The Great Bi-Partisan Deception
Some cancer is too aggressive even for chemotherapy. The US political system is infected with such a disease; and we may be witnessing the first death spasms. In a country ravaged by war and economic crisis, with tens of millions of people suffering, politicians are capable of doing absolutely nothing to help ordinary people. The only two “achievements” of the Democrat’s super majority in the Senate — over the course of five months — were an ineffectual stimulus package and a “surge” of troops in Afghanistan.
Now the two party system is reshuffling to pursue a joint mission. Policies that the corporate elite have been planning for decades are in the process of being implemented. The recession is being used as the ultimate excuse to gut Medicare, Social Security, public education and other social services while expanding war, corporate tax breaks and corporate health care.
Typically, the Republicans leave the really dirty work to the Democrats, who enforce pro-corporate policies by exploiting their political capital with labor and community groups — while somehow managing to emerge “the lesser of two evils.” This is why Bill Clinton was left with the task of “reforming” welfare and implementing NAFTA. In regards to “reforming” Social Security, Bush looked into the abyss and got scared; better to let the Democrats play with that fire.
Obama, then, is being left to perform the dirtiest of missions. He refuses to do it alone. This is the motive behind his never-ending plea for “bi-partisan cooperation.” While the Democrats had a super majority in the Senate and huge House majority, Obama never stopped begging the Republicans to join him. And, yes, Obama understands that the Republicans hate him, insult him in public, and are betting high stakes on his failure. Still, he needs them to bear some of the political weight that comes with attacking popular social programs. The Republicans will likely meet Obama in the middle over many of these key issues; they don’t want to miss this historic opportunity to implement ideas they’ve been advancing for years through right-wing think tanks.
Thus, the Democrats worked with the Republicans in the Senate finance committee to create the still-pending corporate health care bill. The upcoming “bi-partisan health care summit” will likely be used to get further Republican support for this giant corporate giveaway. If the bill is then passed, the millions of people forced to buy shoddy health care will have both parties to denounce.
The Democrats also recently worked with the Republicans to create a corporate-oriented jobs bill, which focuses on tax breaks and credits for businesses. This bill — reduced to only 15 billion dollars by the Democrats — cannot guarantee that one new job will be created. Both parties, however, agreed that actually creating jobs should take a back seat to catering to the needs of corporations.
In regard to education, Obama’s plan — disingenuously named Race to the Top — dismantles public education. The essence of this plan was taken from the longtime conservative ideas of replacing public schools with private charter schools and imposing teacher merit pay; both will decimate public education and teachers’ unions, as was done in both New Orleans and Chicago. U.S. News declared that “Republicans and Democrats can Embrace Obama’s Race to the Top for Education” (December 2, 2009). Indeed, Republicans have remained largely quiet about the plan, while secretly taking credit for an idea that goes far to the right of Bush’s No Child Left Behind.
When it comes to Social Security and Medicare, Obama is going forward with his “bi-partisan deficit reduction committee.” And the purpose of this committee? The corporate-friendly Wall Street Journal correctly called it the “Political Cover Commission.”
“A gang of 10 Democrats and eight Republicans would be charged to come up with ways to reduce the deficit. The idea is for everyone to hold hands and agree to raise taxes and cut entitlement spending together [Medicare, Social Security, etc.], so neither party gets the blame.” (January 21, 2010).
In this case, the Wall Street Journal’s motivation for truth telling is to warn Republicans of the political fallout for such a move. The Journal would rather the Democrats take total blame for their corporate motivated policies. And this may be what ends up happening.
The Republicans may end up forcing the Democrats to go it alone in implementing crucial aspects of the above right-wing agenda. One way the Democrats have threatened to go solo is through the process of “budget reconciliation,” which allows them to bypass a Republican filibuster. The Philadelphia Inquirer explains:
“Democrats in the House and Senate can pass health-care reform — and the rest of Obama's agenda — by insisting on majority rule instead of the 60-vote supermajority that it lost in the Senate with the surprise election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts.” (February 14, 2010).
