Right-Wing Threat

  1. The failure of the left and the labor movement to build an independent political alternative or offer a fighting program to resist the capitalist crisis means the space for right-wing populism is left wide open. The Tea Party and Ron Paul, while partially encouraged by sections of big business for use as battering rams against the unions and social movements, are also a warped expression of popular anger arising from below. They tap into working people’s legitimate frustrations and anxieties, but their solutions amount to racist, sexist, and homophobic scapegoating alongside simplistic appeals for small government and traditional values. Since the crisis began, populist attacks on women, immigrants, the LGBT community, and the unions have gone way up.
  2. Following the 2010 Republican congressional victories, an unprecedented assault on women’s rights occurred in 2011. A record 135 legislative attacks on women’s rights in 36 states passed, an increase from 89 in 2010 and 77 in 2009. This included 92 new restrictions on abortion access, breaking the record of 34 abortion restrictions in 2005, according to the Guttmacher Institute. These statistics provide one snapshot of the fiercely stepped-up right-wing offensive against all the historic gains won by past social movements. Attacks on LGBT rights, on immigrants and African Americans, and on the trade unions are part of the same right-wing juggernaut, funded by sections of big business and promoted by Fox News and other corporate media outlets. With pressure from the right wing dominating the Republican primary debate, and given the need of party leaders to whip up their base for the elections, we should anticipate a new round of attacks in 2012.
  3. We should also anticipate a fight-back. The rise of the Slutwalks in cities across the country and around the world is, in part, a direct reaction by tens of thousands of young women to right-wing attempts to push them back into traditional roles. Like Occupy, the Slutwalks were characterized by youthful activists self-organizing independently of the traditional women’s organizations. While we correctly criticized the tactic of reclaiming the word “slut” and the very limited class appeal and program of the protests, it is nonetheless an important, positive indication of things to come.
  4. 2012 could prove to be a watershed year for LGBT rights. The February 7 ruling of a federal appeals court that California’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court. Subsequently, Democratic controlled legislatures in Washington State, Maryland, and New Jersey legalized same-sex marriage, although the Republican governor in New Jersey vetoed the legislation. In Washington and Maryland, just the seventh and eighth states to legalize gay marriage, right-wing groups have vowed to launch a ballot initiative this year to reinstate the marriage ban. Already, in Minnesota and North Carolina referendums are up for a vote this November to enshrine a ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitutions, and the issue could flare up in several other states this year.
  5. In 2004, ballot initiatives banning same-sex marriage passed in 11 mostly rural, conservative states, supported by 60-70 percent of voters. Since then, support for LGBT rights has surged, with 53 percent now believing “same-sex marriage should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriage,” according to a May 2011 Gallup poll. Republicans have long used LGBT people as scapegoats and devised ballot initiatives on marriage to rally their conservative base to the polls, while Democrats have largely ducked the issue. This year, however, it appears that Democrats in several states are similarly choosing fights on same-sex marriage to rally voters from their own bases, many of whom have been angered by budget cuts and other pro-corporate polices by the Democratic Party. While we need to recognize that the Democrats are only using the same-sex marriage struggle to promote their narrow electoral interests, we will clearly campaign for marriage equality, explaining the historic importance and victory it would represent if in 2012 voters in several states for the first time approve same-sex marriage, as is quite possible.
  6. After the Prop 8 marriage ban passed in California in 2008, a youthful LGBT rights movement erupted. Notably, its fresh leaders took a very critical approach toward Obama, exposing his hypocrisy and placing clear demands on his administration at a time when few prominent left voices were prepared to directly attack Obama. With no support from the mainstream LGBT rights groups, they organized one of the biggest LGBT rights demonstrations in U.S. history, drawing 150,000 to Washington, D.C. in October 2009. With the battle playing out in the courts, the legislatures, and the electoral arena this year, we could see a revival of the movement, especially if a bold lead is provided by conscious left forces.
  7. The situation facing undocumented immigrants is increasingly intolerable. Obama has carried out approximately 30% more deportations than occurred during President George W. Bush’s second term and about twice as many deportations as during Bush’s first term. Workplace raids, often aimed at unionized companies, are also increasing. With the economic crisis, racist appeals against immigrants “taking jobs” and “leeching off social services” are gaining a wider echo among more backward sections of the U.S.-born working class. On this basis, a number of states – most prominently Arizona, Georgia and Alabama – have passed draconian anti-immigrant laws denying undocumented workers social services and instructing law enforcement to aggressively profile immigrants. Arizona also recently banned ethnic studies.
