Bulletin 143
Subject: Democracy in America: From The Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements (CEIMSA).

16 October 2004
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,

The November elections have drawn a lot of attention, but recent mail has reminded us of the political limitations of the
U.S. electoral process. Elections and Democracy have never been synonymous and this is the message of all three communications below.

A, sent to us by Professor John Clark of Loyola University in New Orleans, offers a critique of the Democratic Party politics mobilizing to defeat President Bush. Professor Clark addresses the question of political alienation and its effect on electoral politics in the U.S.

In item
B, Z Magazine editor Michael Albert argues that the American election campaign this year will predictably not address many real issues touching the lives of most Americans. With nearly 50% of all eligible voters routinely not voting in national elections, both the Republican and the Democratic Party candidates are addressing the interests of those voters (perhaps 10% of the total who will vote) whom they believe might be swayed to vote for them instead of their opposition. Michael Albert asks, what does the American left do in the midst of this campaign of political non-issues?

Finally, item
C, sent to us by Didier Giraud appears as an answer to Albert's question. Here is the description of a different expression of Democracy in American political culture scheduled for Sunday, 17 October.

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of
Stendhal University
, Grenoble 3

From John Clark :
Date: Sun,
3 Oct 2004

Hello, Francis--
Thanks for the many good articles you've forwarded, but I find one of the latest to be rather awful, and I can't imagine why it gets an apparently favorable review.  I mean "item F.," [in the Bulletin sent on 3 October] in which "the organizers of MoveOn have sent us commentary and short film in which we can hear the debate between Kerry and Bush, and watch the spin doctors push public opinion in a way that leaves most Americans indifferent to the results of the November election."  Unfortunately,  "the organizers of MoveOn" thmselves distort reality rather badly in order to disguise Kerry's pro-war, pro-imperialist position.  It contains the kind of blatant naive political puffery that can hardly be recommeded for reading with a straight face. Is what we really need today an American president who is "More Presidential than the President?"  Presumably John Kerry qualifies since he salutes a lot, shows images of himself in uniform, uses the word "stronger" incessantly, wants to increase the number of troops in Iraq, is convinced that he can "win" there, is proud of his "service" to the country during an imperialist war that he once condemned, and perhaps most important of all, is taller than Bush. "The organizers of MoveOn" urge us to "please take a few minutes today to write a letter highlighting how Kerry confronted Bush with the truth" -- but in fact the most notable quality of the sham "debate" and whole rigged election is that the public will never get to hear a real discussion of the troubling truths that two corporate-dominated parties do not want them to hear. How can these truths be discussed by a candidate who says that he would have supported an invasion even if he had known that the WMD claims were bogus?  Will he demand that ex-president Bush be tried for supporting the horrible dictator Saddam during his worst atrocities in
Iraq and his most destructive military adventures? Will the public get to hear about the disturbing truth that the system of communications and the electoral system are rigged to exclude the possibility of democratic discussion and decision-making?  Are we to look to a cynical, opportunist politician like Kerry for that truth? "The organizers of MoveOn" play a role in the process of systematic ideological distortion when they contend that Kerry "presents a serious alternative to Bush's reckless policy of endless war."  True, he's  a very serious guy, as you can see in two seconds, but his neo-imperialist strategy of being somewaht more globalist and somewhat less hegemonist in the pursuit of neo-imperialism is hardly a real alternative to Bush's version.  And I say "somewhat" because Kerry has actually shifted in a hegemonist direction in response to the more reckless hegemonism of the Republicans.  "The organizers of MoveOn" conclude that "it's up to us to seal the deal for our friends, family, neighbors, and communities." An apt phrase, since it really is  a "deal" -- one not intiated, discussed or debated by "our friends, family, neighbors, and communities" but one that they merely get to robotically give their stamp of approval to every few years.
Best wishes, John

From Michael Albert :

Election Hyperbole
By Michael Albert

I am constantly asked, nowadays, what should we do about the election?
More often, I am told to work for Cobb, work for Nader, or work for
Kerry. When I reply, I am often berated as an ultra left loon or a
sniveling democrat, as the case may be.

