Every four years the big capitalist parties break out the red, white, and blue banners to create a frenzy of patriotism. Voters are expected to jump on the bandwagon and cheer for the good old USA, blind to the gulf between Wall Street’s billionaires and Main Street’s evicted.
This is especially true in the 2012 election, because the ruling class is faced with a staggering economy, big-time international trade competition, and unprecedented popular anger at the high and mighty. So they pour illusory phrases into the public air waves such as, “national economic interest,” “national security,” “national unity,” “national competitiveness,” and so on. Here’s what these words really mean.
Painting over Class Differences
One of the key arenas for nationalist fast talk is the economy. In the patriotic fog voters are urged to ignore class divisions, shun unions, and join the bankers and bosses, sacrificing their own worker interests for the “good of the nation.”
Obama tells the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “We need to make America the best place on earth to do business … and we have to do this together: business and government; workers and CEO’s; Democrats and Republicans.”
Romney charges “Unions drive up costs and introduce rigidities that harm competitiveness and frustrate innovation.” Lumping workers and business together against unions, he asks “Whose interests should come first, those of workers and businesses, or those of organized labor?” Put his way, you’d never know the “costs” unions “drive up” are workers’ wages — for creating all the wealth!
So let’s get real. Service cutbacks, austerity measures, and wage cuts benefit only the bigwigs, not the whole country. The capitalist economy can never work for all of us, because it’s designed for the wealthy, who control the elections and relentlessly widen the gap between rich and poor.
Romney promises to “press for an immigration policy designed to maximize America’s economic potential” by attracting those with advanced degrees and granting immediate citizenship to wealthy “job creators.” This assumes that immigrants with money will fix our economic crisis, and others should be turned away.
But rich business owners are not job creators — workers are. Bosses don’t create jobs out of kindness. They hire more workers when other wage earners have enough income to buy more products and services.
Militarization Pure and Simple
Ever since 9-11, the U.S. public has been pressed to the heights of patriotism, dread of terrorism, and fear of “foreigners.” It is all crafted to justify warmongering and massive military operations abroad, and Homeland Security spending at home. This all in the name of “national security.” Militarization, of course, is very profitable.
But not for the soldier/workers. Occasional, well publicized flag-waving and war medals welcome some returning troops. But poor youth volunteer for service out of necessity, or to gain citizenship. When they get home, soldiers are not getting what they need — jobs, health care and support services.
Romney chillingly pledges to use “the full powers of the presidency to complete an impermeable border fence protecting our southern frontier from infiltration by illegal immigrants, trans-national criminal networks, and terrorists.” Immigrants, we are to believe, have become the “national enemy.”
Condoleezza Rice called education a “national security” issue, turning charter school foes into national enemies!
Wall Street concern over increasing China and India trade with Latin America has led to troop deployments, activation of the Pacific fleet, and massive spending on Latin American militaries — to “protect U.S. economic interests.”
An escalating military presence in Australia is creating a staging area for U.S. intervention in Asia and the Pacific — to “preserve our global competitiveness.” And over 3,000 more U.S. troops are being sent to Africa to gain control of resources there — in the guise of “spreading democracy.”
Protectionism is not for Workers
When Obama intones, “I hope you buy an American car,” or unions run “Made in America” campaigns, they are really pitting U.S. workers against their class allies in other countries. These pro-America campaigns enrich the very corporations that outsourced and caused job losses in the first place in order to exploit cheap labor.
Union misleaders fan the flames of nationalism to hide the fact that they are not willing to fight against mass layoffs and take backs. It’s their way of diverting U.S. workers’ anger toward other countries’ laborers and away from the real cause of the economic crisis — the profit system. U.S. working people can improve their conditions by uniting with the mates across borders, instead of swallowing patriotic slogans against their own class interests.
In the same way, union heads push through endorsements for Democrats, against the wishes of many union members, in order to keep the rank and file caught up in the capitalist electoral campaigns instead of building their own labor party. Obama says, “I know we can out-compete any other nation on earth. We just have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to unlock the productivity of American workers.” Increased productivity’ is really code for speedup, downsizing, and pay cuts! To be patriotic, workers are told they must nobly sacrifice to save the economy and the nation. “Bullshit,” a good many say.
“Shared sacrifice” means accepting giveback contracts without rocking the boat with protests and strikes — all for the good of “our” national economy! Now, doesn’t that sound better than sacrificing for the bonuses of “our” CEO’s?
In this Together?
A Michelle Obama campaign letter says “America prospers when we are all in this together, when everyone from Main Street to Wall Street — does their fair share.” Speaking at Laborfest in Milwaukee, the president exhorted unions to, “Remember that we all rise or fall together — as one nation, and one people.”
Some progressive and liberal third parties are also treading in this nationalist goo. Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate, says “It’s time to … make this economy work for all of us,” and to “not rest until we’ve pulled our nation back from the brink.” Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party is much concerned with “national security.”
The working poor and shrinking numbers of well-paid workers in the U.S. have much more in common with exploited workers in India, austerity protesters in Greece, student strikers in Quebec, and farmers reclaiming land in Honduras, than with capitalist America. This year’s election is a great time to reject the false unity of nationalist appeals and vote for socialists and anti-capitalists — our own working class interests.
• This article first appeared in the Freedom Socialist newspaper.