News Analysis

The recent assembling of 100,000 people in our nation’s capital protesting the Bush administration’s policies of militarism, economic austerity, and sweeping denial of democratic liberties was a major political breakthrough. Its size was greater than many anticipated; the diversity of the marchers, including large numbers of Arab people, was striking; the level of anti-imperialist understanding was papable; the urgency of Palestinian statehood emerged in a new way; the action was the first major mobilization in Washington since Sept. 11, and, perhaps most importantly, the stage was set for a broad range of actions at the national and local level against Bush’s reactionary policies.

The April 20 demonstration, however, should not be seen as an aberration, but rather it fits into a larger political pattern of struggle that is coming to the fore across our land.

Different sectors of the American people are once again finding their voice and contesting one or another aspect of Bush’s agenda, an agenda that shamelessly caters to the interests of the most reactionary sections of transnational capital and the military-industrial complex.

One day 10,000 immigrant rights supporters march in Los Angeles; another day 35,000 New York City teachers demonstrate for a decent contract; on still another day 10,000 labor and community activists descend on the capital building in Springfield, Ill., to protest state budget cuts, and on still another day, 3,000 women, representing a cross section of women’s organizations, gather in Washington to discuss political strategies against the extreme right.

A recent article in Wild Earth, written by its editor, Tom Butler, captures the shifting mood among the American people.

‘Wild Earth readers likely need no reminder of recent Bush administrations actions … rolling back natural forest roadless area protection, abandoning grizzly bear reintroduction in Idaho, failing to fight developers’ challenge to critical habitat designations for endangered species, and working to open the Arctic Wildlife Refugee to petroleum development … For my part, I hope that the large, Washington-based environmental groups will wage an all-out counteroffensive against the administration’s assault on wild America.’

Admittedly, this counteroffensive is in its early stages and is searching for greater political and organizational coherency. Everyone is not on the same exact page or moving at the same pace, but that should be neither surprising nor unexpected. That’s the nature of mass movements.

Still room abounds for mutually beneficial dialogue and political mobilization around issues of common concern.

One immediate issue is the Bush budget. According to James Cypher, writing in Dollars and Sense, the line item for war spending, euphemistically called defense spending, ‘will rise by at least $58.6 billion over the 2001 levels, a 19 percentincrease,’ thus bringing spending for war to nearly $400 billion annually.

Military spending on this scale, and especially when combined with Bush’s $1.3 trillion tax giveaway to the corporations and wealthy, forecloses any possibility of addressing pressing issues like, education, health care, housing, family farms, urban development, etc.for the decade to come.

The extreme right ideologues, of course, welcome this development. For a long time their dream has been to perform a lobotomy on the public sector while greatly enlarging the military industrial complex. And with Bush in the White House and the American people still finding their way in the aftermath of Sept. 11, their dream, as they see it, is now within reach.

But this may be a case of overreach. Between public skepticism of Bush’s war on terrorism, financial and economic instablility, and the exploding scandal surrounding Enron, the constiuency advocating the gutting of the public sector and public services in favor of militarism is narrowing.

But shifting mass moods won’t secure a budget that accents peoples’ needs and defends the public sector. It will take aroused public opinion, organized mass initiatives, and broad unity.

Of course, not everyone in the emerging movement against Bush’s policies holds identical political views. For instance, the marchers in Washington and many more who were not present in D.C., but who oppose the war policy say that the Pentagon’s spending provides the military wherewithal to aggressively pursue imperialism’s policy of global domination. Needless to say, their opposition to the spending is unambiguous and far-reaching.

On the other hand, the attitude of labor and other democratic forces representing broad, mass constituencies is more tempered and partial. While they offer qualified support for Bush’s war policy, they are not ready to give Bush and the Pentagon a blank check for military spending, not to mention tax breaks to the wealthy, particularly knowing that such concessions will come at the expense of the pressing needs of their constituencies.

While these positions cannot be harmonized in the near term at the ideological level, they do offer space for coalition politics, for common and parallel actions against the wholly unnecessary expansion of the military budget at the expense of human needs and a peaceful world.

Is there any other choice? The Bush administration and the extreme right feel that they are on a roll and only a broad and diverse mass movement will convince them otherwise.

Sam Webb is the national chairman of the Communist Party USA. He can be reached at swebb@cpusa.org

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