At ZNet I also see a stupendous volume of written election commentary. I
see so much that even if most of it wasn't highly fractious and
redundant, I would wonder if all the time going to eyeballing, debating,
celebrating, investigating, and otherwise hyperventilating the election
wasn't reducing attention going to other pursuits.

In reply to queries, my own views are:

(1) For Bush to lose will be a whole lot better than for Bush to win.
Holding one's nose and voting for Kerry in contested states is a good
thing to do, though I can certainly understand third party votes, even
in contested states.

(2) It makes sense to run radical campaigns to build movement
infrastructure, raise consciousness, and push mainstream candidates
left. To these ends, I prefer Cobb to Nader because Cobb is about
movement building and Nader has demonstrated since 2000 that he is a
poor movement builder. Still, I can understand someone feeling

(3) With hundreds of millions of dollars going to the campaign, and with
every notable commentator left of Attila the Hun (stay tuned for
imminent outpourings from Hollywood and Rock and Roll) helping Kerry,
the idea that endorsements from serious leftists are going to somehow
make a meaningful difference on Kerry's behalf, seems preposterous to
me. In fact, the benefits to Kerry of aggressive left support seem so
minuscule (if they are even positive) as to make it politically
inefficient for people well left of Kerry to move their attention away
from long term priority activities toward his campaign.

(4) Indeed, it may even be electoral suicidal to put aside long term
work since the deciding factor in the election will likely be elites'
perceptions of the probability that Bush can function without disastrous
movement and international response and derivative destabilization.
Leftists setting aside our antiwar and other activities will diminish
rather than increase elite fears. Instead of boosting Kerry we need to
provide visible signs that militant opposition is growing.

(5) In any event, a self-proclaimed leftist relating to the campaign in
a way that implies that Kerry  or Clinton or Gore were or are good guys,
and that considers any of these Democrats honest much less exemplary,
and that fails to reiterate the ills of the Democratic Party, of our
system of government, and of capitalism, is something I cannot

But beyond my take, what do most leftist agree about and what's left
after that, that many leftists are intently debating?

There is a presidential election coming. We all agree on that.

One or the other of the two mainstream parties will produce the next
president. We all agree on that too.

Both Bush and Kerry represent corporate and other elite interests and
agree on preserving inequity and corporate domination. Neither candidate
is a friend to working people, women, minorities, or to anyone poor or
weak. To extol either candidate as virtuous, wise, moral, or exemplary,
much less as a tribune of justice and peace, denies the logic and
morality of being progressive much less of being anti-capitalist. We can
agree on that too, can't we?

Still, presidents affect the composition of diverse bureaucracies,
courts, policies, and programs, and perhaps even affect the balance of
power between society's contending constituencies and classes. I think
progressives agree about this too.

Regarding this election, it is at least plausible that who wins will
matter more than usual - perhaps even monumentally -- both in the
policies that ensue and in the psychological and cultural messages heard
by elites and electorates around the country and around the world. Where
the Bush camp and the Kerry camp differ is over how best to maintain or
expand society's defining gender, cultural, political, and economic
hierarchies. We leftists may reasonably disagree about the scale of the
difference between class enemy Bush and class enemy Kerry, but we would
be delusional to claim there is no difference.

Kerry is a vile warrior happy to defend corporate interests. Bush
believes military might produces diplomatic right, offense is
everything, and all obstacles and negotiation must be damned. Kerry will
weakly defend past progressive domestic social gains and under
sufficient pressure may plausibly expand some. In a second term Bush
will wage unrelenting war on virtually every progressive domestic social
advance of the past hundred years, even as he also elevates right-wing
fervor and fear with unknown repercussions.

Thus, another fact of this season's electoral calculations is that
whether Bush or Kerry wins will greatly affect various people's
immediate well being as well as broader domestic and international

It seems we still have found only generally agreed insights...but there
is more ground to cover.

