wilderness in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge
as their own. Stating the need to break the U.S. from “dependence”
on foreign oil, the government seeks to open one of the last unspoiled
ecosystems in the world to the trucks, pipelines, and drilling of
the petro-chemical companies. 


The
Kyoto Accords, laughingly inadequate to begin with, are to be replaced
by self-regulation and a “spirit of community” on the
part of the polluters. Managing of the national forests is to be
given to the logging companies while Bush has stated that the best
way to avoid the Western forest fires last summer is to cut down
the forests. A full-scale regression of environmental laws is in
the cards as the capitalists see the laws of unregulated “free
markets” as the greatest guaranteer of en- vironmental sustainability.
Mean- while the ecological crisis facing humanity grows more urgent. 


Affirmative
action is another in a long list of gains made by the intense struggles
of the post-war period falling under the axe of Compassionate Conservatives.
White people have had a constant and unrestricted “affirmative
action” since their arrival on these shores, slaves in tow.
Does anybody think that Bush got into Yale and Harvard because of
his disciplined studies and hard work? He is a poster child for
the “race based” policies he says he opposes. The only
reasons for his position (unless one believes, as he does, that
his prayers were literally answered by God) are his money and his
name; both of which are the exclusive property of the white elite.
 


George
Bush scolds his friend Trent Lott in public all the while pushing
forward racist judges to fill vacant federal benches. What has kept
many Black Americans so whetted to the dead-end Democrats is the
racist image of the Republican Party, which the Republicans seem
eager to earn. 


Soon
abortion rights may well be in Bush’s sites, but, even before
then, the plight of poor women in this country has been made even
more difficult. Clinton presided over the destruction of the welfare
system in this country, forcing many women into low paying jobs
while their children are left to fend for themselves because there
is no money or services for child care. Schools and community services
have been forced to cut their budgets. 


As
always, the reduction of benefits corresponds with a rise in the
idealization of the church and family shifting the burden for care
from the government to the private sector. Gay and lesbian rights
and visibility threaten to be drowned in a new parochialism.


Everywhere
the attacks continue, but there are increasing and encouraging signs
that the post-September 11 consensus is breaking down. The “full
spectrum dominance” of foreign policy, again begun by Clinton
in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, is directly related
to the domestic agenda inflicted on the working class, poor, immigrants,
women, gays and lesbians, the environment, and dissent at home.
When those groups in the U.S. see their natural allies as those
attacked by this government overseas, then U.S. imperialism will
face a truly striking challenge. The hundreds of thousands of Americans
who have joined recent international days of protest give hope.
We revolutionaries seek to make those connections and hasten that
day. 







Matt
Siegfried is a trade unionist (UFCW 876) and anti-war activist in
Ypsilanti, Michigan. He writes for the Irish journal



Fourthwrite