From: Frederick Engels's--- Socialism: Utopian and Scientific/ (part of his /Anti-Dühring/), is a description of the crisis of capitalism that seems uncannily appropriate to today.
* * *
Commerce is at a standstill, the markets are glutted, products accumulate, as multitudinous as they are unsaleable, hard cash disappears, credit vanishes, factories are closed, the mass of the workers are in want of the means of subsistence, because they have produced too much of the means of subsistence; bankruptcy follows upon bankruptcy, execution upon execution. The stagnation lasts for years; productive forces and products are wasted and destroyed wholesale, until the accumulated mass of commodities finally filter off, more or less depreciated in value, until production and exchange gradually begin to move again. Little by little the pace quickens. It becomes a trot. The industrial trot breaks into a canter, the canter in turn grows into the headlong gallop of a perfect steeplechase of industry, commercial credit and speculation, which finally, after breakneck leaps, ends where it began--in the ditch of a crisis. And so over and over again. We have now, since the year 1825, gone through this five times, and at the present moment (1877) we are going through it for the sixth time.... The fact that the socialised organisation of production within the factory has developed so far that it has become incompatible with the anarchy of production in society, which exists side by side with and dominates it, is brought home to the capitalists themselves by the violent concentration of capital that occurs during crises, through the ruin of many large, and a still greater number of small, capitalists. The whole mechanism of the capitalist mode of production breaks down under the pressure of the productive forces, its own creations. It is no longer able to turn all this mass of means of production into capital. They lie fallow, and for that very reason the industrial reserve army must also lie fallow. Means of production, means of subsistence, available labourers, all the elements of production and of general wealth, are present in abundance. But "abundance becomes the source of distress and want" (Fourier), because it is the very thing that prevents the transformation of the means of production and subsistence into capital. For in capitalistic society the means of production can only function when they have undergone a preliminary transformation into capital, into the means of exploiting human labour power.
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific/
part of his...
New York: International Publishers, 1935, pages 64-65
This is a very important speech by Sam Webb, the National Chair of the Communist Party USA. Webb came to Chair a Party of over 18,000 members and has overseen the dismantling of the Communist Party USA to an all-time low national membership of 314 (three-hundred fourteen members nation-wide.)
In this speech, Sam Webb uses every kind of evasive method to lay out his revisionist agenda which I will examine in minute detail over the weeks and months ahead in order to to encourage broad dialogue, discussion and debate. I invite you to join the discussion. E-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 218-386-2432.
As auto and steel workers face mass unemployment and industrial collapse, leave it to Sam Webb to say the best is yet to come from the Administration of Barack Obama--- as if Obama and the Democrats have nothing to do with squeezing every last drop of blood from auto workers.
I would note, that in spite of all of Webb's grand proclamations in defense of "democracy," Webb refuses to allow his ideas to be debated where they should be up for discussion right alongside the views he opposes (such as the views of James Petras which I publish below): on the CPUSA web site and in its newspaper, the PWW, and in its on-line journal, Political Affairs. Instead, Webb falsely characterizes the views of others in the name of debunking those views... one of the cheapest tricks known and widely used by the hacks of the Democratic and Republican parties but which does nothing to educate and empower the working class which needs honest information to fight back and defend its rights and dignity.
Sam Webb is a middle class intellectual whose only employment has been as a paid, full-time staff member of the CPUSA for over 45 years. Webb "climbed the ladder" in what is commonly referred to as being a "kiss ass;" saying what he thought people wanted to hear so he could climb his way to the "top."
Webb is most noteworthy for his lack of specifics and his knack for writing and speaking in glowing generalities in order to try to escape critique and criticism; and controversy. Generalities and vagueness are the two main characteristics of revisionism and working class betrayal while controversy is a requirement for engaging in the class struggle. Thus we find Webb isolated within his million-dollar, glass-walled cubicle office where he produces YouTube videos and writings aimed at preventing unity of the working class around solutions to problems as he fosters a most pernicious and patronizing form of racism as he slanders the achievements of past working class struggles while constantly promoting the idea that, if given time, Obama will at some point be our savior.
Sam Webb has not been heard from at public meetings for years but instead chooses to address American workers through YouTube presentations made in his newly remodeled million-dollar glass office in New York City.
Sam Webb sends out press releases concerning the million-dollar remodeling job of the CPUSA offices while Webb refuses to say where the funding came from; and, even the Associated Press doesn't ask... apparently just happy, that while being given a tour of these new "green offices" that Webb doesn't comment on the need to end these dirty imperialist wars nor comment on the economic depression by suggesting that capitalism has failed and, for our survival, requires replacement with socialism.
Webb ordered all neighborhood and plant-gate distributions of the People's Weekly World newspaper to be discontinued; he ordered the printed version of Political Affairs to cease.
Webb, also, liquidated and destroyed all publications and books written by Gus Hall in the name of combating what he considers to be problems created by 20th Century socialism, or, as he puts it: "It (socialism A.L.M.) can't be a redux of 20th century socialism" as if there is something to be ashamed of in the history of the Communist movements and governments of the 20th Century rather than some problems which need to be surmounted as if the Communist movements of the present can be separated from those heroic struggles of the past.
This and other material can be found at the CPUSA website. I would encourage regular reading:
People's Weekly World:
Today, more than ever, working people need a large, powerful Communist Party USA with a big public presence; not a Communist Party where its leaders are isolated behind glass-walled offices constructed inside of a brick building acting like leaders of a Scientology cult as they give "green" tours of the million-dollar remodeling job to the mainstream media without explaining how capitalism has collapsed.
When John McCain and Sarah Palin along with a myriad of right-wing organizations attacked Barack Obama as being a "socialist," a "Marxist," and a "communist" they were begging for real communists to be participants in the electoral arena and to come into "the public square" for debate... these anti-communist attacks went on non-stop for at least two years... how did Sam Webb respond? By completely withdrawing the Communist Party USA from the electoral arena, and now he comes out boasting that under his leadership something the Communist Party did contributed to the defeat of anti-communism during this campaign! And Webb gets away with stating this to the National Committee of the CPUSA without having to explain what it was that was done! And not one member of the National Committee asked for an explanation!
Working people need a Communist Party USA that belongs to them; not to those who make million-dollar contributions for remodeling jobs as payment for support through providing a left cover to flim-flam artists and con-men like Barack Obama.
Working people need a Communist Party USA to be a part of their struggles to resolve so many long-standing grievances and to fight the growing injustices of the present... beginning with the assaults on the working class we already see emanating from Barack Obama with full complicity of worthless, class collaborationist labor "leaders" like John Sweeney, Andrew Stern and Ron Gettelfinger who has joined the management of the Big Three in trying to shove another round of plant closings, concessions and mass unemployment down the throats of auto workers without even trying to challenge corporate domination with calls for nationalization through public ownership of the auto, steel financial and energy industries.
I think it is very important to note that in this speech by Sam Webb, published in the midst of calls for tax-payers (the working class) to bailout the auto industry, Webb does not even attempt to broach any of this, in any way, because he is afraid that his perspective will be shown to be as bankrupt as the CEO's of the Big Three and the present sellout leadership of the UAW.
Here in Minnesota we are still waiting for Sam Webb to express his views concerning what needs to be done to save the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and the hydro dam powering the operation which still provides over 1,000 jobs. All Webb has been able to say is, "There is nothing to be done; this is a done deal."
One has to wonder, after reading Webb's speech here if he thinks working people can do anything about anything.
It is very interesting that Webb would send a reporter for the PWW off to Grand Rapids, Michigan to cover an Obama campaign rally yet this reporter fails to cover the closing of the huge General Motors Stamping Plant in Grand Rapids and fails to ask Obama what he specifically intends to do to halt these plant closings and what he intends to allow the Big Three to do with these idle plants. So far, these plants, like the huge Oldsmobile Plant in Lansing, Michigan have been demolished.
Webb conveniently ignores the crisis in the steel industry which makes the crisis in auto seem minuscule... as the robber barons of the steel industry are waiting in the wings to ask Congress to bailout the steel industry, too, as employment dwindles--- again--- in the taconite industry and mines are closed on the Iron Range as part of the corporate blackmail scheme to get a bailout.
Webb does not even question the thinking of the capitalist soothsayers touting "free enterprise" who have stood in opposition to free lunches for school children even as they call on tax-payers to foot the bill for multi-million dollar parties for corporate CEO's and their friends paid for with these bailout monies.
It is not coincidental that Webb has failed to address the problems in the auto and steel industries just as he has joined the chorus of Barack Obama's Wall Street puppeteers who pull his strings in trying to sidetrack us all from simultaneously building grassroots and rank and file movements to fight for economic and social justice as part of an anti-imperialist campaign to end these dirty wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and prevent these wars from expanding into Pakistan and possibly, now, even to India.
Webb and his new found "progressive" friends sing, "Give Obama A Chance;" even as Obama arrogantly looks on without lifting his voice--- or a finger--- to put a stop to foreclosures and evictions as he gives his approval to Bush to bail out the banks and corporations.
Webb even uses the language of Barack Obama's Wall Street puppeteers in referring to ending these dirty imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan... read for yourself how Webb speaks of ending these imperialist wars in the same way Colin Powell and the Generals do. The imperialist time-frame for ending these wars meets with Webb's approval since he believes liberals, progressives and the left should not do anything which would give Obama an excuse to to shunt them aside (as if Obama needs an excuse to dismiss liberals, progressives and the left; Obama already has!)
Webb calls on us to ignore Obama's cabinet appointments telling us the appointments of these reactionary warmongers who have served the military-financial-industrial complex of Wall Street coupon clippers so well don't really matter even as he tries to tell us Obama is like Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt... well, where is Obama's Frances Perkins, Henry Wallace, Harry Hopkins, Admiral Leahy and Fred Stover?
Webb ignores all activity on the part of liberals, progressives and the left to generate public awareness of the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights; why? This is a very important Declaration which should mean as much to our country as the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. Instead, Webb savagely attacks those working to create awareness of the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is no coincidence that those who are exhorting us to build a "new New Left" after the old "New Left" was a dead-end alley are now praising Sam Webb's speech published below. It was even posted on the "Progressives for Obama" list-serve and heaped with praise--- again, not coincidentally at the same time the pathetic statement from the Committees of Correspondence statement in support of the auto bailout--- without mention of the need for nationalization and public ownership of the auto industry--- was posted to this same list serve. Not a mention that "what tax-payers finance, tax-payers should own" has been omitted.
Webb has joined the old "New Left" of Carl Davidson and Tom Hayden who are the proponents of the "new New Left" in giving lip-service to building movements while doing absolutely nothing.
One only has to think back to the last time Webb or any national leader of the CPUSA was seen passing out the PWW or Communist Party USA leaflets at an Obama campaign rally.
We have to ask, "Why wasn't the excellent article from the People's Weekly World by Art Perlo the head of the CPUSA's Economic Commission on ""the crisis of family debt"" distributed at each and every Obama campaign rally? Heck, it wasn't even distributed at one single Obama rally! So much for Webb's intent to do anything in the way of grassroots and rank and file organizing. A petition along the lines of the article could have been circulated--- in fact it still could, and should be, but this hasn't and probably won't be done. We have to ask, "Why not?"
