Book review: “US Democracy”: The US Empire’s Indispensable Myth

By Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
ILPS Chairperson

Read at the book launch at the ABC Treehouse in Amsterdam, 25 February 2012

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Ray O. Light speaks from the vantage of a proletarian revolutionary, a long-time trade union leader in the US and a firm proletarian internationalist. In his book, he succeeds in exposing so-called US democracy as a fraud and as an indispensable myth enabling the US monopoly bourgeoisie to deceive, exploit and oppress the American proletariat and people of various nationalities as well as the world’s people in a vast empire.

He debunks the notion that US monopoly capitalism is a democratic exception to the teachings of Lenin on the economic features and political character of imperialism. His articles compiled in the book, which cover the period of 2000 to the present , provide us with accurate insights and analysis of the workings of the two-party US political system and the resulting policies which serve the unified interests of US monopoly capitalism.

In looking at US elections, Ray O. Light is guided well by his lead quotation from Lenin: “Nothing can be done in our times (by the imperialists) without elections; nothing can be done without the masses, And in this era of printing and parliamentarism it is impossible to gain the following of the masses without a widely ramified, systematically managed, well-equipped system of flattery, lies, fraud, juggling with fashionable and popular catchwords, and promising all manner of reforms and blessings to the workers right and left—as long as they renounce the revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.”

So-called US Democracy and Periodic Elections

Ray O Light demonstrates that the periodic elections in the US and the debates between the Republican and Democratic parties before, during and after the elections are meant to conjure the illusion of democracy, obfuscate the anti-democratic class dictatorship of the monopoly bourgeoisie, preempt the center stage of US politics, preclude the voice of the proletariat and people and confine the masses to a superficial choice between two brands of the same kind of product, like Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola.

In a US presidential election like the one in 2008, the Democratic Party candidate Obama glibly passed himself off as better than the Republican Party candidate McCain, who was very much burdened by the disasters brought about by Bush. But even during the electoral campaign, the two presidential candidates competed to trumpet their loyalty to monopoly capitalism and the bankrupt neoliberal policy and agreed to bail out the big banks and corporations from the economic and financial crisis that these had made.. While never denouncing the US wars of aggression, Obama sought to underscore some of his differences with Bush regarding Iraq and Afghanistan and certain issues of human rights.

But since he became president, Obama has continued the Bush policy of aggression on the pretext of combating terrorism and the policy of bailing out the financial oligarchy. Thus, he has failed to revive production and employment. He has gone into a series of compromises with the Republican Party regarding economic policy, domestic repression and the war budget.. He has expanded the overseas deployment of US military forces for intervention and aggression. He has extended the USA PATRIOT Act and has signed into law the authority of the US military to detain Americans indefinitely without due process.

No US president can escape the confines and dictates of the ruling system of the monopoly bourgeoisie and the financial oligarchy. The Democratic and Republican parties engage in debates to conjure the illusion of democracy. They do so not only to compete for votes among the electorate but more importantly to win campaign money, media support and other favors from the monopoly bourgeoisie. Directly and through various instrumentalities inside and outside of the US government, the US monopoly bourgeoisie can compel bipartisan agreements and shape what amounts to a Republicat rule in the name of national interest and national security.

The US monopoly bourgeoisie misrepresents its interests as the golden mean or the moderate middle between the extremes of Left and Right and likewise between the Democratic and Republic parties which in fact compete in clinging tightly to such malevolent kind of middle. Concurrent with its rise and persistence as No. 1 imperialist power, US monopoly capitalism has relentlessly pushed the Republican and Democratic parties more than ever before towards the Right even as the myth of US democracy is used against the cause and forces of proletarian revolution and national liberation.

Ray O. Light exposes how Browderite revisionism and the continuance of such mode of thinking have assisted US imperialism in perpetuating the myth of US democracy, As leader of the Communist Party of the USA, Earl Browder touted US monopoly capitalism as exceptional for being supposedly democratic and as early as 1940 used this claim as ground for bringing the CPUSA out of the Third Internationale. He eventually blared out the call for peace and democracy under the auspices of the US and decided to liiquidate the CPUSA and replace it with the Communist Political Association, with an open aversion to the revolutionary objective of overthrowing the monopoly bourgeoisie.

Violence Behind the Democratic Facade

Behind the democratic facade of electoral struggles between the Republican and Democratic parties is the long chain of violence to violate the rights of the American proletariat and people and make them submit to capitalist exploitation. The US acquired and expanded its territory by using brute force to grab land from the native American tribes and the northern third of Mexico. It subjected the African-Americans to slavery for a long period of time and even after the Civil War continued to regard them as three-fifths human and deprived them of civil rights, including the right to vote, until the civil rights movement won victories in the late 1960s.

