The Making of the Democratic Party's Pro-War Platform or Life on the Slippery Slope with Dennis Kucinich

Revolutionary Worker #1247, July 25, 2004, posted at

Fact #1:

The latest New York Times /CBS News poll estimates that 56% of rank-and-file Demo- crats say that U.S. troops should "leave Iraq as soon as possible, even if Iraq is not completely stable" and not "stay in Iraq as long as it takes to make sure Iraq is a stable democracy." ( New York Times , July 11)

Fact #2:

On July 10, the national platform committee of the Democratic Party met in Fort Lauderdale, and endorsed an outrageously pro-war document--to be presented as the official Democratic Party platform at the coming Boston convention and then in this fall's presidential campaign.

This platform calls for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq, until a stable pro-U.S. government is created--meaning until the anti-occupation insurgency is crushed. It says: "We cannot allow a failed state in Iraq that inevitably would become a haven for terrorists and a destabilizing force in the Middle East."

With Orwellian double-talk, the platform says U.S. troops should ultimately be removed from Iraq "when appropriate so that the military support needed by a sovereign Iraqi government will no longer be seen as the direct continuation of an American military presence."

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a chairman of the platform committee, summed up that this means that U.S. troops must "stay there until the job is done."

In addition, in an unmistakable departure from the past, fully half of the 35-page platform deals with "national security."

This document bristles with belligerent militarism. It calls for expanding the military by 40,000 troops, and for doubling the size of the Special Forces (the Army commandos who have been operating as U.S. assassination squads all over the world). It criticizes Bush for his "unilateral" approach to war, but does not criticize the notion that the U.S. can launch war on any country "pre-emptively."

"Democrats are stronger than ever on national security issues," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe.

Fact #3:

This pro-war position on Iraq was adopted by a 186-member platform-writing committee without any public fight.

Several proposed anti-war planks were presented by delegates (who were often pledged to the presidential candidate Congressman Dennis Kucinich).

One proposal said that the Iraq war was a mistake from the beginning. Another called for setting a date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. There were proposals opposing pre-emptive war, for reducing the military, calling for basic national rights for Palestinian people. Another plank criticized Bush for ignoring global warming and destroying the Kyoto process.

These planks were dismissed without the platform committee even considering them, in silence, in secret-- no public acknowledgement, no public debate, no public vote!

How is this possible?

U.S. politics has an elaborate apparatus of "candidate debates," and primaries for selecting delegates- -in an official season that lasts for almost a full year. In official mythology this is how the "will of the people" gets expressed.

So, then, let's ask: How can the Democratic Party adopt essentially the same position on the Iraq occupation as President Bush (on this so-important "issue" for the world, for the people of Iraq, for the future) -- without even pretending to consider or address the clear views of its own membership?

On one level, this political shut-out was done procedurally. The rules said you needed 14 votes (out of 186) to get a plank on the floor. And none of the anti-war planks could even get that 14-vote minimum. In other words, the delegate selection process had (pretty successfully) excluded people willing to fight for an anti-war position.

Only one platform amendment got enough votes to be discussed--one calling for specific changes (not even repeal!) of the fascistic Patriot Act. It was then quickly voted down by this larger platform committee.

Sandy Berger (who is former President Clinton's National Security Advisor and who served as the behind-the- scenes ringmaster of the platform process) insisted that the Democratic Party must not be seen as opposing the Patriot Act, and in particular must not list ANY specific passages they would change.

At the end, the new official Party platform calls for expanding the powers of the Patriot Act (by giving the U.S. federal government even more power to investigate financial records and transactions), and meanwhile it very, very vaguely calls for making the Patriot Act "smarter" by altering (unspecified) sections that may affect "the privacy and liberty that law-abiding Americans cherish."

Fact #4:

There were no walkouts by anti-war delegates from this platform outrage. There were no press conferences protesting this crude machine politics. There were no promises to "take it to the floor" of the convention. There were no loud public calls for anti-war democrats to take the streets in Boston and New York for their views.

This complete lack of struggle was particularly startling because one presidential candidate, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, has sworn he would "stay in the race" to oppose the war. And it was particularly startling to Kucinich's own delegates!

Dennis Kucinich had sworn, over and over, through the last months to "take the fight" over the war "all the way to the convention." It was the main reason that a dedicated core of people stuck with him--in hopes of speaking strongly against the war and "pulling Kerry" toward their stand.

