The following are letters received in response to the January 31 WSWS editorial board statement, “State of the Union speech: Bush declares war on the world,” followed by replies by Patrick Martin.
I just read with sheer amazement the above article on your web site. Given your political beliefs, I can understand some of the misapprehensions that you suffer from, but some of the statements near the end of your article were so out of touch with the actual facts that I could only read in stunned disbelief. In fact, if you have even been in the US, it is clear that these are outright intentional lies meant to deceive other people who are not in the US (no one in the US could realistically believe that “The war in Afghanistan is hardly talked about or felt among the broad masses of the American people”).
I intended originally to write a more detailed, reasoned attack on your article but as I read the end of your article, I realized that you either were intentionally trying to deceive people or writing about the subject without even performing a cursory investigation of the facts. From this, it seems probable that your true goals are not idealistic, but instead mercenary in nature, so I won’t take any time to allow you to hone your arguments to present them better in the future to the gullible. Oh, by the way, most people consider it reasonable to actually attach their names to articles they write, but I would guess you’re too paranoid for that.
3 February 2002
Patrick Martin replies:
The astonishment that you express over our assessment of the state of public opinion in America suggests that you accept the media portrayal of America as a land of flag-waving chauvinists incapable of critical thought. This description certainly applies to the bulk of the American media, controlled by a handful of giant corporations and with leading personnel—anchormen and women, editors, etc.—thoroughly corrupted. But the mood among the masses is more complicated, with cross-currents of confusion, alienation and distrust, combined with a legitimate outrage over the September 11 atrocity, and a fear of casualties from a future extension of the war. There are many, many working people [See Letters on “State of the Union speech: Bush declares war on the world”] who rightly regard Bush as illegitimate and untrustworthy.
You denounce as an “outright, intentional lie” our assertion that “The war in Afghanistan is hardly talked about or felt among the broad masses of the American people.” On what do you base your opinion? We rely on communications from readers and supporters, and from direct observation and efforts to discuss political issues with working people, students and intellectuals. This experience suggests that there is no great groundswell of interest in the war. Only three basic facts about the war are widely known: that the Taliban regime has been overthrown, that Osama bin Laden has not been captured, and that few Americans have so far been killed.
This popular response has both positive and negative sides. The support for the war shown in Bush’s poll numbers is superficial and extremely unstable. In the event of significant military reverses or a protracted US military involvement in Central Asia, public opinion can shift rapidly. At the same time, the lack of informed concern about the fate of a country the United States has been bombing for four months underscores the great unresolved problem of American working people—the low level of political consciousness, and the failure of broad masses of working people to recognize their common interests with the poor and oppressed internationally who are the targets of imperialist attack.
Perhaps you lack a sense of historical perspective, and you simply don’t know what real popular concern about a foreign war looks like. As someone who participated in the mass movement against the Vietnam War, I can assure you that there is no comparison in terms of the attention being paid to the war, let alone the degree of popular mobilization, either for or against the US military action. This undeniable fact carries with it great dangers. To the extent that the American people fail to react to the aggressive military policy of the Bush administration abroad, they are disarmed in the face of attacks at home on their democratic rights and living standards.
As for the question of attribution, you have jumped to a rather silly conclusion. Nearly all the articles posted on the WSWS carry the byline of their author. The comment on Bush’s State of the Union speech, published January 31, was an exception because it constituted an editorial board reply to Bush’s declaration of global war. Far from being “paranoid,” we are well aware of the growing stature of the WSWS in the eyes of the politically literate public, and we appeal to our audience to oppose the US war policy.* * *
I visited your site and read several of your articles and I agree with most of what you say. During his “State of the Confederacy” speech, Bush said we must not permit the world’s “most dangerous regimes” to threaten us with the world’s most dangerous weapons and that we must prevent regimes who seek nuclear weapons from threatening the world. And there he is, standing on the biggest pile of weapons of mass destruction ever created in the world by anybody, and the only person threatening the world is that lunatic!
There is one point, however, on which I’ve never agreed with socialist thinking. You always speak of “the working people” and big business, or corporate America, as two completely separate groups. You thus argue that reducing corporate income taxes benefits big business but not the working classes. Yet a large part of the workers work for big business! When corporate taxes are reduced, more money is made available for investment and expansion which results in more jobs and higher pay down the line. If this were not true, then corporate America would have never come into existence in the first place! And we all know that business taxes are passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices anyway, so isn’t it true that the working people end up paying the corporate taxes anyway?
Wouldn’t it be better to reduce or abolish corporate income taxes and then support organized labor in their drive for higher pay and benefits so that workers become wealthier in the process? Cannot big business and labor become partners in the common cause of generating a higher standard of living for all?
3 February 2002
Patrick Martin replies:
The recognition that the interests of the working class and the capitalists are antagonistic, rather than complementary, is the ABC of political wisdom. Nowhere has the ruling class worked so assiduously to suppress class consciousness and the scientific understanding of class differences as in America. This is not because class antagonisms are less intense in America than in other capitalist countries, but rather the opposite. The gulf between the wealthy elite and the great mass of working people is deeper than in any other industrialized country—the top 1 percent of the population controls more than 40 percent of the total wealth, and the political system is completely monopolized by this financial oligarchy.
You suggest that if taxes are reduced on corporations, they will invest the money, hire more workers and increase their pay. What has been the experience of the past two decades? Taxes have been cut repeatedly on corporations and the wealthy, but the real standard of living of American workers has declined (from a high point reached 30 years ago, in 1972!)
You conclude with the suggestion that we support “organized labor in their drive for higher pay and benefits so that workers become wealthier in the process.” Again, what has been the experience of the past two decades? What “drive for higher pay and benefits” are you referring to? During this period, the trade union apparatus has been transformed into a police force for the corporations inside the workplace. Big business and labor have indeed become “partners,” as you advocate, but not in the cause of raising living standards. Instead, the unions have been utilized as a machine for the reduction of workers’ wages and benefits and the destruction of their jobs. Hence the need for a new political road for the working class, which involves, as an indispensable prerequisite, the explicit recognition that American workers and American capitalists have diametrically opposed and irreconcilable interests.