A Socialist Party USA Response

to President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address and to the Democratic Response

by Rick VanWie. Co-Vice Chair, Socialist Party USA

On January 29, 2002  President George W. Bush gave his first "official" State of the Union Address since taking office.  As an opposition party in the United States, the Socialist Party USA offers this response to the President's speech, and to the Democratic response.

Fellow Americans, and workers around the world:

The tragic events of September 11, 2001 will never be forgotten.  The victims and their families are in the thoughts and prayers of Socialist Party USA members around America and the world.  Those who have lost their jobs in the economic downturn of the past year -- accelerated since the terrorist attacks -- are foremost in our minds.

Since it was founded in 1901, the Socialist Party has stood against acts of individual terror and terrorism.  The SPUSA recommits to this position.  There is no substitute for working class action.  There is no replacement for justice achieved when working people organize for justice.  There is nothing as permanent as the peace achieved when people around the globe demand peace.

Those who support terror and terrorism stand against what the Socialist Party has advocated for the past 100 years.  While the Socialist Party USA calls for working-class solidarity across racial, sexual, religious and national divides, terrorists are satisfied to summarily judge and condemn -- and even murder -- based on national origin, sex or religion.  Where the SPUSA calls for a new economic order owned and run by workers, terrorists choose working people as their victims.  At the very least, the Socialist Party USA wants to expand our democracy to include "minor" and "third" parties though drastic changes in our ballot access laws and by the replacement of the Electoral College with a system of Proportional Representation.  Many terrorists support one-party states and dictatorial regimes that openly persecute women and religious and ethnic minorities.

In the State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush revealed his agenda for the next year.   Although the speech contained many points, details and anecdotes, it is clear that the President's main priorities are:

1) Win the War Against Terrorism

2) Protect the Homeland

3) Revive the Economy

 The Democratic Response varied only in the details of how this would be accomplished.

 The thrust of the President's speech centers on one element -- stability at home and abroad.  By winning the "War on Terrorism", "Protecting the Homeland" and "Reviving the Economy", President Bush claims that we will live in a more prosperous and peaceful world.  That people need not fear the terror of the terrorists nor the secret police.

 For 100 years, the Socialist Party has recognized the universal desire for peace, freedom and prosperity.  Socialists sacrificed their lives organizing Labor Unions in America decades before they were legal.  The Socialist Party advocated a social security system years before it was initiated.  Suffrage for Women was a plank of the Socialist Party Platform well before women got the vote in America.  Small farmers, independent shop owners and small business people fought with the Socialist Party against the rising tide of monopolies that continue to this day to prevent workers from producing for themselves, and put family enterprises out of business.

 Currently, President Bush's agenda is a call for peace and security.  However, neither what he nor what the Democrats have proposed will accomplish any of the three points above.  War does not bring peace.  Restrictions on our civil liberties do not bring security.  Massive tax cuts for the rich and corporations do not bring prosperity.

 This is not to say that practical measures should not be taken.  Extra security at airports, including the presence of the Armed Forces has been a reality in many countries for years and is at the most inconvenient.  Having defense forces patrolling the skies, borders and waters of America in a time when passenger jet liners have been used as weapons is common sense.  Increasing benefits for unemployed workers is a step in the right direction.  Pay raises for our soldiers -- many of who must depend on food stamps while in the military -- is long over due.

 But the failure of war to bring peace, and injustice and persecution to bring security is not rhetoric, it is history.  The result of World War I was World War II.  Three years of fighting on the Korea peninsula resulted in 60 years of a divided nation.  The deaths of 58,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese in Vietnam could not stop that war.  Sending Japanese-Americans to internment camps did not cause the defeat of Japan.  Likewise, persecution of socialists in the United States during McCarthyism did not lead to the demise of the Eastern Block or the Soviet Union, and did not prevent revolution in Cuba.  The answer to the Great Depression was FDR's New Deal social spending and the restrictions on monopoly capital through anti-trust laws, not the "laissez-faire" policies of Herbert Hoover.

 Tragic examples of the failure of US foreign policy can be seen in our own recent past.  The United States government supported and funded the violent and repressive regime of Saddam Hussein.  Iraq's war with Iran resulted in the death of over one million Iraqi and Irani soldiers.  Around that time, the US funded Islamic extremist groups (that would later become the Taliban) in Afghanistan that were resisting the Soviet invasion.  A key ally of the United States in the Afghanistan resistance was Osama Bin-Laden.  Bin Laden turned against the United States after Iraq invaded Kuwait, and US deployed forces in Saudi Arabia (home to Islam's holy city, Mecca) as part of the military response to the invasion.