How electoral campaigns are conducted can also have many and varied
effects, even beyond who wins. Regarding the two dominant parties,
mainstream campaigns of course overwhelmingly disenfranchise and
depoliticize people. This is why the media obliterated Howard Dean
despite that Dean is no less an ally of elite interests than Kerry is. I
don't know why Dean's campaign morphed to the point of threatening to
politicize young people and perhaps even poor people, but it did, and
since that is the penultimate violation of elite interests in American
politics, Dean's campaign had to be derailed, and it was.

Evidencing the same underlying dynamics, Kerry will try to win the
election not by contesting the allegiances of the 50% of the population
that typically doesn't vote, but instead by fighting to win a majority
of the 10% or so of swing voters in each state. In fact, if we count
only swing states, this election will probably address primarily 4% of
the voters and only 2% of the population.

More, Bush and Kerry's battle for swing voters is actually not even a
battle over the informed decisions of those individuals. It is a battle
for support from donors and media moguls who provide the means to
manipulate swing voters.

Kerry will campaign vigorously for the tiny swing group but will largely
ignore the massive non voter pool from which he could plausibly garner
landslide support. This is because Kerry just doesn't want support from
those sectors. He won't risk arousing them because to do so would
threaten his larger agendas. Anyone who doesn't understand how
structurally complicit in injustice the Democratic Party is has only to
fully comprehend this single fact to have the truth clearly register.

Back to the issues at hand, beyond the manipulative system-preserving
machinations of the major parties, third party campaigns can raise
activist consciousness and increase activist commitment and
organization. I suspect this claim too is generally agreed among
progressive commentators or, at any rate, it ought to be.

So the article after article, interview after interview, and letter
after letter about the election that are being written by leftists and
published in left venues aimed at other leftists seem to me to be either
confused or to be about the only things left to disagree over:

(a) The relative value of leftists apportioning time and energy to third
parties to win organizational and consciousness gains, versus
apportioning time and energy to beating class enemy Bush in order to win
the lesser evil benefits of electing class enemy Kerry, or

(b) The efficacy of electoral focus of any kind compared to getting on
with other uses of our time - for example continuing our on-going anti
war work, anti-corporate globalization work, feminist work, labor work,
anti-racist work, etc.

Now here is the thing. Whatever each person believes about these
matters, at this point there is undoubtedly more benefit in his or her
doing what he or she finds most warranted rather than wasting time
berating other leftists for having a different viewpoint.

By now the berating of other leftists is useless. Pretty much everyone
on the left knows where they stand. Few if any leftists are likely to
significantly change their approach. The only relevant new information
that may surface between now and November will be indications of likely
election voting, not positions of candidates or evidence of efficacy of
campaigning. So let's just give up the left on left electioneering, is
my advice. By doing so, we can collectively save a lot of time and avoid
a lot of needless arguing.

Next we have the endless stream of commentary by leftists telling
non-leftists to vote or to work for Kerry. Even for those who think
piling up votes for Kerry is of world historic importance, can this
allocation of astute and capable leftists' time make sense? Do we really
think that the non-left world is going to hear from us something that
they will feel has more credibility, more persistence, and more passion
than what they are going to hear, endlessly, from liberals? Do we really
think that our (hopefully equivocal) noises about voting for Kerry are
going to swing anyone who won't be swung first by much more aggressive
electioneering done by people they know and respect much more?

I don't believe it. And I certainly shudder every time our redundant
efforts to beat Bush take the form of saying anything remotely nice
about Kerry, who deserves nothing other than our steadfast opposition -
hopefully when he is President, to be sure. And I shudder as well when
our redundant efforts to beat Bush, or to urge others to do so, seem to
be crowding out attention to the war, globalization, movement building
se, and so on.

