Assisted Political Suicide?

When I saw the online lead-in to Todd Purdum’s NY Times story on Sunday, which claimed that the UFPJ demo that day was “overwhelmingly Democratic,” in nature, I said to myself “Give me a break! People are against Bush, the war, lack of health care, but they’re not DNC shock troops!” <>

But are they? Though I was already deeply opposed to the logic (or lack thereof) of ABB politics, I started to become more fully aware of the darker side to the anti-RNC protests reaching a crescendo as I write.

Watching from afar (Spain), the mobilizations in New York seem to have been imbued with an epochal, all-out, valley of Armageddon, final showdown character. Now’s our chance to confront the warmongers face-to-face! Go get ’em! Gotta stop Bush at all costs! Anyone checking out IMC, or Pacifica, will get the impression of a veritable carnival of resistance and protest going on.

And all the while, Terry McAulliff, John Kerry et all can sit back and chuckle, disown the protests if the media asks, yet reap the political rewards of the intense, dedicated efforts of thousands of people against Bush. All this, without even throwing all these people the smallest crumb, without accepting any of their demands, even in watered-down form: golly gee, these radicals are so cheap. Yeah, even free.

So what does all this mean? This build-up to the RNC convention as the sort of major reckoning that could stop the war party in its tracks, by accumulating and releasing the pent-up anger and rage people feel over the war, civil liberties, health care, corporate control, and so forth, the movement is setting itself up for an easy turkey shoot once Kerry wins the election and people heave a big sigh of relief that George the Terrible is gone.

Because that’s the real function of the RNC protests. Get it out of your system, let it all go, engage in an orgy of protest and use Bush as the target for your rage over the war. But don’t ask too many questions about whether the other guy is a warmonger too.

Afterwards, however, things will simmer down. Whoever wins, the movement will have hobbled itself: if it’s Bush, demoralization, and if it’s Kerry, complacency and passive hope. We may be in no good position to try to stop Kerry’s first war or even do much of anything once it starts. After letting Kerry off the hook, retooling to oppose him will take time.

I think most of this stems from the basic political dishonesty of ABB. Whether we intend to do so or not, by making Bush out to be the arch imperialist, the warmonger, Darth Vader, Kerry becomes the peacemaker, the savior, the godsend, Luke Skywalker. And as we all know, Kerry is none of these things. By the way, this also contributes greatly to the cynicism about politics most people feel (and I think reinforces Josh Frank’s article here at Counterpunch the other day).

Most have argued against ABB in a quite earnest, courteous manner, trying to point up the flawed logic to good Dubya-fearing, Kerry loyalists. For me, this is a movement bent on political suicide by setting itself up to be blind-sided by a Pres. Kerry who will launch wars unmolested, as the antiwar movement has already exhausted its resources in mobilizing the masses against the long-gone Dubya, the monopoly-holder in evil imperialist wars. If Dubya wins, the demoralization of the movement will allow him to go to war unhindered too.

UFPJ and others are catalyzing and channeling antiwar energies among people, only to deliver them into the pro-war hands of John Kerry and company on election day, free of (political) charge. The sad thing is we’ve been here so many times before.

JAMES HOLLANDER is a translator living in Madrid. He can be contacted at