frontline 15.


As John Kerry conceded defeat to George Bush he made a predictable plea for national unity. Few socialists would have rejoiced at a Kerry presidency, but they would have been more than pleased to see the back of Bush.

The Republican party fought a cynical (and undemocratic) battle. In Florida up to 60, 000 absentee ballots went missing in a democrat county. In Ohio Republicans filed 35, 000 challenges to voters’ eligibility to vote. All across the US the Republican Party sought to intimidate and block voters particularly those from black and hispanic communities.

Some familiar faces popped up too, not just Arnold Schwarzennegar for the Republicans or Bruce Springsteen for the Democrats, but Osama Bin Laden himself. Bin Laden’s appearance a few days before polling was good news for Bush, indeed his timing was impeccable. Certainly it was more convincing than the tape of an “American al-Qaeda supporter” that also turned up right on cue threatening further terrorist actions in the US should Bush win.

Bush’s re-election will have an even greater impact outside of the United States. The neo-conservative cadre who have come to dominate US policy have made their mark not just ideologically but in the language of corpses. A recent well-researched report published in the Lancet put the number of dead at the hands of coalition forces in Iraq at 100, 000. This was a conservative estimate and didn’t even take the assault in Fallujah into account.


Every home in Iraq has suffered from the Bush administration. In addition more than 1000 US troops have been killed and 73 British troops. Most of these soldiers were ‘economic conscripts’ forced into the army as the only option that would gain them a college place, a trade or just a way out of their impoverished communities where jobs are hard to find. Now some in the armed forces are becoming increasingly cynical about their prospects. As one US Marine told a reporter “it doesn’t matter whether Bush or Kerry wins, we’ll be here for another six years.”

The Bush victory has been followed by intensive attacks by the US military on centres of resistance such as Fallujah. It was in preparation for this assault that British Black Watch troops were brought in to cover for those US forces who were to participate in the attack.

But the resistance to the imperialism of the US and its allies is not going to go away. The US will be forced to commit greater troop numbers for longer tours of duty. The spectre of conscription may fall again on the US.

US Left

One thing that has been clear in this election is the highly polarised nature of US society. Bush has been able to whip up reaction not only with his lies and jingoism around the Iraq invasion, but also on those issues which play well with his evangelical base - opposition to gay marriage for example (eleven states passed referendums banning gay marriage at the same time as the presidential elections.)

But conversely the Bush presidency has galvanised the opposition, including the small US socialist left. Millions have attended the demonstrations to protest against the war in Iraq, the biggest numbers seen for decades. A new generation of young people have engaged in radical politics.

In the short term the movement in the US will need to keep up this agitation, in opposition to conscription and for the withdrawal of the troops in Iraq.

In the long term it needs to address the crucial lack of a grassroots alternative to the Democrat-Republican machines. There are some signs that the squabbling sections of the US left are prepared to at least begin to talk to each other. This must be the first step in drawing up a renewed strategy to engage with the working class, the radical black and hispanic communities and those who have rallied around Ralph Nader’s Green Party.

Consequences for Blair

A defeat for Bush would have meant a blow to Tony Blair’s closest international ally and left him in a more isolated position internationally. Kerry would not have withdrawn US troops, he made that much clear. But he would have sought a “fairer” carve-up of Iraq among other big powers, like Russia, France and Germany, and a bigger share of the occupation burden as well.

On the other hand a Bush defeat would have enabled Blair to shake the damaging image as Bush’s poodle that he has acquired. That might have been timed quite nicely for the British elections, expected no later than Spring 2005.

Parents of soldiers are also becoming increasingly involved in the anti-war movement. This is seen in the brave campaign of Rose Gentle in Scotland, who has galvanised her community in opposition to the war in Iraq and around the slogan “bring the troops home”. The recent demonstration in Pollok saw hundreds of predominantly local people - parents and young people, come out to show support. The crowd included many with children in the armed forces. This campaign illustrated that there is no division between grassroots work in communities and wider international campaigns like the anti-war movement. The SSP has shown the synergy that can be created between the two approaches.

With or without Bush, Blair must be made to pay for the invasion of Iraq. The General Election will provide us with an opportunity to hold the New Labour war-mongers to account.