 Domestically, post September 11 solid bi-partisan support for "anti-terrorist" laws threatens our constitutional rights and civil liberties.  Although disturbing, they are not without precedent.  Both Democrats and Republicans supported the World War I era Anti-Sedition Laws that took away Americans right to dissent.  Those who protested the war were imprisoned.  Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the executive order that put Japanese-Americans in concentration camps for five years.  Bi-partisan support remained strong for many years.  Also, Democrats and Republicans supported the red-baiting of the McCarthyist era.  These laws caused many hard-working, pro-union Americans to lose their jobs if they were even suspected of being a "socialist" or "communist".  Some went to jail.

 Recently however, the threat comes from the bi-partisan support of the creation of the Office of Homeland Security, whose director -- former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge -- is unaccountable to anyone but the President.  No one can vote him out of office, and there are no impeachment proceedings to remove the Director.  There is little statutory definition of what authority this Cabinet-Level office has.



  A

nother threat is the U.S.A.  P.A.T.R.I.O.T Law (the Uniting and Strengthening America By Providing Appropriate Tools Required To Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Law). This new complicated statute gives law enforcement the right to detain Americans almost indefinitely.  It also allows deportation of immigrants who "associate" with groups the government identifies as hostile.  Furthermore, the U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Law has a vaguely worded definition of "domestic terrorist" and domestic terrorism.  Like the Anti-Sedition laws of the early twentieth century, the potential exists for all of those who protest government policy publicly to be arrested as a "terrorist".  Combined with President Bush's recently signed Executive Order that allows terrorists to be tried in a secret military tribunal with no appeal, the potential for tragedy is great.

 Peace and prosperity can only arise from a culture based on social, political and economic justice for all.  In the long run, ending war, poverty, violence, unemployment and other social ills will require transforming our society.  The Socialist Party stands for the creation of a Democratic-Socialist society in order to meet those long term goals. 

In the meantime President Bush and the Republicans and Democrats in Congress can take concrete non-violent action to fight terrorism and promote economic and social justice at home and abroad.  We call upon the President and Congress to take the following steps:

1) Immediately stop the bombing in Afghanistan.  This will free up approximately the one billion dollars a month the US is spending on the war.

2) Immediately put the one billion dollars per month into use.  Divide the money between:

a) Life -long pensions for the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks, including the Police and Firefighters who lost their lives; 

b) Humanitarian relief efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan;

c) Unemployment compensation, health insurance, job training, and low interest education loans for unemployed workers;

d) Investment in rebuilding our public schools, and provide daycare for those who need it, and invest in other infrastructure rebuilding programs, such as road repair;

e) Investment in the cleanup of our environment including the clean up of "Ground Zero";

f) Investment in rebuilding New York City

  

 3)  Set up an international Court to deal with the problem of Terrorism.  An international court would try and convict anyone around the world who was arrested for committing terrorist acts in a foreign country, or over national borders.  This would support the universal desire for rule of law over terrorism.  

4) Work to end the crisis between Palestine and Israel, including decreasing US aid to Israel and extending immediate direct aid to Palestine.

 5) Immediately suspend all foreign aid to countries that suppress their citizens on the basis of gender, race, age, ability, religion, and political affiliation.  One requirement of the resumption of foreign aid would be free and open multi-party elections monitored by the United Nations.

 6) Repeal the U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, close the Office of Homeland Security, and rescind the executive order concerning military tribunals.  Re-dedicate the US government to not only the protection of our citizens, but to the protection of our Constitutional Rights.

 Of course, these steps will not immediately stop the terrorists, but neither will spending one billion dollars a month in military actions that take innocent civilian lives.  However, these steps will not only save those who are traditionally the losers in all wars -- civilian populations --but they also have the added plus of putting an end to the impulse for the terrorists of the future.  It is most likely that for every death from US military action, that another is willing to seek revenge.  If the US stops military action now, and appeals to the universal desire for peace, justice and rule of law, then it will be saving lives today and tomorrow.  By creating an atmosphere of international cooperation through a through a pursuit of economic, political and social justice the option of violence and terror will no longer be appealing.  

 It has been and will be a hard and long road to true peace, justice and stability at home and abroad.  No one action or even set of actions will instantly resolve this crisis.  But by choosing peaceful non-violent methods of resolving this crisis and protecting our constitutional rights here at home the United States will not only reflect the best in America, it will be sharing in the common values of peace, justice and prosperity held by the workers of all countries.  

We urge the President and Congress to take these bold first steps.