Capitalists intensify attacks, Resistance grows

Posted by Janet Tuckers on April 6, 2017 under Pre-Convention Discussion | Be the First to Comment

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Time of Day Briefing
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy & Socialism
by Randy Shannon

This report will discuss some context and focus on some important elements in the present conjuncture.
The capitalist class is unified in the drive to reverse the decline in the rate of profit that became critical in the 1970’s due to labor’s growing bargaining power. The capitalist class is pursuing four tactics to restore the profitability of their system of production relations – globalization, neoliberal austerity, financial speculation, and military expansion.

The economic, political, and social crisis that we now experience is evidence that the bourgeois solution to their crisis is a failure. The system has not recovered. There is no expansion of production, no revival of infrastructure investment, and the 1.1% annual increase in labor productivity since the Great Recession is the lowest in history.

The deepening crisis is emblematic of Gramsci’s analysis: “A crisis occurs, sometimes lasting for decades. This exceptional duration means that incurable structural contradictions have reached maturity, and that, despite this, the political forces which are struggling to…defend the existing structure…are making [persistent] efforts to…overcome [the contradictions]. These…persistent efforts form the terrain of the conjunctural and it is upon this terrain that the forces of opposition organize…any falling short before a historical duty increases the necessary disorder and prepares more serious catastrophes.”

The capitalists are now divided on how to proceed. The new dominant option is to double down on the exploitation of labor, destroy the regulatory limits on production, abandon the social safety net, and steal undeveloped natural resources. The former option is to profit from crises like global warming with limited new investment, invest in more automation, slowly erode the social safety net, and gain consent for intensified exploitation of labor and natural resources through trade agreements.

For the working class the unifying elements are the increase in exploitation of labor accompanied by an attack on unions, depressed wage growth, an intensified work pace, automation, and increasingly authoritarian management of the workplace. In the US 40% of the civilian labor force is out of the labor market and 15% of the employed do not have stable jobs.

These conditions are profoundly affecting the political consensus. Loyalty to the employer and the dominant culture is challenged by dismay at the tremendous disparity in wealth and income while millions struggle in poverty or on the edge of poverty. Consent to the leadership of the hegemonic block dominated by finance capital with labor and minority organizations as partners began eroding in the 1970s with the beginning of neoliberal austerity. Now the neoliberal bloc has lost control of the government apparatus. The Democratic Party, their effective agent of consent, has lost the trust of the progressive majority.

The inability of the center-left forces to organize political opposition to neoliberal austerity, globalization, and financial speculation allowed the far right to exploit economic anxiety using xenophobia, racism, sexism, and great power chauvinism to build an alternative political consensus. Although far from a majority, this far right consensus, helped by fraud at the polls, elected a far-right authoritarian government. The election outcome has shocked the financial elite and their partners in the Democratic Party, the labor movement, and the progressive majority.

The fledgling Sanders primary campaign, although unable to upset neoliberal dominance, articulated an opposition to the policies of neoliberal capital that can mobilize the progressive majority. The Sanders campaign also highlighted the inability of the left to field a competent team of ideological and practical organizers and activists. There was no left infrastructure either inside or outside the Democratic Party to wage an effective ground game or to guarantee that the votes cast for Sanders would be counted.

Likewise there was no left or liberal infrastructure in the Democratic Party that was willing or able to challenge the massive fraudulent elimination of African-American voters from the polls in numerous swing states, including Michigan and Wisconsin where their numbers exceeded Trump’s margin of victory.

The Trump administration immediately attacked the government infrastructure so that governance is in the hands of a few Wall St. and far-right loyalists constituting an authoritarian clique. The Republican attack on healthcare coupled with a massive tax cut for the wealthy and Trump’s budget proposal liquidating most social programs provided the shocked electorate with the first concrete issues.

We are in the midst of a building wave of social, cultural, and political resistance and opposition to the far-right agenda. The women’s march on January 21st was a mobilization of 3 million across the country raising numerous issues, but focused on equality and respect for women. This 3 million is one quarter the size of an effective mass counterweight to the authoritarian government, based on the research of Erica Chenoweth. The mobilization of 3 million was a remarkable achievement and a promising step toward the practical goal of 13 million nonviolent resisters.