Webb now urges us all to participate in Obama's inaugural festivities which he assures us will be breathtaking and unparalleled in U.S. history.
Wouldn't Obama's inauguration ceremonies in Washington D.C. be a great place for all 314 dues paying members of the CPUSA to gather under the leadership of Sam Webb to distribute Art Perlo's article on "the crisis of family debt" along with circulating a petition? This would be the kind of Communist leadership this "historic moment" requires.
The real question is this:
Will Sam Webb and Communist Party leaders be distributing the People's Weekly World and Communist Party USA leaflets bringing forward real solutions to the problems confronting the working class at Obama's inaugural events? After all, wouldn't it be quite logical if Webb is serious about anything he says for Communist Party USA leaders to get out and among Obama's enthusiastic supporters at all the inaugural events explaining that as long as working people are not as well organized as the Wall Streeters they will have no influence or power in an Obama Administration?
In fact, Webb in his speech completely ignores the fact that all these people were rallied by Obama the community organizer to vote for him, but, the empowerment stopped there as the United States Chamber of Commerce seamlessly rallied big-business to bring its well organized influence into play with a candidate they had branded as a "Marxist!"
Webb doesn't explain why the CPUSA missed so many opportunities to help empower working people during the campaign and now he doesn't use the occasion for the National Committee meeting to be self-critical for not doing this nor does he suggest how to compensate for this weakness.
Probably the most fundamental question we need to ask of Sam Webb is this:
Why did Sam Webb, in this important speech, fluff off and minimize the problems and dangers with Obama's Wall Street appointments to cabinet positions by carefully explaining why Wall Street's right wheel gets a routine grease job as the squeaky wheels of the working class cart pulled by two dumb donkeys are ready to fall off leaving liberals, progressives and the left which Obama rode in to the presidency on broken down and stranded?
In fact, Webb conveniently omits one very little yet extremely fundamental and important fact:
Wall Street bankers, financiers and industrialists are very well organized--- so well organized they have seamlessly taken complete ownership of President-elect Barack Obama and are already using Obama to enable George Bush and the acquiescent Democrats to pull off these bailouts while putting the full burden of these bailouts on the back of the working class in full collaboration with corrupt, class collaborationist union "leaders" as much as afraid of a fight as is Sam Webb while working people and this great vast mass of "multi-class" Obama supporters are unorganized and in disarray (except for the Wall Streeters who Webb thinks to be progressive components of team Obama)... Obama, who Webb views as the quintessential role model of the effective organizer, intentionally made sure working people were only organized well enough to deliver him votes and money while intentionally making sure that this organization did not lead to the full empowerment of those working class and middle class voters... yes indeed, no small feat and a feat which should not have been intentionally ignored by the leader of the CPUSA.
Sam Webb hails the initiatives of the Campaign for America's Future, the think tank of the AFL-CIO; however, Webb fails to ask where the resources are to implement these initiatives where people work and in the communities where they live in uniting the entire working class.
In fact, Webb has refused to address the issue of Obama's present role in the impoverishment and driving down the standard of living of the American working class because it would give lie to Obama's claim to be the spokesman for the much heralded "middle class." Tens of thousands of auto-workers and steel-workers are at present losing their jobs and will join the growing list of those being forced from their homes... but not before their electricity, heat and water is cut-off as they are forced to beg for assistance from food shelves because they are too "wealthy" to qualify for food stamps and other forms of public assistance and health care Webb claims he is for expanding.
There is no sense of urgency to solve any working class problems here on the part of Webb in this speech... this is perhaps the most obvious and glowing problem of all to any working class woman or man reading Webb's speech.
Obviously, Webb, when even mentioning the problems working people are experiencing, he does so only begrudgingly because he is confident the capitalist economy can be controlled and manipulated to become robust even though for working people--- the majority of the working class--- the capitalist economy has never been "robust" a quaint little fact Webb fails to mention... and here in lies the real hitch. Webb has no understanding of any of the problems working people are experiencing because he has no first-hand experience with any of these problems... his only employment as an adult has been as a Communist Party bureaucrat and party hack.
In fact, as the leader of the Communist Party of the United States of America, Sam Webb can not point to one single initiative undertaken under his leadership by the Communist Party USA over the last ten years concerning one single problem working people are experiencing... none, zilch. Nor, can Webb point to one single instance on the CPUSA being a participant in one single struggle of working people. This is not working class leadership.
In fact, not only have there been no initiatives in organizing any kind of defense of the standard of living of the working class, Webb has consciously tried to thwart and derail all attempts by working people to fight back as he has tried to blend and blur Communist activity to mean no pushing or prodding of the Democrats or labor "leaders" under the guise of fear of becoming alienated from the dumb donkeys and those holding up the dumb donkey's tail... and this is obviously the route of revisionist working class betrayal Sam Webb does not intend to deviate from according to his own words in this speech.
Webb says we have to be careful not to offend Barack Obama... this is sheer nonsense. Every minute Obama delays raising and using his voice to halt the Wall Street attacks on the working class he distances himself from those who supported him.
The main problem is not that Communist Party USA membership has shrunk nationwide from 18,000 members to 314 members, because many Communist Parties have come through such rough phases only to grow into mass and powerful Communist Parties as they have led working class struggles--- the Communist Party was in this much degraded organizational state prior to 1932; the problem is, Webb is living in a cult-like atmosphere within the confines of his glass offices where he is shielded from the misery being created for working people by a highly unpopular lame-duck president now being given credibility by a highly popular Barack Obama before people can figure out what he is really up to. And, Sam Webb, in making this kind of speech without specifics, intentionally evading the fact that we are in a depression from which capitalism cannot escape, only helps Obama and his Wall Street string pullers to to remain firmly in control without any organized working class opposition.
Webb should be encouraging working people to think and act in defense of their own interests not whether or not those actions will offend Obama; instead, Webb chooses to ridicule, admonish and chide people into "giving Obama a chance."
I will be going through Sam Webb's speech here point by point, paragraph by paragraph and I urge you to do the same and to add your thoughts. I will be happy to post your ideas on this speech. I invite Sam Webb to send me his comments which I will be happy to post in the interest of stimulating dialogue, discussion, debate--- most importantly, stimulating working class action.
Webb talks of creating "unity" when his speech creates misunderstanding and disunity among the working class.
Webb's speech is a fine speech for his fellow muddle-headed middle class intellectuals who do not have to live from crisis to crisis trying to survive the daily trials and tribulations of a crumbling capitalist economy on the skids to oblivion as they try to feed, clothe, house and educate, not to mention provide health care for their families.
When was the last time anyone ever saw the name of Sam Webb, Chair of the CPUSA on any document by any of the "coalition partners?" Webb refers to these "coalition partners" of his so often we just take for granted such "coalition partners" really do exist... kind of strange, but Sam Webb has never named a single "coalition partner." Just like he has never specified a single CPUSA initiative in defense of the livelihoods and standard of living of working people and the working class.
Sam Webb reminds me of some of the military officers who say to the soldiers under their command, "charge;" and when the soldiers "charge" they look back to see their commanding officer running the other way--- away from the fight. This is not good to have such leaders in the class struggle. Sam Webb is such a "leader."
Webb is already on to a "spring time of possibility" while ignoring the harsh winter realities faced by working people of:
plant, mine and mill closings;
heat, electricity and water shut-offs;
foreclosures and evictions;
unsafe and unhealthy working conditions;
students without aid being forced from their studies.
No doubt we will be hearing from Webb that summertime will be a time to look forward to, too, as there will have opened up even more possibilities like flowers in full bloom having arisen from seeds the result of warm spring rains. But, Webb has made no such careful preparations to tend to the working class struggles.
Notice, we only get a picture and speech of Sam Webb from the National Committee meeting but no views from others on what he had to say in this speech below.
Does not anyone take issue with the most demeaning and disgusting way Webb--- with one brief sentence--- slandered the socialist and communist movements, popular people's front governments, socialist and communist governments of the twentieth century and in doing so slandered the working class and national revolutionary movements beginning with the historic, humanitarian achievements of the Soviet Union and the other socialist governments? No other government--- bar none--- has ever brought so much to so many people as what was accomplished by the Soviet people in the Soviet Union under the leadership of the Soviet Communist Party--- the Party of Lenin... the scourge of capitalism, unemployment, was once and for all completely eliminated by working people who--- for the very first time in human history--- owned and controlled the wealth created by their own labor where that wealth was used to build, and than rebuild from the ruins of war, an entire human civilization including:
* the best free and completely universal health care system in the world,
* the most vigorous public housing project; with housing practically free,
* free public education from child-care right through university,
* the best--- and lowest cost--- mass transit system in the world,
* the highest quality and most advanced electric energy grid,
* the most advanced steel producing industry,
* workplaces that were the safest and healthiest that could be achieved from the coal mines to the steel mills and huge modern automotive plants.
Sam Webb ignores the fact that our sisters and brothers of the Canadian working class have, through the socialist oriented and leaning New Democratic Party, achieved one of the finest working class and farmer governments in Manitoba in which there has never been an issue of dishonesty or corruption with NDP governments in power; quite the accomplishment given the thoroughly corrupt and rotten governments of most of the rest of North America; and, when taken together with the first-class, high quality free universal health care system, a public educational system from kindergarten through high school second to none, and a university system more accessible to working class families than any other in North America even though it is not yet free--- it remains quite affordable, the important gains made in worker health and safety, the anti-racist struggle for the rights of Aboriginal people and all people of color, and the direct participation of labor unions and working people actually being able to participate in many of the important decision-making processes... in a province where the Communist Party of Canada-Manitoba has played an important role, not only in leading and helping to advance the struggles of working people for a socialist Manitoba but often having elected some of the most distinguished leaders of the Canadian and international communist movement to public office--- from Jacob Penner and Joe Zuken, to Bill and Mary Kardash... and it should be pointed out that the work of Bill Kardash who headed up the People's Cooperative for years in Winnipeg, as an elected member of the Manitoba Provincial government, gave direction and leadership to working people in a way that paved the way for the New Democratic Party to come to power in Manitoba. Bill Kardash refined the role of the Communist Party in working in a way that saw the New Democratic Party, not as an enemy because of its short-comings, but as a bulwark of the working class against capital; as a Party the Communist Party should help along, not try to defeat.
In one sentence--- "It (socialism A.L.M.) can't be a redux of 20th century socialism"--- Webb has slandered the working class movements of the twentieth century... movements that achieved historic working class victories over capital... the "crown jewel" of these working class struggles being the achievement of working class power in the Soviet Union with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the lead supported by progressives of all political persuasions across the globe.
When one views the mobster capitalism of Russia today which mirrors the most corrupt government on the face of the earth--- and Sam Webb, the national "leader" of the Communist Party USA does not even delve into, nor touch upon this corruption!--- the most violent and corrupt government in human history,the government of the United States of America where corruption is the predominant influence over government at all levels from small local governments in little communities like Warroad and St. Hillaire, Minnesota to the "Big Apple" up through county, state and federal governments in the United States... and, to Sam Webb, Chair of the Communist Party USA, this is the socialism of the twentieth century he doesn't want to see again! What kind of a Communist is Sam Webb anyways?
