Not since the Nixon years has Washington, D.C. glittered so brightly with the diamonds, furs and tuxedos of the visibly rich. The Republicans are back, and with them comes the gloss of snappy dress guards at the White House and unrestrained pride in the global network of terror, intrigue, economic thievery and political repression that sustains the U.S. empire.
Former President Carter’s gutless but vaunted crusade for “human rights” has been replaced with an open attack on freedom fighters throughout the world. Aimed at stamping out all democratic opposition to the U.S. stranglehold on the underdeveloped world, this war on “terrorism” also aims to terrorize radicals, movement leaders and dissidents at home.
Reagan rode into the White House armed with “a mandate for change.” But his mandate is slim, based on only the 24% of eligible voters who voted for him and an ecstatic coterie of bankers, industrial magnates, businessmen, right-to-lifers, white supremacists, and Christian bigots.
Ironically, the gun lobby cheers him on too, although it is reeling from a wave of indignant gun-control sentiment which exploded when a neo-nazi assassin almost murdering Reagan.
To the Conservative Political Action Convention this March, Reagan declared: “Our moment has arrived. Just as surely as we seek to put our financial house in order and rebuild our nation’s defenses, so, too, we seek to protect the unborn, to end the manipulation of schoolchildren by utopian planners and permit the acknowledgement of a Supreme Being in our classrooms.”
And cowboy Ronnie has backed up these sinister words with action. Even before his inauguration, Reagan selected a cabinet indicative of the ruthlessness behind his one-liner jocularity, calm paternalism, and just-folks jellybeans.
The notorious militarist who was Nixon’s strongman, General Alexander Haig, was chosen as Secretary of State. Richard Schweiker, new Department of Health and Human Services head, pledged to lobby for a constitutional amendment banning abortion. Labor Secretary Ray Donovan is a construction contractor who supports the National Right to Work Committee. Militant anti-environmentalist James Watt is the new Secretary of the Interior. And while the far right denounced many of Reagan’s choices as “ultra-liberal,” Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman warmed their reactionary hearts with a budget proposal that erodes away the few remnants of 50 years of social and economic reforms.
The revisions of Carter’s proposed 1982 budget are like Robin-Hood-through-the-looking-glass — Reagan takes from the poor and gives to the rich.
The food stamp program lost $1.8 billion and dropped one million people; $1.6 billion disappeared from the free breakfast and lunch programs for schoolchildren, $1.2 billion from medical programs for the poor, $6.1 billion from jobs programs, $2.2 billion from extended unemployment benefits, $670 million from jobless youth programs — cuts to the tune of $48 billion.
Above the sound of the falling axe float lyrical assurances that these cuts will not affect the “truly needy.” And who are they? The rich and the military.
Tax breaks for business will swell profits by an estimated $45 billion per year by 1985. Tax breaks for workers, however, will allow a couple earning $15,000 a year, with two children, to save all of $110.00 in 1982!
The poor are being forced to foot the bill — for the most expensive peacetime military buildup in U.S. history.
Cranking up the war machine
National defense is the only area to gain a budget increase: up $4.4 billion for a $182.4 billion total in 1982, and continuing to a $1.5 trillion total over the next five years.
The world’s bloodiest butchers are newly hailed as defenders of freedom: South Korean dictator Chun Doo Hwan gets a royal welcome at taxpayer expense, and the White House is considering an invitation to apartheidist South African Prime Minister Pieter Botha.
What is in store for the world from the Reagan war team is revealed most bluntly in El Salvador. The administration has identified El Salvador as the strategic point-of-no-return for Western capitalism, and is spending $63 million to murder, torture, and terrorize the Salvadoran population to preserve U.S. control of Central America.
The regime’s naked drive for war abroad and poverty at home is being blunted by growing domestic opposition.
An antidraft/antiwar movement has sprung to life, beginning to serve as a pole of attraction to all those mobilizing against the right wing.
New coalitions are emerging all over the country — the Budget Coalition Against the Cuts, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the National Anti-Hunger Coalition, committees to oppose intervention in El Salvador, etc. But this broad and, as yet, largely unformed opposition is missing a key ingredient: principled leadership.
The liberals cannot lead, as demonstrated all too pathetically by their wimpy, mealy-mouthed 1980 electoral campaigns. With no program and no direction, they were abandoned by the voters after years of empty promises and slimy sell-outs which utterly discredited them.
And the radicals? All too many are competitively jockeying for instant mass movement hegemony.
But an independent radical newsweekly, the Guardian, in a March 18 editorial entitled “Time for Left Unity,” calls for a multi-issue, anti-reformist, left-led united front against reaction.
The Freedom Socialist Party stands in fundamental agreement with the Guardian’s call, and urges all left organizations to respond. The call mistakenly describes the struggle against sexism as “secondary” to the fight against racism, mentions Blacks alone as anti-racist fighters, and barely mentions lesbian/gay rights. But these questions can be debated within a common commitment for an internally democratic united front against the right.
Reagan’s zeal may shock the left out of its sectarianism and spark the creation of the instrument of his own destruction. Such a product of the rightwing administration is devoutly to be wished.