The women’s march was followed by a broad mobilization of millions directed at the Congress to stop the destruction of Medicaid to pay for a tax cut for the rich. Again women were at the forefront. Daily Action, a political service that texts subscribers with a suggested political action for the day, was launched in December. Over 250,000 subscribers log an average 10,000 calls per day. A poll of these grass roots activists found that of the 28,000 respondents, 86% were women and over 60% were 46 or older. Almost 75% reported they planned to attend more protests. The growing activism and emergence of leadership of women in the resistance to the far-right and for a progressive agenda is a critical element in the development of the progressive majority.

The Sanders campaign has awakened the youth to the political reality and the necessity to work for change. Our Revolution has succeeded the campaign as an organization of 66,000 activists and a mobilization tool for even more. The critical element for the development of the progressive majority is the flood of young Bernie activists into Democratic Socialists of America – DSA. This is becoming a mass phenomenon that reflects the millennials’ negative assessment of US capitalism. DSA has become the base upon which the young generation seeks to build a left alternative to bourgeois politics. DSA is multi-tendency with a flexible approach to the struggle for political power. The mass development of DSA chapters across the country presents a critical demand for left resources to help build the organization into the left pole of US politics.

There are two levels of problems that we confront. One is the overall problem of developing an effective resistance and counter-attack against the far right that can mobilize 13 million nonviolent protesters. This problem can only be solved by arguing for a broad coalition of all the organizations in the progressive majority. The North Carolina Moral Monday coalition provides a model for solving this problem. The June 9the People’s Summit in Chicago is a step in this direction.

The upsurge is taking many forms. Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Black Lives Matter have seen new support and activism. #DemEnter, Progressive Democrats of America, Progressive Caucus formation in 18 state Democratic Parties, Indivisible, and many local groups are expanding size and impact as they fight for leadership of the Democratic Party. The path forward requires work to unite the new activists around a progressive agenda that focuses on concrete issues rather than personalities; unites different social strata; and builds solidarity with the African American, Latino, and Muslim communities that are targets of the xenophobic racists in the government.

A particularly difficult set of problems confront the trade union movement. The Trump regime and the Republican Congress will intensify capital’s war on the unions. The unions representing federal employees are fighting back. Across the country labor activists are supporting the many groups forming the resistance to Trump. Unions and Labor Councils are working in coalition with progressive forces. Key areas of labor involvement are protecting immigrant workers, fighting to raise the minimum wage, and protecting and expanding access to healthcare.

However, the unions’ defensive ability is compromised by the failure of the labor-management partnership, established in the 1950s, to serve the interests of rank- and – file workers. The labor-management partnership includes the political alliance of trade union leadership with the corporate wing of the Democratic Party. This has required the acceptance of the erosion of workers’ rights. This deal has demoralized and demobilized the mass of union workers and their friends. This trend resulted in the political blowback of 2016 in which 37% of union members voted for Trump, according to an AFL-CIO poll. The Building Trades Unions met with and praised Trump, while AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka praised Trump’s reactionary State of the Union address to Congress. SEIU announced a 30% budget cut to deal with the anticipated assault on its members. As a top staff member of the USW said to me: “We feel that our members abandoned the union when they voted for Trump and the members feel that the union abandoned them when we supported Clinton because of the trade issue.” Labor is facing important internal and external challenges that must be successfully confronted for the power of the progressive majority to grow. Labor leadership must be at the core of a successful nonviolent movement of 13 million Americans.

Lastly the threat of nuclear war has accelerated since the second Obama Administration and is near a dangerous critical mass. The Trump administration is committed to carry out Obama’s $1 trillion nuclear escalation including a new level of nuclear threat to Russia with an ABM system in eastern Europe. This is accompanied by a simultaneous mobilization of the largest number of US troops, tanks, and war-fighting equipment into eastern Europe since World War 2. The US navy is also building up a fleet of warships in the Black Sea. The US is leading a boycott of the first session of United Nations talks on a treaty eliminating nuclear weapons, joined by Britain, France and 37 other countries. The left and the progressive majority must find a path of effective rejection of nuclear arms to guarantee humanity’s future.

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