It is not necessary to glorify the past to take note of the transformation that has occurred in bourgeois politics. During the Vietnam War, congressional hearings were a serious undertaking. Certain politicians made an appeal to broader popular sentiment, and the media served as a mechanism for exposing government lies and secrets. Prior to the 1991 vote in Iraq there were extensive hearings. Even in 2003, the Bush administration made more of a pretense of establishing a case for war, though based on complete lies, with a lengthy build-up to the invasion of Iraq extending over several months.
Now, a decision to launch a war with incalculable consequences—including the possibility of sparking a civil war throughout the Middle East and a direct conflict between the United States and Russia—is made without any serious public debate. The proceedings on Capitol Hill, which will likely be wrapped up within a week, were staged only after the failure of the vote in the British Parliament last week.
The decay of democratic and political forms is an expression of a social process—above all, the extraordinary growth of social inequality. The state is run by a military and intelligence apparatus, in league with a financial aristocracy, determined to implement deeply unpopular policies at home and abroad. It exists as a permanent conspiracy against the rights and interests of the vast majority.
The Obama administration represents a certain culmination of this process. The “candidate of change,” the “transformative” president (as at 2008 statement by the International Socialist Organization put it), is leading the most right-wing government in American history. Elected in large part due to antiwar sentiment, Obama, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, has overseen an historic expansion of militarism, including an international policy of drone assassinations and wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria.
The pro-Democratic Party organizations representing more privileged sections of the upper-middle class, which organized and led antiwar demonstrations in the early years of the Bush administration, have become pro-war. Supposedly “left” organizations such as the ISO and its international co-thinkers, along with their coterie of “liberal” academics, have prepared over the past two years the ideological justification for war, presenting as a “revolution” a US-engineered civil war that is dominated by Islamic fundamentalists.
Opposition to war now shifts decisively to the broad mass of the people—the working class. That there is general hostility to what is being planned is undeniable. As for those who supported Obama, there is an overwhelming sense that they have been lied to and sold a bill of goods.