The Shutdown Showdown and the Crisis of US Capitalism

Congress majority leader Cantor, Congress minority leader Pelosi, Congress speaker Boehner, President Obama, Senate majority leader Reid and Senate minority leader McConnell. Photo: White HouseAs explained in the latest Socialist Appeal editorial, Ruling Class Divisions Deepen, the US government shutdown over parts of the federal budget and Republican opposition to “Obamacare” is in the final analysis, a reflection of the insoluble contradictions of capitalism. Due to our readers’ keen interest in what is happening in the US, we are expanding our explanation and analysis of this ongoing situation.

 

Ruling Class Divisions Deepen

GovtShutdownEditorial for Socialist Appeal 77 - The worldwide crisis of capitalism is leading to a deep questioning of the structures, institutions, politicians, and parties of bourgeois society. From Greece to Italy, Brazil to Turkey, Egypt to Iran, the consciousness of the masses is undergoing a profound transformation. This is not a linear process, and is not automatically and directly reflected in all countries at the same time. But the “mole of history” is busily burrowing beneath the surface, slowly but surely undermining the very ground upon which capitalism exists. The rotten roots of this system, which long ago passed its historically progressive phase, lead inevitably to expressions of decay and disease at the surface: in ideology, politics, culture, and human relations.

The Revolution Will Not Be Philanthropized

philanthropyThe bourgeoisie is not entirely blind. There are layers of the ruling class that can, on occasion, come to similar conclusions as Marxists. The benefit of a birds’ eye view of the capitalist system allows them to potentially have a more expansive view of the system as a whole—its corruption, its inequality, and its senility. This awareness of the growing anger at inequality—much of it simmering beneath the surface—explains why many of the richest individuals in the US are so concerned about ways to redirect this anger.

Detroit and the Bankruptcy of Capitalism

detroitbankruptcyOn July 18, the long–economically depressed city of Detroit officially declared its intention to file for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy is the largest ever for a US city, with $18 to 20 billion in debt. It is also the largest US city to ever go bankrupt, despite the disastrous collapse in the population over the last 30 years. Hurricane Katrina dramatically exposed the terrible “third world” conditions that exist for millions inside the richest country on the planet. Although a natural disaster played a part in bringing things to a head, the tragedy in New Orleans was above all man-made. In the case of Detroit, however, the disaster is entirely manmade.

The Roar of Revolution

tahrir2013Editorial for Issue #75 -As we discussed the cover and contents for this issue of Socialist Appeal, the focus changed rapidly from the NSA and Edward Snowden, to the uprising in Turkey, to the mass protests in Brazil, and finally settled on the magnificent and riveting revival of the Egyptian revolution. This is a graphic illustration of the times we live in: an epoch of war, revolution, counterrevolution, crisis, and instability. From one day to the next, like a “lightning bolt from a clear blue sky,” dramatic events can shake the world and galvanize workers’ attention. But with the grinding crisis of capitalism as a backdrop, these events should surprise no one. They are part and parcel of one and the same process: the process of the world socialist revolution.


tahrir2013As we discussed the cover and contents for this issue of Socialist Appeal, the focus changed rapidly from the NSA and Edward Snowden, to the uprising in Turkey, to the mass protests in Brazil, and finally settled on the magnificent and riveting revival of the Egyptian revolution. This is a graphic illustration of the times we live in: an epoch of war, revolution, counterrevolution, crisis, and instability. From one day to the next, like a “lightning bolt from a clear blue sky,” dramatic events can shake the world and galvanize workers’ attention. But with the grinding crisis of capitalism as a backdrop, these events should surprise no one. They are part and parcel of one and the same process: the process of the world socialist revolution.

Over the last few weeks, the relative calm of the previous months was shattered. Turkey and Brazil, supposed bastions of regional stability and “models” for the world to follow, exploded in class struggle. In Iran, the election results shocked most observers, and revealed the resilience of the masses in their efforts to use every opportunity to weaken the regime. In Portugal and Greece, enormous general strikes continue to hammer away at the austerity-imposing governments, which will eventully fall as a result of the pressure.

With the coming to power of the Muslim Brotherhood, imperialist intervention in Libya, and the quagmire of Syria, many had proclaimed the “Arab Spring” dead and buried, replaced instead by the “Winter of Reaction.” But the events of the last few years are a reminder that revolutions are a dialectically contradictory process, not a linear, one-act drama. For the Marxists, there was never any doubt that the colossal reserves of revolutionary energy in the Middle East and North Africa are far from being exhausted. What is lacking is not a spirit of sacrifice and a burning desire for a fundamental change. To paraphrase Trotsky, what is lacking is leadership, leadership, and again, leadership! It will have to be built in the heat of events, and the Morroccan comrades of the IMT, who produce the Arabic-language website Marxy.com are playing a key role in this work.

The NSA revelations also come as no surprise to the Marxists. However, the scope of the spying, the collusion between the government and technology companies, and the fact that it is now confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt, has opened many people’s eyes to the reality of the “freedoms” we enjoy at the beginning of the 21st century. The excuse may be terrorism, but the real, long-term target of these activities is the labor movement and the left. The mass movements erupting around the world are a mirror image of what we will see right here in the heart of imperialism. Similar conditions lead to similar results, and austerity cannot be imposed indefinitely without the working class fighting back. Like wildfires, economic crises and revolutions do not respect borders, and the ruling class is preparing for the battles ahead. The workers must do the same!

However, the need to spy on everyone in order to monitor their activities is a sign of weakness, not of strength. It is a reflection of the precarious situation capitalism finds itself in. If the system was booming, and the workers were confident in the future, then the system itself would convince people that it is the “best of all possible worlds.” In fact, precisely the opposite is true. Capitalism itself is doing most of the work of convincing the workers that it is a decrepit and historically obsolete system.

Even the Wall Street Journal understands this. In a recent article by Francis Fukuyama—whose infamous words about “the end of history” after the collapse of the USSR are now coming back to haunt him—we find the following: “The new middle class is not just a challenge for authoritarian regimes or new democracies. No established democracy should believe it can rest on its laurels, simply because it holds elections and has leaders who do well in opinion polls. The technologically empowered middle class will be highly demanding of their politicians across the board . . . The U.S. and Europe are experiencing sluggish growth and persistently high unemployment, which for young people in countries like Spain reaches 50%. In the rich world, the older generation also has failed the young by bequeathing them crushing debts. No politician in the U.S. or Europe should look down complacently on the events unfolding in the streets of Istanbul and São Paulo. It would be a grave mistake to think, ‘It can’t happen here.’”

Replace “middle class” with “working class” and you have a fairly accurate assessment of the situation from one of the most prominent mouthpieces of capitalism. In historic terms, the United States will not be long in joining our working class sisters and brothers in open revolt against this system. But as in Egypt, what is lacking in the United States is a revolutionary leadership with deep roots in the working class and among the youth. Building such a leadership in advance of the historic events that are on the horizon is the task the Workers International League has set itself.

Standing on the sidelines, pessimistically complaining about the crisis of the system, engaging in mindless activism, launching doomed and unprincipled efforts to achieve “left unity,” and forming “revolutionary parties” of just a handful of people with no capacity or perspective for connecting with the living movement of the workers, will get us nowhere. Fighting for revolutionary internationalism, a mass party of labor based on the unions, and educating workers and young people in the ideas and methods of Marxism is a painstaking process, but there is no other way forward. We invite you to join us in this struggle.