Revolutionary Worker #995, February 21, 1999
The Senate decamped last week--like an ugly three-ring circus--leaving the President in office and the debris from the Inquisition strewn across the landscape. In other words, it's over... but it ain't over.
As the Senate trial ends, something strange happens to my television set. I can hear news analysts talking about the dignity of the Senate and the senators talking about how much respect they have for each other, blah, blah, blah,--but my TV screen is playing tricks. Inside the Senate chambers I see Trent Lott wearing his white sheet and hood and in the backgroud are images of James Byrd, dragged to his death behind a car driven by white supremacists in Jasper, Texas, and Mathew Shepherd, beaten to death in the desert because he was gay. I hear the voice of Henry Hyde, bitter and deflated, still talking about the "rule of law" but I see images of Dr. Slepian who was murdered by the anti-abortion hit squads and faces of the women who died in the "good old days" when abortion was illegal that Hyde wants to go back to. Casualties of the Inquisition--this is what the ugly morality driving this power struggle within the ruling class means for the people.
And as soon as the trial ends, there is a parade of talking heads at microphones saying that "the system works." "It's just so typical," one of my comrades remarks, "in America, some terrible injustice goes down--like a man spends 25 years in prison unjustly convicted and finally after his life has been ruined he is released--and right away some oppressor is going to jump up and say, `the system works."' So when I see senators lining up to say how "the system works," I am right away thinking about a whole year of prosecutors running amok, dragging people before the grand jury to talk about consensual sex, imposing religious morality on political and legal matters, using the rule of law to entrap defendants, terrible new legal precedents, coerced testimony, illegal wiretaps, and a campaign to make consensual sex outside of marriage and "lying" both sins and crimes. "The system works!" And I am thinking that it's going to go on working this way until it's overthrown.
Or as Bob Avakian says, "In the world today the most horrendous crimes are committed in the name of democracy." Which brings me back to the television where from the President on down we are now hearing ad nauseum about getting back to the "people's business." And suddenly the media is really interested in what the American people have to say, especially if they are saying that `it's time to get back to the people's business.' What is this bloody business they are getting back to? More bombs falling on the people of Iraq, military power plays in Kosovo, the politics of cruelty, driving women off welfare, incarcerating and criminalizing a whole generation of youth, more police killings like the shooting of Amadou Diallo, more people on death row?
And I am reminded that at the heart of this power struggle is a dispute within the U.S. ruling class over how best to implement their main commandment--"let us prey." And even if the Religious Right would let Clinton get back to carrying out his agenda, in reality the Clinton Presidency has been about promoting and implementing much of the politics of cruelty and its "moral-religious" rationalizations. And, even where they have had real differences--and at times bitter conflicts--with the self-proclaimed Right, Clinton and the Democrats have continually given ground to the Right and increasingly accepted the terms set by the Right as the "common ground" on which to differ and contend. It is like a bizarre dance where Clinton and the conservatives have each other by the throat and meanwhile the whole dance floor is moving to the right. And the beat goes on....
So now more than ever I think it is really important to persevere in building a new resistance--that breaks out of the bounds and terms set by the system.
In the past year we have learned a lot about the enemy. We have seen the social and moral agenda of far-right extremists set the pace for an attempt to remove a president from office. The warring sides have bloodied each other in the process. The negative fallout from this power struggle in the ruling class has impacted on the people and will continue to do so--in the courts, on the streets, at the women's clinic doors.
At the end of the day, the inquisitors did not succeed in removing Clinton from office, but they did succeed in bringing him down--in many ways they turned him from president into the `accused in the dock.' The fact that they got so far is evidence of the strength of these forces within the ruling class and the reality that broader forces within the power structure wanted to go through this whole horror show.
There has even been a kind of "imperial arrogance" coming from the U.S. power structure that they could go through this kind of power struggle now because they are an unchallenged super power in the world. Last summer, as Clinton appeared for the first in his series of prime time confessions, a conservative columnist wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "Impeachment hearings will force the country to have a much-needed debate about standards, both political and moral. An argument over Bill Clinton's misconduct won't be elegant, but it will set parameters for acceptable future behavior by all politicians."
In an earlier column I mentioned a letter from a leading comrade in the RCP who pointed out that one of the main goals of the ruling class forces behind the impeachment was 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--including changes in the Constitution. And, whether they succeeded in kicking Clinton out or not, they are aiming to push the whole 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.
So even though they did not prevail in driving Clinton from office, the forces who have been driving this effort are not going to strategically back off the larger agenda into which this effort to get Clinton fits. There are bound to be new rounds of struggle relating to this larger agenda. And in the aftermath of the trial, the leaders of the religious right are making renewed efforts to stir up their followers at the grass roots--using the failed impeachment trial as proof that the country needs a fascist moral cleansing more than ever. They are serious about their culture war to wipe out all traces of the rebel values of the 1960s. And already the airwaves are filled with their ranting about values.
And we have to be serious too--about taking on the whole reactionary agenda, about creating a new kind of resistance and a culture of resistance in opposition to this brutal and degrading system. In search of fresh air, I turn off the television and flip to the conclusion of "The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy...and Why We Can't Rely on Clinton and the Democrats,":
"As for our Party, our goal is the radical transformation of society, and of the world, to eliminate all oppressive and exploitative relations among people and to abolish all class distinctions and national antagonisms and barriers, to bring about, as the final goal, a freely associating community of human beings, worldwide. The morals and ideology we uphold and strive to apply are in accordance with that objective and are, at any given point, an expression of the link between the current struggle and the final goal. In this way, our outlook and principles, as well as our political program and actions, are in the most fundamental opposition to the Christian fascists and at the same time to all forms and expressions of bourgeois rule and bourgeois ideology. But we also recognize, consistent with our outlook and principles, that there is a need, and a basis, for building a broad unity in struggle against what has been referred to as the politics of poverty, punishment, and patriarchy and in general against the ways in which the masses of people, in the U.S. and throughout the world, are subjected to exploitation, oppression and plunder.
"And we believe that, together with building this political unity in struggle, there is also a need and a basis to forge broad unity, among diverse forces, around values and cultural expressions that promote and celebrate equality, between men and women, and between peoples and nations; that stand against oppression and against violence which furthers and enforces such oppression; that oppose imperial domination by one nation over others and military bludgeoning to impose that domination; that foster relations among people based on an appreciation for diversity but also for community; values and culture that prize cooperation among people in place of cut-throat competition, that put the needs of people above the drive to accumulate wealth, that actually promote the global interests of humanity as opposed to narrow national antagonisms and great-power domination."
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