One has to ask "Comrade" Webb, this muddle-headed, middle-class intellectual, who has never worked a day in his life for a capitalist corporation and who admits he ran off to Canada to party to evade the draft as thousands of other young people organized and fought to end the imperialist war in Vietnam where the socialist government of the Soviet Union, which Webb so despises today, provided the Vietnamese people with the weapons they required to, for the first time in human history, enabled a National Liberation movement to defeat the most powerful imperialist government in human history--- the United States of America... and after it all establish a socialist government that every national liberation movement since has sought to emulate.
Perhaps what stands out more than anything in the 2008 Election is that so many people--- in the name of progressivism--- were, and continue to be, so willing to prostitute themselves and their ideals in supporting Barack Obama... clearly, Sam Webb has been the undisputed "leader of this pack."
Today, Sam Webb, unashamedly, aligns himself with the thinking of those from the old "New Left" seeking to promote a "new New Left" by once again slandering the historic victories and achievements of the working class and Communist movements of the Twentieth Century... from the prairies of Manitoba to the Iron Range of Minnesota to each and every continent... achievements which provide us with the best foundation upon which to build the progressive movements of today.
Shamefully, Webb, in this speech, completely ignores the very real and historic achievements of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party in bringing the working class and its allies to political power; an example, like that of the Manitoba New Democratic Party, upon which we can build the progressive movements of the Twenty-First Century.
Make no mistake, Minnesota's socialist Governor Elmer Benson--- like the Red Finns of the Iron Ranges who enthusiastically and fully supported him--- found something in the Soviet Union that Sam Webb and his AIPAC funded "new New Left friends" like Tom Hayden would like to forget--- a steadfast and loyal friend for Minnesota's farmers and workers.
Webb is loathe to describe in detail what Marx explained so thoroughly that capitalism squanders and wastes enormous resources on military expenditures and war in quest of ever greater profits.
While Webb is eager to slander the socialism of the Twentieth Century, his kind words for capitalism have no limits. Obviously, Webb is trying to distance himself from Communist and working class leaders like William Z. Foster like he does with the Soviet Union because for Webb, this muddle-headed middle class intellectual, Foster's harsh criticism in describing imperialism--- the last, most decadent, most barbaric, most cannibalistic and most parasitic stage of capitalism--- as he minced no words in stating very simply that the emblem for U.S imperialism should be "a big fat pig;" language Web finds offensive to use fearing such words might be offensive to Barack Obama who has stated his intent to continue supporting capitalism.
Speaking of "springtime of possibilities," isn't it the primary responsibility of the head of the Communist Party USA to make sure that Communist Party clubs help to initiate grassroots and rank and file activities like the warm spring rains cause dandelions to proliferate?
We need to ask Webb: What has happened to the massive network of Communist Party USA clubs where people work and in the communities where they live?
Without Communist Party clubs there is no Communist Party.
Alan L. Maki,
Minnesota/Dakotas District Communist Party USA
Please note: My responses to each paragraph will be in bold letters in brackets [ ].
I would direct the reader to the Gus Hall Action Club blog, an excellent source of information for easy to understand modern day socialist thinking with a lot of good suggestions for further reading for working people looking to get rid of capitalism: http://gushallactionclub.blogspot.com/
A Springtime of Possibility
(Speech to the November 15, 2008 National Committee meeting)
Author: Sam Webb, National Chair, CPUSA
First published 11/25/2008 17:07
Edwin Stanton, the tireless Secretary of War in President Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet said at the time of Lincoln’s death, “He belongs to the ages.” Much the same can be said about this election.
[ Give us a break! This election will become known as the beginning of a massive Wall Street attack on the working class. By the time Obama is done helping the parasitical Wall Street coupon clippers picking the bones of the working class clean we will definitely have something to remember. ]
The election challenged long-held assumptions, broke voter turnout records, and shattered seemingly unbreakable barriers – none more historic than the election of an African-American president for the first time. And all this happened in the face of negative appeals to the worst angels of the American people. But to our credit, we repudiated the old politics of fear, division, racial code words, red-baiting, immigrant bashing, and nostalgic appeals to a country and time that never were.
[ Very wishful thinking without any foundation... every kind of hate is being pushed at the American people in one form or another and many people are sucking it up. The country now stands sharply divided and the divisions will get deeper and hate will grow as the wealthy seek to cling to power and salvage this rotten capitalist system. Webb is living in some kind of la-la land. ]
If the election of Barack Obama was a monumental victory, election night itself was a magical moment. In Chicago and across the nation, tears of joy and exhilaration mingled with memories of how far we have come. As the President-elect greeted the hundreds of thousands of well wishers in Grant Park, it was hard not to think of the many struggles for freedom mapping our nation’s history.
[ "Right opportunism...is expressed in tendencies to overlook, keep silent or give an unduly optimistic slant to the main top leadership of the Democratic Party." (Gus Hall, Capitalism on the Skids to Oblivion) ]
For anyone who believes that democracy is nothing but smoke and mirrors in capitalist society, the election of Barack Obama should cause them to reconsider such paralyzing notions. Once again we learned that the struggle for freedom is a contested idea turning as it always has on whether one views freedom as inclusive or exclusive, as giving priority to human rights or property rights, and as accenting the common good or the individual good.
[ Webb obviously believes capitalism and its sham democracy has a great deal to offer working people. That a flim-flam man and con artist like Barack Obama can be elected to the highest office in the land only proves that the Wall Street bankers, financiers, industrialists, and militarists working in cahoots with Madison Avenue and Hollywood can concoct an unprecedented and unparalleled propaganda campaign capable of creating the most deceptive lies used to start wars, swindle tax-payers and elect politicians when there is a politically illiterate population intentionally denied access to socialist ideas who, for the most part, remains uneducated in the area of capitalist economics and what constitutes imperialism not to mention the socialist alternative.]
While the American people in all their diversity can and should take pride in Obama’s victory, African Americans have special claims. Obama is a son of the African American people and their role in his election was felt at every turn in the year long campaign. This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last time, that African Americans and their leaders have dramatically inserted themselves at critical junctures in our nation’s history to expand democracy for all.
[ Democracy is now severely restricted and contrary to Webb's claims, with the capitalist economy on the skids to oblivion, racism and anti-Semitism will be raising their ugly heads like never before in American history with Obama, far from standing up against campaigns of hate will acquiesce and try to undermine the struggles against these campaigns of hate now well underway as is evidenced by the hate campaigns freely using the Internet for racist, sexist and anti-communist attacks on many progressive activists which Webb conveniently chooses to ignore. Webb has pathetically resorted to the most racist patronizing characterization of Obama's "victory" where he had a "ringer" thrown in as his primary opposition. ]
The breaking of the color line constitutes a landmark in the struggle for equality and against racism. To be sure, we haven’t entered a post-racial era, but the opportunities to further weaken racist ideology and to tear down the institutional barriers that sustain racial discrimination and exploitation have grown considerably. Hasn’t Obama’s election and Obama’s statements as President-elect demonstrated beyond a doubt that the struggle against racism in its ideological and institutional forms is as much in the interests of white workers as it is in the interest of the nationally and racially oppressed? As Marx wrote, “Labor in the white skin can never be free, as long as labor in the black skin is branded.”
[ Webb is dead wrong. Wall Street will insist on Obama using the office of the presidency to drive down the standard of living of the working class and the middle class and these same capitalists will than instruct their half-literate right-wing pundits to engage in racist attacks on Obama that will be carefully and intentionally orchestrated by the same Wall Street interests working in the background responsible for pulling Obama's strings who will then turn and initiate racist attacks on him. Hitler did the same thing. ]
To say that a sea change occurred on Nov. 4 is no exaggeration. On one side, the arguably worst president in our history leaves Washington disgraced. His party’s policies, ideology and cultural symbols are discredited. The GOP is in disarray and the blame game has begun. The red/blue state paradigm and the southern strategy, a strategy conceived exactly forty years ago to divide the nation along racial lines, are in shambles. And the entire capitalist class, not only its most reactionary section, is weakened.
[ The capitalist class does not have divisions along benevolent and malevolent lines as imagined by Sam Webb. Obama's election has strengthened the capitalist class in every way and his election was intentionally orchestrated to serve the interests of the most reactionary sections of the ruling capitalist class. Without good, solid, progressive militant working class organization the capitalist class is not weakened in any way, shape or form even though the left should have been vigorously agitating around peace and economic and social justice issues at every single Obama campaign function and rally. Such activity did not occur largely because the Obama campaign participated and orchestrated a most reactionary campaign aimed at silencing the left at his campaign events by restricting who could speak (even Jimmy Carter was silenced on the rights of the Palestinian people) while peace advocates and proponents of single-payer universal health care had to leave their signs outside of Obama's campaign rallies as the "price of admission." None of this bodes well for democracy and the people have been systematically silenced in what can only be described as a well orchestrated reactionary move on the part of Obama's Wall Street supporters and his capitalist soothsayer entourage who refused to allow any dialogue, discussion or debate on wealth redistribution or the socialist alternative to capitalism. This is an outright attack on democracy by Team Obama's reactionary handlers. ]
On the other side of the changing sea, a sense of joy, catharsis and renewal is in the air. Expectations are high. A new era of progressive change is waiting to become a reality. If the past eight years of the Bush administration seemed like a winter of discontent, Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency feels like a springtime of possibility.
[ This sense of joy has been short-lived for auto workers and those being foreclosed on and evicted who gave Obama their votes as Obama sits in silence as George Bush carries out his final assault on the working class. Obama's silence creates a seamless transition between Wall Street Administrations. "Progressive change" is always "waiting;" so, what is new? Only fully educated and empowered people are ever able to carry forward real change.]
Man, moment and movement
The outcome of this election was due to the convergence of several factors. First of all, the political environment was toxic for the Republicans. Could it have been any worse? The spontaneous mass upsurge, beginning in the primaries in January and continuing to Election Day, was another factor. Then there was the diverse coalition of people and people’s organizations that mobilized millions to vote for Obama. Another factor was the Obama campaign, notable for its sound strategy, near-perfect execution, and employment of new techniques of communication, networking and fundraising. Still another reason for the outcome was the wisdom of the American people, especially the readiness of so many to throw off ignoble and self-defeating racist ideas. To suggest, as some have, that many white people momentarily set aside their prejudice to vote for Obama is an incomplete reading of the election results. Some did; but what stands out and what we have to take careful note of is that millions of white working people of all ages and nationalities responded to and voted for Obama enthusiastically. Finally, the candidate himself was brilliant campaigner. When all of these factors are combined, they turned this election into a rout of right-wing extremism, a reaffirmation of the decency of our country and people, a leap forward on freedom road, and a people’s mandate for change.