The US provoked the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in order to grab Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines from a decrepit colonial power. This was one of the three major wars signalling and defining the emergence of monopoly capitalism as modern imperialism at the close of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Since then, US imperialism has intensified its exploitation of the American working class, including the African-Americans, Latinos and Asians and has acquired colonies, semi-colonies , dependent countries and spheres of influence.

The US collaborated mainly with British imperialism in expanding economic territory for exploitation in Latin America and Asia. It made profits from war production before entering late World Wars I and II and collected the lion’s share of the spoils of war. It took over colonies from its imperialist allies and promoted neocolonialism in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It became the No. 1 imperialist power and spearheaded the Cold War against the socialist countries. It stepped up war production and deployed US military forces on a global scale. It carried out wars of aggression, as in Korea and Indochina, and instigated massacres as in Indonesia.

US propaganda about so-called US democracy has been so effective that US imperialism has so far succeeded to evade full accountability for such colossal crimes as the following: the murder and maiming of millions of people in US wars of aggression and massacres as in he Philippines, Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia; the extreme exploitation and oppression of people under the dominance of the US in one form or another; and the ceaseless extraction of profits from the American working class.

Let me say a bit more about US democracy so-called in the Philippines. US imperialism murdered 1.4 million Filipinos from the start of the Filipino-American War in 1899 to 1914. And it coopted the liberal bourgeoisie that had drawn inspiration from the French Revolution and led the old democratic revolution in the Philippines. It did so by embellishing the US colonial rule with the language of Jeffersonian democracy and by undertaking a few reforms to shift the economy from a feudal to a semi-feudal one.

The US misrepresented its colonial rule as a period of tutelage in democracy and further Christianization. Since after the US granted nominal independence to the Philippines in 1946, turning it into a semi-colony, the Filipino puppet politicians have patterned their concept and practice of sham democracy after the US model. The electoral contests conjure the illusion of democratic choice for the people, even as the reactionary politicians of various parties serve the interests of the US and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords.

In the last three decades, the US monopoly bourgeoisie and its political agents in the Republican and Democratic parties have been guided by the neoliberal economic policy. They have blamed the stagflation of the 1970s on wage inflation and big social spending by government and have pressed down the wage level and cut back on social spending but stepped up military spending and every way, like liberalization, privatization and deregulation, to aid the monopoly bourgeoisie to make bigger profits and accumulate productive and financial capital.

The crisis of overproduction has recurred more frequently and more severely. Every attempt to override it through debt financing at the levels of the state, corporations and consumers and through one kind of financial bubble to another have only led to a worse economic and financial crisis. A severe and increasingly worse public debt crisis has come about due to the bailout of the banks and corporations and profligate government spending to benefit the financial oligarchy, the military-industrial complex and the high bureaucracy.

The inane reaction to the rising public deficits and public debt is austerity measures at the further expense of the people, thus aggravating the economic decline and the high rate of unemployment. The most reactionary forces in the US undertake something like the Tea Party movement in order to obscure monopoly capitalism as the root cause of the crisis, scapegoat the African-Americans, the immigrants and other people and push the Obama regime towards actions that aggravate the crisis. But the widespread social discontent is bursting out and developing into a resolute and militant resistance of the people at the very center of global capitalism. The Occupy Movement has burst out and can lead to larger and more militant actions of the proletariat and the people.

Global Crisis and the Need for Resistance

A global depression is now wreaking havoc on the lives of the people in both the imperialist and dominated countries. For quite sometime already, the imperialist powers have failed to solve the economic and financial crisis, because of their blindness to the internal laws of motion of capitalism and their dogmatic adherence to the neoliberal economic policy. The crisis is now engendering fascism and aggressive wars. On the surface, these appear as directed against recalcitrant countries of the third world and the long-oppressed peoples but they are part of the inter-imperialist struggle for a division of the world.

The rapidly worsening crisis of the world capitalist system is inflicting grave hardships and suffering on the people of the world. At the same time, it is compelling the people to resist. There is an urgent need for intensifying the anti-imperialist and democratic struggle of the people on a global scale. There is at the same time, as emphatically pointed out in his book by Ray O. Light, the urgent need for the leading role of the revolutionary party of the proletariat in the revolutionary mass struggles in various countries and for the strengthening of the international communist movement.

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