In short, I guess what I am saying is that whatever your electoral
inclinations, at this point repetitive, redundant entreaties about Kerry
and Bush from leftists to other leftists, and even about Nader and Cobb
from leftists to other leftists, and probably also entreaties from
leftists to more mainstream citizens about Kerry/Bush, are most likely
not the most efficient way to productively manifest our insights and
utilize our energies.

So we are down to one debatable disagreement, it seems. In contested
states should leftists spend any time trying to increase the vote for
Cobb or Nader instead of being quiet or aiding Kerry? This is
contentious. Logically, writing and speaking about it could affect
people's choices. But I bet those who are for aiding Cobb or Nader are
not going to convince those who are against doing so that they should
start doing it. And I bet those who are against aiding Cobb or Nader are
not going to convince those who are for doing so that they should stop
doing it. So what is the point of reams of back and forth debate that
can sour otherwise positive relations, I wonder?

At this point, the arguments have been made. So why don't we just do our
things, hopefully including non electoral things, leaving one another
alone, and letting the results of our separate efforts impact subsequent
choices? I bet all sides will be better off for it.

From Didier Giraud  :
Subject: "Société/Marche du million/USA"
jeudi 14 octobre 2004

Manifeste de la Marche du million de travailleurs américains sur Washington D.C. le 17 octobre 2004