[ Webb completely ignores the fact that state monopoly-capitalism has always used the two-party system to maintain control. This moment with capitalism beset with serious problems and crises is made to order to test the effectiveness of the two-party system--- or more appropriately, the working class trap. There has been no rout of right-wing extremism and there is little, if any, decency left in this country because the capitalist class has elevated "dog-eat-dog" to a state religion. A big fat hog would be a more appropriate symbol of what the United States stands for than the present flag. Webb further ignores the role of political corruption, lies and deceit used by Obama to get elected in the same way George Bush got our country into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For Webb, the election of Obama might be like a breath of springtime fresh air... but, we have to remember Webb breathes the polluted air and stench of New York City sewers. ]
No one, of course, expects that the securing of a better future will be easy. There is, after all, eight years of extreme right-wing misrule to clean up. The economic crisis is widening and deepening. Right-wing extremism, while badly weakened, still retains enough influence in Congress and elsewhere to block progressive measures. And class realities are still embedded in our society.
[ One would expect the leader of the Communist Party USA to articulate a clear vision in how this can be challenged with an explanation of the role Obama is playing in making sure the working class does not get a grip on power. One has to ask and question why Webb does not question why it is that Obama did not, nor has not sought, to fully empower those who contributed to his campaign and voted for him--- with the exception of the the Wall Streeters--- to be his partners in the decision-making process. An interesting question, which if honestly answered by Webb, pretty much shoots the premise of Webb's entire speech all to hell. ]
Nevertheless, in electing Barack Obama and larger Democratic Party majorities in Congress, the American people have taken the first and absolutely necessary step in the direction of building a more just society. We are not on the threshold of socialism for sure, but it is easy to see the further congealing of a growing majority that will realign politics, not incrementally and momentarily, but decisively and enduringly in the direction of economic justice, equality and peace.
[ There is no material basis upon which Webb can make such a broad and sweeping conclusion unless he is completely blind to the Wall Street bailouts which will force the impoverishment of our entire society and the manner in which the United States congress is forcing huge concessions from auto workers as the price for bailing out the Big Three which is nothing short of outright blackmail as two wars rage on and Obama is intent on starting a third and quite possibly a fourth war. As for equality, equality will be the biggest victim as the capitalist system continues its collapse. In no other industry has the struggle for racial and gender equality been as successful as in the auto industry... as auto workers give in to Congressional blackmail while Obama acquiesces through his silence and his pathetic excuse that "there can be only one president at a time," equality will be a primary victim with people of color and women being primary victims of plant closings and mass lay-offs (actually, job termination). Webb has not even considered what auto plant closings in cities like Detroit, Atlanta, St. Louis and St. Paul will have in reversing the decades long struggles for racial and gender equality. At best Webb's characterization of the Obama victory in light of present day reality can best be described as pathetically patronizing; at worst, outright racism.) Webb has for a long period of time advanced the concept in his speeches and writings that in America, we are well beyond "race" which Communist Party members should have vigorously challenged Webb on at the time. Webb is now using Obama's line to justify his own retreat from the struggle against racism--- convenient for Webb; deadly position for people of color and unity of the working class where the Communist Party originated to position: black and white; unite and fight. ]
While we should look at the outcome of the elections objectively, I would argue that the biggest danger is to underestimate the political significance of what has happened. I am suspicious of advice that suggests that we temper our understandable joy and enthusiasm as if nothing of great importance has happened.
[ Where is there any objectivity in Webb's analysis of the 2008 Election? There is no objectivity. Webb is completely sucked in by Obama's victory which is now obviously apparent that this victory has not been a victory for progressivism--- the only kind of victory a spokesperson for the Communist Party can defend is a progressive victory. Communists do not celebrate "center" or "center-right" victories. And, make no mistake, Obama's victory has been a victory for the "right;" far to the right of George Bush and no where near the Clinton "center-right." ]
New lay of the land
The country is in a period of transition. A new potentially transformative president is entering the White House, along with increased Democratic majorities in Congress. Class consciousness is deeper and reaches into every section of the working class. A spirit of broad unity is palpable. The ideological environment is infused with progressive, egalitarian, and anti-militarist ideas. Labor and its allies are retrofitting their priorities, message and initiatives to the new political landscape. And millions are ready to energetically back the legislative agenda of the Obama administration. Meanwhile, the Republicans are on the defensive, its grassroots constituency dispirited. And the capitalist class as a whole is adapting to the new terrain of struggle and the collapse of financial markets.
[ In fact, many, many Republicans supported Obama; including the most militaristic and reactionary as evidenced in cabinet appointments consisting of blue dog Democrats, just plain dumb donkeys and many mean spirited, reactionary Republicans exemplified by Obama's choice for Attorney General and Paul Volker. Webb just doesn't get it. Republicans being on the defensive is part of the two-party trap set for the working class. ]
This favorable correlation of class and social forces couldn’t happen at a better time. The challenges facing the new administration are immense. Some are short term; others longer term; some are national in scope; others global. And all are begging for solution. But before turning to them, I want to speak about the economic crisis that impresses its mark on everything.
[ Notice: Webb can not bring himself to admit that the capitalist system is not simply in a "garden variety downturn" but in a depression. ]
Current economic crisis
If there were such a thing as an economic tsunami, I would say we are close to experiencing it. The housing crisis continues and shows no sign of ending; credit and money markets are still tight; the stock market gyrates while trending downward; unemployment climbs upward (sharply so in the communities of the nationally and racially oppressed) and will only get worse; wages are down and poverty is up; the level of indebtedness is astronomical and difficult to reduce in the near term. Consumer spending, the engine of economic growth in the 1990s, is tanking. State and local governments are cutting back sharply on services and jobs; deflation, which simply means falling prices over significant sectors of the economy, is a creeping and perilous danger; and financial markets have yet to stabilize as evidenced by the troubles of CitiGroup. In short, not since the Great Depression has the economy deteriorated so rapidly and broadly, leading many economists to predict that the downturn will be L-shaped, that is, deep and prolonged.
[ Deep and prolonged; yes... also, never ending. Webb fears talking about a a crises of overproduction because he pins his hopes on Obama being able to regulate his way out from under the worst impacts of this economic downturn... which Obama might be able to accomplish, but only to a small degree in offering assistance to bankers and big-business but not to working people if this was your "garden variety downturn;" which it is not because it is an economic depression which will be far worse than the Depression of the 1930's. Webb does not want to acknowledge this fact because for years he has been maintaining that the ruling class can regulate the economy to evade and avoid economic depressions. ]
What is more, the world economy is contracting. At one time the main unit of economic analysis was the national economy, but recent events and trends point to the fallacy of this notion. Looking at the economy and its prospects through strictly a national prism is conceptually mistaken and thus bound to lead to imperfect analysis and ineffective policy prescriptions.
[ Hooray, Webb has something right! Well, almost right; there are no effective policy prescriptions to extract us from this depression other than socialist revolution. ]
Financialization – two-edged sword
While the present turbulence was triggered by the collapse of financial markets, it is located first in the outgrowth of longer-term processes of capitalism that go back to the mid-1970s and the systemic imperatives of profit maximization and wage exploitation that are at its core.
[ No, no, no. What triggered and is at the core of this depression is your typical capitalist overproduction. Workers can not afford to buy back what they have produced. The other factors Webb mentions simply exacerbate a bad situation. ]
Thirty years ago U.S. capitalism was beset by seemingly intractable and contradictory problems – high inflation and unemployment, declining confidence in the dollar as an international currency, new competitive rivals in Europe and Asia, a slowing of economic growth, and, above all, a falling profit rate. And all of these problems occurred in the context of and were shaped by overproduction in world commodity markets.
[ Again, Webb seems to understand that "overproduction is a factor" but fails to understand that wealth created by American workers was being invested in a vast a far-flung industrial manufacturing empire overseas with Wall Street investing in cheap labor markets where resources were either stolen or purchased for peanuts. ]
Faced with this unraveling of the economy, a weakening of U.S. imperialism and a profitability crisis, then-chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker stepped into the breech and pushed up interest rates to record levels. This spike in interest rates sent unemployment rates to the highest level since the Great Depression, forced the closing of scores of manufacturing plants and a great number of family farms, brought incredible hardship to the working class, and especially African-American, Latino and other racially oppressed workers, and negatively impacted the global economy, particularly the developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
[ And Webb sits in silence as Paul Volker is brought in by Obama to ply his dirty trade again! ]
It also created, as we know too well, the conditions for a many-sided attack on labor and its allies, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the pre-Depression era.
[ Again, this speech was delivered as the auto workers and their union are under attack and Webb refuses to adrress this very concrete issue. ]
At the same time (and of prime importance to Volker), it wrung inflation out of the economy, restored confidence in the dollar (investors are averse to holding dollars when inflationary pressures are eroding their value), attracted and redirected domestic and foreign capital abruptly and massively from the “real” economy into financial channels where returns were higher. Volcker, as an experienced banker, knew that the problem wasn’t too little money capital, but rather too much and too few opportunities to invest and absorb that capital profitably in the “real” economy.
[ Webb seems to be keen on helping the capitalists analyze and solve their unsolvable problems. What is absent from Webb's analysis is a critique of capitalism! ]
Once in financial channels, money capital stayed there, but not idly. Financial agents of capital (banks, investment houses, hedge funds, private equity firms and so on) intent on expanding their profits in a very competitive and permissive regulatory environment raced at breakneck speed into a massive buying and selling and borrowing and spending spree for the next three decades — all of which led to an explosion of the financial sector in terms of employment, transactions, risky products, players and profits.
[ Yes, this is what capitalists do in a capitalist economy, eh? ]
In other words, financialization, which economist Gerald Epstein defines as a process in which “financial motives, financial markets, financial actors and financial institutions come to play an increasing role in the operation of domestic and international economies” proceeded at a feverish pace and with a broad sweep. (In Financialization and the World Economy, Introduction, 2005)
[ Again, so what is new? Does Webb expect anything less from capitalists living in the age of imperialism? The real question is: What is the alternative? If this isn't good, than what is better? ]
Capital that produces little, destroys much
If the cause of financialization lies in the stagnation tendencies in the material goods sector of the U.S. economy and the weakening of the role of U.S. imperialism internationally, its lubricant is the production and reproduction, seemingly without end, of staggering amounts of debt — corporate, consumer and government. Debt is as old as capitalism. But what is different in this period of financialization is that the production of debt and accompanying speculative excesses and bubbles were not simply passing moments at the end of a cyclical upswing, but essential to ginning up and sustaining investment and especially consumer demand in every phase of the cycle. Indeed, financialization grew to the point where it became the main determinant shaping the contours, structure, interrelations, evolution and dynamism of the national and world economy.