Such a bold move would be commendable if it were to be used to help average people. Instead, it will be used to shift massive amounts of wealth away from the working class toward corporations. If the Democrats accomplish this sinister feat alone, the Republicans will be seen as the populist party of opposition, while the Democrats will enter political oblivion.
To ensure the Democrat’s fall, a final prop must be removed. Labor unions and community groups must refuse future support to this corporate-owned party. In the meantime, these groups must unite in opposition to the above bi-partisan agenda. A massive education campaign is needed to inform workers about the coming assault on their long-cherished social programs. Social Security, Medicare, and public education, etc., must be saved by ending wars and bank bailouts, and by raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org).. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Socialism or Barbarism?|
Time is of the essence. Given the descent into barbarism that the world is witnessing as a result of the breakdown in capitalism, there is a very real danger that US-led militarism could escalate even further from its existing criminal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan into an all-out conflagration with any number of countries designated to be geopolitical rivals or miscreants: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba. History proves that this is always the brutal outcome when the profit system is threatened with total collapse.
For those committed to creating a world of social justice and peace, it is vital to communicate as widely as possible as to the precise cause of the present economic failure, with its consequent social misery and violence. Let’s not be under any illusions about the root of barbarism today: it is, as Rosa Luxemburg and others have pointed out, the failure of capitalism as a system of production and distribution to meet human needs in an equitable, democratic and sustainable way.
Equally vital in this hour is the need to put forward an alternative to barbarism in order to mobilise the majority of ordinary people ravaged by the capitalist kleptocracy; to provide a clear set of social, economic and political objectives. Otherwise, the kleptocrats — the corporate leaders, banks, financial gamblers and their political and military servants — will attempt purging the crisis through escalated war (and all the chaos and disinformation that will ensue).
What also needs to be communicated widely is that the objective of democratic control of the economy cannot be achieved within the two-party system of the US and most other western states. These parties have shown themselves to be willing partners-in-crime with the oligarchy, which also includes the leaders of labour unions who have served to emasculate workers and their rights.
To that end, the case must be made more than ever that socialism is a viable alternative to this barbarism. To save time and space here, readers can avail of several existing statements for practical, socialist change (for example, see www.wsws.org and www.workerscompass.org). In brief, the objective is to bring production under democratic control so that basic human needs for food and accommodation, meaningful work, health and education become the determinants of the economy — not the private profit of an elite that has evidently brought whole societies to their knees. As a first step, the major, vital industries (manufacturers, energy, communications and banks) must be properly nationalised, that is, brought under democratic control to meet needs democratically. A half-baked form of nationalism is already underway with taxpayer bailouts of automakers and banks. The trouble is that the kleptocrats are still receiving the lion’s share of financial rewards. So, any baulking by the oligarchy and their media mouthpieces over “public ownership” should be laughed at with derision.
In communicating the viability of socialism, the use of language needs to be precise in order to debunk myths and disinformation so as to help the constituency for change — the majority of citizens — retain their focus on the required direction for democratic change. Here are some myths and disinformation:
Myth 1: Capitalism runs on the supply and demand of free individuals exercising choices in a free market. This is a powerful myth because it deceptively conflates a deeply held democratic principle of freedom with economic workings. Whatever about early capitalism of two centuries ago and more, the present period of late capitalism is largely bereft of free markets and choices. Think of Boeing and Raytheon. These “emblems of American capitalism” would not survive without massive taxpayer subventions from the $710 billion that the US government lavishes on the Pentagon every year. President Obama recently congratulated top Wall Street bankers on receiving multi-million-dollar bonuses, saying that it was the manifestation of the American “free market” system. Given the monopoly of these banks, the ruin that they have plunged societies into, and the taxpayer bailouts to shore up the unseemly wealth of a financial elite, the espousal of such a myth by Obama is ludicrous. Also, just what is so free about the millions of workers who were compelled to take on reckless mortgage debts in order to make ends meet because their wages and livelihoods had been bled dry over decades by the oligarchy?