Ce manifeste a été émis par le Syndicat des Dockers et Ouvriers d’ Entrepôts, en vu d’ une marche sur Washington, qui n’ est pas sans rappeler celle qui eut lieu avant la 2eme guerre mondiale, des millions de travailleurs convergeaient vers Washington, le gouvernement pris de panique avait appelé le général MacArthur qui arrêta la marche aux abords de la ville avec des tanks.
C’ est à la suite de cette marche que fut établi ce que l’ on a appelé le New Deal. .
de Sinbad
Il y a trente-six ans, Martin Luther King Jr. a demandé aux travailleurs à travers l’Amérique de prendre part à la Marche des Pauvres sur Washington pour inaugurer "une guerre contre la pauvreté chez nous."
"le gouvernement des Etats-Unis," a proclamé MLK, "est l’un des plus grands fournisseurs de violence dans le monde... L’ Amérique est à un carrefour dans l’histoire et il est hautement important pour nous en tant que nation et société de choisir une nouvelle voie et de l’ emprunter avec détermination et courage"
Aujourd’hui la crise qui fait face aux travailleurs/euses est encore plus aiguë, sous le couvert de mensonges et fraudes systématiques, des guerres destructrices ont été menées au dépend des travailleurs partout dans le monde. .
En notre nom, une poignée de riches et puissantes entreprises ont usurpé notre gouvernement.Une oligarchie du monde des affaires et des banques change de chapeaux et occupe les hautes fonctions publiques pour mener une guerre de classe contre les travailleurs/euses. Cette infime minorité s’ est emparée de l’ appareil de l’ état pour servir ses propres intrêts
La vaste majorité des travailleurs/euses américain(e)s est assiégée. Les services sociaux et les financements essentiels des écoles, des bibliothèques, des logements à prix abordables, et des soins de santé sont brutalement réduits et éliminés.
Les emplois aux salaires décents disparaissent en sous traitance et à travers la privatisation dont le véritable objectif est casser des syndicats et de faire regresser les gains de cent ans de lutte.
Les ateliers l’ on fait suer le burnous et des salaires de famine sont imposés aux ouvriers à travers le monde, ces derniers sont opposés aux travailleurs/euses chez nous, pour miner nos emplois et nos avantages sociaux.
Cette guerre de classe sans fards est mene sans aucune retenue contre les familles des travailleurs/euses et nos enfants , elle est imposée par une législation et des décrets anti-ouvriers , et par des tribunaux au service de nos exploiteurs.
L’ objectif de la législation répressive telle que le Patriot Act est de terroriser et supprimer la lutte des travailleurs/euses pour leurs droits, et pour détruire le contrôle démocratique de l’économie et de la société. L’alibi des ennemis à l’ étranger est devenu un écran de fumée pour occulter un régime despotique et sa répression.
Le temps est venu de mobiliser les travailleurs/euses pour notre propre ordre du jour. Finissons en avec le soumission au pouvoir d’ une minorité privilégiée et leur monopole du processus politique aux E.U.
Venez ensemble, frères et soeurs.
Joingnez vous à la Marche du million de Travailleurs/euses sur Washington pour lancer un grand mouvement pour des changements sociaux.
Forgeons ensemble un mouvement social, économique et politique pour les travailleurs/euses.Nous sommes la majorité. Les gens secrets et corrompus qui contrôlent nos vies ne sont qu’ un infime minorité de rapaces.
Mobilisons nous ensemble à travers nos syndicats, conseils de travail, organismes sociaux et communautaires, amis et voisins.
Nous sommes en mouvement et on rien ne nous sera refusé.
 soins de santé individuels, universels du berceau à la tombe pour en finir avec l’ emprise et la cupidité des compagnies d’assurance et obtenir le droit à la santé pour tous les Américains.
 un salaire adéquat qui tirera les gens de la pauvreté d’ une façon permanente.
 Une protection et un accroissement de la sécurité sociale, à l’ abri de la privatisation.
 des retraites garanties qui permettent une vie décente pour toutes les travailleurs/euses.
 l’annulation des accords commerciaux "libres" qui avantagent exclusivement le monde des affaires, y compris l’ ALENA, l’ AMI, et l’ accord de Zone de Libre Échange des Amériques ou ZLEA .
 La fin de la privatisation, de la sous-traitance, de la déréglementation et de la démence de la concurrence qui jettent les travailleurs les uns contre les autres au dela de nos frontières nationales, dans une course folle vers le bas.
 pour les ouvriers le droit de s’organiser et pour une abrogation de la loi Taft Hartley et toutes la législation anti-ouvrières.
 Un financement urgent de l’ instruction publique pour rétablir nos écoles abandonnées en plein déclin en les dotant d’ installations ultra modernes et ce, dans cahque communauté.
 le financement d’ une immense armée d’ enseignants pour mettre un terme à l’ analphabétisme fonctionnel aux E.U. et donner libre cours au talent et au potentiel de nos enfants et adultes abandonnés
 le lancement d’un programme de formation national pour développer qualifications et moyens qui permettrons d’ enrôler notre population dans la reconstruction de notre pays et de mettre un terme à la criminalisation de la pauvreté et au complexe industriel des prisons.
 la reconstruction nos centres urbains délabrés, avec des logements propres, modernes et accessibles et l’ élimination du problème des sans-abris au E.U. en garantissant logemnent et travail pour tous.