[ Well, Webb's conclusion about "financialization" is dubious; but we can let Webb off on this one because we would be quibbling by suggesting that financialization is part and parcel of capitalism in its final, most decadent imperialist stage. Capitalism has spun a powerful web creating the military-financial-industrial complex controlled by state monopoly-capitalism over which these merchants of death and destruction have anointed Barack Obama to head up. It is the nature of capitalism for capitalists to horde profits and the wealth created by workers rather than distributing this wealth in a way that creates a better life for working people by building homes, schools, hospitals and maintaining infrastructure so that bridges do not collapse. ]
Without speculative bubbles, generated by the federal government and Federal Reserve over the past 15 years in internet technology, then in the stock market, and most recently, in housing – the performance of the U.S. and world economy would have been far worse. But, as we are painfully learning, financialization is a two-edged sword. While it stimulated the domestic and global economy and reflated the power of U.S. imperialism, it also left our nation with an astronomical pileup of debt; introduced enormous instability into the arteries of the U.S. and world economy; drained capital from private and public investment; contributed to jobless recoveries and heightened exploitation in the material goods sector of the economy; successfully engineered the biggest redistribution of wealth in our nation’s history to the upper crust of U.S. finance capital; made the U.S. economy dependent on the willingness of foreign investors to absorb massive amounts of debt in the form of short term government securities; and, finally, greased the wheels for a hard economic landing and a much deeper crisis on the down side of the economic cycle.
[ Yet Webb is touting Obama's intent to try creating another miracle "bubble" in the much ballyhooed "green economy." ]
In other words, the growth of the financial sector was a parasitic and temporary fix for a sluggish economy and a declining imperial power, but as events have shown, it could not forever mask and compensate for slow growth, deindustrialization, stagnant wages, jobless recoveries, heightened exploitation, and a declining role internationally. A Wal-Mart economy of low wages, meager benefits and mounting debt, even when combined with massive military spending, is unsustainable and eventually erupts into crisis.
Of course, it took more than shock therapy in the form of high interest rates and then financialization to effect changes of this magnitude and usher in a new era of relentless attacks on the working class, the racially oppressed, women and other social groups. If Volcker struck the first blow, it was the Reagan administration, entering the White House less than a year later, and then successive administrations that were the main political agents of this upheaval in ideology, politics and economics.
Reaganites – main agents of neoliberalism
At the ideological level, the Reaganites said that government is best that governs least, that markets are self-correcting and efficient, that wealth is distributed according to work performed, that income inequality is a good thing, that deregulation and privatization are the best cures for what ails the private and public sectors, and that tax cuts for the rich and wealthy trickle down to working people, thereby lifting all boats.
But the Reaganites didn’t stop here. At the political-economic level, they dismantled the model of economic governance at the state and corporate level, a model that had its origins in the New Deal and was sustained and expanded by successive administrations in the next three decades. It rested on a measure of class compromise, societal obligations, union rights, formal equality and expansive macroeconomic policies that favored broadly shared prosperity.
In its place, the Reaganites built another model of governance popularly called neoliberalism. Not only did this model facilitate a reassertion and consolidation of power by finance capital at the expense of other groupings of capital, but it also used its control of the state apparatus to encourage deindustrialization and off shoring of production, union busting, deregulation, low-wage labor, low inflation, trade liberalization, the shrinkage and privatization of the public sector, draconian control (to the degree possible) over cross-border movements of labor, the re-embedding of racist and sexist practices into the country’s political economy, massive wealth redistribution to the wealthiest families and corporations, a stronger dollar, and the restructuring of the state’s role and functions.
This new model, combined with an increased readiness to use military power, was created for the purpose of strengthening the position of U.S. imperialism at home and abroad, radically changing the conditions of exploitation to the advantage of the transnational corporate class, and resubjugating the developing countries. But, as is said, the best laid plans of mice and men and often come to naught, at least in the long run.
Offspring of capitalism
The rise and fall of neoliberalism is organically connected to the underlying dynamics of capitalism. While each required hit men in the corridors of government and the suites of corporations and a set of institutions (the Federal Reserve Bank and the International Monetary Fund, for example) to grease the skids, it also is the indisputable offspring of capitalism’s internal laws and tendencies.
Although an anti-capitalist strategy would be premature at the present conjuncture, the faith of millions of people in capitalism has been shaken. People might defend capitalism if challenged, but not with the same vigor and not without a sympathetic ear to measures that would curb the power and profits of transnational corporations. Did we hear any hue and cry coming from industrial centers when the federal government partially nationalized some banks? And, I’m sure, if the government insisted on ownership and control as a condition for assisting the auto companies, few working people would complain. Most would say, “They messed up. Why give something and get nothing in return?” In short, the events of recent months and weeks constitute a profound defeat of capitalism ideologically, politically, and economically.
From another angle (and I am not going to develop this point), the implosion of Wall Street has delivered a debilitating body blow to the hopes of U.S. imperialism for unrivaled dominance in the 21st century. When combined with the Iraq disaster, the worldwide anger over structural adjustment policies and unequal trade, the inattention to global warming and world poverty, and the emergence of new global powers in nearly every region of the world – China in the first place – it signals a terminal crisis of U.S. imperialism’s dominance of the world system of states. Or to say it differently, a unipolar world is giving way to a multipolar world, which, I would add, presents both opportunities and dangers to the new administration and humanity.
In fact, an urgent question for the American people is the following: Will U.S. imperialism adapt peacefully to new world realities or will it employ massive force to maintain its standing in the world? Bush tried force, but failed, and will leave the White House in January completely discredited. There is good reason to believe that the new administration will choose a different option. How far it will go is another question that can’t be answered yet. Suffice it to say that the redefinition of the U.S. role in the world community and demilitarization (including denuclearization) are among the most compelling issues in the first part of the 21st century, ranking in importance to combating global warming. Unless attended to, both could endanger the survival of our species on Mother Earth.
A new New Deal
Given the current situation, it is apparent that the Obama administration enters the White House with huge challenges. At the same time, no president in recent memory brings to the job so much popular good will, a Congress dominated by Democrats, an election mandate for progressive change, and an energized movement that supports him.
From what he has said, Obama wants to be a people’s reformer. In time he hopes to make substantive changes in health care, housing, education, retirement security, energy, environment, urban affairs, race and gender relations, foreign relations, and popular participation in public affairs. If the last thirty years was an era of people’s retrenchment, Obama sees the years ahead as an era of substantial people’s reforms. In his view, the boundaries of politics, democracy, and reform in a capitalist social formation are elastic and thus can be expanded considerably.
The Obama administration’s immediate challenge will be to revive the economy. And the overarching question that it will have to answer is: Where will economic dynamism come from in near term? We know it won’t come from strapped U.S. consumers whose spending sustained the domestic and global economy over the past decade. We know it won’t come from corporate investment in plant and equipment; instead of expanding investment, corporations are contracting it in the face of overproduction in world commodity markets. We know it won’t come from the Federal Reserve; the federal fund rate, a rate the governs the Fed’s lending to banks, which is at a record low and might go a little lower, but rate cuts so far seem to have little effect on bank lending and the broader economy. We know it won’t come form foreign buyers of our exports; they are tightening their belts too. We know it won’t come from the European economies since they are slumping. We know it won’t come from the developing economies whose economic prospects are very gloomy. Finally, we know it won’t come from speculative excesses and bubbles; that method of stimulating and sustaining aggregate demand has run its course, at least for now.
So to return to the question above: Where will economic dynamism come from in the near term? The answer is massive fiscal expansion, that is, by large injections of money from the federal government into the economy. China is leading the way with its half trillion-dollar stimulus plan. Hopefully, China’s example will spread to other major economic powers. Given the nature of this crisis and the integration of the world economy, every one of them has to pony up billions and billions of dollars to reflate aggregate demand for goods and services at the national and global level.
The Bush administration doesn’t understand this, but the Obama administration does and with Congressional support it will take quick action. We can expect, and should fully support, an administration stimulus package that includes, among other things, extension of unemployment compensation, assistance to distressed homeowners, aid to states and municipalities, food stamp extension, infrastructure construction, and so forth. The only unresolved question is how large a stimulus package. In our view, it should be the range of a trillion dollars or more.
This, along with assistance (with real strings) to the auto companies and the stabilization and regulation of financial and housing markets, are considered the cornerstones of the administration’s recovery plan. Whether this is enough is unknowable at this point. By January or soon thereafter, more radical measures may be necessary.
I would add, however, that even if these policies are pursued, there is no guarantee that a full-blooded and sustained upswing of the economy will follow. According to conventional wisdom and mainstream economists, high growth rates, near full employment, and healthy profit rates are the normal condition of a capitalist economy. Departures from this norm, it is said, are only passing moments during which capitalism removes barriers to future growth and in so doing creates the conditions for a new expansion that surpasses old peaks in production, employment and profits.
Perhaps that was the case at an earlier stage of capitalism’s development, but there is considerable evidence to question this scenario going forward. Indeed, one has to wonder what the long-run prospects of U.S. and world capitalism are. Was the “golden age” of U.S. capitalism from 1945-1973, during which economic growth rates, investment levels and living standards steadily increased, the rule or the exception to the rule? Will the last thirty years of sluggish and lopsided growth continue, but at a significantly lower level? Is U.S. capitalism, embedded in an overcrowded and hyper-competitive world economy and restrained by an internal grouping of class and social forces (energy, military, health care, pharmaceutical, financial and other industries) resistant to structural economic change, capable of going over to a new and robust growth path, resting on green industry, jobs and technology, on demilitarization, and on rising living standards for working people?
Given the uncertainty of the long-term trajectory of capitalism and the likelihood that the present remedies under consideration will bring only short-term relief, structural reforms of a far-reaching nature and from the bottom up will be necessary if U.S. economy is to have any chance of resuming a developmental growth path that is robust and favors the interests of the working class (broadly defined) and its allies – not to mention the planet. Thus, the Obama administration and the multilayered and multiclass coalition that supports him will almost inevitably have to confront these questions:
Will the reform and restructuring process only touch the edges of corporate profits and prerogatives or will it make substantial inroads? Will government intervention include ownership of an anti-monopoly character or only temporary measures to stabilize turbulent markets? Will the counter-crisis spending measures be short term and modest or long term and of sufficient size to sustain a recovery – something that the New Deal never accomplished? How far will the reregulation of financial markets go? Will union rights be marginally improved or greatly strengthened? Will trade agreements be renegotiated so that international working class interests are at their core? Will bold measures be proposed to achieve equality in conditions of life for racially and nationally oppressed people and women? Will public takeover of finance and energy be on the table for discussion? Will the reform of housing, education and healthcare be radical in nature? What about the direction of foreign policy and militarism? Will the occupation of Iraq be terminated and the Afghanistan conflict resolved in a political and peaceful fashion? Will capital be rerouted from unproductive consumption (military, parasitic finance and so forth) to productive investment in a green economy and public infrastructure? And will equitable economic arrangements between U.S. capitalism and the rest of the world be high on the administration’s agenda?
New model of economic governance needed
Or to approach the same question in another way: Will the political-economic reforms be modest, or will they boldly embrace a new model of political-economic governance at the state and corporate level – a new New Deal? By that I mean a reconfiguring of the role and functions of government and corporations so that they favor working people, the racially and nationally oppressed, women, youth, seniors, small business people and other social groupings.
Such a model would draw from the New Deal experience, but in the end it has to be shaped by today’s conditions and requirements for political and economic advance for the broadest sections of the American people as well as people across the globe. No country or people are an island anymore. We either swim together or sink together.
