by Carl Dix
Revolutionary Worker #993, February 7, 1999
For only the second time in American history, a President is on trial in the U.S. Senate. Many people are shocked and disturbed that the steamroller has gone this far. People sense that something bigger is involved than the ordinary bickering and jockeying between Republicans and Democrats. The proceedings against Clinton have resembled a modern-day witch-hunt and inquisition.
So what is at the bottom of this Inquisition, and what are the stakes for the people?
There is in fact a "vast right-wing conspiracy." This may not surprise those who have followed the careers of some of the key players in the impeachment and trial. Both Senator Trent Lott and Congressman Bob Barr have connections to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. Henry Hyde has an amendment named after him which wiped out abortion funding for poor women. Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist backed the Jim Crow "separate but equal" doctrine, laws supporting wiretapping, surveillance without a court order, and preventive detention. But most people are unaware of the real extent, strength, and full agenda of the right-wing network within the U.S. power structure.
The impeachment Inquisition was never simply about Bill Clinton. The Right wants to force Clinton from office and push ahead with an aggressively repressive social and political agenda. The impeachment of Clinton has become a focal point of a many-sided and full-scale campaign to reshape and unify U.S. society more solidly around what has been called a "politics of cruelty." The forces behind this Inquisition want a society of "America right or wrong" ultra-patriotism, white supremacy, and women firmly under men's thumbs.
This Inquisition is bad news for the people and must be decisively and urgently opposed. It has set dangerous and far-ranging precedents: spying and prying into people's personal lives; imposing religious morality on political and legal matters; using the rule of law to entrap defendants; and greatly expanding grand jury and prosecutorial powers. The Christian fascist thrust of the Inquisition would make consensual sex outside of marriage, and lying, both "sins" and "crimes."
The Christian Right who have risen to the top of the Republican Party are leading a "culture war" to outlaw the anti-establishment culture and morality of the 1960s--when millions felt righteous about fighting against the system, for justice and equality. They want to get Clinton because they view him (though mistakenly) as a symbol of the rebellious '60s, and of "diversity" and "multiculturalism."
Why is this right-wing power move so relentless and why is mainstream politics moving further and further to the right?
For one thing, global economic changes of the last decade demand a fiercer competitive system--fewer constraints on big business, more cost cutting, downsizing, decline of unions, and the gutting of social programs. To stay on top of today's global market requires a more "lean and mean" and mobile capitalist machine. These and other changes have cut the ground from the New Deal/Great Society social order that has held America together for the past 50 years.
For another thing, big social changes have taken place since the 1960s: growing minority populations, cultural diversity, the changing role of women, and the erosion of the traditional male-headed family. These changes pose real and potentially destabilizing challenges to the cohesion of U.S. capitalist society.
These are all some of the factors behind the consensus in the power structure that welfare must be slashed, that the repressive powers of government must be heightened, and that a repressive social climate must be fostered. Democrats and Republicans agree on a "politics of cruelty"--of poverty and punishment and patriarchy. But there is also sharp struggle. The far Right wants a more extreme version of this program. They believe that traditional Christian morality must now be the cement binding U.S. society and maintaining its dominant position in the world. And they are hell-bent on imposing their agenda.
From the moment Clinton took office, he has been a target of the Right. And now the President is on trial and the Inquisition is in full session. The legal and constitutional measures that have been used in going after the President are completely opposed to the interests of ordinary people--not to mention real opponents of the system.
Whether the forces behind this Inquisition succeed in removing Clinton from office or not, their program has serious implications 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 attacks on bilingual education, more death sentences.
It has been said that Black people have a special stake in saving the Clinton presidency, that Clinton at least shows "respect for Black people and Black culture," and that the only alternative to Clinton is the Republicans--who are proven enemies of Black people. But to go along with this thinking is to fall into a trap.
Clinton's own program has never strayed far from the politics of poverty, punishment, and patriarchy. In fact, Clinton's specialty has been to combine the "politics of cruelty" with the democratic rhetoric of "inclusion." Clinton's record speaks for itself: dismantling welfare, endorsing and enforcing racist policies like widening use of the death penalty and escalating the criminalization and incarceration of a generation of Black and Latino youth, gutting many civil liberties, further militarizing the U.S-Mexico border and persecuting immigrants, bombing Iraq. With a friend like Clinton, who needs enemies? The fact is that both Clinton and the right wing play a role in an oppressive program that marches further to the right.
So how do we get out of this bad situation? We must find ways to speak out against and resist this Inquisition. All who are repulsed by the Right's agenda and tactics should join together and oppose this ugly crusade. Only the people can stop this Inquisition. We need to be building up determined resistance to the whole politics of cruelty, uniting people of different nationalities and from different walks of life--waging the kind of mass struggle that has begun to take place in opposition to the epidemic of police brutality, or to stop the execution of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
What's called for is new resistance that does not rely on the political structures, institutions, and processes that are the very means through which this overall reactionary offensive is being carried out and legitimized. We need to take matters in our own hands. We need to rely on ourselves to take truly independent political action, and break out of the bounds and terms set by the system. This is a challenge. But it's the only realistic path for fighting the system's attacks on the people.
Carl Dix is national spokesperson of the Revolutionary Communist Party. He is a founding member of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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