 imposition progressive des grosses entreprises et des riches tout en fournissant un soulagement pour la classe ouvrière et les pauvres.
 une fin à l’empoisonnement de l’ environnement , des produits alimentaires avec un programme d’ urgence pour restorer l’ environnement, en finir avec le réchauffement global et assurer la protections des éco-systèmes menacés.
 La création de transport publique urbain, moderne, gratuit et efficace dans chaque métropoles et villes.
 L’ abrogation de la Loi Patriote, de La Loi Anti-Terroriste et de toute la législation répressive.
 la réduction du budget militaire et récupérer les milliers de milliards de dollars volés de notre travail pour enrichir les sociétés qui profitent de la guerre.
 Rendre publique la comptabilité concernant les budgets secrets du Pentagone et des agences de renseignements au service des sociétés, des banques et de la poursuite de la guerre impérialiste contre les pauvres partout dans le monde.
 étendre la démocratie à notre structure économique de sorte que toutes les décisions affectant les vies de nos citoyens soient prises par ceux qui travaillent.
 une application à la lettre de tous les droits civiques, et d’une campagne d’ éducation nationale et d’une mobilisation contre tous les actes raciste et discriminatoires sur les lieux de travail et au sein de nos communautés.
 amnistie pour tous les ouvriers sans papiers.
 augmentation du financement des arts dans des écoles publiques.
 pour des médias démocratiques qui permettent aux travailleurs/euses d’ être entendus et s’opposent à la monopolisation, alors que nos ancêtres ont combattu inlassablement dans ce pays pour le droit d’organiser des syndicats et de s’assurer que notre gouvernement reconnaisse ce droit car c’est la pierre angulaire de démocratie, et qu’en raison des syndicats et de la solidarité entre les travailleurs/euses nous avons pu gagner des droits de l’homme fondamentaux , y compris la paiement de l’ assurance médicale par l’employeur , la sécurité sociale, les retraites, la sécurité au travail , un nombre d’ heures de travail et des salaires décents, l’éducation pour nos enfants, services sociaux pour les désavantagés, les libertés civiles, et le plus important, le droit d’ influencer les politiques étrangères et nationales du pays
Considérant que :Franklin D. Roosevelt, dans son discour de l’ État de l’ Union en 1944 a reconnu nos droits, en déclarant "nous nous sommes rendus compte que la véritable liberté individuelle ne peut pas exister sans sécurité et indépendance économiques. Les hommes dans la nécessité ne sont pas des hommes libres. Les gens qui ont faim et sont sans travail, constituent la substance dont sont faites les dictatures ." et
Considérant que :l’administration actuelle, avec la complicité du Congrès, a coopéré avec les grandes entreprises pour attaquer nos droits, en utilisant une législation telle que Patriot I et II, niant le droit des centaines de milliers d’employés fédéraux d’appartenir aux syndicats et de négocier, forçant les dockers à travailler par une injonction basée sur la loi Taft-Hartley et par des menaces d’intervention fédérale, et
Considérant que :l’administration, avec la complicité du congrès, a négocié des accords commerciaux qui ont coûté les emplois de centaines de milliers d’ouvriers aux E.U., désignant ceci comme étant un mouvement vers une économie saine, et dans la foulée, en faisant la promotion d’autres politiques économiques, telles que la privatisation et la déréglementation qui ont eu comme conséquence la perte de plus de 3 millions d’ emplois depuis son arrive au pouvoir, et
Considérant que :l’administration, avec la complicité du congrès a donné aux sociétés et aux riches des allégements fiscaux énormes, tout en coupant des milliards de dollars en dépensant de services sociaux, d’éducation, et d’autres programmes de gouvernement obtenuspar les travailleurs durant des décennies d’effort, et
Considérant que :l’administration Bush, avec la complicité du congrès, a justifié toutes ces politiques en instrumentalisant les terribles événements du 11 septembre pour taxer n’importe quelle opposition politique de l’ étiquette de non patriote et de menace à la sécurité nationale, cette administration a entrainé notre pays dans une guerre injuste sous l’affirmation fausse que l’Irak possédait des armes de destruction massives, coûtant les vies des centaines de militaires américains et de civils irakiens innocents, elle incite à la peur et va même plus loin pour essayer de précipiter le public à lui donner un autre mandat.
a décidé ce qui suit : le syndicat 10 de l’ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union - Sundicats des Dockers et Ouvriers d’ Entrepôts) invite les syndicats et les travailleurs/euses à aller à Washington DC pour former La Marche d’ Un Million de Travailleurs, pour exiger que les politiciens et l’administration écoutent le peuple qui payent leurs salaires, plutôt que les voix des grandes entreprises et des riches, et en plus
a décidé également ceci :que cette résolution soit expédiée aux syndicats, aux conseils du travail et aux organismes de travail, aussi bien qu’ à d’autres organismes auxquels les ouvriers appartiennent,syndiqués ou non, de sorte qu’ils puissent prendre la même démarche pour organiser cette marche dès que possible.
Cet événement devra coïncider avec toutes les campagnes d’ enregistrement aux élections, organisées par les syndicats , en vue de la prochaine élection présidentielle.

De : Sinbad
jeudi 14 octobre 2004