The new model of governance wouldn’t be socialist, but it would challenge corporate power, profits and prerogatives, insist on peace and equality, extend social and economic rights, democratize state and quasi-state structures like the Federal Reserve, give communities, workers, and small business people a say in corporate decision making, seriously consider public takeover of the energy and financial complexes, demilitarize and green our economy, and constructively respond to new problems and power realities on a global level.
Depression conditions prompted President Franklin Roosevelt and his advisers — albeit with a mighty assist from a powerful all-people’s coalition led by the industrial unions and the multiracial working class — to reconfigure the role and functions of the state to the advantage of the ordinary people. This reconfiguration wasn’t easy or done in a day. Indeed, it was a contested process over time that combined unity of the Roosevelt-led coalition at every turn, independent political action in the corridors of power and in the streets, and a good dose of improvisation and experimentation. The broad people’s movement would do well to study the New Deal experience, not in a mechanical way, but with an eye to gaining insights for today’s struggles and challenges.
Change in strategy
As I said earlier, we are in a transitional period in which the broad contours and class relationships of U.S. politics have changed to the point that we have to adjust our strategic policy. Our policy of singling out the extreme right and its reactionary corporate backers and building the broadest unity against them, discussed in these meetings and contained in our Party program, captured the class realities of the past 30 years. In this year’s election we applied that policy consistently and creatively. Admittedly, we adjusted this policy at the tactical level in January of this year after concluding that Obama had the potential to bring together and give voice to an all-people’s coalition and win the election by a landslide.
Looking back, it isn’t immodest to say that both our overall policy and our tactical adjustment were on the money. We shouldn’t claim bragging rights, but we can say that our strategic and tactical approach captured better than any other organization or movement on the left the political algebra of the election process, including the possibility of a landslide.
This isn’t to say that other left movements and organizations were of no consequence, because they were, but none of them had as much political coherence in their strategic and tactical policies as we did. Nor did they do the day-to-day grassroots work with the same consistency that we did.
That said, the new political landscape in the election’s wake compels us to make strategic as well as tactical changes. Our current strategic policy, I’m sure you will agree, no longer corresponds with the present situation. But, by the same token, I would also argue that our anti-monopoly strategy doesn’t quite fit perfectly either.
Now and for the foreseeable future, the country is in a political transition that interweaves elements of the past and the future. This argues against attempts to fit the political dynamics of this moment into a rigid and schematic strategic framework. Our strategic policy is a conceptual device (or guide to action) whose purpose is to give us a first approximation of what is happening on the ground among the main class and social forces, which of them has the upper hand, and what it will take to move the political process in a progressive direction. It doesn’t claim to capture reality in all of its complexity. And this is especially so in a transitional period such as this one. Therefore, the strategic notion of stages of struggle has to be employed judiciously and flexibly, or, as some like to say, dialectically.
New casting of political actors
So briefly, how do the various forces line up? Let’s begin with Obama. During the election we correctly resisted fitting Obama into a tightly sealed political category. We should continue that practice. I don’t think categorizing him as a bourgeois or centrist politician at this moment is very helpful, even if he begins by governing from the center.
Obama is an unusual political figure. He has deep democratic sensibilities, a sense of history and modesty, and an almost intuitive feel for the national mood. His political and intellectual depth matches his eloquence. In the wake of the election, he is the leader of a far-flung multiclass “change” coalition that constitutes a new political universe to which everyone has to relate. He embraces a reform agenda in a reform era whose political character will be decided in the years ahead. Many, including ourselves, have used the words “transformational” or “transforming” to describe his candidacy — that is, a candidacy capable of assembling a broad people’s majority to reconfigure the terms and terrain of politics in this country in a fundamental way. The same can be said about the potential of his presidency.
Obama isn’t finished with Obama. Like other great leaders, he is a work in progress who has demonstrated the capacity to grow as things change and new problems arise. He will undoubtedly feel competing pressures, but he will also leave his own political imprint on presidential decisions, much like Lincoln and Roosevelt did. It’s good that Obama has these qualities because he is inheriting mammoth problems. In consultation with the Democrats in Congress and the main organizations of the people’s coalition, he will set the agenda and determine the timing of legislative initiatives next year.
Then there are the Obama grassroots networks and committees. These web-generated forms of organization and action were formidable in the elections and will in all likelihood continue to be a forceful presence in the coming years. They contain an array of diverse people, including lots of young people, all of whom are very loyal to Obama and will throw their weight behind his program. In some places we are part of “Yes We Can” networks and should remain so; where we aren’t, we (along with others) should make connections with them.
The Democratic Party
The Democratic Party, for sure, isn’t an anti-capitalist people’s party. Yet it contains a variety of currents. In the recent elections the center and progressive currents gained in size and influence. While its character isn’t left in its outlook in the wake of Obama’s landslide victory, liberal and progressive congress people have the wind at their back. Right-wing Democrats, meanwhile, are running into headwinds. This is not 1992 all over again.
While some sections of the ruling class will oppose Obama at every turn, other sectors will accommodate and support many of his legislative initiatives. Some of its members will be part of his administration. U.S. capitalism is in such a serious crisis on a domestic and global level that sober-minded sections of ruling class see the necessity of reforming and restructuring capitalism, but in their view within very prescribed limits. Even the most forward thinking of them will attempt to slow down and narrow the scope of the reform and restructuring process.
Finally, there are the broad people’s forces, (working class, racially and nationally oppressed people, women and youth). Their politics move along anti-corporate, egalitarian and anti-militarist lines. They express themselves through a range of organizational forms. Unity among them is on a higher level. In this election these forces walked with seven league boots, kicked butt and took no prisoners. Nothing seemed to knock them off stride.
In the period ahead, these forces will exercise an enormous, at moments decisive, influence on the political process. Labor will continue to play a special organizing and political role.
At the same time, labor and its allies, while vigorously advancing their own agenda, must adjust to the new scope of the post-election change coalition led by Obama that had emerged. Never before has a coalition with such breadth walked on the political stage of our country. It is far larger than the coalition that entered the election process a year ago; it is larger still than the coalition that came out of the Democratic Party convention in August.
Moreover, its growth potential is enormous. Significant numbers of white workers and small businesspeople, for example, didn’t cast their vote for Obama, but can be won to progressive and anti-racist positions going forward.
As you can see, this change coalition contains various political forces with disparate class loyalties and political orientations. But this should not surprise because there are no pure struggles at any stage of struggle. Indeed, in such a broad, multiclass coalition, relations will be contested as well as cooperative. Each component will promote its views and attempt to leave its own imprint on the overall struggle. And this is all the more so as the economic crisis deepens.
As for us, we can provide leadership only to the degree that we are in the trenches of the wider labor-led people’s movement, building this people’s upsurge in all directions. Only if we are making practical, on-the-ground contributions to the immediate struggles, and especially in the economic arena, can we help give political coherence to this broad coalition.
Yes, we should bring issues and more advanced positions into the process that go beyond the initiatives of the Obama administration and the broad multiclass, many-layered coalition that supports it. But we should do this within the framework of the main task of supporting Obama’s program of action and building breadth, depth and participation of the core forces. We have to master the art of combining partial demands with more advanced ones. The former (partial demands) are the immediate grounds for building broad unity in action.
Of course, change won’t be easy. The pressures to weaken, even mothball, progressive, anti-corporate measures will come from many quarters – from within the administration, from members of Congress, from the ruling class – which has its hands in every branch of government and controls the major media.
Nevertheless, we shouldn’t assume that the Obama administration will inevitably track right. It isn’t dialectical because it fails to take into account the election mandate, the new leverage of labor and its allies and, perhaps most important, the broader developments in the economy. Nor should we go bananas when he appoints somebody whose politics we don’t like. We should not expect that this administration will be free of representatives of Wall Street or old line Democrats or even some Republicans. Their presence doesn’t necessarily define the political inclinations of the Obama administration, nor does it tell us exactly what its political priorities will be. Let’s give Obama some space; millions of others will, including, I suspect, the main leaders of the labor and people’s movement. Marxism is a guide to action, not a dogma.
We also shouldn’t have any truck with people on the left who argue that the main protagonists in the coming period are the Obama administration and Democrats on one side and the people on the other. Finally, we should take a dim view of some on the left who will wait for the new administration to stumble and then immediately call for a break and attempt to turn broader forces into a hostile opposition. In fact, probably the biggest challenge for the core forces of this multiclass coalition is to resist attempts by reaction and some left forces to pit the Obama administration and Congress against the main sections of the people’s movement on one or another issue. Where there are (and will be) differences over appointments, legislation or other actions between the administration and the broad democratic forces, these differences have to handled in such a way as not to break the overall unity.
The left can and should advance its own views and disagree with the Obama administration without being disagreeable. Its tone should be respectful. We are speaking to a friend. When the administration and Congress take positive initiatives, they should be wholeheartedly welcomed. Nor should anyone think that everything will be done in 100 days. After all, main elements of the New Deal were codified into law in 1935, 1936 and 1937.
Although we are not in the socialist stage of the revolutionary process, we are, nevertheless on the road, and the only road, to socialism – to a society that is egalitarian in the rough sense, eliminates exploitation of working people, brings an end to all forms of oppression, and is notable for the many-layered participation of working people and their allies in the management of the economy and state.
The room for socialist ideas is in the public square has grown enormously. Such ideas can be easily discussed with many people and people’s leaders. Furthermore, the force of economic events will compel millions more to consider socialist ideas that in the past were dismissed out of hand. But our vision of socialism will resonate to the degree that it addresses contemporary sensibilities and challenges. It can’t be a redux of 20th century socialism.
Our role, as I have tried to say, is to be part of the struggles going forward – beginning with attending the inauguration and encouraging others to do the same. It’s going to be a grand event and a public expression of support for Obama and a mass expression for change.
Given the overall situation in the economy, we have to refocus on economic struggles. While they will take many forms, the issue of jobs will climb to the top as layoffs mount. Undoubtedly, this crisis will strike with destructive force the Black, Latin, Asian and Native American Indian communities. Unemployment currently is in the double-digit range. Special compensatory measures will have to be combined with overall economic demands.
Let’s reengage with others (labor, the nationally and racially oppressed, women, and youth) in this struggle. As to precisely what we do, we have to do some brainstorming as well as consult with people and organizations that we worked with in the election campaign.
A couple of ideas come to mind. We should consider initiating meetings to discuss the economic crisis and how to respond to it at the local, state and national level. Such meetings could be very broad in their participation and sponsorship. We should also mobilize support for Obama’s stimulus package, for aid to the auto corporations -- albeit with strings -- and for immediate relief for homeowners. You probably have a thousand other ideas and we should discuss them.
In addition to joining economic struggles and projecting programmatic demands, we should also produce talking point sheets and analytical articles that explain the roots of the crisis and the political forces that that have to be assembled and unified to win both immediate and more far-reaching reforms.
In these and the other struggles, we have to become better at building the Party, press and YCL. I don’t want to say the opportunities to build the Party and press are limitless, but they have grown immensely.
