Scandal As Power Struggle in the U.S. Ruling Class:
Defeating the "Dark Ages"
Revolutionary Worker #989, January 10, 1999
"Know the enemy and know yourself and you can win a hundred battles." This advice--cited by Mao Tsetung from the great military strategist Sun Tzu--seems timely in these first weeks of 1999. Unfortunately we have come to know the enemy more up-close-and-personal than anything Mao had in mind. And how fitting that we have the perverse conservatives--who want to use this Inquisition to push their fundamentalist morality on the entire country--to thank for a year of "too much information." But to know the enemy in the way Mao is talking about means analyzing how the grotesque Inquisition underway in Washington will impact on the people--a work in progress.
It is only a year until a new millennium, and at the very moment I am writing, prominent conservatives are gathered at an annual New Year's event--known as the "Dark Ages." The New York Times tells me that the "Dark Ages"--originally named as a sendup of the elite "Renaissance" seminar attended by the Clintons every year--went through a name change when some Republicans feared that, in the midst of the Inquisition, the comparison to Christian rule in Europe during the Middle Ages could be misunderstood. But with the country on the verge of an executive witch trial in the Senate, the "Dark Ages" seems a good name for wherever these hatchetmen and theocrats are gathered.
My eye wanders to a vintage Santa on the Christmas card on top of my file cabinet. The card is from one of the political prisoners, with apologies for not sending his usual handmade revolutionary greeting. This year he didn't have time to make cards since the prisoners were all thrown in lockdown, and the bombing of Iraq was so outrageous he didn't feel much in a holiday mood. Inside the prison-issue Santa, his wish for the new year is that "this imperialist beast must be laid to waste."
And this takes me back to the problem of "knowing the enemy" and defeating the enemy. Since I've been writing this column, different comrades keep me posted on how different sections of people are reacting. I hear that people who came up in the '90s with the politics of "personal responsibility" are having a hard time seeing beyond the Bill and Monica thang to the bigger social and political issues involved. And radical youth are tuned out and turned off to the impeachment crisis--having a hard time figuring out what or how to protest in the circumstances. But as "The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy... And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer" points out--the impeachment of Clinton has become a focal point of the determined, many-sided effort by powerful forces within American society to impose an extreme patriarchy, more repression, more intrusive laws, and the rule of religious standards in civic life. And this has serious consequences for the masses.
Whether they succeed in removing Clinton from office or not, the objectives of the ruling class forces behind this Inquisition will mean really bad things for the people--more traditional morality shoved down the throats of the youth, more kids in prison, more police brutality, more restrictions on abortion, more racist oppression, and more death sentences. And not just more... but these powerful and dangerous forces are hell-bent on a sweeping culture war to reimpose traditional and religious morality on all of society. So this calls for resistance--and as "Truth" also points out, it means forging a new resistance which does not rely on the political structures, institutions, and processes of the system.
A letter from a leading comrade in the RCP shared new insights on the goals of the ruling class forces behind the impeachment. The comrade pointed out that short of their maximum objective of actually forcing Clinton from office--one of their main goals is to put a particular `cast' on the whole bourgeois political framework. They want to redefine the terms and limits of debate, contention, and decision-making within the ruling class. And this will impact more broadly on the political terrain--throughout society. These Inquisitors also want to reinterpret the Constitution--including by "lowering the bar" (or the standard) for impeachment--and more openly "politicizing" such momentous processes as impeachment.
To a great extent they have already succeeded in doing this by impeaching Clinton--in the face of overwhelming public opinion against it. And whether they kick him out or not, they want to push the framework of mainstream politics even further to the Right. An important part of their agenda is further establishing "fundamentalist or traditional morality" as a standard for mainstream politics and political decision-making. And it appears that these reactionaries also want to make it difficult--if not impossible--for anyone running for or holding the office of President (and other major political positions) to do even the kind of cosmetic things that Clinton has done--which have won Clinton support within the gay community and have caused people to make rather silly remarks about Clinton being the "first Black president" or the "first president elected by women."
In the background, the TV is on. A reporter has found one of those angry citizens who has fallen for the cynical game where pompous politicians carry on about how "no one is above the law; are we going to treat the president differently than we treat ordinary citizens?"--when they all know full well that from the point of view of their system and its functioning there are a number of important ways in which it is necessary for their class to treat the president differently than ordinary citizens.
The disingenuousness of these Inquisitors is total. They go on and on about how "Clinton has no one but himself to blame"--when they have been waging a determined campaign to bring him down and humiliate him from his first day in office. They claim that the impeachment is "not about sex but about upholding the law"--but everyone knows the whole Starr investigation and the report was designed to use sexual information as weaponry and to set Clinton up for lying under oath. With all their hypocritical talk about how the president should set a moral example with regard to sex, lying, and so on, they have deliberately confused talk about Christian "moral standards" with the "Constitutional standard" for impeachment. And the deliberate mixing up of these two different things also serves their goal of further injecting fundamentalist traditional morality into mainstream politics and of further "lowering the bar" for impeachment as well. All of the major players know full well that even the formal charges against Clinton do not rise to the level of an impeachable offense--and do not compare to the crimes committed by Nixon (who resigned before he could be impeached) not to mention the lies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush in Iran/Contra.
I wonder which President would they like to cite as an example of high moral standards and what moral standards are they talking about? Maybe they have in mind George Bush who pardoned former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger in 1992--even though the records proved that Weinberger had lied in his testimony about the whole Iran/Contra scam--which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Nicaraguan people. Senator Bob Dole of Kansas called the pardon a "Christmas Eve act of courage and compassion."
And how has Clinton acted in the face of this impeachment? He has back-pedaled and apologized for his `sins.' Even after he was impeached, there was that pathetic talk from Bill and Hillary about "healing and uniting the country." Why hasn't he gone on the offensive and fought back--denouncing the Inquisition and calling on people to resist? If someone as self-serving as Bill Clinton cannot do what would seem to represent the best means of upholding his own personal interests and career, this is a clue that something bigger is at stake. Again, I return to the analysis in the "Truth" article about the way bourgeois politics works and what the terms of it are now.
The Clintons will not--and dare not--aggressively pursue the line that was raised by Hillary when she made the famous statement about "right-wing conspiracy." And it has almost certainly been made clear to Clinton--not only by his adversaries but also by others within the ruling class--that he will not be allowed to go on the offensive and that if he tries to take the offensive, a very negative spin will be put on him and he will "only dig himself into a deeper hole." If he did really "take the offensive" against the logic and momentum of this Inquisition--if he were really to pursue the fight, it would almost certainly lead to a far greater split within the ruling class--with masses of people being lined up behind various factions of the ruling class. And it might even lead to a greater crisis of the ruling class itself that could "spin out of control." And this is something that the ruling class definitely does not want.
But now the impeachment has disturbed millions of people who believe that the will of the people--and the myths of American democracy--have been disregarded by the Inquisition. We cannot predict exactly how things will go, but it is important for revolutionaries to connect with this discontent--to unite all who can be united against the Inquisition--and to take the real stakes of this crisis to the people.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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