Red baiting is for the boo birds

We fight for democratic socialism in the tradition of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, not for the ruling elites and the wealthiest minority.

DNOTE: This column originally ran in the November 16th print edition, but was not put online.

David Anderson’s Nov. 10 letter to the editor, “Your rights,” brings up a number of misconceptions about the anti-war movement and Socialist Alternative, even though many of these misconceptions were lifted word for word from conservative columnist Katherine Kersten’s Nov. 3 opinion piece in the Star Tribune.

Anderson argues that we should accept the invasion and occupation of Iraq because it got rid of Saddam Hussein and protected our freedom. There is no doubt whatsoever that Saddam was a brutal, tyrannical dictator. We do not, and have never, supported his regime or any other totalitarian despots around the world.

The same cannot be said for the ruling elites of this country. The U.S. government and corporations have a long history of propping up horribly undemocratic dictatorships. Currently the Bush administration is nurturing close ties to unelected dictators in Egypt, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Khazikstan, Saudi Arabia and others. Considering the countless human rights abuses that occur in these countries, can we really believe that President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld were shedding tears about Saddam’s brutality? Let’s not forget the U.S. supported and sold weapons to Saddam Insane himself during the 1980s.

What of this democracy and stability that our benevolent president is bringing? Iraq has kept in place many of the undemocratic laws initiated during Saddam’s regime. For example, it is still illegal for Iraqis to form trade unions. The U.S. has even intervened to support giving Islamic clerics a veto over legislation. So much for all the talk of a secular democracy and rights for women!

This comes on top of a tremendous lack of living standards and basic necessities such as sanitation, electricity and clean water. Does a new constitution mean anything to someone without drinking water?

Anderson makes a statement that is legitimately being debated among many here and in Iraq. “The troops should be pulled out when the job is done and not before.” However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the “job” will not be done until the troops are pulled out. Every day things in Iraq get worse, giving credibility and support to the many reactionary right-wing Islamic groups that have sprouted since the invasion.

Democracy does not fall from the sky in the form of depleted-uranium coated bombs. It will come for Iraq, as it did here, through mass movements of regular people, particularly the working class. That is the only force that can bring freedom and democratic rights.

The occupation of Iraq has everything to do with taking control of Iraq’s oil reserves for exploitation and flexing the Pentagon’s muscles to the world. It is about spreading and strengthening the power and profits of U.S. corporations.

Under capitalism wars and conflicts such as this are inevitable. When capitalist powers cannot expand through other means, they inevitably turn to war.

Currently, we are also seeing another kind of war on the working class and poor here at home. While billions are spent on securing Iraq for Bechtel and others, politicians from both parties are cutting social programs and jobs here at home.

In 2004, 12.7 percent of Americans were living in poverty, a total of 37 million people. Those without health insurance number 45 million in America. College tuition has skyrocketed while Congress cuts funding for grants and loans. In 1965 CEOs of big corporations made 24 times as much as the average worker, by 2003 they made 185 times as much.

The Bush administration has used the war on terror to push through such monstrosities as the Patriot Act. And despite the majority of the country now in favor of withdrawing the troops, the Senate recently voted 97-0 to further fund the occupation of Iraq.

These problems are not the result of Bush being a bad guy, but a result of the capitalist system. Capitalism inevitably favors the interests of short-term profits over the needs of the population, bulldozing over living standards and democratic rights at home and abroad.

We are fighting for an alternative in which society will be run in the interests of the majority rather than a wealthy minority. We fight for democratic socialism in the tradition of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky and others; for taking the planet out of control of corrupt politicians, corporations and dictators and under the direct control of the mass of the population: the working class.

These ideas are spreading as more people question the principles of the free market. In fact, the students who started YAWR at Bloomington Kennedy, Minneapolis South and other area high schools walked out and are members of Socialist Alternative, working to build a truly democratic society free of war and poverty. And until we can build such a society, you will find us waving our red flag proudly

Katie Quarles is a member of the Socialist Alternative. Please send comments to [email protected]