Let me finish by saying that it sure feels good to be on the winning side. I’m sure everyone feels the same way. At the same time, because of this historic victory, we – and the broader movement that we are a part of – have our work cut out for us in the coming years. It’s a big challenge, but we have met other challenges. So let’s go out there and do it with a sense of confidence that the best days for our country lay ahead of us. Yes we can! Si Se Puede! Thank you.
Here is an alternative view to Sam Webb's about Barack Obama:
A Historic Moment:
The Election of the Greatest Con-Man in Recent History
"I have a vision of Americans in their 80's being wheeled to their
offices and factories having lost their legs in imperial wars and their
pensions to Wall Street speculators and with bitter memories of voting
for a President who promised change, prosperity and peace and then
appointed financial swindlers and war mongers." An itinerant Minister 2008
The entire political spectrum ranging from the 'libertarian' left,
through the progressive editors of the Nation to the entire far right
neo-con/Zionist war party and free market Berkeley/Chicago/Harvard
academics, with a single voice, hailed the election of Barack Obama as a
'historic moment', a 'turning point in American history and other such
histrionics. For reasons completely foreign to the emotional
ejaculations of his boosters, it is a historic moment: witness the
abysmal gap between his 'populist' campaign demagoguery and his
long-standing and deepening carnal relations with the most retrograde
political figures, power brokers and billionaire real estate and
What was evident from even a cursory analysis of his key campaign
advisers and public commitments to Wall Street speculators, civilian
militarists, zealous Zionists and corporate lawyers was hidden from the
electorate, by Obama's people friendly imagery and smooth, eloquent
deliverance of a message of 'hope'. He effectively gained the
confidence, dollars and votes of tens of millions of voters by promising
'change' (implying higher taxes for the rich, ending the Iraq war and
national health care reform) when in fact his campaign advisers (and
subsequent strategic appointments) pointed to a continuation of the
economic and military policies of the Bush Administration.
Within 3 weeks of his election he appointed all the political dregs who
brought on the unending wars of the past two decades, the economic
policy makers responsible for the financial crash and the deepening
recession castigating tens of millions of Americans today and for the
foreseeable future. We can affirm that the election of Obama does indeed
mark a historic moment in American history: The victory of the greatest
con man and his accomplices and backers in recent history.
He spoke to the workers and worked for their financial overlords.
He flashed his color to minorities while obliterating any mention of
their socio-economic grievances.
He promised peace in the Middle East to the majority of young Americans
and slavishly swears undying allegiance to the War Party of American
Zionists serving a foreign colonial power (Israel).
Obama, on a bigger stage, is the perfect incarnation of Melville's
Confidence Man. He catches your eye while he picks your pocket. He gives
thanks as he packs you off to fight wars in the Middle East on behalf of
a foreign country. He solemnly mouths vacuous pieties while he empties
your Social Security funds to bail out the arch financiers who swindled
your pension investments. He appoints and praises the architects of
collapsed pyramid schemes to high office while promising you that better
days are ahead.
Yes, indeed, "our greatest intellectual critics", our 'libertarian'
leftists and academic anarchists, used their 5-figure speaking
engagements as platforms to promote the con man's candidacy: They
described the con man's political pitch as "meeting the deeply felt
needs of our people". They praised the con man when he spoke of 'change'
and 'turning the country around' 180 degrees. Indeed, Obama went one
step further: he turned 360 degrees, bringing us back to the policies
and policy makers who were the architects of our current
The Con Man's Self-Opiated Progressive Camp Followers
The contrast between Obama's campaign rhetoric and his political
activities was clear, public and evident to any but the mesmerized
masses and the self-opiated 'progressives' who concocted arguments in
his favor. Indeed even after Obama's election and after he appointed
every Clintonite-Wall Street shill into all the top economic policy
positions, and Clinton's and Bush's architects of prolonged imperial
wars (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert
Gates), the 'progressive true believers' found reasons to dog along with
the charade. Many progressives argued that Obama's appointments of war
mongers and swindlers was a 'ploy' to gain time now in order to move
Never ones to publicly admit their 'historic' errors, the same
progressives turned to writing 'open letters to the President' pleading
the 'cause of the people'. Their epistles, of course, may succeed in
passing through the shredder in the Office of the White House Chief of
Staff, Rahm Emanuel.
The conjurer who spoke of 'change' now speaks of 'experience' in
appointing to every key and minor position the same political hacks who
rotate seamlessly between Wall Street and Washington, the Fed and
Academia. Instead of 'change' there is the utmost continuity of policy
makers, policies and above all ever deepening ties between militarists,
Wall Street and the Obama appointments. True believer-progressives,
facing their total debacle, grab for any straw. Forced to admit that all
of Obama's appointments represent the dregs of the bloody and corrupt
past, they hope and pray that 'current dire circumstances' may force
these unrepentant warmongers and life long supporters of finance capital
to become supporters and advocates of a revived Keynesian welfare state.
On the contrary, Obama and each and every one of his foreign policy
appointments to the Pentagon, State and Justice Departments,
Intelligence and Security agencies are calling for vast increases in
military spending, troop commitments and domestic militarization to
recover the lost fortunes of a declining empire. Obama and his
appointees plan to vigorously pursue Clinton-Bush's global war against
national resistance movements in the Middle East. His most intimate and
trusted 'Israel-First' advisers have targeted Iran, Syria, Afghanistan,
Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Palestine and Iraq.
Obama's Economic Con Game
Then there is the contrast between the trillions Obama will shower on
the financial swindlers (and any other 'too big to fail' private
capitalist enterprise) and his zero compensation for the 100 million
heads of families swindled of $5 trillion dollars in savings and
pensions by his cohort appointees and bailout beneficiaries. Not a cent
is allocated for the long term unemployed. Not a single household
threatened with eviction will be bailed out.
Obama is the trademark name of a network of confidence people. They are
a well-organized gang of prominent political operative, money raisers,
mass media hustlers, real estate moguls and academic pimps. They are
joined and abetted by the elected officials and hacks of the Democratic
Party. Like the virtuoso performer, Obama projected the image and
followed the script. But the funding and the entire 'populist' show was
constructed by the hard-nosed, hard-line free marketeers, Jewish and
Gentile 'Israel Firsters', Washington war mongers and a host of
multi-millionaire 'trade union' bureaucrats.
The electoral scam served several purposes above and beyond merely
propelling a dozen strategic con artists into high office and the White
House. First and foremost, the Obama con-gang deflected the rage and
anger of tens of millions of economically skewered and war drained
Americans from turning their hostility against a discredited presidency,
congress and the grotesque one-party two factions political system and
into direct action or at least toward a new political movement.
Secondly the Obama image provided a temporary cover for the return and
continuity of all that was so detested by the American people - the
arrogant untouchable swindlers, growing unemployment and economic
uncertainty, the loss of life savings and homes and the endless,
ever-expanding imperial wars.
Featuring Paul Volker, 'Larry' Summers, Robert Gates, the Clintons,
Geithner, Holder and General ('You drink your kool-aid while I sit on
Boeings' Board of Directors') Jim Jones USMC, Obama treats us to a
re-run of military surges and war crimes, Wall Street banditry, Abu
Ghraib, AIPAC hustlers and all the sundry old crap. Our Harvard-minted
Gunga Din purports to speak for all the colonial subjects but acts in
the interest of the empire, its financial vampires, its war criminals
and its Middle East leaches from the Land of the Chosen.
The Two Faces of Obama
Like the Janus face found on the coins of the early Roman Republic,
Obama and his intimate cronies cynically joked about 'which is the real
face of Barack', conscious of the con-job they were perpetrating during
the campaign. In reality, there is only one face - a very committed,
very consequential and very up front Obama, who demonstrated in every
single one of his appointments the face of an empire builder.
Obama is an open militarist, intent by every means possible to
re-construct a tattered US empire. The President-Elect is an unabashed
Wall Street Firster - one who has placed the recuperation of the biggest
banks and investment houses as his highest priority. Obama's nominees
for all the top economic positions (Treasury, Chief White House economic
advisers) are eminently qualified, (with long-term service to the
financial oligarchy), to pursue Obama's pro-Wall Street agenda. There is
not a single member of his economic team, down to the lowest level of
appointees, who represents or has defended the interests of the wage or
salaried classes (or for that matter the large and small manufacturers
from the devastated 'productive' industrial economy).
The Obama propagandists claim his appointments reflect his preference
for 'experience' - which is true: his team members have plenty of
'experience' through their long and lucrative careers maximizing
profits, buyouts and speculation favoring the financial sector. Obama
does not want to have any young, untested appointees who have no long
established records of serving Big Finance, whose interests are too
central to Obama's deepest and most strongly held core beliefs. He
wanted reliable economic functionaries who recognize that re-financing
billionaire financiers is the central task of his regime. The
appointments of the Summers, Rubins, Geithners and Volkers fit perfectly
with his ideology: They are the best choices to pursue his economic goals.
Critics of these nominations write of the 'failures' of these economists
and their role in 'bringing about the collapse of the financial system'.
These critics fail to recognize that it is not their 'failures', which
are the relevant criteria, but their unwavering commitment to the
interests of Wall Street and their willingness to demand trillions of
dollars more from US taxpayers to bolster their colleagues on Wall Street.
Under Clinton and Bush, in the run up to the financial collapse, they
facilitated ('deregulated') the practice of swindling one hundred
million Americans of trillions in private savings and pension funds. In
the current crisis period with Obama they are just the right people to
swindle the US Treasury of trillions of dollars in bailout funds to
refinance their fellow oligarchs. The White President (Bush) leaves
steaming financial turds all over the White House rugs and Wall Street
summons the 'historic' Negro President Obama to organize the cleanup
crew to scoop them out of public view.
Obama, the Militarist, Outdoes His Predecessor
What makes Obama a much more audacious militarist and Wall Streeter than
Bush is that he intends to pursue military policies, which have already
greatly harmed the US people with appointed officials who have already
been discredited in the context of failed imperial wars and with a
domestic economy in collapse. While Bush launched his wars after the US
public had their accustomed peace shattered by an orchestrated
fear-mongering after 9/11, Obama intends to launch his escalation of
military spending in the context of a generalized public disenchantment
with the ongoing wars, with monumental fiscal deficits, bloated military
budgets and after 100,000 US soldiers have been killed, wounded or
Obama's appointments of Clinton, General Jim Jones, dual Israeli citizen
Rahm Emanuel and super-Zionist Dennis Ross, among others, fit perfectly
with his imperial-militarist agenda of escalating military aggression.
