Socialist Worker

Bush faces protests and huge problems

Issue No. 1732

Tens of thousands of people protested against the inauguration of US president George W Bush last weekend. They took to the streets in Washington, Florida and Seattle to show they are opposed to how Bush and the Republicans stole last November's election.

Bush did not win a majority of the popular vote, and there was clear fraud in the election in Florida, where Bush's brother Jeb is the state governor. Demonstrators lined the streets of Washington with handmade placards saying 'Hail to the thief' and 'Bush stole it'. It was the biggest anti-inauguration protest since Richard Nixon's in 1973, when thousands protested against the war in Vietnam.

Bush made his first policy announcement on Monday-a ban on government funding for international groups that offer abortion advice. Tony Blair now wants to be the first world leader to visit Bush.

And Bush also plans to visit Europe as soon as possible, according to press reports, in order to calm fears about his new 'Son of Star Wars' missile plan. This project will massively hike US and worldwide arms expenditure. The scheme, to cost at least $50 billion, is supposed to make the US invulnerable to attack by long range missiles.

Bush's new Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is a key backer of the missile defence plan. The rest of Bush's cabinet is no more appealing. Bush crows that his cabinet will be the most ethnically diverse one ever. He has promoted record numbers of blacks and Hispanics to top positions. But look at who they are.

Bush's new Secretary of State is the black general Colin Powell. Powell was involved in covering up the 1969 My Lai massacre, when US troops murdered hundreds of villagers during the Vietnam War. In 1989 Powell helped lead the US invasion of Panama, and then was a leading general overseeing the slaughter of Iraqis during the 1991 Gulf War.

Powell said after his nomination that he plans to step up sanctions against Iraq, and that 'Saddam Hussein is sitting on a failed regime that is not going to be around in a few years time'.

The other black and Hispanic appointments are the same. They made their names by opposing policies to tackle discrimination against blacks, Hispanics and women. Linda Chavez, Bush's first choice for Labour Secretary, is one of them. She was forced out because it emerged she had housed an illegal immigrant, but not before she made it clear she was opposed to pay rises for workers. But the biggest row has broken out over Bush's choice of Attorney General, Christian conservative John Ashcroft.

Ashcroft is opposed to abortion and gun control, and is strongly pro-execution. As a senator he pushed for an amendment to the US constitution banning abortion even in cases of incest and rape. While he was attorney general and governor of Missouri he opposed court orders forcing the racial integration of schools in St Louis and Kansas City.

He vetoed legislation to increase voter registration in predominantly black districts, even though equivalent laws were in force in neighbouring white areas.

And he even praised a right wing magazine, Southern Partisan, for helping 'set the record straight' about the US civil war against slavery. Indeed, so unpopular did Ashcroft become in Missouri that he was defeated in last year's election by a dead man-his Democrat opponent who died in a plane crash during the election campaign.

But it was the Democrats who gave the Republicans the chance to steal the election by adopting their programme in the first place. Yet the media is already getting nostalgic about the record of Clinton as president, forgetting how he ditched his promises to ordinary working Americans for better healthcare and more rights at work, in favour of bowing to Wall Street and the multinationals.

Robert Reich, Clinton's own Labour Secretary for a time, says, 'He certainly repositioned the Democrats, but it is unclear whether he did it or the Republicans did. I don't know that there's anything progressive about what Clintonism has become.'

George W Bush benefited from the disaffection bred by Clinton's betrayals. But now Bush faces many problems-the allegations of fraud against him and the very serious signs of a recession.


Blackout state

Gordon Brown proved how much New Labour loves the IMF's free market agenda when he told the bosses' Financial Times last week that he wants more deregulation of the power industry across Europe. But Brown should look at events in California. The US state is one of the richest areas of the world. It is home to Silicon Valley, where computer giants like Microsoft were born.

Yet California is suffering from repeated power cuts more typical of Third World countries like India and Pakistan. The blackouts and power shortages are combined with rising prices, all a result of the privatisation of the electricity system. A survey by the Los Angeles Times found that 54 percent of people do not believe there is any power shortage and blame greedy power companies for manufacturing a crisis.

Even the Democratic governor of California, Gray Davis, has been forced to condemn the privatisation as a 'colossal and dangerous failure', and threatened the industry with a criminal investigation into its racketeering. He says, 'We have literally lost control over our own power. We have surrendered the decisions about where electricity is sold, and for what price, to private companies with only one objective-maximising unheard-of profits.'


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International
Sat 27 Jan 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1732
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