Scandal as Power Struggle
in the U.S. Ruling Class:
Inquisitions and Chickens
Revolutionary Worker #977, October 11, 1998
This week, as the mountains of videotape, Tripp entrapment tapes, and transcripts of coerced testimony before the grand jury piled higher and higher, I found myself thinking about Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible. This chilling story of the Salem witch trials--first written for the stage after the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s--was made into a film a few years ago. And when it opened I went to see it with some comrades on Christmas Day. It is a powerful tale of a ruthless Inquisition--which aimed to consolidate the punishing ideological, political, legal and property relations of the bourgeoisie through a moral crusade. And the film was clearly a protest against the reimposition of traditional values in late 20th-century America. The theater was packed, and I thought it was neat that on Christmas Day people were watching this movie that slammed the Christian inquisition of our time.
Many voices, including my own, have drawn a parallel between these witch trials and the Starr inquisition. But unlike the story of the Crucible--where our sympathies are wholly with the men and women who were the targets of the Inquisition--the current situation poses a more complex challenge. The challenge facing the people is to vigorously oppose the Inquisition while not defending Bill Clinton. Because in this crusade to reimpose traditional values, traditional morality, and the rule of unjust laws--which is now threatening to bring down a President--Bill Clinton has played a most insidious role. And, as Malcolm X once said about Kennedy, when he fell as the result of fierce infighting in the ruling class--chickens are coming home to roost.
As I sit down to write, I fantasize about young women pouring out of the campuses all across the country wearing "Scarlet A's," throwing their fists in the air, and shouting: "Down with the Inquisition, down with the politics of cruelty, we will never go back to the sexual morality of the 1950s or the 1620s." My copy of Bob Avakian's book Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That is open on my desk, and I laugh as I read: "If every last spokesman for the bourgeoisie was not allowed to communicate a single word for a century, while proletarian revolutionaries had unlimited access to the media, etc., the revolutionaries still would not yet have achieved `equal time' with the reactionaries!" After this latest strangest episode in American politics I am thinking it could take the proletariat more than two centuries after the revolution to achieve `equal time.'
Clearly Clinton's womanizing would be unacceptable in any revolutionary leader. But the idea that his encounters with Monica over pizza in the Oval Office have stained the moral authority of the U.S. presidency is so preposterous as to be criminal. I mean when I think about crimes in the Oval Office, I see the ink drying on decisions that took the lives of millions of people from Hiroshima to Vietnam to Panama to Iraq. I remember how shocked I was to find out the Kennedy brothers bugged their own allies in the Civil Rights movement like Martin Luther King. I remember how Nixon hatched the murderous COINTELPRO plots against the Black Panthers with J. Edgar Hoover and cooked up Operation Garden Plot which led to the murder of students at Kent State. Not to mention Watergate. I see that murderous clown Ronald Reagan--who couldn't remember anything about his part in the illegal war where tens of thousands of Nicaraguan people were butchered by Contra mercenaries. I see his loyal lieutenant Oliver North--who has become a much quoted moral authority these days--lying to Congress and then falling on his sword, while George Bush was allowed to slide and glide into the presidency.
When I think of the Oval Office I see an office soaked in blood--an office that Bill Clinton couldn't wait to get his ass into so he could act like someone who has a heart while he represented the ambitions of a class of people who have no heart...and no shame. I see the ink drying on the legal apparatus that has incarcerated 3/4 of a million people--mostly Black and Latino youth--in the last four years of the Clinton White House. I see boot camps and prisons being built while he talks about education and childcare. I recall how Clinton bombed Iraq right after his inauguration and I imagine him secretly planning to bomb Sudan.
And all of these events were justified to the American people with lies and deceptions. Those Congressmen who are now talking about impeaching Clinton for obstruction of justice just couldn't wait to get out and show their bipartisan support for the bombing of one of only two pharmaceutical factories in a poor African country. And the smoke had hardly cleared in Khartoum before the lies justifying this bombing started to come out. So in a way it is fitting for the U.S. Congress to sit in judgement accusing Clinton of lying. They are experts in lying and that is what he was elected to do. This is chickens coming home to roost in a grand historical sense.