Myth 2: Centrally planned economies don’t work. Try telling that to the world’s top transnational corporations, all of whom plan their production and distribution operations rationally with massive government (taxpayer) intervention to facilitate their operations. Oil companies are a classic example. The biggest oil company in the world, Saudi Aramco, is estimated to be worth $7 trillion and dwarfs the likes of Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell. Aramco is rated as one of the most efficient international enterprises in terms of production, technological innovation and business. It is 100 per cent state-owned and bankrolls Saudi Arabia’s social development. In the real world, that kind of industrial success is more akin to socialism than national free market capitalism. There is no reason why similar control could not be applied to all major industries, especially given recent developments in information technology (another centrally planned success!) which would ensure production and supply is geared to meet real social needs.
Myth 3: Socialism has been tried and doesn’t work, degenerating into despotic barbarism. References to the Soviet Union are a red herring. The Stalinist-type dictatorship came into being under specific historical circumstances, for example, the immediate attack on the Russian Revolution by the West, creating an inward-looking bureaucratic state run by a reactionary elite. Note also the deformities of the Second World War and the ensuing Cold War (see Jacques Pauwels, www.globalresearch.ca). Many supporters of socialism were among the most trenchant critics of the Soviet Union long before its collapse. And anyway, what if a crude attempt at creating socialism failed? Capitalist economies fail all the time throughout history, degenerating into despotic barbarism, as in the present.
Myth 4: Socialism is un-American. While the Stalinist caricature of socialism is contrary to the values of US citizens — and other democratic — the principles of solidarity, equality, and opposition to elite power are not. The many accounts of socialist movements throughout American history, as documented by the late Howard Zinn, are testimony to that.
Myth 5: Socialism already exists in the form of the US oligarchy. This is a particularly wrong-headed myth. Some commentators have referred to the White House-Wall Street complex as Obama’s “Marxist/socialist entourage”. Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times, describes the cozy relationship between government and financiers as “a kind of socialism”. Make no mistake: the deformed, dysfunctional economies of the US and Europe are the outcome of decades of capitalist misrule. To label the crisis wrongly with lazy terminology, as Krugman and others do, only serves to disinform the wider public as to the true cause of the problem and what can be a viable change of course.
Myth 6: The crisis is caused by “unfettered capitalism”. In other words, capitalism can be controlled. It can’t. The entire history of the US — the unravelling of legislation and the bending of courts and the constitution by corporate lobbyists — is a classic case study in itself of how capitalism inexorably subverts democratic control and concentrates power and wealth for a minority, leaving the majority dispossessed and disenfranchised.
Myth 7: Class politics and class war is an anachronism. Ironically, just the opposite. The living standards of workers, their families and communities are being brutally savaged by a tiny class — the oligarchy. The constituency for radical political change in the US, Europe and elsewhere has probably never been bigger. And of those workers — whether blue or white collar — lucky enough to still have a job, just ask how many of them feel as if they are one pay cheque away from poverty. That amounts to a serious class of people with abundantly more common interest than the wealthy elite; a serious class of people who increasingly have “got nothing to lose except their chains”.
All the above is only a sketch of what kind of society and economy is achievable. More details can be added as people come together to work out, through the consensus of the “common good”, what they need to achieve. The point for now is to encourage the majority of people to work together; to think and act independently from the misrulers, with all their myths and self-serving disinformation; to be confident in the conviction that real democracy is achievable; that basic human needs can be met equitably; and that countries can co-exist in a true spirit of peaceful internationalism free from the barbarism of capitalist rivalry and war. Socialism is the way for this to be achieved, not just because it is morally right, but also because it is arguably a superior form of society and economy.
The emperor has no clothes…