  8. These attacks amount to a reign of terror in many communities. After the Georgia law passed, a mass exodus of undocumented immigrants from the state devastated the economies of immigrant-dominated towns and industries. In a historic sense, this stepped up repression must be seen, in part, as a ruling class response to the 2006 mass uprising of immigrant workers, similar to the massive growth of police repression in African-American communities following the black rebellion of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
  9. The national movement in solidarity with immigrants in Arizona in 2009 was followed by continuing youth direct actions, walkouts, and protests demanding access to education. While it remains difficult to anticipate when new outbreaks of mass struggle will take place, especially given our organization’s limited presence within the Latino community, such outbreaks are inevitable. May Day demonstrations will probably be larger this year than the last couple years and offer an important opportunity for socialists to intervene and build support. Given the atmosphere of fear and repression, additional upsurges in the immigrant rights movement will likely erupt suddenly as a result of this or that provocation, as they did in 2006.
  10. The economic crisis, including unemployment and foreclosures, impacts African Americans at much higher rates, while attacks on social services and public education target black communities. Despite high hopes, life under the first black president has only worsened for African Americans and the poorest sections of U.S. society. Brutally unequal incarceration rates, police profiling and repression continue in the black community. The Georgia prison strike in 2010 and the California prison hunger strike in 2011 underscore the continuing potential for struggle against the criminal injustice system. The entire social, economic, and political situation is ripe for struggle, but as in the wider working class, the crisis of leadership also holds things back among specifically oppressed sections of the population.
  11. What is notable, however, is the growing section of African-American intellectuals and political leaders, notably Cornel West, who now sharply attack Obama. The development of “Occupy the Hood” in many cities indicates the potential for building a new multi-racial left as struggles continue to develop. Any serious move toward building an independent working-class political challenge to the two parties of big business will find important points of support among communities of color.
  12. Another major flashpoint could develop out of the new war clouds developing over the Middle East. The U.S. and its allies, particularly the Israeli ruling class, are hypocritically worried that if they do not take out Iran’s nuclear facilities by June, Iran could develop the capability to build a nuclear bomb. The Republicans and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are beating the war drums, but Obama prefers the economic sanctions that the U.S. and Europe have imposed as a more stable tactic for maintaining imperialist dominance over the region. The region is already an extremely volatile tinderbox, gripped by popular political revolutions. Israel could very well launch air strikes on Iran by June. If Iran fires missiles back, it could engulf the entire unstable region in another bloody war. The U.S. and Europe could launch air and naval strikes, and Iran may also shut off the Straight of Hormuz, which would send the price of oil up by possibly $50 a barrel and weaken the global economy.
  13. Any military attacks on Iran would be met with protests around the world, especially in the Middle East. The people of Iran have the right to defend themselves from imperialist attacks, including armed resistance. At the same time, socialists are opposed to nuclear weapons, which ultimately can only guarantee “mutually assured destruction.” We advocate eliminating all nuclear weapons, starting with the huge arsenals hypocritically held by the big powers, like the U.S., Britain and France, as well as Israel’s arsenal. We must call for international solidarity, based on the workers’ movement worldwide, to stop imperialist aggression against Iran. A renewal of the revolutionary movements in North Africa and the Middle East, including possible revolts of the oppressed Palestinian masses and new upsurges of social protests and strikes in Israel, would be a powerful counterweight to Israeli and imperialist aggression and military interventions.
  14. For the environmental movement, the Keystone XL Pipeline project is currently the key battleground. The proposed 1,711-mile pipeline would be the longest oil pipeline outside of Russia and China. It would carry heavy oil from oil tar sands in Canada across the Great Plains to the Gulf Coast to be exported abroad, exacerbating the climate change crisis. In August, 1,253 people were arrested as part of an historic two-week sit-in at the White House. Demonstrations spread throughout the fall, with protesters confronting Obama at nearly every public campaign stop and 12,000 protesters surrounding the White House on November 6. This unprecedented civil disobedience by the environmental movement, which is challenging the Republicans as well as Obama and the Democratic Party over a year after the BP oil spill, is an important step forward for the movement. Notably, several unions – including TWU and ATU – came out against the project even though it will create some jobs temporarily.