I am sickened at the sight of Henry Hyde sitting in judgement on anyone--this horrid man whose name is on the Hyde Amendment which stole away the rights of poor women to federal assistance for abortion. And only last week Hyde received another award from the Catholic Church--an award which is given to people who perform service for the church, especially those who promote the pro-life policies of the church. And these policies which are responsible for ruining the lives of millions of women are based on nothing but lies--the lie that women have a god given duty to bear children, the lie that abortion is murder, the lie that fetuses are children. But have we ever heard a word from the Clinton Oval Office about how a man like Hyde should not have a place in American government and how devastating the Hyde amendment was for poor women across the country? No, what we have heard from the Clinton White House is how abortion should be `legal but rare.' More chickens coming home to roost.
A few years ago, before the Inquisition, I was talking to an old friend who is kind of a Bulworth democrat and he was saying that a lot of people he knows who voted for Clinton were really disillusioned and disappointed by what he had done. And I said, "Well, that's because they think they elected him." In reality Bill Clinton was elected by the U.S. power structure to be their representative at a time of major transitions. And they wanted to do it with as little upheaval as possible. (And now we're seeing the same scenario playing out in the imperialist countries in Europe where Clinton type politicians are being elected to preside over major cuts in social programs and so on.)
I mean, face it, Clinton may be a Rhodes scholar but the reason he got from Arkansas to Washington is because the power structure needed someone who could combine the rhetoric of inclusiveness with the politics of cruelty. Especially after the L.A. rebellion--that glorious few days when President Bush had to drag his ass to South Central Los Angeles with the hang dog look--it became clear that the power structure was after a Presidential change of face. And truth be told, Bill Clinton may owe his presidency to the Black people in a perverse sort of way because after that rebellion they needed someone who could talk to Black people about "ending welfare as we know it" and play the saxophone. And he proved rather good at it before some powerful forces in the ruling class moved to bring him down.
Now the power structure is using the kind of ugly class rhetoric about his rural roots and morals that is usually thrown at Black people--a kind of OJ-ification of the President. And people are picking up on that there is a double-edged racist message to the stories in the media about how the only real firm support Clinton has is from Black people. In a similar way I think a lot of women have been disarmed by the Clinton program of combining inclusiveness with a new spin on traditional morality. And it hurts me to see women grasping at straws--convinced that electing people like Clinton is the only thing standing between them and the right wing fanatics. And now people are being told that the way to fight this inquisition is to defend Clinton because an attack on Clinton is an attack on Black people and women. And this kind of thinking is causing a lot of confusion for people who are now looking for a way to fight the dangerous campaign for repressive laws and traditional morality.
One problem with this thinking was brought home to me by a story that has recently come out about how the Clinton Justice Department was involved in the prosecution of a woman psychiatrist in Boise, Idaho. One of the things that has been so striking about the Starr Inquisition is how the laws have been changed to allow prosecutors greater powers. And many legal experts have commented how unusual it is for anyone, much less the President of the United States, to be charged with perjury in a civil case--and one that has been dismissed at that. But now it has come out that the Clinton Justice Department headed by Janet Reno brought charges of obstruction of justice against a woman psychiatrist with the Veterans Administration in a civil case. This psychiatrist was charged with obstruction of justice after she denied under oath that she had a sexual relationship with a male patient who brought a suit against her for medical malpractice. Last April, this woman, who had no prior criminal record, pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice in a case brought by the Clinton Justice Department. The doctor was publicly humiliated and her career ruined. And on July 20, she was sentenced to six months house arrest with an electronic monitor.
And to me this chilling tale of sex police illustrates very clearly how the whole Clinton administration has been complicit in bringing about the climate that brought us the Starr Inquisition. And it also illustrates how we cannot rely on the institutions of this system to fight the politics of cruelty...patriarchy, punishment, and poverty. So let's fight the Inquisition with all our hearts--let's take on the whole patriarchal, sex police thang and the whole repressive climate. But let's not cry about chickens coming home to roost.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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