His short list of intelligence candidates, likewise, fits perfectly with
his all-out effort to "regain US world leadership" (reconstruct US
imperial networks). All the media blather about Obama's efforts at
'bipartisanship', 'experience' and 'competence' obscures the most
fundamental questions: The specific nominees chosen from both parties
are totally committed to military-driven empire-building. All are in
favor of "a new effort to renew America's standing in the world" (read
'America's imperial dominance in the world'), as Obama's Secretary of
State-to-be, Hillary Clinton, declared. General James Jones, Obama's
choice for National Security Advisor, presided over US military
operations during the entire Abu Ghraib/Guantanemo period. He was a
fervent supporter of the 'troop surge' in Iraq and is a powerful
advocate for a huge increase in military spending, the expansion of the
military by over 100,000 troops and the expanded militarization of
American domestic society (not to mention his personal financial ties to
the military industrial complex). Robert Gates, continuing as Obama's
Secretary of Defense, is a staunch supporter of unilateral, unlimited
and universal imperial warfare. As the number of US-allied countries
with troops in Iraq declines from 35 to only 5 by January 1, 2009 and
even the Iraqi puppet regime calls for a withdrawal of all US troops by
2012, Gates, the intransigent, insists on a permanent military presence.
The issue of 'experience' revolves around two questions: (a) experience
related to what past political practices? (b) experience relevant to
pursue what future policies? All the nominees' past experiences are
related to imperial wars, colonial conquests and the construction of
client states. Hiliary Clinton's 'experience' was through her support
for the bombing of Yugoslavia and the Nato invasion of Kosova, her
promotion of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an internationally
recognized terrorist-criminal organization as well as the unrelenting
bombings of Iraq in the 1990s, Bush's criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003,
Israel's murderous bombing of civilian centers in Lebanon…and now
full-throated calls for the 'total obliteration of Iran'. Clinton, Gates
and Jones have never in their mature political careers proposed the
peaceful settlement of disputes with any adversary of the US or Israel.
In other words, their vaunted 'experience' is based solely on their
one-dimensional militarist approach to foreign relations.
'Competence', as an attribute again depends on the issue of 'competence
to do what'? In general terms, 'The Three' (Clinton, Gates and Jones),
have demonstrated the greatest incompetence in extricating the US from
prolonged, costly and lost colonial wars. They lack the minimum capacity
to recognize that military-driven empire-building in the context of
independent states is no longer feasible, that its costs can ruin an
imperial economy and that prolonged wars erode their legitimacy in the
eyes of their citizens.
Even within the framework of imperial geo-political strategic thinking,
their positions exhibit the most dense incompetence: They blindly back a
small, highly militarized and ideologically fanatical colonial state
(Israel) against 1.5 billion Muslims living in oil and mineral
resource-rich nations with lucrative markets and investment potential
and situated in the strategic center of the world. They promote total
wars against whole populations, as is occurring in Afghanistan, Iraq and
Somalia and, which, by all historical experience, cannot be won. They
are truly 'Masters of Defeat'.
The point of the matter is that Obama appointed the 'Big Three' for
their experience, competence and bipartisan support in the pursuit of
imperial wars. He overlooked their glaring failures, their gross
violations of the basic norms of civilization (of the human rights of
tens of millions civilians in sovereign nations) because of their
willingness to pursue the illusions of a US-dominated new world order.
Nothing speaks to Obama's deep and abiding commitment to become the
savior of the US empire as clearly as his willingness to appoint to the
highest position of policy making the most mediocre failed politicians
and generals merely because of their demonstrated willingness to pursue
the course of military-driven empire building even in the midst of a
collapsing domestic economy and ever more impoverished and drained
Just as Obama's electoral campaign and subsequent victory will go into
the annals as the political con-job of the new millennium, his economic
and political appointments will mark another 'historic' moment: The
nomination of corrupt and failed speculators and warmongers. Let us join
the inaugural celebration of our 'First Afro-American' Imperial
President, who wins by con and rules by guns!
We must ask: How is Sam Webb's analysis and his proposals any different from that of the Social Democrats who are taking this to the 2009 World Social Forum?
This is from the capitalist oriented Democratic Socialist international labor center...
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
World Social Forum
Belém do Para, Brazil,
27 January -1 February 2009
Note: You may find this PDF version easier to read by clicking on the title:
No to the casino economy!
The increasingly insecure living and working conditions of millions of
workers worldwide is one of the main causes of the crisis we currently
face. This crisis primarily concerns the unfair distribution of wealth, which
has distorted the global economy. The financial crisis, which is the result
of a long process of financialisation of the economy, has further
aggravated existing economic problems, in both the North and the South.
The developing countries have a huge shortage of decent jobs, since the
latter are not being generated by their economic growth. This decent work
crisis is compounded by the high cost of living and the impact of the world
food crisis. This is leading to situations of endemic poverty. The
industrialised countries are not immune either: the number of working
poor in the United States rose sharply over the eight years of the Bush
administration. In Europe, wage moderation - despite the rise in both
inflation and productivity- has reduced purchasing power.
Almost all countries have increasingly insecure employment conditions,
with a casualisation of the employment relationship and a deregulation of
labour markets. We face a poverty crisis, certainly, but also, and above all,
a crisis based on blatant inequalities, which have become intolerable from
both a social and economic viewpoint. The neo-liberal policies of the last
20 years have reached their limit, since, for the aforementioned reasons,
impoverished workers are no longer consuming enough to keep the
The United States is the largest consumer in the world and the reduction
of the real purchasing power of its middle class has repercussions well
beyond its borders. The high level of consumption in the US was sustained
not through wages but through credit. As a result US workers spent
beyond their means and become indebted. The ease with which
mortgages could be obtained, including for the poorest families via the
subprime mortgages, relied on the price of houses, which was pushed
artificially high by a speculation bubble. Complex financial products were
created in order to pass on these “toxic assets” to the financial markets.
The relentless pursuit of short-term profits, against a background of
reckless economic and financial liberalisation, is what chiefly characterises
today’s financial markets. Casino capitalism is largely responsible for the
extension of the crisis to the whole planet. The financial markets have
become a source of easy money and no longer fulfil their main task of
financing the real economy. During the last few decades, speculation on
financial markets has provided much better opportunities for short-term
profit than providing loans to companies willing to innovate, win new
markets or create decent jobs. As a result, workers’ futures have been
sacrificed to feed the offshore bank accounts of some unscrupulous
speculators. Governments and the international institutions have closed
their eyes, adopting the “laissez faire” principle in its most literal sense,
and as such have been accomplices.
The other key aspect of this crisis relates to the excessive opening of
markets and non-intervention by states. By way of example, China has
managed to accumulate huge reserves that are allowing it to finance the
US debt. Chinese workers, who are not allowed the freedom to form unions
to defend their collective interests, have made spectacular increases in
their productivity levels over the last 20 years. They work on 21st century
machines but are paid 19th century salaries! This globalisation has pitted
the workers of the North against those of the South to the benefit of the
multinationals and private investment funds whose profits have
Huge imbalances have also developed between the financial sector and
the real economy, between rich and poor countries, between overpaid
managers and underpaid workers. Inequalities between men and women
have remained large. And the policies of repression and discrimination
against trade unionists, which have contributed to the process of wealth
concentration, have directly reduced the bargaining power of workers
compared to that of their employers.
Whilst the current crisis is financial, economic and social, it also has an
environmental dimension. It has become clear that our planet’s resources
will not cope with the extension of the consumption model of the
industrialised countries to the rest of the 6 billion people that inhabit it.
That is compounded by the effects of climate change, which are forcing us
to take collective measures to reduce greenhouse gases. There are glaring
inequalities here too, since the poor peoples are suffering more acutely
from the negative impact of climate change. The measures taken need not
only to be environmentally efficient but also socially just.
What model can we put forward to get out of this multifaceted crisis?
This crisis is proof of the unsustainable nature of the neo-liberal policies
adopted in the last few decades, which have promoted the deregulation
and liberalisation of markets and the privatisation of public services. This
market fundamentalism has concentrated wealth whilst thumbing its nose
at global public goods such as the environment, health, social protection,
food safety and, indeed, global financial stability.
The current recovery plans are necessary, but insufficient. It is not enough
to inject money into the economy, we need to change its principles to
make sure it generates social justice, development for all, equity, stability
and long-term prosperity.
Tomorrow’s world will no longer have a single superpower but will be
multipolar, as the regional integration processes intensify. Multilateralism
needs to be protected within this multipolar world, which otherwise runs
the risk of exacerbating poverty and creating deeper inequalities between
countries. But it is high time that this multilateralism embraced social
issues. The unions and the whole of civil society must insist that
employment related issues are placed at the core of the new system of
global economic governance that still needs to be built. The ILO has a vital
role to play here.
Within this multipolar world, the state needs to recover its rightful position
and assume its role. It must ensure a socially just and environmentally
responsible new economic system is established. Public intervention is the
sole guarantor of social cohesion. However the corruption of certain public
bodies must be penalised and opposed by organised groups, including the
unions. The central banks must become publicly accountable and stop
bowing to the demands of the powerful financial lobby.
The strengthening and broadening of public social protection systems is
urgently needed. A Global Social Protection Fund to help the poorest
countries needs to be established. Increasing the levels and quality of
state aid to developing countries is essential. Establishing socially just
transitions towards ecologically sustainable forms of production is vital.
Setting fair rules for world trade to support national development plans
and prevent inequalities from deepening, is crucial. The priority must be to
establish decent minimum wages and real salaries in line with productivity
gains. And respect of the right of workers to form free trade unions and
negotiate collectively on the redistribution of profits is a key requirement.
The relations between industrial, emerging and developing countries need
to be established on a new basis. The current global economic and
financial system is not serving the interests of the workers in developing
countries. Reimbursing the foreign debt is strangling the poorest
countries. The terms under which they can borrow are unfair, as they are
made to bear all the fluctuation risks. The current system allows
industrialised countries to pursue counter-cyclical monetary and fiscal
policies by imposing pro-cyclical policies on developing countries. That
means the international financial institutions (IFIs) are partly responsible
for the disastrous social consequences in these countries and also for the
global financial instability. The economic and financial conditionality
imposed by the IFIs must end and the latter’s governance needs to be fair.
The time has come to build a new global economic and financial
architecture. However, none of the existing institutions has the legitimacy
or the credibility to fulfil that task successfully.
Regulation of the financial markets is required urgently. The speculation
needs to be restricted and markets must focus on financing the real
economy. More particularly, speculation on commodity markets must be
banned. Derivatives markets need to be brought back under the control of
the public authorities. Off-shore financial centres and other fiscal havens
need to be closed. Taxation of financial transactions can provide new
funds to help reduce inequalities. The obscene salaries of managers,
bankers and other financial intermediaries should be regulated. As part of
the necessary reform of the financial sector, priority must be given to the
social economy by promoting cooperatives, mutual societies and microcredit
agencies, including in developing countries.
The new economic system needs to generate green growth. As well as the
urgent need to ensure the survival of our planet, environmental protection
provides huge opportunities for job creation. Public investment in
infrastructure, public transport and renewable energies are needed all
over the world. Economic growth needs to be supported by ecologically
It is time to build an economic system that is environmentally sustainable,
socially just and balanced in geo-political terms. This model will need to
take into account the aspirations of peoples and the proposals of the trade
union movement and the other players of civil society. From now on,
economic growth should create decent jobs and protect the environment
and its benefits should be shared, so that the unprecedented level of
inequalities we face today is significantly reduced.