New Hampshire activist Caleb Ewing expressed how the anti-war delegates felt ( "This wholesale rejection of our cause and values stung deeply. We were shocked, in fact, and many of us cried when we realized that not only did our amendments lack the support necessary for passage, but we also lacked even the minimum support required to debate the amendments."

Why were there only tears and no protest?! Because Kucinich sent his campaign aide to order his delegates to accept the platform.

Behind the scenes, a deal had been worked out between Kucinich and Sandy Berger. Well actually, it was not much of a deal.

Kucinich agreed to accept a pro-war platform, a pro-war candidate and not launch any challenge at the convention. And, in exchange, they got nothing. Speaking for Kerry and the party establishment, Sandy Berger said, "We didn't give up anything."

All the anti-war forces got was permission to stay inside the process. And Kucinich personally earned the privilege of addressing the Democratic Party Convention in Boston (probably in some obscure non-prime-time moment).


"We are die-hard Democrats and even though some of us felt stretched to the breaking point by the sustained cold shoulder of the Democratic Party power elite, our progressive caucus leadership quickly scrambled to put a positive spin on the process, to wit, `even though we were all but marginalized and ignored in the platform, and even though we got practically nothing in the end, the fact that we took part in the process and formally accepted nothing is evidence of a working relationship with the Kerry camp that will bode well for us once Kerry is elected.'"

Caleb Ewing

"Who are the people that [the Democrats] try to appeal to--not that the Democrats represent their interests, but who are the people that the Democrats try to appeal to.? All the people who stand for progressive kinds of things, all the people who are oppressed in this society. For the Democrats, a big part of their role is to keep all those people confined within the bourgeois, the mainstream, electoral process...and to get them back into it when they have drifted away from--or broken out of--that framework. Because those people at the base are always alienated and angry at what happens with the elections, for the reason I was talking about earlier: they are always betrayed by the Democratic Party, which talks about "the little man" and poor people and the people who are discriminated against, and so on. And at times they'll even use the word oppression. But then they just sell out these people every time--because they don't represent their interests. They represent the interests of the system and of its ruling class. But they have a certain role of always trying to get people who are oppressed, alienated and angry back into the elections. You know: "Come on in, come on in--it's not as bad as you think, you can vote, it's OK." This is one of the main roles they play. But the thing about them is that they are very afraid of calling into the streets this base of people that they appeal to, to vote for them. The last thing in the world they want to do is to call these masses of people into the streets to protest or to battle against this right-wing force that's being built up."

Bob Avakian, "The Pyramid of Power and
the Struggle to Turn This Whole Thing Upside Down"

"Mr. Kerry is determined to present himself as a leader of strength, one who would more effectively pursue the same goals Mr. Bush has established for progress in Iraq and the broader anti-terror war."

The Wall Street Journal, summing up its July 15 interview with John Kerry

The Democratic Party establishment has been ruthless in enforcing limits on "acceptable debate"--in particular, to rule out any real opposition to the war in Iraq, the larger "war on terror" and the domestic outrages of the Patriot Act and intensified repression.

When Howard Dean's campaign caught fire by denouncing the decision to invade Iraq--Dean was rudely iced from the process, before his growing support could give him any primary victories.

Then, even as anti-war sentiment has grown steadily and powerfully within both the Democratic base and in the population generally, the Democratic Party leadership (and its imposed candidate) have more and more crudely suppressed any expresssion of anti-war views.

In this Fort Lauderdale platform conference, the anti-war views of literally tens of millions of people (and a solid majority of Democrats) couldn't even get a moment's lip service or respectful debate!

The delegates were told that by capitulating they were preserving a "working relationship" with Kerry--meaning: a chance to "pressure" him once he is in office.

Why would anyone look at this whole rigged process--over the last year--and think that giving up plans to protest will increase the ability to "pressure" a future Kerry government?!

Can anyone think that silencing any challenge in the months ahead, and falling in line with Kerry, will create conditions for more successful struggle later, after November?!

The lesson of Fort Lauderdale is exactly the opposite.

There is no time to lose. Millions of people are looking for a way to express their deep discontent and dismay-- and the Democratic Party has slammed the door in their face. It would be criminal to collaborate with that.

It is crucial to step up powerful, visible, uncompromising resistance that delivers a powerful, unmistakable NO to the war in Iraq and the whole "Bush Agenda" of global domination and fascistic domestic changes.